Kickboxing Geishas: How Modern Japanese Women Are Changing Their Nation- Veronica Chambers


“The thing about Japan is that it’s a developed country and a developing country all in the same breath. It’s such a contradiction.”- Veronica Chambers, Kickboxing Geishas

My selection of this book is proof that I am often drawn to a book because of its innovative title. I was definitely intrigued by the subject matter finding myself more interested in feminism, and also because I work at a Japanese company and know quite a bit about Japanese culture due to my  Japanese co-workers. Given what I’ve heard from the Japanese women (and men) I’ve talked to about the high levels of chikan (groping) and flashers at Japanese high schools it was hard for me to believe that Japan is experiencing a feminist revolution, kickboxing gender roles.

This book is very informative about Japan and the strides that Japanese women have been making. Some of the topics covered:

  • Enjo kosai – aka “compensated dating,” a euphemism for prostitution
  • Unique aspects of Japanese culture- for example, capsule hotels!
  • Linguistic problems- single women are called parasite singles, single women over 25 are called stale Christmas cake, those over 30 are called make inu (losing dogs).
  • The kawaii culture exemplified by Hello Kitty
  • Women in the corporate world
  • The domestic impact of Japanese women travelling to foreign countries.
  • Love, dating and marriage in Japan
  • I also learned that like politicians from anywhere else, Japanese politicians often talk rubbish. Case in point, the following comment from a Japanese Diet politician in the 1980s: “In Japan, the men cannot rape the women because they do not have the energy.”

Initially, I found the writer’s voice a bit distracting. It’s written in an ethnographic style and the writer is too present, in my opinion. It’s understandable that the background of an ethnographer is important to know as our perspective is based on this. However, her interjections did get a bit tedious  and I wish she had kept more of a distance in her writing.

Despite this, I found the book interesting. It is definitely not meant to be academic and I think that people who already know a lot about Japan, they might find the book to be rudimentary.


4 thoughts on “Kickboxing Geishas: How Modern Japanese Women Are Changing Their Nation- Veronica Chambers

  1. Well-written review, Rowena. In some of the tv dramas, they even refer to unmarried women over 30 as ‘old maids’. It’s distressing at times. And yes Japan is very much a patriarchal society. Reportedly some Japanese politicians even justified the use of ‘comfort women’ or Korea/Chinese women who were forced into prostitution during World War II. Few women work in the top most echelons of the corporate world and very few of them in politics as well.

    1. Thanks Samadrita! It’s crazy that in this day and age women are still judged according to their age and their marital status! I’m so glad I know lots of strong, tough Japanese women who don’t care about being considered “losing dogs.” And the Japanese history with comfort women is shameful to say the least; the Japanese politicians won’t even apologize:(

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