Death, Dreams and Democracy: A Shōjo-Ecofeminist Lens on Awa Naoko’s Post-War Fiction

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Japanese Studies


Awa Naoko’s (1943–1993) folkloric fantasy for young people arose during a time of rapid post-war industrial and economic development in Japan. The pollution arising from this development generated an awareness of environmental degradation at the same time as there was a growing consciousness of the failed promises of gender equality. While Awa’s fantasies represent an instinctively eco-conscious rejection of the urban material world, their girl protagonists imaginatively subvert the systems which implicitly operate to marginalise them (and nature). As Awa’s animistic stories on nature and death mostly involve girls, my investigation combines ecofeminist and shōjo (girl) studies’ perspectives to explore these elements in two particular narratives, Shiroi ōmu no mori (The forest of white cockatoos) and Nagai haiiro no sukāto (The long grey skirt). Taking the narratives as a prescient denunciation of anthropocentric dualisms whose concepts and structures oppress both nature and women, it indicates how the behaviour of girl protagonists exposes both the tragedy of humanity’s separation from the natural world and constraints upon feminised concepts. It also reads the narratives as a shōjo-esque resistance to real-world restrictions, and demonstrates this resistance as an eco-conscious ethic of care against a more socially-inscribed (masculinist) utilitarian ethic.

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