Embodiment and Its Violence in Kawakami Mieko’s Chichi to ran: Menstruation, Beauty Ideals, and Mothering


  • Juliana Buriticá Alzate International Christian University




This article offers a close reading of Kawakami Mieko’s Chichi to ran (Breasts and eggs, 2007/2008) and explores how the author problematizes agency vis-à-vis cultural and economical mechanisms that control the female body and fix gender roles in a male-dominated, neo-liberal society through an analysis of the portrayal of menstruation, reproduction and beauty ideals from a feminist perspective. Menstruation, beauty practices, reproduction and mothering, are collective experiences that have too often remained invisible. Kawakami puts them in the spotlight, invests body experiences with a voice, and tells a relevant story not only to Japan, but also to the world, making this novella one of the strongest contemporary feminist portrayals of embodiment, reproduction and agency.

Author Biography

Juliana Buriticá Alzate, International Christian University

Juliana Buriticá Alzate (jburitica@icu.ac.jp) is an Assistant Professor at the Center for Gender Studies at International Christian University (ICU). She completed her Ph.D. dissertation, Representations of the Female Body in Japanese Literature by Women Writers at ICU in 2017, and has published articles on the representation of menstruation in advertisements for feminine hygiene products, and also on the intersections between feminism and disability studies. Her current research brings together queer and feminist theory to explore representations of families, parenting and related embodied experiences in fiction by Japanese women authors. 


Abe Auestad, Reiko. “Invoking Affect in Kawakami Mieko’s Chichi to ran (Breast and Eggs, 2008): Higuchi Ichiyō, Playful Words and Ludic Gestures.” Japan Forum, 28, no. 4 (July 2016): 530-548.

Agee, Eve. The Uterine Health Companion, a Holistic Guide to Lifelong Wellness, Self-Care Strategies for: Menstruation, PMS, Endometriosis, Fibroids, Infertility, Pregnancy, Menopause, Hysterectomy. New York: Crown Publishing Group, Random House, 2010.

Bobel, Chris. New Blood: Third-wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2010.

Bordo, Susan. Unbearable Weigh: Feminism, Western Culture and the Body. Oakland: University of California Press, 1993.

Brown, Brene. “The Power of Vulnerability.” Filmed June 2010 at TEDxHouston, Video. https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability/up-next?language=en.

Budgeon, Shelly. “The Contradictions of Successful Femininity: Third-Wave Feminism, Postfeminism and ‘New’ Femininities.” In New Femininities: Postfeminism, Neoliberalism and Subjectivity, edited by Rosalind Gill and Christina Scharff, 279-292. London: Palgrave and Macmillan, 2011.

Copeland, Rebecca. “The Meiji Woman Writer: ‘Amidst a Forest of Beards.’” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 57, no. 2 (Dec. 1997): 383-418.

Cullen, Jennifer Koch-Weser. “A Blank Page: The Canonization of Higuchi Ichiyo.” Harvard Asia Quarterly 16, no.4 (Fall 2014): 10-21.

De Fina, Anna. “Who tells which story and why? Micro and macro contexts in narrative.” Text & Talk 28, no.3 (May 2008): 421-442. https://doi.org/10.1515/TEXT.2008.020.

Fujita, Hiroshi. “Kawakami Mieko: Chichi to ran: Inpei kioku toshite no shōsetsu, izen toshite kusuburi tsuzuketeiru kyosei yōkyū.” Shukan dokushojin, March 8, 2008.

Fuse, Kaoru. “Kawakami Mieko Chichi to ran: ‘Nugenaikarada’ wo megutte.” Tokushū puroretarian bungaku to purekariāto bungaku no aida, kokubungaku: kaishaku to kanshō 75, no. 4 (2010): 165-171.

Grosz, Elizabeth. Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.

Hall, Elaine J. and Marnie Salupo Rodriguez. “The Myth of Postfeminism,” Gender and Society 17, no. 6 (December 2003): 878-902. JSTOR.

Hansen, Gitte Marianne. Femininity, Self-harm and Eating Disorders in Japan: Navigating Contradiction in Narrative and Visual Culture. New York: Routledge, 2016.

Higuchi, Ichiyō. “Child’s Play.” Translated by Robert Lyons Danly. In The Shade of Spring Leaves: The Life and Writings of Higuchi Ichiyō, a Woman of Letters in Meiji Japan, edited by Robert Lyons Danly, 254-287. New Haven: Yale University, 1981.

———. “Growing Up.” Translated by Edward Seidensticker. In Modern Japanese Literature, edited by Donald Keene. New York: Grove Press, 1956.

“‘Intabyū’ Akutagawashō sakka no Kawakami Mieko san ‘Chichi to ran’ kankokoku shuppan he.” Chūō nippō, October 24, 2008. japanese.joins.com/article/440/106440.html.

Kawakami, Mieko. Chichi to ran. 2007. Tokyo: Bungei Shunjū, 2008.

———. “Akutagawajushōsha intabyū: ‘Ie ni ha hon ga issatsu nakatta.’” Bungei shunjū, March, 2008.

———., translator. “Takekurabe.” Higuchi Ichiyō Takekurabe/Natsume Sōseki/Mori Ōgai: Nihon bungaku zenshū, vol. 13, edited by Ikezawa Natsuki. Tokyo: Kawade shobō shinsha, 2015.

———. “Washa ato gaki: ‘Takekurabe’ ni sawaru.” Higuchi Ichiyō Takekurabe/Natsume Sōseki/Mori Ōgai: Nihon bungaku zenshū, vol. 13, edited by Ikezawa Natsuki, 525-527. Tokyo: Kawade shobō, 2015.

———. “Natsu monogatari.”Bungakukai, Bungei shunjū, no. 3, March, 2019.

———. “Natsu monogatari.”Bungakukai, Bungei shunjū, no. 4, April, 2019.

“Kawakami Mieko san, Ichiyō ‘chōyaku.’” Honyomiuridō, Yomiuri Shinbun, 13 Mar. 2015.

Kurumisawa, Ken. “Meiji to heisei ga ‘ito’ de kasaneru ‘Chichi to ran.’” Kanagawa daigaku hyōron 61 (Nov 2008): 117-123.

Laws, Sophie. Issues of Blood: The Politics of Menstruation. London: Macmillan, 1990.

Maeda, Ai. “Midori no tame ni.” Higuchi Ichiyō ‘Takekurabe’ Sakuhinronshū, edited by Takahashi Toshio, 286-296. Tokyo: Kress Shuppan, 2001.

Martin, Emily. The Woman in the Body: A Cultural Analysis of Reproduction. Boston: Beacon Press, 1987.

Matsumoto, Kazuya. Gendai josei sakkaron. Tokyo: Suiseisha, 2011.

Miller, Laura. Beauty Up: Exploring Contemporary Japanese Body Aesthetics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.

“Miwaku no futomomo sukima ga akogare ‘sai gyappu’ ga nihon demo ryukōsuru kizashi?!” Womagazine, December 8, 2016. https://womagazine.jp/70519.

Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” 1965. Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, edited by Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Orbach, Susie. Fat is a Feminist Issue: The Anti-Diet Guide. 1978. Fat is a Feminist Issue II: Conquering Compulsive Eating. 1982. London: Arrow Books, 2006.

Sata, Ineko. “Takekurabe kaishaku he no hitotsu no gimon.” Gunzō 40 no. 2 (May 1985): 192-196.

Seaman, Amanda C. Writing Pregnancy in Low-fertility Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2017.

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Epistemology of the Closet. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

———.Shame and its Sisters: A Silvan Tomkins Reader. London: Duke University Press, 1995.

Statistical Handbook of Japan 2018. Statistics Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, 2018. https://www.stat.go.jp/english/data/handbook/index.html

Ueno, Chizuko. Onnagirai: Nippon no misojini. Tokyo: Kinokuniya Shoten, 2010.

Van Compernolle, Timothly J. The Uses of Memory: The Critique of Modernity in the Fiction of Higuchi Ichiyō. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006.

Wolf, Naomi. The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women. New York: William Morrow, 1991.

Young, Iris Marion. On Female Body Experience: “Throwing like a girl and other essays.” Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.