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Old 10-01-2003, 03:38 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Japanese women walking behind men

When was this custom in place and eradicated? I can't find anything about this on the internet so I'm sure it was a long time ago but what was the history of it?
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Old 10-02-2003, 05:10 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I've never heard of this custom, but odds are if it existed in the past, it probably died out in the Meiji era when Japan chose to emulate many aspects of Western civilisation.
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Old 10-02-2003, 10:17 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I don't think it would be that unusual, even today, to see an individual in a clear position of power walk in front of his or her social inferior. Many Japanese phenomena (eg. use of the sentence ending -wa) that are often interpreted as feminine are often more accurately explained in terms of social power. Hence, the real question may be when Japanese women increased their social power in general so that it became less common to see them walking behind men everywhere.

I would also guess that walking behind someone is a custom mainly restricted to "cultured" high society. That is, I would not expect to witness it among Japanese peasants of any time period, although I would expect it among both aristrocrats of the 900s and the 1900s.

I do not think that the Meiji Restoration would have brought about a substantial change in this custom, however, as the Meiji period (I believe) was more of a change in appearance than of spirit. I would suspect that the biggest changing point was the post-WWII period, when women's rights were put in the constitution and when communist/socialist idelogies began to gain favor among the student population.

I imagine that in some old-fashioned wealthy households in Japan today, you would still see a wife walking behind her husband.
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