In 1935, actress Shiga Akiko was arrested for an offense under the Criminal Abortion Law. From 1936 to 1937, her case generated substantial media coverage and public debate. Liberal intellectuals generally viewed Shiga as a victim of the pronatal state; her scandal provided feminists with an opportunity to analyze the relationships among working women, their work environment, and the politics of reproduction. On the pages of women's magazines, readers avidly followed Shiga's case because she was caught up in contradictory forces, as most of them were: pride in work, love for movies, fascination with celebrity culture, and normative femininity.

This essay contextualizes discursive and filmic responses to the Shiga scandal within historical processes in the late 1930s Japan. The state attempted to fully incorporate women into the nation-state as subjects for the imminent war. In order to mobilize half the population—indispensable for reproduction—without granting them full rights, various forms of negotiations, persuasions, and seductions took place. The Home Ministry increased control over the film industry by tightening censorship, particularly on representations of women. This essay demonstrates the film industry's response to the scandal, which initially took shape as Shiga's unsuccessful comeback projects, resulted in the emergence of a cycle of new seduction stories in which a heroine bears an illegitimate child and yet regains personal integrity and economic independence. This example of a compromise among commercial cinema, active women, and the state's pressure offers a new perspective on wartime Japanese film culture as a field of negotiations.

Actress Shiga Akiko's (1910–90) career soared in May 1934, after Muteki (Foghorn, dir. Murata Minoru, Shinkō Kinema) was released. In the film, set in nineteenth-century Yokohama, Shiga played a femme fatale caught between a British patron (Sugai Ichirō) and a young Japanese lover (Nakano Eiji). The film garnered critical acclaim as a highbrow rendering of a “peculiar” subject, and Shiga's decadent, “Westernized,” “erotic” beauty captured reviewers’ attention.1

Her ascent to stardom was, however, abruptly interrupted. In the spring of 1935, she was arrested, jailed, tried, and eventually found guilty for having had an abortion. From 1936 to 1937, her case generated substantial media coverage and public debate; intellectuals generally viewed Shiga as a victim of both the increasingly pronatal state and an irresponsible man. Her glamour, bourgeois background, and liaisons with foreigners on- and offscreen made her a perfect target for the state's display of power. In the autumn of 1937, Shiga was offered an extraordinary opportunity for a comeback as the heroine of Utsukushiki taka (A Beautiful Eagle, dir. Tanaka Shigeo, 1937), a comedy of manners by the famous writer Kukuchi Kan. Yet the film's commercial success did not help her recover from the scandal.2 As the Naimushō (Home Ministry) had already started to tighten control of the film industry in preparation for total war, there was no place for Shiga, an actress branded as a “bad girl” both on- and offscreen.

This essay, however, claims that this narrative of oppression is not the whole story of the relations among prewar Japanese cinema, women, and the state. Although I analyze the Shiga scandal as a media event, my goal in doing so is to trace the Japanese film industry's negotiations with the state, nationalism, and the ideology of family, focusing particularly on sexuality and women's reproductive health. In the mid-1930s, Japanese film studios were pressured by the government for more censorship and quality control than they had been in the past, partly because the state and the socioeconomic elite had grown wary of Japan's image in the West after its invasion of China had increased its visibility in international politics. Yet, as historian Katō Atsuko has demonstrated, there were multilayered negotiations rather than monolithic, unilateral oppression between the film industry and the state, specifically the Naimushō, which administered a vast area including the police, film censorship, welfare, and women's health.3 As an example of such negotiations, I draw attention to a cycle of new seduction stories that emerged in 1936 and 1937. In those films, the heroine, such as Ofumi in Mizoguchi Kenji's Aienkyō (The Valley of Love and Hate, 1937), is seduced and abandoned, gives birth to an illegitimate child, and yet, in the end, achieves personal integrity and economic independence by finding a job and/or forming a nonnormative family with a man who is not the child's father. Juxtaposing these onscreen versions of the seduction narrative with the Shiga scandal, an offscreen seduction story constructed by the media, this essay demonstrates the central roles that women played within Japanese film culture—as audiences, critics, and performers—on the eve of wartime mobilization.

In the 1930s, both the film industry and film culture flourished in Japan. While the 1950s is widely considered to be the national cinema's “golden age” in terms of both international recognition and domestic box office revenue, its central players, such as directors Mizoguchi, Ozu Yasujirō, and Naruse Mikio and producers Kido Shirō, Nagata Masaichi, and Mori Iwao, were already established names by the mid-1930s. The 1950s Japanese film industry owed the 1930s its basic industry structure: vertical integration; a large pool of highly skilled, talented technicians and actors; and generic conventions. In English-language literature on Japanese cinema, too, since Noël Burch reported his “discovery” of 1930s Japanese cinema in To the Distant Observer in 1979, formalist film scholars such as David Bordwell, Donald Kirihara, and Darrell Davis have done excellent groundwork on this “dream cinema.”4 In the past decade, emergent feminist scholarship has unraveled the ways in which films, especially gendaigeki (those with modern settings), articulated and mediated women's experience of consumer culture, family, and the nation.5

Yet Japanese film historiography, be it formalist or feminist, in English or in Japanese, has been premised upon a juxtaposition of two contradictory histories—Japan's imperialist expansion and the collapse of parliamentary democracy on one side, and its flourishing film and mass culture on the other. Throughout the 1930s, the cultural sphere, embedded in the experience of urban modernity and epitomized by cinema, dance halls, and cafés, was first threatened and eventually crushed by militarists and social conservatives who eulogized authentic “Japaneseness,” an imagined, abiding national identity. Thus, later in the decade came the “dark age,” when dance halls and permed hair were banned and film censorship was unbearably tightened. However, Ginoza Naomi complicates this standard narrative. She argues that the seemingly liberal film industry and culture in effect “worked” as an ideological apparatus for the sake of the imperialist war by showering the audience with an image of “modern life.” Drawing attention to the curious absence of representations of China and Chinese people on the Japanese screen, Ginoza contends that the self-celebratory depictions of Japanese urban modernity functioned to blind the audience to the very war their country was waging.6 Ginoza's research, together with Misono Ryōko's analysis of Aizen katsura (Tree of Love, 1938) and Kamiya Makiko's revisionist take on the wartime musical Hanako-san (1943), open up a route of inquiry into the entertainment industry's deep complicity with total war and colonial rule, thus merging the two histories into one narrative.7

This critique of “attractive fascism” in 1930s Japanese cinema is definitely a welcome intervention. Nevertheless, I wonder if the critics’ retrospective view makes everything—from a seemingly critical “art film” to a blatantly commercial musical—seem to have functioned for total war. It would be more constructive to trace processes by which the conflicting goals and desires of the state, the film industry, the filmmaking community, critics, and audiences were negotiated. As a result of these processes, I contend, a majority of Japanese, including women, spontaneously embraced and participated in the imperialist war by finding their spots for self-realization within the state's program of mobilization. This essay demonstrates that women and the film industry, prompted by Shiga's abortion scandal, relied on the rhetoric of motherhood in order to extend their rights or to advance their business. The politics of reproduction—in which public and private, and the interests of the state and individual women, clashed with each other during war and mobilization—provides this project with an ideal field to explore.

During the Tokugawa period (1603–1868), abortion and infanticide were practiced as measures of birth control, even though the ways in which they were implemented (or even considered legal) depended on particular geographical and historical contexts, as well as on a woman's status within feudal society.8 As part of its massive modernization program, the Meiji government wrote the dataizai (Criminal Abortion Law), modeled after that of France, into its criminal code in 1880. Historian Fujime Yuki argues that the first two wars that Japan fought as a modern nation—the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–95) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05)—renewed the political elite's understanding of the vital importance of population increase, resulting in a revision of the dataizai in 1907 that instituted more severe penalties.9 Throughout the 1910s, a few hundred cases were prosecuted every year, which, of course, far underrepresented the actual number of abortions.

As feminist movements emerged in the 1910s, the dataizai offered a contentious field on which issues of woman's self-determination, gender equality, family, birth control, social welfare, and the role of the state converged. The so-called datai ronsō (abortion debate) raged on the pages of the first Japanese feminist magazine, Seitō (Blue Stockings), between 1913 and 1915, showcasing conflicting positions held by leading feminists of the day, including Hiratsuka Raichō, Itō Noe, and Harada Satsuki.10 By the beginning of the 1920s, a number of feminists, socialists, doctors, scientists, and midwives, such as Ishimoto (Katō) Shizue, Yamamoto Senji, Yasuda Tokutarō, and Shibahara Urako, began advocating for birth control. Margaret Sanger's visit in 1922 created a sensation in Japan, and, although the Naimushō banned her lectures, media coverage boosted birth control movements.11 According to sociologist Ogino Miho, while the Naimushō viewed birth control as sharply contradictory to its program of biopolitics, it remained possible to purchase contraceptive devices and to discuss birth control in printed media until about 1940, when the “give birth and multiply” campaign for total war started in earnest. The scandal (1935–37) surrounding Shiga Akiko's abortion precisely marked and arguably constituted a turning point from a progressive era of birth control to the unabashed mobilization of national subjects’ reproductive functions.

The Shiga Akiko Scandal

Probably most Japanese today have never heard of Shiga Akiko—certainly none of my students has—but, as the most sensationalized case of a dataizai offense, her story has been reexamined from various scholarly and journalistic perspectives.12 Most notably, film historian Shimura Miyoko, in her admirably researched book, has conducted a thorough discourse on and analysis of this scandal, focusing particularly on the influence that writer Kikuchi Kan exercised in support of Shiga.13 This essay augments Shimura's work by connecting the Shiga scandal to a marked shift in the Japanese film culture and gender politics underwent during the mid-1930s.

Shiga Akiko entered the film studio Shinkō Kinema in May 1933.14 In the autumn of the same year, she had a relationship with Abe Yutaka, the director of her debut feature, Atarashiki ten (The New Heaven, 1933, with no extant print). She soon discovered that she was pregnant; and yet, having already broken up with Abe, a married man, she could not tell him about her condition. In April 1934, after completing the filming of Muteki, she had an abortion at midwife Jingūji Kikue's home. Following three days of painful induced labor, Shiga delivered an eight-month fetus alive. Due to neglect, the infant died after three days, and Jingūji buried her remains in her backyard.15

Following Muteki, Shiga played the heroine in four films, all directed by Murata Minoru, one of the most celebrated names in pre–World War II Japanese cinema. Judging from the surviving Muteki, Murata wanted to make Shiga his Marlene Dietrich through low-key cinematography and pictorial and decorative mise-en-scène, à la Josef von Sternberg (figures 1, 2). Shiga became a rising star in these sophisticated, exotic vehicles with the directorial signature of a master, although their studio, Shinkō Kinema, was known for lowbrow entertainment such as “goblin cat” films and “raccoon princess” musicals.

Figure 1.

Ohana (Shiga Akiko) watches her lover's fight in Muteki (Foghorn, dir. Murata Minoru, 1934). Courtesy of the National Film Center, Tokyo Museum of Modern Art.

Figure 1.

Ohana (Shiga Akiko) watches her lover's fight in Muteki (Foghorn, dir. Murata Minoru, 1934). Courtesy of the National Film Center, Tokyo Museum of Modern Art.

Figure 2.

Ohana (Shiga) fixes her makeup while talking to her lover after a night of passion in Muteki. Courtesy of the National Film Center, Tokyo Museum of Modern Art.

Figure 2.

Ohana (Shiga) fixes her makeup while talking to her lover after a night of passion in Muteki. Courtesy of the National Film Center, Tokyo Museum of Modern Art.

In July 1935, however, the police arrested some of Jingūji's yakuza friends for blackmail of the midwife's clients. Their list of victims included a wealthy businessman who was Shiga's former patron. It took little time for the police to find out Shiga's and Jinguji's offense under the dataizai. The two women were accused of abortion, neglecting a newborn, and the disposal of her body. They were detained in jail without sentencing for several months and examined at a preliminary hearing. Their trial began in July 1936, and on November 25, 1936, Shiga was convicted and ordered to serve a three-year suspended prison sentence.

It seems natural for a glamorous actress's crime to attract attention (figure 3). Nonetheless, Shiga's abortion case became a media phenomenon for several interesting reasons. In court, before sentencing, kenji (public prosecutor) Imoto Daikichi, demanding two years in prison for Shiga, made an unprompted reference to a contemporary novel, Onna no isshō (The Life of a Woman), by Yamamoto Yūzō. Imoto argued that compared to the novel's heroine, Masako—a young doctor who has an affair with a married man, decides to give birth to the illegitimate child, and raises him with love—Shiga lacked the most important character in a woman: maternal love.16Onna no isshō originally had been serialized in the leading national daily Tokyo asahi shimbun from October 1932 to June 1933. Its serialization was abruptly terminated when the police arrested Yamamoto on suspicion of donating money to the Japanese Communist Party (JCP).17 He was released without charge after a week. Setting aside the question of whether the writer was actually a JCP supporter, Onna no isshō baldly engages social issues. Not only does it center on a young bourgeois woman's pregnancy out of wedlock, but it also casts light on birth control, abortion, and childbirth in the working-class neighborhoods where the heroine, Masako, works as a doctor; her son is also portrayed as a student activist deeply committed to the JCP.18 At that time, Onna no isshō was critically acclaimed and widely read. The prosecutor's address to the sphere of cultural production through a literary work with such a broad sociopolitical register triggered an avalanche of responses from writers and public intellectuals.

Figure 3.

The headline reads: “Shinkō Kinema's Shiga Akiko; Criminal Abortion Revealed.” Yomiuri shimbun, July 1, 1935.

Figure 3.

The headline reads: “Shinkō Kinema's Shiga Akiko; Criminal Abortion Revealed.” Yomiuri shimbun, July 1, 1935.

Yamamoto himself promptly kicked off the debate with a series of impassioned responses published in Tokyo asahi shimbun (in which Onna no isshō was originally serialized), challenging prosecutor Imoto's emphasis on maternal love. The novelist points out that Shiga was caught in socioeconomic conditions far more disadvantageous than his heroine Masako, and therefore was barred from motherhood, which she surely would have embraced under different circumstances.19 Thus the Shiga scandal was set to become a forum for public debate on women's rights and work conditions, the state's role in women's lives, and sexuality.

Views on the Shiga scandal can be divided into three positions: compassionate paternalists, male chauvinists, and socialist feminists. Except a minority of men who expressed sympathy with and attempted to cheer up their “unlucky” friend Abe Yutaka, most opinions were sympathetic to Shiga, even though no writers I have read state that she did the right thing.20 It was the compassionate paternalists, including the writers Yamamoto, Kikuchi Kan, Hirotsu Kazuo, and Suzuki Yoshio (a liberal lawyer who represented Shiga in court), who clearly dominated the discursive field.21

All portray Shiga as a victim—of a womanizing man of power, of a glamorous and immoral studio culture, of a legal system that criminalized all abortions and yet harshly discriminated against illegitimate children, and of a social system that offered no support for single mothers. She is seen, too, as a victim of her respectable but unhappy family life, and above all, of her own weakness. Compassionate paternalists tend to emphasize her innocence, naïveté, and romantic love for Abe, while mentioning her education and intelligence. These two seemingly contradictory elements are cast together, both framed as products of her protected bourgeois upbringing. Even in demanding an actual term in prison, prosecutor Imoto ultimately shared this perspective, as Hirotsu pointed out.22

The disavowal of Shiga's agency in transgression seems to have gone hand in hand with the media's fetishistic descriptions of her remorse. The popular daily Yomiuri shimbun, for instance, carefully described her appearance in court, including a full-length portrait with the published story: “Three minutes before the opening, Shiga Akiko entered the court, with her hair tied up, dressed in plain clothes: a dark purple kimono made of textured silk with burgundy sash sans lining. Glancing at the full gallery, she showed a slight smile. Even if she was in a state of distress, she still conveyed a hint of coquetry, wearing light makeup.”23 Japanese media loved to see a young, beautiful woman—a woman who once threatened patriarchy by her intelligence, glamour, liaisons with the West, and dangerous sexuality—shed tears in distress, apologize for her actions, and show remorse in a conservative kimono, with natural makeup.24 Shiga was, however, not a mere spectacle for the male gaze. As the extensive coverage of her scandal in women's magazines indicates, women attentively watched and actively discussed her case.

Luminous socialist feminists in prewar Japan, such as Hirabayashi Taiko, Kamichika Ichiko, Miyamoto Yuriko, and Yamakawa Kikue, contributed their short essays to the Shiga discourse. While these women had conflicting views of many other issues, they generally agreed with one another on this particular topic. They shared a sympathetic assessment of the case with compassionate paternalists, but they held a critical view of celebrity culture and the cult of surface beauty, which they believed had misled Shiga.25 They were deeply concerned with the working conditions in the film industry and worry about Shiga's future career. In brief, they clearly viewed Shiga's scandal as a shokugyō fujin's (working woman's) issue in a contemporary patriarchal society. Compassionate paternalists also shared this view, as lawyer Suzuki, defending Shiga, states: “The defendant is a working woman and should never be put into the category of women of leisure.”26

Social critic Yamakawa Kikue brilliantly sorts out the issues raised in the Shiga scandal. On the basis of an understanding that “this incident was especially significant as a warning to working women,” she points out that the novel's heroine, Masako, in contrast to Shiga and most other actual working women, has exceptional advantages in becoming a single mother: a doctor's license, a substantial inheritance, and a sympathetic and helpful mother, brother, and sister-in-law.27 Yamakawa argues:

It is safe to assert that a usual, ordinary working woman would never be able to raise a child on her own. Consider how much prejudice and persecution an illegitimate child has to suffer. Look at the statistics about working women: 90 percent of them earn less than thirty yen per month; as untrained workers, they can be easily replaced. With such a high unemployment rate, it is a big mistake to think that a working woman can soundly raise a child, living solely on maternal love.28

Furthermore, Yamakawa contends that Shiga should have demanded that Abe Yutaka acknowledge and financially support their child; Shiga's inability to do so revealed how deeply she was caught up in the power relations between an actress and a director. This view leads Yamakawa to pinpoint the murky zone where actresses are placed in the contemporary discourse:

The general impression that actresses …, in order to keep working, must always have to negotiate with patrons or directors like streetwalkers humiliates their profession. I want actresses, as working women, to have pride to stand on their own on the basis of their art. Sympathy offered to Akiko is none other than compassion and pity for an ignorant woman who is unable to protect her own rights. It is never the kind of feelings directed toward a new, self-aware woman.29

Yamakawa closes her remarks by calling attention to the bosei hogohō (Motherhood Protection Law), which would eventually pass both houses of the Diet in March 1937.30 This legislation aimed to provide single mothers with a financial safety net, something for which Yamakawa and other feminists had fought a long time. At the same time, the Bosei hogohō, presented to the Diet by the Shakaikyoku (Social Work Bureau) of the Naimushō, epitomized the process in which feminists and bureaucrats motivated by wartime mobilization negotiated and often collaborated with each other on the ground of women's reproductive health. Similarly, the film industry and liberal intellectuals tried to negotiate with the Naimushō in order to control the damage by the Shiga scandal, such as the tarnished reputation of the studio personnel's sexual mores. I will demonstrate that in the film industry's attempt to strike a balance between entertainment value and wartime efforts, women—as either figures on screen, players in front of the camera, or audiences in the movie theater—occupied the central place.

The Film Industry's Response

Compared with writers and public intellectuals, filmmakers and industry leaders kept a low profile during the Shiga scandal, contributing very little to public debate about it. Kido Shirō—the head of Shochiku's Kamata studio, who assumed the post of a vice president of Shinkō Kinema in the autumn of 1936—is an exception. In remarks published in a women's magazine at the early phase of the scandal, Kido strenuously argued that the image Shiga conveyed—i.e., that of a film actress who must prostitute herself to directors or male costars in order to become a star—was completely outdated. Although later, in court, Shiga and her lawyers downplayed this image, at one point she indeed portrayed herself as a victim of the work environment and ethos of film studios.31 Instead, Kido presented a new image:

Graduating from a girls’ high school, she feels unsatisfied to immediately enter a married life. Before marriage, she wants to live independently, and see and examine the real society. Modern women tend to think this way. Therefore, in terms of lifestyle, reputation, and socialization, she is sensible and full of hopes to establish her art. She also desires to be famous and celebrated by the public just once. Nevertheless, since her idea presupposes a future married life, she is rarely determined to pursue a lifelong career as an actress.32

By emphasizing a “modern” actress's virtue and normalcy, like those of any bourgeois young woman, Kido clearly aimed at countering the image of film studios as full of danger, seduction, and harassment for their young female employees. As Shinkō Kinema relied on Shochiku's exhibition outlets and therefore was largely controlled by it, he needed to do serious damage control by implicitly blaming Shiga, especially because he always took pride in catering to female audiences.

Kido's picture of a modern actress who regarded the film studio as a finishing school and protected her virginity for future marriage was, to put it mildly, a lie.33 In effect, the filmmaking community's general sympathy for Shiga was built on a strong sense that nothing she was accused of doing was particularly exceptional or abnormal in light of what they actually saw, heard, or did in the closed world of Japan's Hollywood. Studio personnel may have been out of touch with external reality, but this detachment created an alluring glamour. Until the abortion scandal erupted, Shiga's colorful love life had been good publicity material, not a secret; a gossip column titled “Shiga Akiko: A Biography of Burning Passion,” published in June 1934, presumably as part of the publicity campaign for Muteki, in which she played a foreigner's “kept woman” who also sleeps with a young and handsome Japanese man, detailed the actress's off-screen serial affairs with a Briton, a Spaniard, her costar, a film director, and a writer.34 A celebrity persona built on Shiga's sex life that had worked to publicize Muteki collapsed after her abortion scandal. As a criminal offense, abortion, when found out, retroactively cast her sexual adventures in a different light. Nevertheless, in a male-dominated work environment where sexually active women, with little or no knowledge of contraception, had to maintain their career, popularity, and appearance, abortion must have been fairly common, however difficult to document. At least, Irie Takako, the top star of prewar Japanese cinema, in her postwar autobiography, revealed that in the mid-1930s, when she had become pregnant by her then-husband, she had had an illegal abortion for the sake of her stardom and her own production company.35 Conversely, Shiga's fate underscores how isolated she was and how limited her power was within the industry. After all, she had taken only her first steps as a leading actress. She did not know either whom to talk to or how the media and the police could be negotiated with and managed during a scandal; from the industry leaders’ point of view, I suspect, she was perhaps not sufficiently bankable to vigorously protect.

On November 14, 1936, when Shiga's trial was attracting significant attention, Tokyo asahi shimbun published an interview with Irie Takako, titled “First, as a Human Being: A Movie Actress Is a Working Woman.” Irie, photographed in a mannish suit, clearly defines herself as a shokugyō o motta josei (working woman), citing economic necessities and a desire to perform as her reasons to work (figure 4). When asked for advice for aspiring actresses, she states: “Honestly, I cannot recommend being an actress to anyone…. Keeping the façade as an actress leads to patrons, i.e., money, which has ruined so many women.” She concludes by telling the reporter: “Gei [art] is, after all, a moral matter.”36 Although Irie neither mentioned nor alluded to Shiga, with whom she had costarred in Abe's Atarashiki ten, the timing, the topic, and her status suggests her statement's performative link to the Shiga discourse. Certainly, Irie distanced herself from Shiga by emphasizing morals and denouncing the glamorous surface life of an actress, and yet, her knowing comments on patrons, money, and the suffering involved in the profession corroborated Shiga's testimony. Irie, however, as the first woman producer in Japanese film history who managed her vehicles through her own Irie Productions from 1932 to 1937, chose to call herself a “working woman” rather than an artist, emphasizing economic circumstances, roughly in line with socialist feminists.37

Figure 4.

Actress Irie Takako describes herself as a “working woman” (shokugyō fujin). Tokyo asahi shimbun, November 14, 1936.

Figure 4.

Actress Irie Takako describes herself as a “working woman” (shokugyō fujin). Tokyo asahi shimbun, November 14, 1936.

Both Kido and Irie attempted to normalize the image of the film actress by aligning it closely with that of young working women, who constituted a significant demographic portion of the audience for the film industry. In the prewar Japanese context, the term working women (shokugyō fujin) generally referred to white-collar female employees engaged in professional, secretarial, sales, or service work, such as schoolteachers, doctors, receptionists, typists, saleswomen, or bus conductors.38 Sociologist Konno Mariko, analyzing the City of Tokyo's 1931 survey, presents a typical portrait of a working woman of that era: she is a single woman aged between sixteen and twenty-five from a white-collar, middle-class background who, after graduating from a girls’ high school, works to contribute to her family's household income.39 On the one hand, this portrayal resembles the modern actress whom Kido imagined in terms of her work's transient nature. It was acceptable for a young woman to participate in the workforce before marriage as a form of self-cultivation, but she would be expected to later stay home as wife and mother. On the other hand, Irie stressed economic necessities. Only a minority, approximately 5 percent, of girls’ high school graduates in the late 1920s actually became working women. In fact, they often felt or actually were pitied as those who had to work. Nevertheless, as Konno's research on readers’ letters to women's magazines vividly demonstrates, many working women found work itself, as well as the economic leverage it offered, empowering and rewarding.40 Irie's comment on the economic circumstances under which she had to work, combined with her understated pride in her work, must have resonated with many working women. After all, they were torn by contradictory values: the glamorous surface and economic necessities; the confidence and pride in work outside the home; and the internalized norm of marriage and domesticity.41 Shiga's case, often dubbed as the joyū aishi (“sad story of an actress”), drew sympathy from working women precisely because she was not “a new, self-aware woman,” in Yamakawa Kikue's words, but an aspiring, ambitious woman who was nonetheless trapped by her own attractiveness and the social norms of femininity.42

After Shiga's guilty verdict in November 1936, the most visible element of the film industry's response to her scandal was her comeback projects. In the first half of 1937, the industry itself was still testing the boundaries of the permissible. The fact that Shinkō Kinema kept Shiga on its payroll throughout her detention, trial, and recuperation shows the studio's serious expectation that she could return.43

While the 1939 eigahō (Film Law) is notorious for introducing the preproduction censorship of shooting scripts, the Naimushō's censorship had already begun tightening in October 1936. The Film Censorship Section at the Keihokyoku (Police Affairs Bureau) of the Naimushō decided to strengthen censorship of both foreign and Japanese films because they found the latest “lowbrow and obscene” foreign films and their negative influence on domestic films particularly alarming. In concrete terms, they introduced a collective examination by all ten censors of the films they deemed problematic.44 Even though the Film Censorship Section never published its code, individual censors revealed its details in their lectures and books.45 Yet at least until July 1940, when the censorship became unbearably severe before the imminent war against the Allies, the censors and the film industry were mutually willing to communicate. For example, as soon as Abe Sada's sex crime became a media sensation in May 1936, the Keihokyoku, it was reported, issued a warning to Japanese major studios that no film could be made that was based on, or even suggestive of, her case.46 In September 1936, a number of Naimushō officials, including all the censors, met with more than twenty film directors from the majors and demonstrated which kind of scenes resulted in cuts by screening confiscated footage.47 It seems fairly common for a producer and/or director to have unofficially discussed a possibly contentious project with a censor at the preproduction stage in order to assess its viability.48 Needless to say, this sort of communication was “benevolent” from the Naimushō's perspective; it was also useful for the studio heads and executives who wanted to minimize the damage and loss to their commodities in the censor's projection room. It worked, however, quite oppressively as internal or internalized censorship for the filmmakers.

The first possibility for Shiga's comeback mentioned by the media was an adaptation of none other than Yamamoto Yūzō's Onna no isshō, to be directed by Murata Minoru.49 This project would have incurred trouble with the censor. An adaptation could perhaps cut off the final sections that describe the heroine, Masako's, son as a JCP activist; however, it would be extremely difficult to eliminate the character of Yumiko. Yumiko marries Masako's childhood sweetheart, Shōjirō, thereby betraying their friendship, and, several years later, coincidentally becomes a patient of a shady clinic where Masako works, seeking an abortion as a result of cheating on Shōjirō. Although Masako initially refuses to operate on her on moral grounds, she ends up intervening in the surgery to save her life after her employer messes it up. He turns out to be a quack, and his arrest leads to Masako's and Yumiko's prosecution under the dataizai. The police release Masako without charge because Yumiko persistently denies her involvement in her case.50 Although Masako's decision to bear an illegitimate child could be depicted nicely by foregrounding her maternal love, as the films I call the “new seduction cycle” did, Yumiko's double offense of adultery and abortion, however negatively it might have been portrayed, would have crossed the borders of the permissible for the censor.51 Masako's rivalry and contrast with Yumiko, however, constitute the main plot line in the first half of Onna no isshō, and the novel was too well known, especially in connection with the Shiga scandal, to be completely altered for the screen. Yamamoto, however supportive of Shiga's comeback, might not have agreed to such changes.52 In addition, I suspect that this project, if it materialized, might have unwittingly hurt Shiga's “reform” because her original star image was much closer to Yumiko, who is described as more glamorous, flashy, and promiscuous than the strong-willed Masako.

Nonetheless, it was unfortunate that Murata passed away in June 1937, before production could begin. Mizoguchi Kenji, Murata's close friend and colleague at Shinkō Kinema, was to take over the Shiga project; rather than pursue an adaption of Onna no isshō, Mizoguchi decided to develop an original story as a Shiga vehicle, and, according to Yomiuri shimbun, “the literary circles and the Directors Guild all rallied in support of it.”53 During the summer of 1937, Mizoguchi and his screenwriter, Yoda Yoshikata, continued to work on this project, entitled Kaitaisha (Embezzlers) that revolved around a renowned family-run wholesale store in old Tokyo.54 The published script indicates that there are three women Shiga could have played: Toshiko, the store manager's daughter, who continues an affair with the young master Shinichi; Reiko, his wife, who comes from money; and Okiyo, a geisha whose father has been fired by the store.55 Another actress was set to play Okiyo;56 Reiko is clearly a supporting role; and Shiga would have been interesting as Toshiko—a modern girl working at a boutique who becomes pregnant by Shinichi, attempts to break his marriage and business by revealing everything to Reiko, and, even after Shinichi gets rid of both her and her father, remains brazenly positive about the future. This dark melodrama–black comedy, if it had been materialized by Mizoguchi (Naniwa ereji [Osaka Elegy], Gion on kyōdai [Sisters of the Gion], and Aienkyō), might have provided Shiga with critical recognition as a performer. Yet apparently Kaitaisha ceased to be a Shiga vehicle at some point; and instead Utsukushiki taka emerged. In the meantime, the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out, and Shinkō Kinema indefinitely shelved Kaitaisha, a cynical glimpse of modern life with no proper moral conclusion. Film critic Hazumi Tsuneo, condemning this decision, asserted that while film studios easily gave in to the state's pressure not to produce these kind of socially critical geijutsu eiga (“art films”) in wartime, they did not hesitate to waste film stock in adapting the popular Utsukushiki taka.57

Writer Kikuchi Kan was undoubtedly an ardent supporter and admirer of Shiga, as Shimura Miyoko has thoroughly documented.58 The adaptation of Utsukushiki taka, however, turned out to be ineffective at best and disastrous at worst for Shiga's star image. It was probably true that Kikuchi, in writing the novel, “often thought that Miss Shiga Akiko must be a woman like the heroine Yumiko,” as Shinkō Kinema's advertisement of their film version claimed.59 And yet, by the time Shinkō Kinema acquired Utsukushiki taka as a Shiga vehicle, Kikuchi had already sold its rights to two other studios, Nikkatsu and Toho.60 Eventually the three versions of Utsukushiki taka opened simultaneously on October 1, 1937, drawing intense media attention for their kyosaku (competition) (figure 5).61

Figure 5.

A Kinema junpō graphic page juxtaposed the three heroines of Utsukushiki taka (A Beautiful Eagle): Todoroki Yukiko (Nikkatsu, top left), Shiga Akiko (Shinkō Kinema, bottom left), and Kiritachi Noboru (Toho, right). Kinema junpō, September 11, 1937, 84–85.

Figure 5.

A Kinema junpō graphic page juxtaposed the three heroines of Utsukushiki taka (A Beautiful Eagle): Todoroki Yukiko (Nikkatsu, top left), Shiga Akiko (Shinkō Kinema, bottom left), and Kiritachi Noboru (Toho, right). Kinema junpō, September 11, 1937, 84–85.

Even though the Shinkō Kinema version did well at the box office, critics felt Shiga had been miscast as the virginal heroine Yumiko. While none of the three film versions survives, the original novel and the contemporary reviews can tell us a great deal about the characterization of Yumiko. She is a society belle who juggles three men: a sensitive pianist engaged to her cousin; a boring heir imposed on her by her relatives; and a level-headed engineer with a good sense of humor. While her whims and mischief tend to give the impression that she is an arrogant woman, she simply thinks independently and questions the norms. In fact, she is pure, caring, and somewhat lonely.62 The Kinema junpō review is particularly nasty about the gap between Shiga and Yumiko: “Shiga Akiko in Utsukushiki taka does not offer even a hint of virginity; she inscribes signs of malice onto her heroine's actions.”63Utsukushiki taka significantly differs from earlier comeback projects, such as an adaptation of Onna no isshō or Kaitaisha, in avoiding any direct evocations of her scandal. Despite or, rather, because of this suppression, at least one influential reviewer seems to have constantly projected Shiga's promiscuity and crime revealed by the media onto the supposedly innocent Yumiko's flirtatious attitudes and manipulative deeds toward her suitors.

As Yumiko seems like a young woman Shiga perhaps could have become in her adolescence, this casting—which may well have been initiated by Shiga herself—was thoughtless, especially as her comeback from the scandal. The other two actresses who played Yumiko in their respective versions (Todoroki Yukiko of Nikkatsu and Kiritachi Noboru of Toho) were several years younger than Shiga. In particular, Todoroki, a former all-girls’ musical star, emerged to represent a new kind of modern femininity in a time of mobilization—intelligent, cheerful, active, outspoken, and “healthy.”64

As this contrast with Todoroki suggests, the difficulties involved in Shiga's comeback were closely linked to film production trends and, via the Naimushō's film policy and audience preferences, were further connected to the fatal turns that Japanese modernity was about to take. Shimura, citing Shiga's own words, has pointed out: “The tightening of wartime control over the film industry resulted in eliminating opportunities for vamp-type actresses like Shiga.”65 Indeed, the tightening of censorship was suggestively called “meirōka [brightening] of the screen”;66 dark melodramas centering on a fallen woman, such as Muteki and Naniwa ereji, were no longer permissible. In 1937, Shiga was caught in a twofold problem: her prescandal star image was a glamorous and exotic femme fatale, as exemplified by Muteki's heroine, Ohana, a persona that could not take center stage in the Japanese cinema of mobilization; and her attempts to “brighten” her image by playing a virginal bourgeois woman were tainted by shadows of her offscreen scandal.67

Following her disastrous comeback Utsukushiki taka, Shiga starred in three films (Gendai no eiyū [Modern Hero], Neichan wa kāsan wa [Sister and Mother], and Karayuki gunka [A Military Song for Prostitutes Going Abroad], none of which survives) in 1938 at Shinkō Kinema, and then she left the screen. She made her stage debut in Deddo endo (Dead End, 1939) with the left-leaning Shinkyō Gekidan, but the Naimushō forced the troupe to dissolve in August 1940. Subsequently she married, had a son, was widowed, and struggled in poverty. In the postwar period, she appeared in a couple of films but was largely forgotten.68 She may have lacked the necessary resourcefulness and perseverance to fight back, as film critic Kishi Matsuo suggests, but her career was indeed crushed by the state.69

The Naimushō versus Movie-Mad Women

Shiga's scandal took place against a broader enterprise of redefining Japanese womanhood. In the late 1930s, the Naimushō undertook a large project of fully incorporating women into the nation-state as subjects. It was a trickier project than it seems, because under the Meiji Constitution (1890–1947) and the Civil Code, women's rights were fairly limited: women did not have the right to vote, could not inherit property, were legally defined as quasi-incompetent, and were barred from official membership in a political party. Of course, the suffragists were active and effective in the first half of the 1930s, and the Naimushō once had been supportive of their cause; yet, as the Second Sino-Japanese War began in the summer of 1937, the suffragist organizations were pressured to dissolve.70 In order to mobilize the half of the population indispensable for reproduction without granting them full rights, various forms of negotiations, persuasions, and seductions took place.

It was precisely at this historical juncture that women came under the spotlight in Japanese film culture. As I have demonstrated, the Shiga scandal triggered public debates on actresses as working women, and the difficulties involved in her comeback projects hinged on the changing censorship standards and production trends regarding representation of women. From the point of view of the Naimushō, women's behaviors behind the scenes at the studios or onscreen in films mattered inasmuch as they influenced the josei kankyaku (female audience), who were, along with children, regarded as most impressionable to the cinema's stimuli and sensations. In particular, working women and high school girls, two demographic groups that were not contained within the home and were therefore considered in danger of going astray from “traditional” norms, drew keen attention.

Indeed, working women frequented movie theaters. The City of Tokyo's 1932 survey, entitled Fujin shokugyō sensen no tenbō (Perspectives on Women's Job Front), cited moviegoing as a favorite leisure activity of working women, who, in this case, included blue-collar employees such as factory workers: “Moviegoing definitely dominates the world of contemporary working women's entertainment, coming next to reading. Among the destinations of their day-off outings, a movie theater comes in first place…. Indeed, we are in the era of movie madness.”71

Certainly, female characters represented onscreen did not always match the audience in the movie theater in terms of demography. For example, a young doctor fresh from Tokyo Women's Medical College, such as the heroine of Joi Kinuyo sensei (Dr. Kinuyo, dir. Nomura Hiromasa, 1937), would most likely watch Julian Duvivier's Pépé le Moko (France, 1937) rather than Joi Kinuyo sensei. Japanese films, since the 1910s, had predominantly targeted working-class youth; those who received secondary or higher education tended to prefer American and European films.72 Nevertheless, the wide range of working women's movie madness must have provided film studios with a strong incentive to portray these women's experiences positively onscreen. Thus, in the late 1930s, radiant, glamorous, and energetic working women, all embodied by star actresses, graced Japanese screens. Perhaps the most iconic of all the working women on screen was the pioneering automobile saleswoman played by Hara Setsuko in Fushimizu Shū's Tokyo no josei (Women in Tokyo, 1939, Toho).73 Even though the figures of working women were scattered throughout 1930s cinema, their professional lives and work environments became one of the main narrative threads only toward the end of the decade.74

From the conservative perspective, however, the concept of “working women” itself contradicted the “beautiful custom of our family system,” an invented tradition of modern Japanese patriarchy based on the strictly gendered division of labor.75 Even though after World War I, progressive intellectuals updated the ideal of “good wife, wise mother,” a Japanese interpretation of Victorian womanhood, to promote higher education and work experience before marriage so that a woman could “scientifically” run the household and effectively educate children, these intellectuals never questioned the gender roles themselves.76

As guardians of fūzoku (social mores), film censors scrutinized women's behaviors in light of the “beautiful custom of our family system,” and representations of working women tended to face trouble. For example, Ojōsan (Mademoiselle, dir. Yamamoto Satsuo, Toho, July 1937), based on Yoshiya Nobuko's novel of the same title, suffered extensive cuts in sequences that involved the behavior of women teachers at a rural girls’ high school. In three censored segments, the heroine (Kiritachi Noboru, who would play Yumiko in the Toho version of Utsukushiki taka) smokes in the presence of her students. Her colleague Miss Seta is pregnant but cannot marry her boyfriend because of his economic and health difficulties. The doctor's advice to Miss Seta was changed from “You should take the official marriage procedure as soon as possible” to “You should have a family as soon as possible,” presumably because the former was taken to slight the institution of marriage as mere a matter of paperwork.77 The case of Ojōsan encapsulates the process in which the Naimushō attempted to intervene in the onscreen community of women, where glamorous, cinematic working women could transmit Western mores and thinking to impressionable high school girls.

Nippon eiga (Japanese Cinema), the organ of the half-governmental Dainihon Eiga Kyōkai (Greater Japanese Film Association) edited by the Naimushō officials, included special sections on “Film and Women” in its August 1937, January 1938, and August 1940 issues.78 The goal of these special sections must have been to mold women's relationship with films. For example, in one issue, the principal of a girls’ high school enumerates every possible danger that could happen to young women in the darkness of a movie theater.79 Nevertheless, public intellectuals and writers made contributions to these special sections that show a variety of positions toward women's moviegoing. In her essay, for instance, Fukao Sumako, a poet and translator of Colette, boldly celebrates the contemporary young women's cult of American and European films as a “primary outlet for [their] acute senses and sensitivity” and an escape from an oppressive environment.80 Furthermore, she stresses their agency in picking and appropriating some of the foreign stars’ styles and mannerisms as their own within a geopolitically and historically specific context; she discusses how female moviegoers adopted confident strides and direct looks as well as eccentric hats like those of Joan Crawford.81 Her essay, dated three weeks before the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War, conveyed an urgent sense of an imminent crisis. In effect, the Naimushō's wartime film policy reads as if it were a point-by-point reaction to Fukao's manifesto.

Movie-mad young women's subversion, from the viewpoint of the Naimushō, even went so far as to impact human reproduction. On November 21, 1937, a sensational headline caught the Tokyo asahi shimbun reader's eye: “American Films Are to Blame: Conspicuous Drop in the Number of Births; The Alarmed Naimushō Issued a Warning.” According to the article, the newly published results of the 1936 Census showed a drop in the number of births in mainland Japan by 157,777. In response to this shocking figure, the Jinkō Mondai Kenkyūkai (Population Research Workshop) at the Shakaikyoku of the Naimushō blamed a number of possible causes: recession, the spread of birth control, an increase in the number of working women, a rise in the median age of first marriages, and Americanization through movies. With regard to the last and most eye-catching point, a workshop member commented: “This [decline] probably resulted from the penetration of American mores and ideas through foreign films, which regard children as hiseisanteki [counterproductive]. It is smart of the Nazis to have already started an anti-American campaign as a countermeasure to their population problems.”82

Alarmed by the Naimushō's imaginative association of Japanese people's bedroom activities with American films, Marxist film critic Iwasaki Akira published a prompt counterargument in Kinema junpō. Iwasaki, however, ultimately agrees with the Naimushō, albeit from the opposite political position. He argues that American films indeed affect contemporary Japanese since they articulate the same sort of specifically modern anxieties that are experienced by Japanese—anxieties generated by the gap between human beings’ desire for better, more cultured lives and their material conditions.83

Eventually, on July 30, 1938, the Film Censorship Section met with representatives of screenwriters from the Japanese majors and agreed on the following four rules to which all Japanese films must adhere:

  1. Eliminate individualistic tendencies influenced by European and American films;

  2. Exalt the Japanese spirit and, in particular, eulogize the beautiful custom of our family system, enhancing the spirit of self-sacrifice for the sake of the nation-state;

  3. Re-educate the masses, taking into serious consideration the recent tendencies in which the youth, particularly women, are losing their Japanese sentiments and feelings due to Westernization;

  4. Expel any frivolous words and deeds from the screen and deepen the respect for fathers, brothers, and elders.84

Although the third point was the only one that directly mentioned women, all four points, in fact, sought to “reform” Japanese women's behaviors.

The state sought to mobilize women for total war, drawing on various strategies that occasionally contradicted one another. The Naimushō tried to undo Japanese women's Westernization by tightening censorship and reforming their film-viewing habits. At the same time, the Naimushō extended some protective measures for women, particularly mothers, and to an extent solicited and acknowledged their active participation in the workforce on the home front. What I call the new seduction cycle emerged in 1936–38 as a curious compromise among active women, the commercial film industry, and the pronatal Japanese state.

The New Seduction Cycle

An exact causal relationship between the Shiga scandal and the emergence of the new seduction cycle is difficult to determine. In October 1937, Kido Shirō stated that the production trend at his studio, Shochiku Ofuna, would switch from romance-oriented narratives, as exemplified by Utsukushiki taka, to “our beautiful custom” of maternal love, and from dark tales of fallen women to bright and constructive subjects appropriate for wartime.85 This statement, however, does not provide any direct expression of his intentions in producing this particular cycle. Nevertheless, there are indirect and circumstantial connections. From the industry's perspective, the Shiga scandal, first and foremost, proved that a wide range of potential audiences—from the legal elite to café waitresses—were interested in the subjects of seduction and unwanted pregnancy. By tailoring these subjects into serious, social problem dramas centering on a heroine's conscientious choice, struggle, and maternal love, the industry could have films pass the censor and show their “reform” after the scandal, while still exploiting such titillating material. In this sense, I argue, polysemy or double-entendre was preinstalled in the new seduction cycle.

The basic narrative development of the new seduction cycle proceeds as follows: (1) the heroine is seduced and abandoned, or her fiancé dies after they have premarital sex; (2) she discovers her pregnancy (with no thought of having an abortion); (3) she gives birth to an illegitimate child; (4) she struggles; and (5) she ultimately achieves happiness by finding a man and/or a job. This version of the seduction story differentiates itself from Victorian-influenced melodramas of out-of-wedlock pregnancy, such as Way Down East (dir. D. W. Griffith, 1920), which was released in Japan in 1922 (and in 1931 with a soundtrack) and was extremely influential, and from older Japanese versions, such as Shimazu Yasujirō's Reijin (A Beauty, Shochiku, 1930), in two respects. First, the heroine is “modern,” outspoken, and active; and, second, the premarital sexual intercourse is neither rape nor based on deliberate deception, but is an act committed by consenting adults. The examples I have gathered are prestige pictures; they featured top actresses popular with female fans.86 The prestige status of the new seduction cycle probably came from their source materials, as they tended to be based on expensive contemporary novels by popular authors such as Kikuchi Kan and Yoshiya Nobuko.

Gosho Heinosuke's Shindō (New Way, Shochiku's Ofuna studio, November 13 and December 2, 1936) featured Tanaka Kinuyo as the heroine, Akemi, and came out in a two-part serial format. The film was a fairly faithful adaption of Kikuchi's novel of the same title (1936).87 Akemi, the daughter of a liberal viscount and diplomat (Saitō Tatsuo), follows her own philosophy and has sex with her boyfriend, Ippei (Sano Shūji). Without receiving their parents’ approval, they firmly promise to get married. Ippei, however, dies in an airplane accident, thus leaving the pregnant Akemi all by herself. Eventually, Ippei's younger brother, Ryōta (Uehara Ken), solves the problem by proposing to Akemi and becoming the child's father. Throughout its narrative, the film contrasts Akemi with her cousin Utako (Kawasaki Hiroko), who values virginity and turns down advances by her boyfriend (Saburi Shin), a young painter about to leave for France. Apparently, Shindō attempted to test the limits of sexual expressions on Japanese screens. It included several attempted kisses and at least one embrace in the dark between Akemi and Ippei during the night of blackout drills, which, judging from the novel, led to their first sexual encounter. As a result, the first part of the film, which included all of these scenes, suffered extensive cuts amounting to 326 meters (about 11 minutes, 52 seconds) in total.88 Nevertheless, considering that censorship had become tighter one month earlier, and that the censor-in-chief, in his November 1936 article, stated that kisses as sexual acts between Japanese heterosexual couples would be cut, Shindō's cuts were not particularly surprising.89 While the last three and a half minutes of the couple's love scene were cut out, the audience could still realize what would eventually transpire, especially if they were familiar with the novel.

In effect, Shindō is a curious mixture of a kind of liberalism and a shockingly conservative ideology of the ie (household) system; in prewar Japan, as the character Ryōta explains in both the novel and the film, it was not unusual for a man to marry his older brother's widow for the sake of the household, especially if she had children. Precisely because its overall message did not subvert the existing social order, the film was allowed to suggest an aristocratic woman's spontaneous approach to premarital sex and her pregnancy out of wedlock.90 The film also shows Akemi reading the “Pregnancy” heading of a family health book and then touching her stomach and breast, conveying her anxiety about her condition more physically than in the original book. Shindō was a transitional piece. On the one hand, it still retained the premobilization spirit of experimenting with onscreen sexual mores. On the other hand, it showed how a conservative resolution and maternal love could make “moral liberalism,” “slighting virtue,” and a realistic depiction of a woman's embodied experience of early pregnancy acceptable to the censor, much to the excitement of the audience.91

However, not every kind of out-of-wedlock pregnancy was allowed onscreen. Both Yamamoto Kajirō's Irie Takako vehicle Otto no teisō (A Husband's Chastity, PCL/Toho, released in two parts, April 1 and 21, 1937) and its original, Yoshiya Nobuko's novel of the same title, were extremely popular. While in both versions the heroine, a beautiful widow with a young daughter, has an affair with her best friend's husband, she becomes pregnant and gives birth to an illegitimate child only in the original novel.

In Naruse Mikio's Kafuku (Learn from Experience, PCL/Toho, released in two parts, October 10 and November 11, 1937), the heroine Toyomi (Irie Takako again) becomes pregnant by her fiancé, Shintarō (Takada Minoru), but he leaves her for an arranged marriage with a rich modern girl, Yurie (Takehisa Chieko). Toyomi decides to bear his child as an act of vengeance. She meets and becomes friends with Yurie while working at a boutique as a salesgirl.92 Yurie takes in Toyomi and her baby, and when Shintarō comes home from abroad, the truth is revealed. Eventually Shintarō and Yurie adopt the baby, and Toyomi starts a new life by working in a nursery.

Kafuku, an adaptation of Kikuchi's novel of the same title, came out on a double bill with Utsukushiki taka, which greatly helped the not-so-acclaimed Toho version at the box office. Furthermore, Kafuku combines the theme of a wronged woman's vengeance with two elements of Shindō: premarital sex between young bourgeois lovers and a conservative solution that puts priority on the household system and the family registry. Yet, in this post–China Incident film, Naruse indicates that the couple would engage in sexual intercourse in a restrained and yet unambiguous manner, without Shindō's raw and direct expressions.

On a rainy night, Toyomi meets Shintarō at his apartment. Seated at a low table (figure 6) and framed through over-the-shoulder shot-reverse shots (figures 7, 8), Shintarō promises to tell his parents about her. The camera, placed outside the apartment, captures him as he stands up and approaches the windows (figure 9). The camera returns inside (figure 10), and as he sits down in a wicker chair and says, “I think I'm drunk,” the film cuts to a full shot to include Toyomi in the foreground (figure 11). In this shot, she spontaneously comes to him (figure 12). Then he calls her name and reaches for her hand. With this action, the film cuts to her smiling face in a medium close-up (figure 13), and then to his face (figure 14), flatly violating the 180-degree rule. After repeating this shot-reverse-shot as he tells her how happy he is with her, in the same full shot as figure 12, he promises to marry her and make her happy. The camera cuts away to a garden rock in the rain (figure 15). Following another outside shot of the garden similar to figure 9, the scene fades out. In this typical Naruse découpage that infuses humid outside air into intimate conversation, Toyomi's spontaneity, delight, and agency are constantly underscored by her actions and radiant smiles. In contrast, Shintarō's awkward delivery of clichéd lines, combined with the strangely cheerful music, conveys that there is something untrustworthy about this man.

Figures 6–15.

Stills from Kafuku (Learn from Experience, dir. Naruse Mikio, 1937).

Figures 6–15.

Stills from Kafuku (Learn from Experience, dir. Naruse Mikio, 1937).

While Kafuku incorporated strong-willed Toyomi's revenge into the world of the Civil Code, Mizoguchi Kenji's Aienkyō (released on June 17, 1937) was a borderline case. Ofumi (Yamaji Fumiko)—a maid at an inn in a small town in Nagano—becomes pregnant by the inn's young master Kenkichi (Shimizu Masao). After they elope to Tokyo, Kenkichi leaves Ofumi and is taken away by his father (Mimasu Yutaka). Yoshitarō (Kawazu Seizaburō), a street performer, helps Ofumi find work in a diner, after which he is sent to jail for a street fight. Ofumi gives birth at a midwife's home and puts the baby out to nurse. Two years pass. Yoshitarō runs into Ofumi at a bar where she works. They join Ofumi's uncle's troupe of traveling performers and reclaim her son. Ofumi and Yoshitarō form a stand-up comedy (manzai) duo. Ofumi turns her past with Kenkichi into a show and presents it in their hometown in Nagano. After Kenkichi sees the performance, he apologizes and asks Ofumi and their son to return, but again, he fails to stand up to his father. She chooses to leave the town and continue traveling as a performer with Yoshitarō and her son.

Unlike Kafuku or Shindō, the drama of Aienkyō emphasizes class differences between the couple, as in other classical seduction stories.93 Ofumi's class and family background, however, clearly give her strength. An illegitimate child of a traveling performer herself, she does not have to give up either her son or her freedom for middle-class respectability and a proper family registry. Aienkyō passed the censor with no cuts, demonstrating that the rubric of “maternal love” allows a heroine to criticize and reject the Civil Code and normative family life.

As a social-problem drama with a realist penchant, Aienkyō re-created, for the unblinking camera eye, the grim reality of giving birth out of wedlock and sending the newborn out to nurse in prewar Japan. The milieu of the back-alley midwife's house is given rich details: the dubious sign “We Take Care of Pregnant Women” (figure 16), the cruel foster mother who takes the baby (figure 17), and the bleak, industrial waterfront along which Ofumi runs after her baby to say goodbye (figures 18, 19). Even though Shiga's case was never mentioned in relation to this film, this imagery, carefully created by the production designer Mizutani Hiroshi, would have had the audience imagine the environment that Shiga might have been in and how marginalized and inhumane it would have been for her to have a back-alley abortion.

Figures 16–19.

Aienkyō (The Valley of Love and Hate, dir. Mizoguchi Kenji, 1937).

Figures 16–19.

Aienkyō (The Valley of Love and Hate, dir. Mizoguchi Kenji, 1937).

In the late 1930s, the marked shift in censorship standards and production trends pushed glamorous, exotic, and unrepentant femme fatales off the screen and instead brought in active, outspoken, and cheerful young women, some of whom were working women and/or single mothers. Shiga's unsuccessful comeback from the scandal was a function—and possibly constitutive—of this shift. Needless to say, historical assessment of this shift has been overwhelmingly negative. It is, however, worth asking: Who wrote this history? Shiga's signature film, Muteki, is undoubtedly a gem of late silent Japanese cinema; yet, as a quintessential “male melodrama,” it crystallizes an intense homosocial bonding between an old British man and his young Japanese counterpart, using the femme fatale as a phantasmagoric decoy.94 In this narrative, women's perspectives in and on Japanese cinema were either ignored or belittled.95

The Shiga scandal ironically provided women writers and public intellectuals with an unparalleled opportunity to voice their visions of femininity, work, and citizenship relative to Japanese film culture. Those women who did not directly participate in the Shiga discourse did follow her scandal, perhaps projecting parts of their experience onto hers. Indeed, Shiga started out as a typical movie-mad bourgeois girl who loved American and European films, aspired to become an artist, and ended up shuttling between dance halls and film studios; sexual advances by male superiors and colleagues, such as the ones Shiga faced behind the scenes, were also common problems for women, whether they worked at textile mills or in offices.96 Responding to or exploiting these visions and projections, the film industry, under pressure from the state to mobilize for wartime, produced ambiguous and contradictory films on unwanted pregnancy and single motherhood open to multiple interpretations. While wartime maternal melodramas in Japanese cinema have been taken as expressions of the ideology of motherhood, this essay has demonstrated that they instead constituted a field on which women's desires, aspirations, and longings were played out and channeled into the effort for total war.


I thank Daibō Masaki, Okada Hidenori, and Tochigi Akira of the National Film Center, Tokyo Museum of Modern Art, for their invaluable assistance with a special screening and frame enlargements of Muteki. This paper greatly benefited from comments from the audience when I presented earlier versions of it at the University of Queensland and Women and the Silent Screen VII at the University of Melbourne. JSPS KAKENHI grant no. 23720078 supported this research.


Tomoda Jun'ichirō, “Muteki,” Kinema junpō, June 1, 1934, 109; Q [Tsumura Hideo], “Nihon mono to shite wa kasaku no Muteki,” Tokyo asahi shimbun, May 14, 1934, morning.


In the “Box Office Value” section of his review for the leading trade/critical journal Kinema junpō, Tomoda Jun'ichirō reported: “Combining the original novel's name value with Shiga Akiko's first film after her reform, this project scored great commercial success.” Tomoda, “Utsukushiki taka,” Kinema junpō, October 11, 1937, 91.


Katō Atsuko, Sōdōin taisei to eiga (Tokyo: Shin'yō-Sha, 2003).


Noël Burch, To the Distant Observer: Form and Meaning in the Japanese Cinema (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979); David Bordwell, “Our Dream-Cinema: Western Historiography of the Japanese Film,” Film Reader 4 (1979): 45–62; “A Cinema of Flourishes: Japanese Decorative Classicism of the Prewar Era,” in Reframing Japanese Cinema, eds. David Desser and Arthur Noletti (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992), 327–45; idem., Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988), especially chs. 2–3; Donald Kirihara, Patterns of Time: Mizoguchi and the 1930s (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992), chs. 3–5; and Darrell William Davis, Picturing Japaneseness: Monumental Style, National Identity, Japanese Film (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995). In the 1980s, the cinema of 1930s Japan provided film studies with a utopia in which a commercial film industry achieved formal innovations that might subvert or at least counter Western bourgeois cinema.


Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano, Nippon Modern: Japanese Cinema of the 1920s and 1930s (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2008); Catherine Russell, The Cinema of Naruse Mikio: Women and Japanese Modernity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008). Although her focus is not on film, Barbara Sato's historical research sheds light on women's everyday life and media culture; see Sato, The New Japanese Woman: Modernity, Media, and Women in Interwar Japan (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003).


Ginoza Naomi, Modan raifu to sensō: sukurīn no naka no josei tachi (Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kōbunkan, 2013). See also Naomi Ginoza, “Dissonance to Affinity: An Ideological Analysis of Japanese Cinema in the 1930s,” PhD diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 2007.


Kamiya Makiko, “Hanakosan (1943 nen, Makino Masahiro) no ryōgisei: ‘Meirō’ na sensō puropaganda eiga,” Bigaku 63, no. 1 (Summer 2012): 109–20; Misono Ryōko, Eiga to kokumin kokka: 1930 nendai Shōchiku merodorama eiga (Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 2012), ch. 4.


Recent research on reproductive health during the Tokugawa period has revealed that infanticide and abortion occurred within complex social relations; for example, in northeastern villages, whether or not a newborn was killed reflected power dynamics among the mother, her husband, family, in-laws, and the midwife. Sawayama Mikako, San to seishoku no kinsei (Tokyo: Keisō Shobō, 2005).


Fujime Yuki, Sei no rekishigaku: kōshō seido-dataizai taisei kara baishun bōshihō-yūsei hogohō taisei e (Tokyo: Fuji Shuppan, 1997), 119–23. For a counterargument that questions Fujime's projection of 1930s policy onto the reading of the Meiji documents, see Iwata Shigenori, Inochi o meguru kindaishi: datai kara jinkō ninshin chūzetsu e (Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kōbunkan, 2009), 36–38. The dataizai remains effective to date. Yet yūsei hogohō (the Eugenic Protection Law) and its revisions de facto legalized abortion for economic reasons in 1952, allowing women in Japan access to safe abortions.


Ogino Miho, Kazoku keikaku eno michi (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2010), 107–09.


Fujime, Sei no rekishigaku, 245–81; Sabine Frühstück, Colonizing Sex: Sexology and Social Control in Modern Japan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003); Ogino, Kazoku keikaku, 27–44.


Nonfiction writer Sawachi Hisae published the first comprehensive research on Shiga's case: Sawachi, “Shiga Akiko no tsumi to batsu,” in Kanpon Showa-shi no onna (Tokyo: Bungei Shunjū, 2003), 95–119, originally published in Bungei shujū (April 1979); historian Iwata Shigenori recontextualizes her case in the history of the dataizai offenses: Iwata, Inochi o meguru kindaishi, 26–32.


Shimura Miyoko, “Eiga joyū to sukyandaru: Utsukushiki taka to joyū Shiga Akiko o megutte,” Engeki Hakubutsukan Gurōbaru COE kiyō Engeki Eizōgaku 1 (2008): 27–42; idem., Eigajin Kikuchi Kan (Tokyo: Fujiwara Shoten, 2013), 141–76.


For accounts of Shiga's early life, see “Shiga Akiko tsumi no gyōjō-ki,” Tokyo nichinichi shimbun, July 28, 1935, 15; her published memoirs, Shiga Akiko, “Watakushi no zange,” Fujin kōron (January 1937): 142–48; and her 1957 autobiography, idem., Ware sughishi hi ni: kanashiki joyū no kokuhaku (Tokyo: Gakufū Shoin, 1957).


This description of what had occurred is based on the indictment as reported by the media. “Ikichishi to mitomete Shiga Akiko tsuini kiso,” Tokyo asahi shimbun, September 6, 1935, evening. In court, Shiga's lawyers did not challenge the prosecutor's account of events, but they pleaded extenuating circumstances and questioned the legitimacy of the dataizai itself.


“Haha no shikaku nashi to Akiko ni ninen kyūkei: kenji Onna no isshō toku,” Tokyo asahi shimbun, November 15, 1936.


Takahashi Kenji, “Kaisetsu” (Postscript), in Yamamoto Yūzō, Onna no isshō, vol. 2, 346–50; “Bundan no yu Yamamoto Yūzō shi totsujo kenkyo saru,” Yomiuri shimbun, June 4, 1933; “Fushin no kane hyaku yen,” Yomiuri shimbun, June 5, 1933, evening. Following his release, Yamamoto finished the book's last chapter. The complete novel was published by Chūōkōron-sha in November 1933. My references are to Yamamoto Yūzō, Onna no isshō, 2 vols., paperback ed. (Tokyo: Shinchō-sha, 1951).


Although the narrator never mentions the JCP, it must have been clear to the contemporary reader that the son, student Masao, went underground for party operations. Yamamoto, Onna no isshō, vol. 2, ch. “Haha no ai.”


Yamamoto Yūzō, “Kenji no ronkoku to Onna no isshō,” Tokyo asahi shimbun, November 18, 19, and 20, 1936.


Lawyer Suzuki Yoshio attacks writer Kume Masao for showing sympathy with Abe in his essay published in Kaizo in February 1937. Suzuki Yoshio, “Shiga Akiko no tameni Kume Masao ni atau,” Bungei shunjū (March 1937): 344–47.


Kikuchi Kan, “Hanashi no kuzukago,” Bungei shunjū (January 1937): 280–81, reprinted in Kikuchi, Kikuchi Kan zenshū, vol. 24 (Takamatsu: Takamatsu-shi Kikuchi Kan Kinen-kan, 1995), 345–46; Hirotsu Kazuo, “Ishi mote utsubekiya,” Fujin kōron (January 1937): 149–54. An abridged transcription of Suzuki's defense in court was published as Suzuki Yoshio, “Shiga Akiko no tameni,” Fujin kōron (January 1937): 155–59. Suzuki was an eminent scholar and lawyer who would eventually serve as minister of justice in the short-lived Socialist Cabinet in 1947.


Hirotsu, “Ishi mote,” 151. As Shimura has pointed out, in its emphasis on weakness and innocence, the discourse on the Shiga scandal shows a remarkable affinity with the Abe Sada scandal, which was brought to court on November 26, 1936, the day after Shiga's sentencing. (Abe had killed her lover and cut off and kept his penis.) The headline “Sada's Court Hearing Tomorrow” was juxtaposed with the coverage of Shiga's sentence on an evening newspaper. See Yomiuri shimbun, November 25, 1936, evening. Later, the director Oshima Nagisa, in defending his rendering of the Abe Sada incident, In the Realm of the Senses (1976), in court, argued that the judge of the Abe Sada case, by describing her as a naïve woman and a victim of a womanizing lover, tried to mitigate her act's dangerous transgression. Oshima Nagisa, “Ai no korida saishu chinjutsu,” in Yomota Inuhiko and Hirasawa Go, eds., Oshima Nagisa Chosakushū, vol. 3 (Tokyo: Gendai Shicho-sha, 2008), 146–47.


“Joyū aishi no kōhan—usugeshō shite Shiga Akiko,” Yomiuri shimbun, September 30, 1935, evening.


We can see the same kind of fetishism for a glamorous woman full of remorse in the contemporary Japanese media's coverage of Obokata Haruko. In April 2014, Dr. Obokata, accused of scientific misconduct in stem-cell research that was once believed to be a breakthrough, held a press conference. It generated massive news coverage that captured and finely described her navy blue dress, pearl necklaces, hairstyle, makeup, and mannerisms. For example, although the respectable Mainichi shimbun mentions only her dress, its short article was accompanied by twenty-two photographs, an unusual volume of visual information for the topic. “Obokata-shi kaiken,” Mainichi shimbun, April 9, 2014, (accessed August 27, 2014). Although this Japanese woman's “crime” was not an illegal abortion, but research fraud that was published in Nature, the media's approach, surprisingly, stayed the same.


Writer Hirabayashi Taiko states: “It gives me a shudder to imagine she [Shiga] may be exploited by a film company and dance on screen, capitalizing on her notoriety. Reflecting on the case now, I think that her misfortune originated in her being an actress—a shiny existence on the surface of society.” Hirabayashi, “Shiga Akiko no korekara,” Yomiuri shimbun, November 27, 1936, morning. Writer Miyamoto Yuriko makes a similar remark: “Film companies’ management and their methods of manufacturing stars, actors’ lifestyle that pressures them to be extravagant in spite of poor salary, and numerous other contradictions and limitations in contemporary society are concentrated in Akiko's case.” Miyamoto, “Onna no isshō to Shiga Akiko no baai,” Kokumin shimbun, November 23, 1935, reprinted in Aozorabunko, September 15, 2003, (accessed August 27, 2014).


Suzuki, “Shiga Akiko no tameni,” 157.


Yamakawa Kikue, “Akiko no baai, Wosaruzawa no sanji,” Fujin kōron (January 1937): 162.


Ibid., 163. At that time, a small house or townhouse on the fringe of Tokyo could be rented for thirteen yen per month. Shukan Asahi, ed., Nedan-shi nenpyō: Meiji, Taisho, Showa (Tokyo: Asahi shimbun-sha, 1988), 198.


Yamakawa, “Akiko no baai,” 164.


Ibid., 164–65. For the Bosei hogohō, see Ogino, Kazokukeikaku, 114.


In July 1935, upon her temporary release from the police, Shiga said: “In order to establish oneself as a film actress, a patron's support and a director's favor are necessary. Without them, neither art nor good looks would do.” “Eiga joyū: tsumi no mon,” Tokyo asahi shimbun, July 28, 1935, evening.


Kido Shirō, “Shiga Akiko jiken to chikagoro no joyū,” Fujokai, September 1935, 296–98.


For instance, Kido's long-term extramarital relationship with his studio's top star, Tanaka Kinuyo, was widely known within the industry.


Marugusu Hitoshi, “Shiga Akiko: Joen no hansei-shi,” Kinema (June 1934): 132–34.


Irie Takako, Eiga joyū (Tokyo: Gakufu Shoin, 1957), 139–40.


Interview with Irie Takako, “Ningen toshite eiga joyū mo hitotsu no shokugyōfujin Irie-san no jinseikan,” Tokyo asahi shimbun, November 14, 1936.


For an account of Irie and her productions in the early 1930s, see Chika Kinoshita, “In the Twilight of Modernity and the Silent Film: Irie Takako in The Water Magician,” Camera Obscura 60 (December 2005): 90–127.


Although working women's numbers were fairly limited in a predominantly agrarian nation, their number grew by five times, from 350,000 in 1920 to 1,750,000 in 1940. Hama (Yamazaki) Takako, “1930 nendai Nihon ni okeru shokugyō fujin no kattō: Yomiuri shimbun fujin-ran ‘Minoue sodan’ kara,” Kyoto Daigaku Daigakuin Kyoiku Kenkyuka Kiyo 57 (2011): 531.


Konno Mariko, OL no sōzō: Imisekai toshite no jenda (Tokyo: Keiso Shobo, 2000), 53–59.


Ibid., 75. This figure excludes those who became schoolteachers, an established option for educated women even in the Meiji period (1868–1912).


Sato, The New Japanese Woman, 114–51.


Yamakawa, “Akiko no baai,” 164.


Shiga, Ware sugishihi ni, 115.


“Gaikoku eiga ni okyu,” Tokyo asahi shimbun, October 1, 1936, evening.


Yanai Yoshio, Katsudo shashin no hogo to torishimari (Tokyo: Yuhikaku, 1929); Tajima Tarō, Ken'etsushitsu no yami ni tsubuyaku (Tokyo: Dainihon Katsudo Shashin Kyokai, 1938).


“Chimoji o-X eigaka ni keikoku,” Yomiuri shimbun, May 22, 1936, evening.


“Kanmin ichizu no moto ni,” Kinema junpō, September 21, 1936, 8.


Director Toyoda Shirō recalled that the censor Tajima Tarō, after grilling him about the shooting script of Wakai hito, said: “OK, it depends on how you film it.” Toyoda, “Jitsuroku Nihon eigashi,” Yomiuri shimbun, April 22, 1964, evening. In view of the fact that Wakai hito was filmed and released in late 1937, before the eigahō made script submissions to censors compulsory, this conversation was unofficial.


“Shiga no kōsei eiga Onna no isshō ka,” Yomiuri shimbun, April 15, 1937, evening.


Yamamoto, Onna no isshō, vol. 2, 36–86.


Women's adultery was kantsūzai (a criminal offense) until October 1947. The Film Censorship Section's internal code warned against “including adultery in the plot and risking the degradation of feminine virtue as an ideal,” but, according to censor Tajima, it ultimately depended on the film's overall moral message. Tajima, Kenetsu shitsu, 347–54.


Yamamoto's Onna no isshō was successfully adapted into film in 1955, three years after the legalization of abortion, and was written by the female screenwriter Mizuki Yōko, directed by Nakamura Noboru, and starred Awashima Chikage.


“Shiga Akiko kōsei eiga,” Yomiuri shimbun, July 7, 1937, evening. Although this short piece and other articles state that the story is based on Miyoshi Kazumitsu's novel, none specifies the title; Yoda Yoshikata's published script credits Mizoguchi as original writer. Yoda Yoshikata, “Kaitaisha,” in Yoda Yoshikata: Hito to shinario, ed. Nihon Shinario Sakka Kyōkai (Tokyo: Nihon Shinario Sakka Kyokai, 2014), 23. According to a roundtable discussion published in the leading women's magazine Shufu no tomo, the Directors Guild of Japan expelled Abe Yutaka from membership for his involvement in the Shiga scandal. Oomori Yoshitarō, Kataoka Teppei, Kikuchi Kan, et al., “Otoko no tachiba kara ren'ai o kataru zadankai,” Shufu no tomo (January 1937): 109.


Yoda Yoshikata, “Mizoguchi Kenji-shi no kongo,” Kinema junpō, August 21, 1937, 8.


Yoda, “Kaitaisha,” 23–82.


Kinema junpō reports: “Mizoguchi's film following Aienkyō is going to be Kaitaisha, based on Miyoshi Kazumitsu's novel, cowritten by the director and Yoda Yoshikata. Takatsu Yoshiko has been selected to play the heroine, a geisha.” Kinema junpō, July 21, 1937, 105. Whether and when Shiga was dropped from the casting of Kaitaisha are unknown.


Hazumi Tsuneo, “Asu wa kanarazu kuru,” Kinema junpō, September 21, 1937, 8–9. An industry columnist denied Hazumi's allegation, citing “the real reason that Mizoguchi may well reveal later” but admitted the Film Censorship Section's interventions into the projects it deemed “inappropriate” in wartime, including Mizoguchi's latest project after Kaitaisha. Awaji Namio, “Gyōkai kinji byōkei.” Kinema junpō, December 12, 1937, 12.


Shimura, Eigajin Kikuchi Kan, 156–66. Kikuchi, in a leading general monthly he owned and edited, praised the generous sentence and urged the film industry to open up possibilities for Shiga to “reform” herself. Kikuchi Kan, “Hanashi no kuzukago,” Bungei shunjū (January 1937): 281. In her 1957 autobiography, Shiga fondly remembered Kikuchi's warm friendship and occasional financial support. Shiga, Ware sugishihi ni, 114–15, 128–35.


“Ataka Yumiko towa dareka? Shiga Akiko no henmei nari,” Yomiuri shimbun, September 27, 1937, evening.


“Nikkatsu to Toho Utsukushiki taka de shōtotsu,” Yomiuri shimbun, June 18, 1937, evening; Yamamoto Kotarō, “Mittsu no Utsukushiki taka o megutte,” Kinema junpō, October 21, 1937, 13.


Yamamoto, “Mittsu no Utsukushiki taka.”


Utsukushiki taka,” Kinema junpō, October 1, 1937, 172–73. Kikuchi Kan, Kikuchi Kan zenshū, vol. 14 (Takamatsu: Takamatsu-shi Kikuchi Kan Kinenkan, 1994), 327–488.


Tomoda, “Utsukushiki taka.”


The Nikkatsu version of Utsukushiki taka was to be remembered as a breakthrough for Todoroki, whose performance as a modern and articulate heroine, it was said, electrified the audience as well as critics. The “box office value” section of the Kinema junpō review said: “With this film, Nikkatsu found a gold mine called ‘Todoroki.’” Mizumachi Seiji, “Utsukushiki taka,” Kinema junpō, November 11, 1937, 90. In 1943, Todoroki played the title role in the wartime musical Hanako-san, based on a serialized cartoon titled Hanako of the Home Front (1938–39), Bride Hanako (1939–40), and Hanako and Her Family (1940–49). The character Hanako was originally modeled on Todoroki herself. The film shows Hanako's smooth trajectory from virgin to wife to mother through proper and healthy courtship, marriage, and pregnancy. See Kamiya, “Hanakosan no ryogisei.”


Shimura, Eigajin Kikuchi Kan, 174 n. 43.


“Gaikoku eiga ni okyu.” For the chillingly fascistic usage of the term meirō (“bright”) in the sense of healthy, modern, upbeat, and uncritical, see Kamiya, “Hanakosan no ryōgisei,” 110–11.


A comparison with Yamaguchi Yoshiko/Ri Koran/Li Xianglan/Shirley Yamaguchi would be interesting. Yamaguchi, having recovered from the scandal of acting Chinese for Japanese propaganda, played Ohana in the remake of Muteki (dir. Taniguchi Senkichi, Toho, 1952), but her characterization was changed to that of a good girl trapped in misfortunes.


Shiga, Ware sugishihi ni, 135–203.


Kishi Matsuo, “Ginmaku no joou shūbun jiken,” Bungei shunjū (August 1955): 135–41.


Nishikawa Yūko, Kindai kokka to kazoku moderu (Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kobunkan, 2000), 160–90.


Tokyo-shi, ed. Fujin shokugyō sensen no tenbō (Tokyo: Hakuo-sha, 1932), 82. The percentage that moviegoing occupied within all pastime activities depended on job title, which closely mirrored education level: 15 percent for secretaries, 20 percent for store clerks, 15 percent for typists, 28 percent for factory workers, and 32 percent for waitresses.


For an excellent analysis of the cultural elite's class-based anxieties toward the film medium and its audience in the 1910s, see Aaron Gerow, Visions of Japanese Modernity: Articulations of Cinema, Nation, and Spectatorship, 1895–1925 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010). See also Tanaka Masasumi's pioneering essay on early jidaigeki (period films) and their audiences: Tanaka Masasumi, “Jidaigeki eiga-shi ron no tame no yobiteki shokōsatsu (senzen-hen),” in Jidaigeki eiga towa nanika, eds. Tsutsui Kiyotada and Katō Mikirō (Kyoto: Jinbun Shoin, 1997), 17–44.


For a discussion of this film within historical contexts, see Ginoza, Modan raifu, 175–80.


Sachiko Mizuno has named these films shokugyōfujin eiga (“professional women films”). Sachiko Mizuno, “Reconfiguring Modern Femininity for Empire: Professional Woman and Tokyo in women in tokyo (1939),” presentation, Josai International University, Tokyo, May 23, 2009.


Margit Nagy, “Middle-Class Working Women during the Interwar Years,” in Recreating Japanese Women, 1600–1945, ed. Gail Lee Bernstein (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), 199–216. Naimushō officials often used this phrase in their documents. See n. 84.


Koyama Shizuko, Ryōsai kenbo to iu kihan (Tokyo: Keiso Shobo, 1991), ch. 4.


Naimushō Keihokyoku, Eiga kenetsu jihō, 1937 seigen no bu (Tokyo: Fuji Shuppan, 1986), 87–88. There were six cuts that amounted to fifty-six meters (122 sec.).


With regard to the editorship of Nippon eiga (Japanese Cinema), see “Konshū 10 gatsu o kishite kokumin eigasai: Naimushō no ginmaku seisaku,” Kinema junpō, August 21, 1936, 6.


Tejima Senzō, “Jogakusei to eiga no yūwaku,” Nippon eiga (January 1938): 138–45.


Fukao Sumako, “Eigateki na hanei: Josei no sugata ni miru,” Nippon eiga (August 1937): 16.


Fukao, “Eigateki na hanei,” 17–18.


“Wazawai wa Amerika eiga: chūmoku subeki sakunendo no shussan gekigen; Naimushō odoroite keikoku,” Tokyo asahi shimbun, November 21, 1937, evening.


Iwasaki Akira, “Amerika eiga to shussan ritsu,” Kinema junpō, December 11, 1937, 9.


“Shinario sakka mo Nihon seishin kōyō o ketsugi,” Kinema junpō, August 11, 1938, 26; “Oubei-ka o haigeki kyakuhon sakka to tōkyoku kondan,” Tokyo asahi shimbun, August 2, 1938, evening.


“Tenka wa wareni; Yōga no yushutsu kinshi ni ugoku hōgajin; eigakai jūyōjin no hōfu jō,” Tokyo asahi shimbun, October 5, 1937, evening.


As a possible exception, the poverty-low major Daito Eiga's Chibusa (Bosom, dir. Yoshimura Misawo, released March 25, 1937) focuses on a working-class single mother's struggle. On Chibusa, see Ginoza, Modan raifu, 123–27.


Kikuchi Kan, Kikuchi Kan zenshū, vol. 14 (Shindō), 173–325.


Naimushō Keihokyoku, Eiga kenetsu jiho no. 32 1936 nen seigen no bu (Tokyo: Fuji Shuppan, 1985), 226–27. Kōno Marie has discussed this film's censorship from the perspective of Uehara Ken's stardom and masculinity (or the lack thereof). Kōno, “Uehara Ken to josei eiga: 1930 nendai kōhan no Shochiku Ofuna eiga ni okeru joseikankyakusei no kōchiku,” Eizōgaku 81 (2011): 32. Ginoza finds the censor's approval of the romance during the night of blackout drills itself generous and characteristic of the pre–Sino-Japanese war period. Ginoza, Modan raifu, 132.


Tajima Tarō, “Seppun Kyōyaku: Eiga no gekai wa kataru,” Nippon eiga (November 1936): 90.


Ginoza, Modan raifu, 132.


At least one review in Nippon eiga found Akemi's “moral liberalism” and “slighting virtue” dangerous and infuriating. Yamamoto Saburō, “Shuyō Nihon eiga hyō,” Nippon eiga (February 1937): 58.


For an analysis of the film from the point of view of fashion and Japanese modernity, see Russell, The Cinema of Naruse Mikio, 125–28.


Aienkyō was based on Kawaguchi Matsutarō's original story, which was itself based on Tolstoy's Resurrection (1899) and Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891).


I owe the phrase “male melodrama” to Kōno Marie as a descriptor for Muteki.


For precious historical research on the female fandom of the jidaigeki (period film) star Hasegawa Kazuo, the “Valentino of the East,” see Daisuke Miyao, The Aesthetics of Shadow: Lighting and Japanese Cinema (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013), ch. 2.


A writer at a socialist women's journal pointed out this commonality in discussing Shiga's case. Karino Hiroko, “Shakaijihyō,” Fujin bungei, October 1935, 40–41.