Saturday, July 11, 2009

Jimi, da ne

I don't recall how I got there, but some time ago I ended up reading an article titled "Japanese Women's Diaspora: An Interview". It's about the phenomenon of Japanese women leaving Japan (for a period of time, like for study abroad) and seeking romance or marriage with Western men. The author identifies the cause of this longing (憧れ akogare) as the romanticization of the West and "internationalism" coupled to dissatisfaction with female roles in Japanese society. As academics are wont to do, the author labels the former as the "pull" factor, and the latter as the "push". She also makes the interesting point that while women with akogare are seeking to escape patriarchal societal norms in Japan, they are still willing to accept them elsewhere to a lesser extent; they are looking for a kinder, gentler patriarchy.

What really got my attention, though, were the interviewee's closing words:

There is romance in Japan; it's not that Japanese men can't be romantic. But it's plain (jimi). Right now Japanese men are so frightened. Women are much more progressive. Men are lagging behind.

There's that word, jimi, which should be familiar to anyone who's watched Kannagi. In the context of the OP, it's kind of cutesy and coquettish, but more importantly, it's accomodating. To the target demographic, it's a reassurance: yes, I, goddess, will accept plain, boring romance. But to the outside female observer, it just reinforces otaku stereotypes and may well be a death knell for romantic possibility: it's going to be so plain.

I should note that the article dates to 2000, and the interview within it is with a 30-year-old woman in 1993, so things have probably changed a great deal. It's peculiar that a country so saturated with romantic film and literature can be so stuffy when it comes to real-life relationships. There's got to be a generational shift somewhere.

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