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Kickboxing Geishas: How Modern Japanese Women Are Changing Their Nation Hardcover – January 9, 2007

4.0 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her fifth book, Chambers (Mama's Girl) reports on dramatic changes in women's lives in postbust Japan, where, she notes, men are no longer the "financial titans" and where women—international travelers and avid consumers—are now driving the economy. Yet, Chambers says, rampant consumerism masks the true complexity of these women's lives as they negotiate the divide between Japan's traditions and their own more career-centered outlook. With compassion and warm wit, the author talks to successful Japanese women—from hip-hop superstars to senior corporate executives and entrepreneurs—about their education, careers, personal lives and aspirations, and about the social norms they face as they carve out a bold new existence in a country wedded to tradition. Chambers portrays her subjects as social pioneers operating in a cultural vacuum, without the support of a widespread women's movement. Chambers captures a gender clash, in which young Japanese women despair of Japanese men's cultural insularity and inability to lose face. (She also interviews men who seek to break with stereotypic Japanese masculinity.) Writing in a hip, visually vivid and entertaining style, Chambers fluently places the courage and isolation of these women in a briefly sketched social and economic context, noting that "today's young career women—entrepreneurial, independent—have more [in common] with their hard-working grandmothers than they do with their Bubble Economy housewife mothers." (Jan. 9)
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"A charming adventure and a compelling account of cultural exploration. My own misconceptions about Japan melted away as I read this book. With vivid color, Veronica Chambers portrays a pastiche of Japanese lives: a hip-hopper, a jewelry designer, a snowboarder, a lesbian legislator, an IBM executive. She explains Japan's obsession with Audrey Hepburn, describes the blossoming sex clubs for women, and outlines why so many newlyweds get divorced upon return from their honeymoons. Kickboxing Geishas finds universal humanity in the paradoxes and vibrancy of Japanese women."

-- Seth Faison, author of South of the Clouds: Exploring the Hidden Realms of China and former Shanghai Bureau Chief for The New York Times

"Finally, a book that goes beyond the stereotypes to show real Japanese women in all their complexity. Chambers gets below the surface of Japanese society to reveal a side of the country most foreigners never see. Kickboxing Geishas is an engaging account of the tremendous changes sweeping Japanese society."

-- Rochelle Kopp, author of The Rice-Paper Ceiling: Breaking through Japanese Corporate Culture

"Kickboxing Geishas is a knockout! Veronica Chambers punches through the 'shoji screen' that separates the true lives of Japanese women from the stereotypes that surround them. Her reporting is as fascinating as it is appealing, her insights as surprising as they are generous."

-- Aimee Liu, author of Cloud Mountain --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (January 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743271564
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743271561
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,109,185 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By P. Abel on March 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Very good book. Reccommended for anyone interested in Japan, or travelling in Japan -- esp for people who might be travelling or living there an extended time. We lived in Tokyo for nearly three years during the late nineties, and the complexities and surprisingly strong push for change that you notice if you talk a lot to women are very accurately described in this book. This book really belies the largely Western stereotype of submissive, traditional women. The book is also quite sympathetic and insightful in describing some of the difficulties of Japanese men in a changing society. Anyone interested in getting a feel for possible future directions of Japanese society should read this book.
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Format: Hardcover
After perusing for recent books on gender roles in Japan for a paper, I finally landed this book. The title was catchy and was a quick read.
However, reading it made me want to immediately contact whoever edited the thing. Not only is some of the information blatantly incorrect for the time (hello, Aiko will not become empress and no law was put into effect making it possible for a woman to ascend to the throne), there were obvious grammar and spelling mistakes. One of the most annoying thing was the inconsistent spelling of the famous street in Tokyo, Omotesando. Shown as Ometesando and Ometosando numerous times, neither was correct. Chapters were obviously not well thought out and contiunity problems arose often. Women that were interviewed earlier in the book were referenced to like complete strangers to the reader. Many things were explained twice which gave me a sense of deja vu while reading quite a few times. I'm no editing whiz or grammar nazi by any means but it seems like this book was not edited at all.
All (terrible) editing issues aside, the book brings up quite a few modern issues. I had done quite alot of reading on the matter and Chambers seems to have some of the most approachable writing for the subject. The bond she shares with each woman interviewed becomes apparent and helpful to the overall flow of the book. Her commentary is colorful, fun and is relatively objective (despite what the other reviews I've read state). The research that has gone into making the book comes out quite easily without being overstated. However, the research seemed shallow. It seemed like she gathered information solely from the internet and then went straight to these women. The preparation involved seemed minimal other than developing well thought out questions for interviewees.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Before a recent trip to Japan, I read Kickboxing Geishas and was pleasantly surprised by the revealing perspective of the 21st Century Japanese woman. I was impressed by these fierce, funny, political, smart, innovative, rule breaking women and how they are dealing with the new challenges in contemporary Japanese society. I was even more impressed to meet some of them in person. Veronica Chambers has captured the complex realities of the modern Japanese woman still faced with rigid societal pressures and expectations. Her attention to the rich history, culture and language of Japan makes Kickboxing Geishas a great introduction to a fascinating world.
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Format: Hardcover
I found this book a bit infuriating actually. It reads like a memoir of the author's time in Japan and the people she met, but the subject matter is too important for the excessively casual treatment she gives it. Chambers made no effort to engage the ample existing research on the subject of women in Japan, which raises the question for me about why I should take her opinion seriously when she couldn't be bothered to do her homework. Sure, this is an easy read- it's fluffy and anecdotal, but Chambers was able to secure some interesting interviews and the lack of faith she engineers in her own ability to speak Japanese makes me wonder how accurate the information she gleaned was, or how accurate her recap is. How often did she rely on translators, I wanted to know? After an initial discussion of translation work, she is less than transparent about her process.

Essentially, the author does not engender faith in her data by the thoroughness of her research or the tone of this book. If you're interested in stories about her being dressed up as a geisha, or going out drinking with the bellhop of her hotel, the book is fine. As a pseudo-scholarly tome it's not worth much consideration. There's too much high quality and engaging work on Japan in English to waste time on this one.
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