Making the Body Visible in Contemporary Japan: Femininity, Beauty, and the Female Form in Popular Culture

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Making the Body Visible in Contemporary Japan: Femininity, Beauty, and the Female Form in Popular Culture
Stream: Gender & Sexuality
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Laura Clark, University of Queensland, Australia (organizer, presenter, chair)
Caitlin Casiello, Yale University, United States (presenter)
Maria Ana Micaela Chua Manansala, University of Tsukuba, Japan (presenter)
Juliana Buriticá Alzate, International Christian University, Japan (presenter)
Yukari Yoshihara, University of Tsukuba, Japan (discussant)


In contemporary Japanese cultural products, what does it mean to be embodied? Whose bodies are made visible, how and why? How does one represent the ‘womanly’ body in contemporary Japan? What kind of body is desired and permissible? To explore these questions this panel takes a transdisciplinary approach to the construction and performance of ‘female body’ in film, literature, and cross-media adaptations. First, Caitlin Casiello will discuss how 1950s Revenge of the Pearl Queen created a unique moment of transition in Japanese film with the full-unclothed female body on display for the audience. Then, Mic Manansala will analyse manga adaptations of Goethe’s Faust in connection to the Takarazuka Revue’s play Angel’s Smile/Devil’s Tears, and with it the embodiment and performance of the feminine form. Juliana Buriticá Alzate will then compare the lead character in Kirino Natsuo’s Tokyo Island and its film adaptation, and how these works first challenge and then conform to female beauty standards. Finally, Laura Clark will explore the representation of femininity as embodied performance in Murata Sayaka’s Convenience Store Woman. Discussant Yukari Yoshihara will then offer insights from the perspective of gender in Japanese popular texts on the issues of desirable femininity, gaze, and transformation. In the complex interplay between sex and gender, the external signposting of female performance and costume is a matter of significant pressure. This is not merely a matter of woman-as-object, but rather of exposing intense conflicts between audience expectations of gender and the female form, and ecstatic moments of agency and change.