Bluestocking (magazine)

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Bluestocking (Seitō)
The First Issue of Seito - September 1911.jpg
The first issue of Seitō with cover illustration by Chieko Naganuma[1]
Editor Raichō Hiratsuka; Noe Ito; Seitō-sha
Categories Newsmagazine
First issue September 1911[2]
Final issue February 1916[2]
Country Japan
Language Japanese

Bluestocking (青鞜, Seitō) was a Japanese feminist magazine founded in 1911 by a group of 5 women including Raichō Hiratsuka, Yasumochi Yoshiko, Mozume Kazuko, Kiuchi Teiko and Nakano Hatsuko, all founding members of the Bluestocking Society (青鞜社, Seitō-sha).


The initial group of five women had all graduated from the newly established Japan Women's University (日本女子大学, Nihon joshi daigaku) [3] and chose to adopt the term Bluestocking from the British usage, which had come to refer to feminists over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Hiratsuka opened the first issue with the words, “In the beginning, woman was the sun.” (「原始、女性は太陽であった」). Later readers thought it was a reference to the Shinto myth of creation by the Sun Goddess Amaterasu and a then-popular idea in anthropology that all prehistoric societies had been matriarchal, but it wasn't the idea of Hiratsuka Raichô, who made rather an answer to Nietzsche's assertion about the inferiority of women. Contributors included renowned poet and women’s rights proponent Akiko Yosano and author Nobuko Yoshiya among others. The first years of the magazine were exciting ones, with thousands of contributors (including many female teachers), with one thousand to three thousand copies of issues being produced.[3]

Many members were referred to and referred to themselves as "New Women" (shin-fujin;新婦人). This term denoted women who wore fashionable Western dress, socialized with men in public, and chose their own romantic partners. Many in the press used this term pejoratively, but the members of the Seitō-sha rejected these negative connotations and embraced an identity as leaders in the reform of gender relations. The "New Women" of the "Bluestocking group" wore their hair in Western style, visited geisha houses to be entertained (a traditionally masculine form of activity in Japan), smoked in public and visited taverns to drink, all of which led them to be condemned for their "Western" style of life.[4]

Though originally focusing on women's literature, the magazine soon shifted focus towards women’s liberation, and the pages of Seitō are filled with essays and editorials on the question of gender equality. In many of these, members of the group air their differing opinions on issues of the day, such as the importance of a woman maintaining her virginity before marriage. Legalized prostitution, abortion, and women's suffrage were also the subject of animated discussion. Such writings caught the attention of the Home Ministry because criticism of the system of private capital (capitalism) was banned under the Public Order and Police Law of 1900. Two other issues would be banned by the Ministry's censorship bureau and removed from store shelves because their frank expressions of female sexuality were deemed threats to public morality. In Meiji and Taishō era Japan, anything that questioned the kokutai in anyway was likely to get one in trouble with the authorities, and five editions of Seitō were banned between 1911-15 as a threat to the kokutai.[5] The September 1911 edition of Seitō was banned for a short story dealing with the break-up of arranged marriage; the April 1912 edition was banned for an erotic short story where a woman remembered having sex the previous night with a man she met at a tavern; the April 1913 edition was banned for an article calling for women to marry for love; the February 1914 edition was banned for a short story where a woman flees an arranged marriage, only to be betrayed by her lover; and the June 1915 edition was banned for an article calling for abortion to be legalized in Japan.[6] .

Even more than the content of the journal, the private behavior of the core members of the Bluestocking society drew public criticism. Several of them engaged in affairs with married men, rumors of which the press exploited with gusto. But this was not separate from the journal, because members of Bluestocking often wrote essays and semi-autobiographical stories that described their struggles to form equal relationships based on mutual romantic attachment (rather than through arranged marriage) both inside and outside of marriage. Their frank discussions about premarital sex and their advocacy for women's independence in this regard led to further public condemnation.

An exhausted Hiratsuka turned over the reins to Noe Itō in 1915. Ito produced the journal with little assistance for almost another year. Its last issue was published in February 1916. The journal folded due to a lack of sales, which in its turn was caused by the Home Ministry applying pressure on distributors not to carry a journal that was deemed a threat to the kokutai, warning that they might be fined for carrying the magazine.[7]


  1. ^ Birnbaum, Phyllis (January 22, 2015) [1999]. Modern Girls, Shining Stars, the Skies of Tokyo: Five Japanese Women. Columbia University Press. p. 79. ISBN 9780231500029. 
  2. ^ a b S.L.Sievers, "The Bluestockings", Meiji Japan 
  3. ^ a b Bardsley, Jan (2003). "Seito and the Resurgence of Writing by Women". The Columbia Companion to Modern East Asian Literature: 93–98. JSTOR 10.7312/most11314.18. 
  4. ^ Fukuda, Atsuko "Japan's Literary Feminists: The "Seito" Group" pages 280-292 from Signs Volume 2, No. 1, Autumn 1976 page 284.
  5. ^ Fukuda, Atsuko "Japan's Literary Feminists: The "Seito" Group" pages 280-292 from Signs Volume 2, No. 1, Autumn 1976 page 284.
  6. ^ Fukuda, Atsuko "Japan's Literary Feminists: The "Seito" Group" pages 280-292 from Signs Volume 2, No. 1, Autumn 1976 page 284.
  7. ^ Fukuda, Atsuko "Japan's Literary Feminists: The "Seito" Group" pages 280-292 from Signs Volume 2, No. 1, Autumn 1976 page 284.

Lévy Christine (ed) (2012): Naissance d'une revue féministe au Japon : Seitô (1911-1916), Ebisu, études Japonaises n°48.

  • Jan Bardsley (2007). The Bluestockings of Japan: New Woman Essays and Fiction from Seitô, 1911–16. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-1-929280-45-2. 
  • Dina Lowy (2007). The Japanese "New Woman": Images of Gender and Modernity. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0-8135-4046-1. 
  • Suzuki, Michiko (2009). Becoming Modern Women: Love and Female Identity in Prewar Japanese Literature and Culture. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-6198-7.