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Japanese Women Writers and the Home Home has played an important role in human history constituting a place

of sanctuary, safe haven, or comfort. This definition has a universal application for both the male and female sexes from past to present society, but all individuals evoke diverging views when confronted with the concept of home. However, through the works of various female Japanese authors, the meaning of the home is investigated and expanded upon evolving from mere comfort zone to a place of necessity and belonging or, conversely, of limitation and bondage. Dislocation from the home and interpersonal relationships have been the focus of these authors through their texts as channels to explore issues of social and personal identity. Noriko Mizuta in her essay, In Search of a Lost Paradise: The Wandering Women in Hayashi Fumiko's Drifiting Clouds, discusses the literary work of Japanese women writer Hayashi Fumiko. Noriko mainly focuses on dissecting Hayashi's highly renowned Ukigumo, or Drifting Clouds. Drifting Clouds is "considered a masterpiece of postwar literature for its depiction of men and women living in the devastation following [World War II]" (Noriko 329). Hayashi's Drifting Clouds, her final completed literary work, is comparable to her semi-autobiographical debut work Horoki, or Vagabond's Song, in that it is also a city novel and centers around the concept of wandering (Noriko 330). Noriko introduces then proceeds to discuss and analyze the similarities and differences of both Hayashi's stories. The author states that the heroines of both stories "are dislocated women, and their drifting signifies that they do not follow the publicly acknowledged roles of womenas wife and motherwithin the socially and legally guaranteed space of women: the home;" in turn, it can be implied that they fall outside the institution of

womanhood (Noriko 331). Noriko goes on to discuss how although the stories both focus on wandering, Drifting Clouds diverts from a woman's development to the concept of destruction. According to Noriko, Hayashi in Drifting Clouds, "depicts the condition and fate of modern women...[with] no illusions about a women's potential for love or development" (Noriko 335). The author also describes how Hayashi illustrates dualism in relation to gender difference. For Yukiko, the female protagonist of Drifting Clouds, the prewar wandering to the colony of Dalat provided her with a means to achieve freedom and escape the boundaries set by the institution of motherhood. In essence, allowing Yukiko an "escape" from a rigid Japanese social system, which confined women to marriage and the home; instead granting her unprecedented freedom. Yukiko is, perhaps, best described as a marginal woman separated from the mainstream who is devoid of any desire to develop, which results in her wandering (Noriko 334). However, the postwar circumstances force Yukiko to return to Japan, in turn, preventing her from traveling abroad and circumventing her potential to wander outside of Japan. Continuously wandering from place to place and constantly being dislocated from the home, Yukiko "exists outside the framework established for women, who typically moved from being sheltered daughters to being sheltered wives, from one home to another" (Noriko 331). The wandering provided an escape from the system, but came to mean dislocation from the family, which symbolized woman's, Yukiko's, downfall within the social system, in turn, proving Yukiko's efforts for escape naught (Noriko 336). The male protagonist of the story, Tomioka, views his "escape" to Dalat in a very different light. Tomioka sees his visit to French Indochina as nothing more than a undesirable workplace and longs for his

place back home in Japan. Noriko asserts that Hayashi has used the two protagonists as symbols for and against modern society. Yukiko is described by Noriko as "outside Japanese history," while Tomioka's "wandering is always internal to Japan" and his "personal history coexists with the history of Japan through its prewar, wartime, and postwar periods" (Noriko 345-346). The author later states that "Yukiko's return to Tokyo means a return to the system that separates men and women in an ideology of asymmetry; ultimately, Tokyo comes to represent for her the impossibility of love beyond the established gender roles" (Noriko 347). Alwyn Spies in her essay, The Sexual Revelation: Finding Sexuality in Yoshimoto Banana's Writing, provides a revisionist view of Yoshimoto Banana's works challenging critic's opinions as well as John Whittier Treat's interpretations of shojo culture and Banana's literature as anti-sexual and genderless. Spies discusses the topic of women's sexuality and goes on to proclaim that Yoshimoto Banana's works are perhaps not completely devoid of sexuality. In this, the author contests critic's opinion of Banana's work as well as John Whittier Treat's interpretations and his idea of shojo. Spies discusses Treat's essay and his opinions and then questions them. The author also asserts that through this set definition of shojo it is only possible for females to "ignore or reject sexuality, not create or explore it," while bluntly stating that "'Femininity' is the enemy for Treat" (Spies 89). Spies then challenges critics in assuming that Banana's stories are sexless by referring to a quote by Mikage suggesting that she had previously slept with her ex-boyfriend (Spies 90-91). The author suggests that Mikage is not sexually passive, but rather prudent as her lack of libido and loss of sexual appetite may be a result of the trauma encountered with the death of her grandmother (Spies 91). Spies then asserts that

Banana's stories are about survival rather than lack of sex. She advocates that perhaps Banana's characters are "not virgins, but sexual anorexics in search of a way to survive...because the alternative is death" (Spies 93). In this way, sexuality is directly related to the home as it is linked to survival and, in turn, allows the narrator to become whole. Spies believes that Banana's stories are postmodern in that they show ways to overcome modern isolation and alienation to participate on an interpersonal level with other members of society (Spies 95-96). The overcoming of these interpersonal boundaries can be interpreted as a breakdown of traditional gender hierarchies and the reaching of mutuality with another person. For example, the narrator in the short story "A Strange Tale from Down by the River" is initially dislocated from the home, but able to reach mutuality with her husband giving her a feeling of wholeness and a sense of ultimate belonging in the home. The contrast of various spaces discussed throughout the texts provide a means to explore issues of social and personal identity. In Hayashi Fumiko's Drifting Clouds, as stated earlier, Tomioka parallels Japan's transition from pre- to post-war. Tomioka's personal experiences retell the history of Japanese wartime society. Yukiko wanders from domestic to foreign leaving her home in Japan for French Indochina. Her wandering represents the personal escape from motherhood in the home, in turn, de-essentializing the societal category of "Women" by living outside it. Conversely, Tomioka's reallocation from Japan to Dalat, or from domestic to foreign, represents a shift from home to work. Tomioka goes from the only place where he can coexist with a women, which is within the household (home), to a place outside the home (in this case Dalat),

where women evoke illusions of life, vitality, and salvation in men, or else drag them into ruin (Noriko 346). Because Tomioka is forced to wander from his family in Japan he does not view Dalat as his home, but rather as a place of work as it is lacking in a household and only provides a means for supporting his family. In Yoshimoto Banana's Kitchen, as previously mentioned Banana's stories are about survival. The shifting of indoor spaces, from kitchen to living room, signifies a crucial swing in gender restriction. The kitchen can in some ways be viewed as restraining to women; however, Mikage's relocation to the living room putting men and women on an equal horizontal (Spies 9293). This relocation to the living room equates gender roles by blending gender lines and allowing both sexes to meet half-way between the kitchen and the bedroom. Consequently, empowering the female and de-essentializing the category of "Women." The concept of home as depicted in the various texts holds a deeper and more profound meaning in regards to gender and dislocation. The home provides a chance for wholeness and completeness to individuals, but at the same time constructs limitations as those apparent in Japanese womanhood. The texts of theses Japanese women writers focus on the home to challenge and tear down the traditional social relations of men and women in the household resulting in the de-essentialization of the category of "Women" through exploration of issues of social and personal identity.