Eulogies to Kazuko Takemura (3): The Letter That Will Never be Delivered by Chizuko Ueno

To honor the memory of the late Kazuko Takemura, a feminist famous for her activism as well as introducing theorists such as Judith Butler to Japan, WAN is posting a series of eulogies delivered by her fellow activists and scholars both from Japan and overseas. 


Even though I call your name, I guess you are not going to reply to me anymore.

I am sure many people will write about your work, so I’d like to talk about you as a person— a side that not many know about

And also how you left me in such awe.

Our mountain cottages were close, and we would often visit each other during our times off.

Sometimes I would have you over for my home cooking, and sometimes you would treat me with your exquisite skills.

Your persistence, called “perfectionism” by many, was evident in your cooking. Each time I visited, I was presented with food that seemed fitting of a kaiseki restaurant.

I always looked forward to your invitations.

I'm truly happy to be one of a select few, lucky enough to have been treated to your cooking.

One thing that astonished me was your expert knowledge of mechanics. It was when I drove my car into a ditch in front of your cottage in a rather spectacular way.

A young man from the service station came and pulled out my car matter-of-factly. I stood awestruck as you casually uttered those words…. “You should get your alignment checked, too.”

I knew nothing about the workings of a car and had never even heard of the word “alignment,” but I was able to guess what it meant.

Your unassuming advice was something that would never occur to me, and I didn’t even know the terminology.

You sounded as though you might even perform your own auto maintenance. You were an expert user of personal computers, too.

I later heard that you majored in the sciences, and I remember being very impressed with your versatility in being outstanding at whatever you do.

In a period of remission during your battle with disease, you e-mailed me to say that there is some work you must do now — that there is something only you can write after having been through your hardship.

What unexplored sceneries would you show me? The prospect was thrilling.

But you had to leave us prematurely.

How I wish you could have lived just a little longer — to finish your final work.

What would you have shown us? How I wish I could have read your final work.  Such a shame.

Translated by Naoko Hirose
Original article by Chizuko Ueno (July 29)

Comparison of single, middle-aged women in three major Asian cities: Chizuko Ueno’s review of Confucianism and Makeinu* by Junko Sakai.

*Makeinu, literally ‘loser dogs,’ is a term coined by writer Junko Sakai satirically referring to single and childless middle-aged women, including the writer herself

Chizuko’s blog no. 28
June 29

I was asked to write an afterword for the new paperback edition of Junko Sakai's book Confucianism and Makeinu (Kodansha Publishing, 2012). The following excerpt is presented here with permission from the author and publisher.

The Sociological Imagination of “Dr. Sakai”

Ms. Sakai burst onto the scene with the publication of Makeinu no Toboe (literally ‘The Howl of the Loser Dog’) in 2003 (Kodansha).  Hardcover and paperback taken together, the book has sold 420,000 copies, and makeinu even became a social phenomenon.

Makinu no Toboe has been translated into both Chinese and Korean — languages that use kanji (Chinese characters), as does Japanese. The translations of the word makeinu into these languages using kanji are puzzling, to say the least: 余女 (lit. “leftover woman”) in Chinese and 老処女 (lit. “aged virgin”) in Korean.  (Well, the famous Simone de Beauvoir was said to have been addressed, with overdone politeness, as “mademoiselle” even when old, because she wasn’t officially married to Sartre.) The expression敗犬女王 (lit. “loser queen”) chosen by Taiwan made me laugh. This translation suitably conveys the nuance that the makeinu merely pretends to have lost but has actually not conceded defeat at all.

Confucianism and Makeinu compares the single, middle-aged women of three major cities in East Asia.

To begin with, I’m blown away by the idea itself.

Sakai focuses on Japan, China, and Korea — three East Asian countries in similarly advanced stages of population-aging and marriage-deferral. She conjectures that Confucianism is at the root of these phenomena and travels to Seoul and Shanghai to investigate. She not only interviews, but even conducts surveys of 200 people in each of the three cities. It is quite a laborious undertaking, and she proceeds to analyze the results.

She even presents lessons learned from her discoveries. To the makeinu of Tokyo, who scored low in their ability to demand and reject, she suggests “demanding and rejecting” more.

In short, this book is a message for the Japanese makeinu. But had she said that from the start, it would have been dismissed as “just another feminist book.” What is so great about Ms. Sakai is that she drives home her argument using rationale and comparison based on data.

To top it all off, what excellent writing! By the time you finish the book, the hazy unhappiness between men and women in Japanese society will all make sense.

Hmmm…. Sociology in fine form! I wish Ms. Sakai would write a Ph.D. thesis on this, so we can see the birth of Dr. Junko Sakai.

Translated and adapted by Naoko Hirose
 Original article  (June 29, 2012)


Eulogies to Kazuko Takemura (2)

To honor the memory of the late Kazuko Takemura, a feminist famous for her activism as well as introducing theorists such as Judith Butler to Japan, WAN is posting a series of eulogies delivered by her fellow activists and scholars both from Japan and overseas. 

Tribute to Kazuko

By: Minoo Moallem
Gender and Women’s Studies Department
UC Berkeley
July 2012

How did the rose
Ever open its heart
And give to this world
All its beauty?
It felt the encouragement of light
Against its being,
Otherwise, we all remain
Too frightened

“From Hafiz Classic Poetry”

My first encounter with Kazuko was when she arrived to Berkeley as a visiting scholar in 2008. It did not take long before I started to appreciate Kazuko’s intellectual presence in the department and enjoy many conversations with her first as a scholar and eventually as a friend. I was in my first year of chairship at Berkeley struggling with the same issues most chairs encounter in US academia, where neoliberalism, individualism, privatization lead the way against a collective sense of purpose, communication and direction based on an ethic of collaboration and collegiality despite differences and disagreements. Kazuko very quickly understood some of my daily challenges and became a supportive presence by reminding me on a number of occasions that my efforts and work to foster and sustain a gender, women and sexuality department was worth a great deal.

On a few occasions, we shared our experiences with regard to the challenges and obstacles of leadership positions for women and the significance of gender, class, race and immigration in relation to the invisible work of care in an institutional context.  It was perhaps these conversations that encouraged her to invite me to be a speaker in a conference she was helping to organize on leadership issues. While the conference did not take place because of the devastating earthquake in Japan, she inspired me to write a draft of a paper on “Women, leadership and the politics of care” reflecting upon more than seven and a half years of working towards the building and chairing of gender, women and sexuality studies departments in the US.

Our intellectual conversations went beyond collegiality and everyday academic life when I learned that she was working on issues that had interested me for a long period of time including war, violence, racism, nationalism, imperialism and militarism. We both loved theory yet were deeply concerned about the political implications of what was happening in a number of locations including Japan, Iran, and the US. I was eager to learn from her about Japan, and she used every opportunity to ask me about Iran, Iranian diaspora and the US. Both of us enjoyed theory and theorizing beyond our cultural, social and historical context, both of us were horrified by the spectacularization of violence in a transnational context and both of us thought that feminist scholarship needed to be more engaged with issues of militarism and violence of our everyday life. Reflecting upon the horror of Abu Gharib, she asked, “Why are we stunned by these photos? Does violence practiced by women invalidate feminist claims against the brutality of patriarchy? What impetus drove women soldiers to perpetrate such acts? Did sexual desire occasion this act? Or just desire, independent of sexual difference? Or, was desire itself engaged in this abuse?  If not, what else was there?”[1]

In an effort to respond to these questions, Kazuko suggested the concept of “lethal biopolitics” stretching the Foucauldian concept of biopolitics to expose “an agency for ‘better life’ to social or furthermore physical death of its own.”[2] A profound thought on her part that involved an interrogation of desire, passion, and death linking everyday acts of violence with the killing machine of war and militarism.

We both thought of militarization of everyday life as the most pressing issue to be tackled by feminist scholars especially with the expansion of new media and cyberspace. I admired her efforts to bring cultural and literary studies into conversation with policy studies by interrogating the literary representations of beauty, eroticism and death as an insinuating way for the militarization of Japan. Her linking of militarization with the policies for a small government and the desire for shrinking the welfare state was brilliant not only in linking the lethal biopolitics with modes of governmentality and subjection in Japan, and in the formation of what she called ”japanism”, but also extremely significant for an understanding of the politics of death in liberal democracies. She argued for an understanding of the relationship between the internal aesthetics as it is mutated into external violence and perpetrated in actual world politics.

I miss Kazuko, her smile, her intellectual passion, her words of care and support, her spirited season greetings, her commitment to feminist postcolonial studies, her political sensibilities and wisdom. Our paths crossed for a very short period of time but I will keep endearing memories of the long lasting effect of this encounter.

[1] Kazuko Takemura, Violence-Invested (non)Desire: Global Phallomorphism & Lethal Biopolitics", Ochanomizu University, Japan, 2005.
[2] Ibid

 Further eulogies can be read here.


A Theory for Survival– The Pitfall of Gender Equality

In this book, Chizuko Ueno, professor emeritus of University of Tōkyō, clearly states the following:
To realize a society in which both men and women are actively involved has been wrongly recognized as women having to have a goal to become like men. Women actually have chosen to become soldiers and to take part in state violence as men do. Society has fallen into the pitfall of gender equality. Is feminism a theory that insists women have power and are able to participate in war? If feminism argues that women can be as strong as men, I am not interested in it. I consider feminism a theory that enables you to survive, while being respected as the weak of society.

In contrast to the idea of dying gracefully for the nation, assuming that not to live miserably deserves a medal, while desperately hanging onto “masculinity” by choosing to sacrifice his life for the sake of power and honor. The book shows survival theories for women, the elderly, and the physically challenged: the weak should neither be the strong nor oppressors but should be respected as they are.

In the epilogue whose title is “in lieu of ‘prayer,’” Ueno writes that she chose feminism so that she would not have to pray helplessly. The author is a theorist who considered “praying” but decided not to. Human beings should be able to concretely solve all the problems they caused.

I like to believe that we could weave something that replaces ‘prayer.’

A book review by Kimiko Hori

Original Article Jun 30
Translated by Atsuko Ishikawa


Eulogies to Kazuko Takemura

To honor the memory of the late Kazuko Takemura, a feminist famous for her activism as well as introducing theorists such as Judith Butler to Japan, WAN is posting a series of eulogies delivered by her fellow activists and scholars both from Japan and overseas.

"It was my incredible fortune to have known Kazuko. I met her for the first time when I went to Japan in the summer of 2008. As the host of my visit at her university, she offered me the most thoughtful, hospitable, and generous treatment any guest can hope to have. We met again in 2009, when she was a visiting professor at UC Berkeley. She kindly drove me from San Francisco Davis, where I was to give a talk. Although the times we had together were brief, I was deeply moved by Kazuko's intellectual and political energies. Seldom have I met someone who is as filled with personal charm, courage, and
humor as she. Most of all she taught us what it means to love. I will miss her forever."
--Rey Chow, Anne Firor Scott Professor of Literature at Duke University

"My first contact with Kazuko Takemura was indirect.  Indeed, she was not even aware of it.  Rey Chow, our common friend, then at Brown University and now at Duke University, had written to me saying that Kazuko would be visiting Berkeley for a year, and asked if i knew of anyone who had an apartment close to the university to sublet.  I sent Rey information about an apartment that Kazuko subsequently rented but Rey had not given Kazuko my name.  Feminist academic networks work in silent and invisible ways.  I first met Kazuko after a reading and book reception for my co-edited collection Derrida and the Time of the Political.  She came up after the brief remarks by me, Suzanne Guerlac and Martin Jay and introduced herself. It was only later, over a dim sum lunch, that we realized we had already been linked in many ways.  She had long had a connection to Berkeley as the translator of my colleagues, Trinh Minh-ha's and Judith Butler's writings. At that lunch and subsequently, we spoke of the difficulty of translating theory into Asian languages among many other topics including deconstruction, bio-power and feminist cultural studies.  She was instrumental in getting Iwanami Shoten to publish an abridged translation of my Derrida collection.  She was so important as a channel of European and American feminist and critical theory in Japan and she also made us aware of the interesting work that was being done by feminist theorists and cultural studies scholars in Japan.  What I remember most about Kazuko is her infectious smile and wonderful sense of humor."
--Pheng Cheah, Professor, Department of Rhetoric, University of California, Berkeley

"I hesitate to write about such an eminent feminist and literary scholar as Kazuko, when my own studies and experience are in such different areas (psychology and dramatic arts).  But I would like to take this opportunity to express how blessed I feel to have known and worked with Kazuko.  We met when I volunteered at a UC Berkeley YWCA program called "English In Action," whose purpose was to pair foreign students and scholars with Americans interested in conversing with them.  It had been found that this population tended to isolate while at UC Berkeley because of being nervous or embarrassed about their lack of proficiency in conversational English.  So this program was developed nearly forty years ago to provide a "practice hour" for them once or twice a week.  It was my great good fortune to be paired with Kazuko, and we became such fast friends that our one or two hours per week quickly expanded to include visits to musical events, dance and theatre performances, museums, movies, and restaurants.
     At one point, Kazuko asked if I would mind checking her English on a paper she would soon be presenting.  We became so engrossed with this task, working with each other easily and productively from the very beginning, that we began to work on several other projects Kazuko was involved with: articles and reviews for journals; translations of essays and book chapters she had originally written in Japanese and now wanted to submit to English publications; keynote addresses and panel introductions for a number of conferences; and many other projects along these lines.  Kazuko was so enthusiastic about our work together, so open to suggestions, and so generous in expressing gratitude for my input, I began to think about going back to school to become an editor! But, of course, I realized that not all writers would be as delightful and engaging as Kazuko, so I contented myself with working as frequently as possible with her during the year she was here in Berkeley--and by telephone, email, and Skype after she returned to Japan.
     We had planned for me to visit Japan during the Cherry Blossom Festival in the Spring of 2011--when Kazuko first became so mysteriously ill.  In typical fashion, she continued to insist that I not change my plans, but as a little more time passed, I realized that her illness was much more serious than she was letting on, and regretfully  cancelled the trip.  But amazingly, we continued to work on a variety of projects for several more months.
     As I have already expressed, I feel so privileged to have known and spent such wonderful times with Kazuko.  I learned a great deal from her--about feminism and literature, about Japan and Japanese life, and, most of all, about living life to the full.  She will always have a place in my heart, and her memory will always inspire to me.  I am grateful."
--Kristina Holland, Clinical Psychologist, Private Practice

Please also see the information on the Takemura Fund for Feminist Research for Gender Equality and Justice here.


Archival Project for Feminism in Japan: Preservation of Organizational Materials

After over forty years of second wave feminism in Japan, Japanese society has definitely changed. The strongest power behind this change were numerous grassroots women’s groups throughout the country. Each group was small, but members were patient and with strong wills. Newsletters and organizational pamphlets from such groups connected women and played a significant role in bringing change in society. 

Today, many of such groups are experiencing a generational change, and there are a number of such publications that have been discontinued. These materials are an important source of information about the history of feminism, and we are afraid that they would disappear if nothing were done. We would like to collect and preserve such materials as a witness to history. WAN (Women’s Action Network) proposes to create a digital archive to store them semi-permanently on a website, allowing access by anyone from anywhere. 

As stated in the prospectus, this project was initiated by the editors of the twelve-volume collection, Feminism in Japan, New Edition. This series was created as an anthology of feminist work in Japan, and this work could not have been done without a large amount of materials, including newsletters, leaflets, and magazine articles. We believe that this digital archive will be a meaningful resource for future generations of women, who will want to trace the history of feminism themselves.
We request the submission of materials in all forms, including newsletters, magazines, and booklets. 

Please follow the guidelines below for the submissions.
1) Sign up as a WAN’s member organization (free).
2) Refer to the guideline for clearing copyright issues
Finally, please consider making donation to make this project happen. It is expensive to construct the archival website. You can transfer the money with a postal transfer, using the following number: 00960-4-321524 and write: “NPO法人WAN DWAN協力金

Please contact us at document@wan.or.jp, if you are interested in participating in this project, or already have an archive of your organization. We would like to hear from you and are happy to discuss any copyright concerns you may have.

Original article May 5, 2012
Translated by Eiko Saeki