This article tries to advance the discussion of the efficacy of qualitative methods often used in the geography of gender in Japan, in particular by focusing on narratives obtained through interview surveys and analyzed using discourse analysis. It can be said that around the year 2000 was a turning point in Japanese geography for research methods such as life-history research. The life-history research made it possible to hear the voices of subjects who have been placed in minority positions and have not been able to easily speak and to deepen the study of geography from various standpoints and to include the perspectives of minorities. Analyzing narratives in informants’ life histories encouraged geographers to clarify the structures of space/place by focusing on gender relations acted out as power. The studies which adopted the life-history research could be positioned with the field of gender studies in geography, as all of them reveal the social relations in local communities and of groups within particular spaces—which is to say that they demonstrate the gender relations preserved by the patriarchy and hegemonic masculinity. With geography, it has become possible to point out issues that are found only “here” and cannot easily be generalized by questioning “where,” including micro-scale spaces that cannot be mapped or visualized. This can be called “local knowledge” that is generated from the perspective of a “somewhere” that is rooted in people’s lives, as proposed by McDowell (1993).
‘Place’ is a core concept in human geography and scholars have focused on how globalization has affected ‘place’ since the 1990s. Despite findings that ‘place’ is socially re/constructed under globalization’s fluidity, the relationship between ‘place’ and migration, which certainly shape and are shaped by globalization, has not been the subject of much academic attention from a perspective of migrants themselves. Within this context, this article aims to explore the relationship between ‘place’ and migration—particularly that between ‘home’ and marriage migrants—through life stories of three Samoan pioneer wives, who married Japanese men and have been living in Japan for over 20 years. As a result, the following three findings were identified. First, creating a ‘home,’ in the sense of crafting a new life in Japan, has been a long and challenging process, and a good relationship with their husbands’ families and acquisition of the Japanese language were necessary for Samoan wives to create a ‘home’ in Japan at an early stage. Second, the Samoan wives made a ‘home’ of their Samoan network, which enabled them to communicate with other Samoans and maintain connections to their home country. Last, creating or recreating a ‘home’ is a personal experience, influenced by how they grew up in Samoa and how they became accustomed to Japanese society.
The purpose of this paper is to describe the relationship between the nuclear family and the housing environment from a perspective of residential space in Okinawa, Japan, focusing on the processes of community building in Naha Shintoshin. This is an analysis of a redevelopment project in the former residential district of the U.S. Armed Forces Base. The district was returned to Okinawa Prefecture, Japan in 1987. Naha City and landowners have been jointly participating in the community building since the 1989 official redevelopment plan’s approval. The research presented here partially supports the idea that residential space can reinforce gender inequalities. However, in this paper I argue that residential space can be an arena for the changing of gender relations. By describing how landowners take part in that development and how residents participate in community building in this area, I argue that many movements for community building tend to have an influence on power relations within the private residence and play an important role in deciding the basis of the ordering of daily life. In Okinawa there has been a custom of strict male familial succession, totome, in the patriarchal system. It is said that this custom has affected community building processes traditionally. But this reproduction space in the form of the community building may be an alternative space for active women to potentially change their power relations with men since the community building movements take place outside of the patriarchal system.
The idea of place has been a common concern in human geography including among feminist geographers since the 1970s. While the question of place in Western cities has been critically discussed, place or place-making and displacement in the non-Western world have not been well developed. The author addresses the issue in terms of the idea of ‘fudo’ (milieu) which has been subject to particular attention in Japanese philosophy and geography since the 1930s, owing to popularization by Tetsuro Watsuji and Augustin Berque. In this paper, the author highlights the ideas of fudo through illustration of a grave historical case of suffering in Japan: Minamata Disease. Minamata Disease, caused by the consumption of fish contaminated by methyl mercury, emerged in the 1950s. This tragedy can be understood as the outcome of three scales of fudo relationship: 1) the interrelationship between the local marine ecosystem and fishers’ practice on the sea; 2) political and economic domination of Minamata city by the Chisso company; and 3) national sentiment and the human-environment relationship in Japan at the time. I highlight the narratives of two women in Minamata, Michiko Ishimure and Eiko Sugimoto, as cases that embody the local fudo relationship. Their narratives present essential interactions in Minamata between the sea, land, deities, embodied lives and survival, which collectively construct fudo. Simultaneously, these narratives illustrate Minamata, a place that now attracts people from elsewhere interested in curing their minds and bodies. By connecting divided localities, the local people’s movement reconstructed the fudo in Minamata that was once destroyed.