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Sandakan Brothel No. 8: An Episode in the History of Lower-Class Japanese Women [Hardcover]

Tomoko Yamazaki , Karen Colligan-Taylor
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 1998 0765603535 978-0765603531
This is a pioneering work on "karayuki-san", impoverished Japanese women sent abroad to work as prostitutes from the 1860s to the 1920s. The narrative follows the life of one such prostitute, Osaki, who is persuaded as a child of ten to accept cleaning work in Sandakan, North Borneo, and then forced to work as a prostitute in a Japanese brothel, one of the many such brothels that were established throughout Asia in conjunction with the expansion of Japanese business interests. Yamazaki views Osaki as the embodiment of the suffering experienced by all Japanese women, who have long been oppressed under the dual yoke of class and gender. This tale provides the historical and anthropological context for understanding the sexual exploitation of Asian women before and during the Pacific War and for the growing flesh trade in Southeast Asia and Japan today. Young women are being brought to Japan with the same false promises that enticed Osaki to Borneo 80 years ago. Yamazaki Tomoko, who herself endured many economic and social hardships during and after the war, has devoted her life to documenting the history of the exchange of women between Japan and other Asian countries since 1868. She has worked directly with "karayuki-san", military comfort women, war orphans, repatriates, women sent as picture brides to China and Manchuria, Asian women who have wed into Japanese farming communities, and Japanese women married to other Asians in Japan.

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Yamazaki records the life story of Osaki, a karayuki-san, the term for rural Japanese women sold into overseas prostitution between the 1860s and 1930s. Sent to Sandakan, North Borneo at age ten, she shared a fate with thousands of other young women in the name of Japanese colonial expansion. Like many of them, Osaki sent all her earnings home. But upon her return, her older brother, whom she assumed was benefitting from her sacrifice, rejected her, as did the remainder of her family, including, later, her own sonAthe stigma of prostitution was overwhelming. Translator Colligan-Taylor (Japanese studies/women's studies, Univ. of Alaska, Fairbanks) introduces Yamazaki's work in its sociohistoric context, relating the sexual exploitation of Asian women to the growing flesh trade in Southeast Asia and Japan today. Yamazaki's oral history was critically acclaimed when published in Japan in the early 1970s and is still in print there. A well-written study suitable for history and women's studies curricula.AKay Meredith Dusheck, Anamosa, IA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Japanese

Product Details

  • Series: Sandakan Brothel (Book 8)
  • Hardcover: 215 pages
  • Publisher: M E Sharpe Inc (November 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765603535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765603531
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,627,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The water trade November 14, 2005
This book is the heartrending story of a Japanese child prostitute. She was sold by her family at the age of 8 to a sex slave trafficker, shipped to North Borneo (port of Sandakan) and forced to work in the sex business at the age of 12, even before she had her first menstruation.

The roots of the trafficking system were religious, economic and political.

On the religious front, the Confucian system of patriarchy determined the social duties of women. They were told to obey first their fathers, than their husbands and ultimately their sons. The social superiority of the male permitted the exploitation of women financially, physically, sexually and emotionally.

Economically, high taxation rates for the farmers (60 % of the yield went to the landlord) provoked poverty and famine: 'There were days when I would have nothing to swallow but water from morning 'til night.'

Starving peasants felt compelled to sell their daughtes in order to save the rest of the family.

The main character in this book, Osaki, agreed (?) at the age of 8 to be sold in order to permit her brother to buy farmland.

This poverty was aggravated by the settlement policies of the government provoking a burgeoning population in the region.

More, the Japanese government did nothing against the traffickers. On the contrary, it needed the foreign currency sent back by the sex slaves in order to become, as it said, a strong nation.

The selling of children in Japan has only been abolished in 1959.

After the exploitation by the government and the landlords, the children were milked by the traffickers, who took 50 % of their earnings and compelled them to redeem with the rest their original inflated 'investment'.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Memorable, thoroughly researched, saddened! November 4, 2008
The remarkable, memorable and poignant story is about Brothel Number 8 in Sandakan, a port town 1200 miles from Hong Kong in the South Seas, where young Japanese women were trafficked into prostitution, hence, the lowest class of women. In 1968, author Tomoko Yamazaki, began her journey into Amakusa to learn about the karayuki-san and encountered Osaki, born in 1909, and by age 10 was sold to the brothel. Too young at first, she worked as a house-maid, then by 12, selling her body.

For 3 weeks, Tomoko lived with Osaki in a rustic, poverty stricken home, with dirt floors, no outhouse, and barely any food. She had to sleep on the same mat that was used for servicing many many men. Tomoko's mission to document the story of life in the brothel is not known to Osaki at first, and furthermore, particularly in the village, karayuki-san is not discussed publicly. The veil of secrecy remains throughout while Osaki tells the curious villagers that the new woman seen is her daughter-in-law.

With extreme caution to hear and document the story, and with utmost privacy about the subject, we learn about Ofuni, who was a manager of a brothel, whose kindness to the girls was never forgotten. The suspense occurred when speaking with Ofuni's family, and how, with no other choice and with extreme urgency, author Tomoko broke down to steal the photographs from the album.

This is well-documented, thoroughly researched story to the end, and with impressive notes, references, historical and geographical information, and photos. Also included is a complete index. The translation is excellent, it conveys many moods depicted.

Sandakan Brothel No. 8 is the first of a trilogy by the author and includes two other books, The Graves of Sandakan and The Story of Yamada Waka.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I wanted to give a short summary of the Geisha's genre, as it has become somewhat more well known, and judging from some of the other reviews, many people looking for literature or memoirs on geisha ended up with this memoir here.
As someone who has been fascinated by ancient & modern Japan's idiosyncrasies, the floating world has a particular draw for me. Sadly, very little is available that can give us any kind of factual, first hand narrative of what its like to work within it~ certainly Leslie Downer & Liza Dalby have made leaps and bounds in terms of opening up their existence to the outside world, and they have done their best to do so with accuracy and without bias, despite having not been born into the culture itself. Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha did much to set back their progress, creating a glossy love story loosely based on the life of Mineko iwasaki~ who was indeed a well-known Kyoto Geiko, and agreed to be interviewed by him and discuss what had, until then, been a life shrouded in mystery. Golden then promptly turned around and penned a pulp fiction piece to please the masses, and in doing so, gave thanks, by name, to his source, despite having expressly promised Mineko he would not do so. Mineko sued him, after facing much malaise from the geiko community, and eventually decided to write her own memoirs and do what she had thought Golden might do: tell the truth and help renew interest in a fading tradition. Shorty after her novel emerged, (Geish of Gion), another called "Autobiography of a Geisha" by a former hot springs geisha, Sayo Masudo, came out that told of the darker side of this world~ one where the trade does indeed ply sex and little else.
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