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Goodbye Madame Butterfly: Sex, Marriage and the Modern Japanese Woman Hardcover – September 1, 2007

4.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"These are the stories of Japanese women struggling to find themselves in the 21st century; by reading them westerners will likely see themselves reflected through a prism of shared hopes and disappointments." — Colleen Mondor, Bookslut

"[Kawakami’s essays are] brilliantly written, and a perfect example of how similar bad marriages are, regardless of their setting." —Bookslut.com

About the Author

Sumie Kawakami is a journalist whose work often focuses on the roles of women in Japan. Her July 2004 book Tsuma no Koi: Tatoe Furin to Yobarete mo (Wives in Love: Even if it's Called Immoral) has sold around 5,000 copies so far. She is frequently interviewed by Japanese media on issues concerning women, marriage and infidelity.

Yuko Enomoto is a translator specializing in news and literature. She translated Kawakami's work for Kuhaku & Other Accounts from Japan (0974199508)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Chin Music Press; 1st edition (September 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0974199532
  • ISBN-13: 978-0974199535
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,574,531 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Details on Japanese sexuality that make it to the English-speaking
world are usually plucked from the extremes: adult manga reading on
the subways, costume fetishes, sexless marriages, prostitution,
sashimi served atop naked girls, and one of the lowest sexual
satisfaction rates in the world. Goodbye Madame Butterfly connects
these extremes, exposing the less sensational center of Japanese
sexuality by letting Japanese women, mostly housewives, and one man
speak for themselves about their own sex lives.

The resulting stories feel both familiar in their mundane reality yet
quietly unsettling as they reveal how sexual morality and gender
politics in Japan differ from those of the puritan-values, post-
feminist U.S. In Goodbye Madame Butterfly, extramarital affairs are
forgiven or silently accepted as inevitable by both spouses, while
unfulfilled housewives seek relief from sex volunteers. Mothers
assert their commitment to their children and family harmony, but not
always, sometimes admitting to dispassionate feelings towards
offspring who happened to arrive under the wrong circumstances.

As a reader I appreciate the authentic messiness of sharp and muted
emotions Kawakami captures, but the uneven pacing and lack of
resolution takes some getting used to. The stories are hard to put
down and very readable, but not always as tightly edited as they
could be. The total effect is almost like reading a long "catch-up"
email from an old and very close friend, not always the most finely-
chiseled prose, but engaging, entertaining and deeply personal

The book is beautifully designed and a great followup to Kuhaku, Chin
Music Press's first contribution to filling in the gaps between the
Japan you usually hear about and real Japanese life.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I haven't read one of these kinds of books for a while - about the modern Japanese woman, so I thought I'd give this one a try, to see if it had something new to say - to see if women had something new to say.
It's been several years since I grew tired of reading the old saw about stockings and women growing stronger after the war, glass ceilings, blah blah.

Several thoughts came to me while I was reading.

So women are having affairs now. OK, but more than in the past? I don't recall reading any details and it's not really that kind of book. Still, there might be more sex for the women in a statistically sexless country (acording to a Durex survey anyway), but the interviewees whose words Kawakami chose to print were all lacking in passion.

In fact everyone seemed to lack passion. Everyone seemed to just fall into situations, they allowed things to happen, to continue, to end or carry on. They did things because it was the sensible choice, the practical move; because they were told to; because that's how it has always been done.

It might just have been the translation, or the writer's style, or the writer herself (who easily admits in the intro that she lacked certain skills as an interviewer) that combine to make the interviews seem so passionless and passive... but I'm not sure.
Emotions came out mostly in reference to children.

Secondly I thought, well, Japanese women are no different, no more or less special, than those in any other country. They choose the wrong guy, do the wrong things, question the same kind of decisions. They just react differently, less aggressively, with more a kind of 'Wait and see' approach.

Not to say that it's a book without a lasting impression.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
and these have been, what, ten of them. Nothing or no one special here except as
we are all special. The only really remarkable Japanese characteristic on display
is the capacity to endure loveless marriage for the sake of appearance, the
children or getting your laundry done regularly. The book reads like gossip which
makes it hard to put down even if what you've learned is of little use. Buy it for your commute into work; the time will fly by as you skim through the light fare. You also might find yourself wondering what stories your fellow passengers could tell.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A Japanese woman's view showing the quirks and such that are different from the western style of thought.....This book gives you an eye-full of how much 'fortune telling' and that kind of thing factors into Japanese thought. The picture painted of male-female relationships may seem strange, but in reality here they are! Fundamentally, in Japan the male-female relationship is un-developed. Husband and wife are like strangers living in the same house. He has his job and his life, and she has hers. The relationship, optimum, is that he does his work well and the company sends his pay check to her account, she gives him an allowance and controls the money and everything else and has her own interests and separate friends. Younger Japanese look different (ie western-style romance), but in my experience (over 30 years in Japan), when they hit 30 or after their 1st child, the relationship parts ways and remains stable as a non-relationship. This system is a very successful system for keeping a family together as there is no expectation that husband and wife have anything in common or even like each other. Now that a law has been passed that on retirement that the wife is entitled to half her husband's retirement allowance, many older women are getting divorced on retirement day, but many are not.
Kawakami's book gives you a quirky, but very true slant on a part of Japanese life. There are a lot more positive things here too, however!!
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