Book Review: Women's Pro-Wrestling Theory of the Women, by the Women, for the Women

The Bodies of Women Pro-Wrestlers and Gender 
--Beyond Normative "Femininity"
Written by Keiko Aiba
(Akashi Shoten, 03/04/2013)

Buy this book (jump to a Japanese page)

I spent my TV childhood in between the Beauty Pair and the Crush Gals, I didn't watch women's pro-wrestling until after I became age 30.
*translator's comment: The Beauty Pair and the Crush Gals were the famous women's tag team in Japan. The former were active during the '70s, and the latter were the '80s.

When I watched women professional wrestlers in the ring shouting around "Bitch" or "You nuts!", making attacks, and receiving the opponent's favorite moves "on purpose", I found a different image from the poster of women's pro-wrestling on local tour that I had seen in my childhood (I never had a chance to see such shows and I rather treated them with no respect), I felt like being dropkicked in the head.

I found women's romanticism, toughness, bonds, and heroism especially  in the aged women pro-wrestlers who have now become veteran fighters.

It can be said that this book is the first book that tried to interpret the gender issue through women's pro-wrestling. Proposing the new concept "body feminism", the author analyzes that how the experiences and embodiments of women pro-wrestlers could oppose to the conventional gender limit, which forces women to take the fragile and passive roles in Japanese society, and how the bodies of women wrestlers are challenged by Japanese society.

The recording of matches and interviews with twenty-five women wrestlers that the author engaged in is valuable. By reading this book, a lot of readers will know where to find the fascinating aspects of women's wrestling. I myself, after reading this book, could not help watching a Youtube video of an audition of All-Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling.

Unlike previous books on women's wrestling, this book has a large implication for feminism as it tries to deduce the new possibilities of women's bodies which women wrestlers are showing to Japanese society.

In any case, I do recommend all the fans of women's wrestling to read this!

Personally, I love the part in this book where a women wrestler says "My sportswear for training is my formalwear" in an interview (on page189). Because when I try to wear suits size7 (no, actually size8...), I always think why the hell these sleeves and waist are so tight? (At any size, all the ready-to-wear clothes don' t fit to my body).

Sportswear is formalwear.  Very good!

Original article written by moomin (07/05/2013)
Translated by T. Muramatsu


Book review: Why Couldn’t Hiroshima Stop Fukushima?

by Mikiyo Kano

(Translator’s note: Kano was born in Seoul, Korea in 1940. After returning to Japan in 1945, she became a victim of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima. She graduated from Kyoto University and worked at Chuo Koron Publishing Company. Currently a scholar in the history of women, Kano publishes books and gives lectures throughout Japan. This review is by Kano of her own book titled Between Hiroshima and Fukushima: From the point of view of gender .)

This question is what drove me to compile the book. Being a survivor of the atomic bomb of Hiroshima, hearing the question, “How did a country that suffered a nuclear attack ended up a nuclear powerhouse?” was painful. I felt that the survivors of the atomic bomb were being condemned for not being active enough. I quickly started a re-examination of postwar history with a focus on the time of the introduction of nuclear power generation in Japan, and the topic that emerged was the issue of gender. After the disaster of March 11, 2011, there has been a rush of publications on nuclear power generation. If there is any significance to adding this book, it would be its focus on gender.

In Hiroshima, people call the period from the atomic bomb attack to about the mid-1950s “the lost ten years.” During this period, the horrific state of Hiroshima was not shared with the outside world, and no relief measures were taken. It has been said that the reason for this state of affairs was mainly the reporting ban on the atomic bomb under the occupation.  But there was information plenty of information about the great powers of nuclear technology and the “bright era of nuclear power.” And all this preceded women’s demands for liberation. 

Gender was at work in the introduction of nuclear power. From 1954 to 55, nuclear power became “national policy” in the name of “peaceful use of nuclear energy.” Meanwhile, the anti-nuclear bomb movement gained a lot of momentum, and it was women who took the lead.

From there arose the “mothers’ movement” with the slogan, “Mothers create life and wish to protect it.” Men took on the role of growing the economy using nuclear power, while women picked up after the war and engaged in the peace movement. Isn’t it this gender-based division of roles that enabled the concurrent development of nuclear power promotion and the anti-nuclear generation movement? This division also matched the gender roles of the contemporary family, which was becoming popularized in Japan at the time.

In the second section, I have included some of my writings on the anti-nuclear movement and motherhood since the 1980s.

Adopted and translated by Naoko Hirose


Eulogies to Kazuko Takemura (9): J. Keith Vincent

To honor the memory of the late Kazuko Takemura, a feminist famous for her activism as well as introducing theorists such as Judith Butler, Slavoj Zizek, Gayatri Chaktravorty Spivak and Trinh T. Minh-ha to Japan, WAN is posting a series of eulogies delivered by her fellow activists and scholars both from Japan and overseas.

I can’t remember the exact occasion of my first meeting with Kazuko, but I do remember very clearly a trip to her apartment near Tsukuba University in 1995 or 1996.  I went with several other members of the gay activist group OCCUR, including Kawaguchi Kazuya (河口和也) and Niimi Hiroshi(新美広). We spent the day with Kazuko, eating pizza on the floor, smoking innumerable cigarettes, and talking for hours about how to make queer theory matter in Japan, and in Japanese. This was a serious issue for us at the time, because queer theory was just starting to become a sort of fad in academic publishing in Japan, but in almost complete isolation from the activist community and even from the queer community.  Kazuko was one of the only academics in Japan at the time who was not only conversant with queer theory and its feminist roots, but who understood its connection to activism. She, like my friends in OCCUR and I, saw it as both a source of empowerment and a mode of resistance against the entrenched heteronormativity and misogyny of Japanese society. She worked with us to publish a special issue of Gendai Shisō  on lesbian and gay studies in 1997 and she was always a supportive and engaged participant in the workshops on queer theory that we held throughout 1995 and 1996. In my mind, she was the most important figure in the establishment of a politically engaged and intellectually rigorous queer feminist theory in Japan.

The last time I spoke to Kazuko was in March of 2010, when my partner Anthony and I had dinner with her near her home in Tokyo.  I had not seen her since 2004, when she invited me to come to Ochanomizu to speak as part of her wonderful, multi-year "Frontiers of Gender Studies" series.  After that, she was scheduled to join me on a panel on "Eve Sedgwick in Japan" at the Association for Japanese Literary Studies at Rutgers University in New Jersey in 2009, but had to cancel because of illness.  I never imagined, when we were first discussing this panel in honor of Sedgwick's memory, that we would lose Kazuko so soon as well. When we met in 2010, we talked about her coming to Boston to spend some time with Anthony and me in Provincetown on Cape Cod.  I was working on some translations myself at the time, and our plan was to make it a "working vacation."  But sadly she had to cancel that too because of illness.  In the email in which she told me that she couldn't come, she wrote, "It's really a shame.  I did want to spend several days with you and your partner---chatting, walking, rambling downtown, and translating Spivak(!!).  It must be fun.  Pleasure and work!!"
Looking over my correspondence with Kazuko now, and remembering all of our interactions over almost two decades, what I remember most is this delightful way she had of mixing "pleasure and work." She got so much pleasure out of her work, and her work gave so much pleasure to others. I remember her quiet voice and bright smile, and the calm, gentle way she had of talking about difficult and pressing issues. I always felt energized and optimistic after speaking with Kazuko, no matter how frustrated we both were with the state of the world. I am proud to have known her and I miss her terribly.

J. Keith Vincent
Associate Professor of Japanese and Comparative Literature
Dept. of Modern Languages and Comparative Literature
Boston University


Posted by Aya Kitamura


Association of Article 96 Started, Protesting against Prime Minister ABE’s Attempt to Amend It


Promulgated on November 3, 1946

Came into effect on May 3, 1947


Article 96. Amendments to this Constitution shall be initiated by the Diet, through a concurring vote of two-thirds or more of all the members of each House and shall thereupon be submitted to the people for ratification, which shall require the affirmative vote of a majority of all votes cast thereon, at a special referendum or at such election as the Diet shall specify.

Amendments when so ratified shall immediately be promulgated by the Emperor in the name of the people, as an integral part of this Constitution.

Essay Written by OKANO Yayo

On June 14, 2013, I participated in a panel discussion held in Sophia University as part of a symposium to oppose amendment of the Constitution without thorough discussion. The symposium also marked the start-up of the Association of Article 96.

HIGUCHI Yoichi, representative of the Association, gave the keynote speech of the symposium, titled “What does it mean to ‘amend’ Article 96 in terms of constitutionalism?”  “We cannot change Article 96 by using Article 96,” said Higuchi in his speech, introducing the philosophical argument concerning the right to establish the Constitution.  He also said “It’s just like a back-door admission, or like a baseball player in a slump asking for a change of the rules so he can have one more chance after a strikeout.”  Through these humorous analogies, he made it clear how Prime Minister ABE Shintaro’s draft for amendment violates the idea of constitutionalism itself.

I still remember very well that Abe stated in Kyoto in March, 2012, when his party  was in the opposition, “It would be absurd if the Constitution could not be amended just because of one third of the Diet members.  I’d order such arrogant politicians out of the Diet.”

According to Higuchi, it is  quite arrogant of Abe himself to treat one third of the legitimately elected representatives like that.  “Abe doesn’t even know how to use the word “arrogant,” Higuchi added in his comment.  Abe certainly didn’t even understand the significance of the provision of Article 96 which requires much deliberation so that two thirds of the Diet members can be convinced to agree.

It is Article 13 that Higuchi, an active leader of constitutional studies for many years, singles out as the most important article of the Constitution.  The article requires the state to “respect individuals.”  The Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (hereinafter, LDP) intends to change “individuals” to “mankind” as a whole without appreciating the significant historical value of the individual at all in attempting to change the Constitution for the worse.


(How We Should Consider Amendment of the Constitution: The Significance of Conserving “Postwar Japan”—a book authored by Higuchi, published in May, 2013.)




After his keynote speech, I joined a panel chaired by SUGITA Atsushi, a scholar of politics, together with YAMAGUCHI Jiro, another scholar of politics, KOMORI Yoichi, a scholar of literature, and HASEBE Yasuo, an expert of constitutional studies.

The following is what I said as one of the panelists, with major focus on “we” in relation to the Constitution.  My speech was based on three perspectives; (1) the relationship between the people (“we”) and democracy, (2)  issues of us women, and (3) our own being as secured by the current Constitution.


(1) As those who insist on having our own constitution made by ourselves have been arguing, it might be the prerequisite of democracy and people’s sovereignty that “we” determine the Constitution under a democratic system and live in conformity with a Constitution we have enacted by ourselves.  But the principle of this “democracy” has its own paradox. Based on the universal truth that people are born and destined to die, we can assume the “we” of today are not the same as the “we” of tomorrow. 

If so, fundamental difficulties are inevitable as to whether we should hold a referendum every day so that it properly reflects the ever-changing views of the people.  And of course, “we,” having various views and opinions, will be divided on a critical issue like the basic principles of the state as is obviously shown in the current controversies.  So long as the Constitution is the paramount legislation, it is by no means acceptable to change an article and amend it through simplistic democratic procedures, namely a rule of majority.

To put this into somewhat more concrete terms, I would like to refer to the function of a Constitution serving as a fortress to shelter social minorities.  The Constitution is not something to be altered by majority opinion of anytime, but it has rather been a last resort for the people who were historically forced into disadvantageous positions, and still remain so as well as being deprived of political voices.  This leads to my second perspective, which is women’s viewpoint.


(2) Democracy by definition is a system where we obey the laws determined by ourselves, not by others, which enables us to be free as well as obedient.  However, as I mentioned earlier in (1), “we” are so diverse that it would constitute nothing less than violence to put those who are different from the majority in terms of opinions and experiences into the same basket of “we.” 

In the present Constitution, in particular, Article 97, the fundamental human rights guaranteed to the people of Japan are described as “fruits of the age-old struggle of man to be free” which “have survived many exacting tests for durability.”  This is the article that LDP proposes to delete in its draft of amendment.

The present Constitution, for example, was born out of a historical commitment to secure women’s right to equality and freedom after many years of struggles and trials which women in former times experienced as second class citizens.  They were deprived of matrimonial rights as well as rights of property and education, the freedom of occupational choice, and of course, suffrage.   Because of such a deprived status, women had been treated as instruments at home, in the society and by the state.

But unfortunately, Prime Minister Abe and other politicians who consider the amendment of the Constitution as their political mission, still regard women as if they were latent assets or hidden assets, and even as “reproductive machines” as I recall a certain politician mentioned just some time ago.  As the plan to introduce “pocketbook for women”[1] revealed, women are treated just as an object to be controlled for boosting Japan’s birthrate or to be activated for economic growth, and, once a war breaks out, as an instrument mobilized in the way comfort women were in the past.

In other words, the important function of the Constitution is to remind us that the nation exists to prevent the state from being abused by the powerful of the time and to keep it away from human lust for power, or, equivalently, to protect the individual’s dignity. This fundamental principle of the Constitution has been meaningful particularly for those who are forced to be historically and socially weak. In sum, it is the minorities who could never form the majority that this important principle should apply to.  


(3) Finally I would like to touch upon our own being, namely how “we” can be.  In my view, the largest difference between the LDP’s draft for amendment and the present Constitution can be found in the historical and spatial extent.  Let me quote Article 97 again to reiterate that fundamental human rights are conferred upon not only “this” generation of today but also “future generations" in trust. 

Based on the reflection and regret about the historical tragedies and crimes committed by the state, an apparatus for monopoly of violence, the present Constitution is addressing future generations.  It vows with modesty even to those who are unable to participate in the discussion in the ongoing “here and now” that the state promises to protect the fundamental rights of individuals.

Furthermore, I believe that the fundamental spirit of the current Constitutions lies in the concept of fundamental human rights based on natural rights and that of individual dignity as is guaranteed by the Constitution.  As long as this holds true, the present Constitution can not only address the Japanese people but also deal with the rights of other non-Japanese people who are also part of Japanese society.  As a matter of course, “we” include people of non-Japanese nationality who are also constituent members of Japanese society.  In this regard, the right of foreigners to vote in local elections, which is not explicitly prohibited in the current provisions, is disabled by the article of nationality in LDP’s draft.

In summary, I consider that the will for power as is demonstrated in the amendment draft of Article 96 is the will to suffocate the life of “we, the people” who can be, and are, in fact, as diverse as ever.


 In early May, 2013, the Cabinet Office's task force suggested a plan to distribute pocketbooks among young women with the aim of providing knowledge of pregnancy and childbirth as part of its effort to boost the birthrate. But with growing concern about public intervention into women’s decisions as to whether or not or when they have a child, the plan was criticized by opposition parties and women's organizations.  As a result, it was virtually withdrawn by the Cabinet Office as of May 28, 2013.

Original Article on WAN Website



Translated and Adapted by FUKUOKA A.A