cover image Kickboxing Geishas: How Japanese Women Are Changing Their Nation

Kickboxing Geishas: How Japanese Women Are Changing Their Nation

Veronica Chambers, . . Free Press, $27 (276pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-7156-1

In her fifth book, Chambers (Mama's Girl ) reports on dramatic changes in women's lives in postbust Japan, where, she notes, men are no longer the "financial titans" and where women—international travelers and avid consumers—are now driving the economy. Yet, Chambers says, rampant consumerism masks the true complexity of these women's lives as they negotiate the divide between Japan's traditions and their own more career-centered outlook. With compassion and warm wit, the author talks to successful Japanese women—from hip-hop superstars to senior corporate executives and entrepreneurs—about their education, careers, personal lives and aspirations, and about the social norms they face as they carve out a bold new existence in a country wedded to tradition. Chambers portrays her subjects as social pioneers operating in a cultural vacuum, without the support of a widespread women's movement. Chambers captures a gender clash, in which young Japanese women despair of Japanese men's cultural insularity and inability to lose face. (She also interviews men who seek to break with stereotypic Japanese masculinity.) Writing in a hip, visually vivid and entertaining style, Chambers fluently places the courage and isolation of these women in a briefly sketched social and economic context, noting that "today's young career women—entrepreneurial, independent—have more [in common] with their hard-working grandmothers than they do with their Bubble Economy housewife mothers." (Jan. 9)