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A further fifteen yen was deducted for traveling expenses. It also maps out an informal economy, which profited the predominantly male actors who participated: There are recorded instances of the constabulary giving up their work and turning their hand to smuggling women overseas.

The arrangements for financing the journey were organized in such a way as to work against the woman. The reason for this seems to be connected with the credit of the procurer.

Most brokers had to borrow heavily to finance their operations, often at high rates of interest. A missive by Miyagawa Kyujiro, Japanese consul of Hong Kong, to the foreign minister provides testimony to this fact. The subterranean economies and social practices involved in the informal migration of Japanese abroad hint at another aspect of the world inhabited by the rural poor. The women were members of a larger transient community that transgressed linguistic and national boundaries, shaped by the rhythms of abundance and scarcity found in agricultural production.

In the social territory occupied by the rural poor, the labor of children was a resource to be sought during cycles of abundance and shed when the consumption of the household had to be reduced during times of scarcity. As previously mentioned, as early as the eighteenth century the rural poor of the Amakusa and Shimabara regions migrated to Nagasaki in search of work.

The strategy of migrating abroad to escape dire poverty was asserted in an interview by a woman from the Shimabara region who had migrated overseas to find work at the turn of the twentieth century. He sustained himself and family by the little money his wife and children brought in, and from the increasingly resentful benevolence of his relatives.

The social ambitions the father nourished for his family were limited. His only demand on his wife and children was work. To make ends meet S-san was sent to work as a domestic servant to a local merchant in her early teens. She continued working there until she was sixteen, the year her mother died. The wages she received were not enough to sustain her father, three younger siblings, and herself, let alone pay for any repairs to the house they were living in, which was more like an open hovel than a house, hardly offering any protection from the elements.

The following night, S-san and her sister were smuggled onboard different ships anchored in Kuchinotsu. On her arrival at the brothel, she was placed in the care of an older woman a native of a village just east of Shimabara, with whom S-san was faintly acquainted. The woman was the eldest daughter of a well-to-do peasant family. She and her two younger sisters had left their village to work as sex labourers in Singapore.

After working for two years in the brothel, S-san was bought out of her debt by a young English man working for a big rubber plantation company on the Malaysian peninsular. The other interview was carried out in the summer of The subject was K-san, a resident of Ushibukai, Shimo-Amakusa.

K-san was born around thirty years later than S-san, but as her life narrative reveals, the older forms of labor organized around the reproduction of the household still persisted. K-san first left her home at the age of twelve or thirteen to work in the spinning mills in Osaka. After five years of service at the mills, she returned home.

Within a few months, she obtained a job as a child-carer komori in Nagasaki through an intermediary in the village. Two years later, around —36, at the age of about twenty-one, she left for Shanghai, together with five other women. In Shanghai, she worked as a chambermaid at a Japanese hotel located in the Japanese settlement. In contrast to the experience of S-san, K-san had little or no contact with people of other nationalities because the Japanese community in Shanghai was both well established and insular.

In his classic text Wasurerareta Nihonjin The Forgotten Japanese , folklorist Miyamoto Tsuneichi tells of the practices of his own rural household in Yamaguchi prefecture and the transmittance of wealth along matrilineal lines.

In eastern Japan, the father is the key figure in transmitting culture and wealth. In western Japan, familial and communal authority is commanded more by age than gender, thus offering women greater authority in the household and the possibility for the matrilineal transmission of wealth.

It seems that in Shimabara and Amakusa regions at least, in the construction of social personage for the women from these areas, becoming a migrant labourer was one of the prescribed forms of conduct. In both regions, village leaders did not try to prevent the local women from leaving.

Indeed, in some circumstances they encouraged the women to find specific forms of work overseas. A majority of them were women who engaged in sex work. Women of the Amakusa region were required by cultural convention to produce half of their dowry. The perceived social value and marriage potential of the women increased directly in relation to the amount of money they earned and remitted. Moreover, the social status of the family itself within the local community increased according to the wealth and status of the employer and the amount of remittance received: Although there were many women from the Amakusa Islands who were not fully informed by their parents - or persons recruiting them for work abroad - that they were being indentured into overseas brothels, many others evidently understood the nature of the work required.

There is evidence that, at times, the parents mediated in these negotiations. A young schoolteacher sent to a village on the Amakusa Islands for practical experience wrote that:.

An evil custom of this village is that they do not see prostitution as shameful. In the surrounding villages too, prostitution is regarded as a vocation. Moreover, what is extraordinary is that people with a good living follow this practice.

If anything, these people treat those who do not engage in prostitution with scorn and ridicule. According to this observer, whom we can assume to be knowledgeable, in the case of the women of the Amakusa and Shimabara regions, it seems sex work was perceived as just another form of labor, without the attachment of stigma.

To illustrate this point, I turn to Sasaki Shigetoshi, a former low-class samurai involved in a Japanese migrant labor enterprise on Thursday Island, Queensland. In his petition to Tokyo, Sasaki describes how he appealed to the better nature of the brothel owners and women to cease working the brothels and how his best intentions came to nought. It is worth quoting at length:. At times, we turn to the [brothel] owners and remonstrate, exhorting them to cease their occupation and to change to another line of work.

Not only do they turn deaf ears to our remonstrations, it often happens that they turn around and rebut those giving advice, saying things such as:. You boors do talk a lot of rubbish.

From the time we left Japan, let alone now when we are standing on foreign soil, you have no grounds to point an accusing finger even if you had the authority of the Japanese government behind you. I see no particular reason why I should change what I do. Now, money talks in the world. No matter how base the occupation, if I can live the rest of my life in my own home in comfort, why should I concern myself?

What matter to me the fortunes of the nation? Yet, you demand a lot. What you advise, we will not do. Then, there are those amongst us, who turn to the women and advise them to become upright and honest, and to return to their homes in Japan as quickly as possible.

The majority of these women are extremely simple and know no honour. Hardly any of them listen to the advice given. They feign unconcern and reply:. Thank you for your gracious concern. Your words are fit for the innocent girls living back home who know nothing about the world. However, for ignorant women such as us who have crossed the open seas and have come to a foreign land thousands of miles away, your sermons are useless—like chanting sutras to a scarecrow. In Japan, poor people like us have sweat on our brow night and day working like beasts of burden.

Far from having the wherewithal to cook our daily meals, we barely have that to rinse our mouths. Now that we are living overseas and engaged in such a profession, as for things heavy we pick up nothing more than a knife or fork.

All our wishes are respected. We have all that we desire. What could add to our happiness? We do, alas, regret most profoundly not to have been born daughters to such gentlemen as you.

Sasaki vehemently objects to the existence of the brothels as it indicates a hatred for hard toil and a delight in relaxation, which erodes social order, and as such, the polity of Japan, for without the latter the former could not exist.

As Sasaki laments, it is not only the humiliation, but. Also, in relation to overseas commercial, agricultural and other enterprises, in political comparison to the Chinese, we Japanese are exceedingly inferior now because of the display of the likes of these filthy women If we [Japanese] want to exaggerate [our superiority over the Chinese] by means of our Japanese nation being the England of the East, the first thing that should be initiated is the eradication of unsightly women of this sort.

In his objections, Sasaki formulates a direct equation where good economic order is the prerequisite of political power. For the brothel owners and the women, the acquisition of money was an end in itself if it ensured the maintenance and continuity of the household.

The labor of household members was organized around the need for the household to ensure its survival. For them, work as a prostitute abroad was inherently undifferentiated from work as an agricultural labourer in Japan: In this instance, sex work was preferred, portrayed as being physically easier and more amenable to daily existence as far as food and clothing were concerned.

The obligation to ensure the continuity of the household points to intimate and integral relations between daily existence and forms of worship and customary belief.

In the cosmology inhabited by the women, time and work were informed by duties of the living toward the dead. The household was an inheritance transmitted by the ancestors to the present, and the continuation of the household by the present generation to the next was an expression of worship and respect.

Work that secured the permanence of the household in the temporal order of the living was also an activity that continued the collective work of generating life in the future, and as such, an act of respect and fulfilment of obligation to parents and ancestors.

On the level of the individual, the lay Buddhist beliefs common in the region of Amakusa Islands did not see commercial sex as eternally polluting the soul.

In the s, it was still exceedingly common to see, lining the walls of the shrines and temples of Amakusa Islands and Shimabara peninsular, in large numbers, the names of the local women working overseas who had remitted donations specifically for the upkeep of their family temple or shrine. It would be overly simplistic to assert that the rural women who engaged in prostitution did not feel ambivalence about the sexual and moral conduct prescribed by Sasaki Shigetoshi or the young schoolteacher that came to teach in the Amakusa region.

Rather, the issue at hand is the rediscovery of a struggle between two competing sets of social beliefs about what it means to be a woman and a member of a community. On the local level, the women gained greater social capital and responsibility through the fulfilment of their duties in the maintenance and the survival and material development of their households and local communities. The conflict, though, lay at the general and collective level of the nation. In state-led programs of nation-building, which emphasized values of chastity and female adolescent dependency as the general rules of progress to which all Japanese had to adhere if Japan was to meet the dictates of social advancement, there was no leeway for the women of Amakusa and Shimabara to continue working as migrant sex workers abroad.

This paper has tried to bring to the fore the disqualified knowledge—in the face of popular knowledge—of the history of the karayuki-san as overseas migrant labourers. It affirms that, at the level of their immediate communities, the women who took on sex work were not stigmatized as morally flawed individuals, or as a group found on the margins of local society. They were recognized as a legitimate component of village life, economically, culturally, and socially. The history of the Japanese women migrating abroad to engage in sex work points to a whole series of local economic and cultural practices that informed the women of the expectations of their community and, at the same time, also endowed the women with the capacity to integrate themselves fully into the social arrangements of their communities on their return.

This provokes the question: How do we explain the refusal by people and institutions distanced from the Amakusa Islands and Shimabara peninsular to understand the women in the terms they understood themselves? Prostitutes, Emigration and Nation Building. This article draws on and adapts material from chapter one of the book. Kyoei Shobo, , p. Export Trade and Overseas Competition London: Athlone Press, , pp. Levine, Prostitution, Race and Politics: Routledge, , pp.

A similar law was put into effect in Singapore in In Singapore, compulsory medical inspection for all licensed prostitutes was abolished along with the Contagious Disease Ordinance in Warren, Ah Ku and the Karayuki-san, — Singapore: Oxford University Press, , 91—; N. Oxford University Press, , pp.

Sites of desire, economies of pleasure; sexualities in Asia and the Pacific Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, , pp. Shibundo, , chapter two; Higaki M. Nihon Kirishitan Fujin Kyofukai, , p. Iwanami shoten, , p. Nagasaki ken henshu i-inkai, 3 vols Nagasaki: Nagasaki ken keisatsu honbu, , vol.

Crawford, 10 February ,. Porter also claimed innocence as he did not know that taking the women onboard was a violation of any kind.

Men were treated as outpatients. It was compulsory for licensed prostitutes who contracted VD to enter the hospital as an inpatient. The women could only leave the hospital by official consent. The compulsory requirement and strict daily regime often led the women housed in the hospitals to compare them to prisons. Levine, Prostitution, Race and Politics , pp. The oldest male member of the family effectively became the sole legal entity of the household and exercised legal control over all other members, especially women and children, who were not legally recognized persons and therefore had no access to rights.

In a series of interviews compiled and edited by Kawai Yuzuru in , Muraoka, a native of Shimabara, paints himself as being the boss of procurers zegen responsible for kidnapping young Japanese women and selling them to brothels abroad. Driscoll, Absolute Erotic, Absolute Grotesque: Okayamakoji-in kappan-bu, , pp. There were one hundred sen in one yen. Japanese procurers used Singapore as a clearinghouse from which to sell women to prospective buyers in the Malay Peninsula and Dutch East Indies.

University of California, , pp. Personally, I thought my informant might be jumping to preconceived conclusions. My aim in interviewing K-san was to try and gain insights into the motivations and logic of women undertaking migration abroad. The subject of sex work was not brought up. Bickers and C, Henriot eds. Manchester University Press, , pp. Harootunian for these insights. See Things Seen and Unseen: Discourse and Ideology in Tokugawa Nativism Chicago: University of Chicago Press, , pp.

This practice was not peculiar to Amakusa. Wiswell noted the presence of several married women who had children from different men living in Suye mura. Surrounding this tower is a stone fence, with the name and amount donated by each woman. For the history of how the temple was built, see Kurahashi M.

Victoria Dock, Singapore, s Historically, the migration of Kyushu rural women to Singapore and Hong Kong to engage in sex work presented the greatest difficulty for the Japanese government, not in terms of numbers—more Japanese women worked as prostitutes on the Asian mainland—but in terms of visibility and the inability of Japanese authorities to find ways of curbing their movement.

Coal and Gendered Labour Networks: Nagasaki, Hong Kong, and Singapore As Evans indicated, a large percentage of the women migrating informally from Japan to the Strait Settlements were from Nagasaki and Kumamoto prefectures. In a missive sent to Tokyo in , Miyagawa states that from the intelligence gathered, it is his opinion that: In his statement to the marine magistrate and master attendant, Edward Porter, the master of the SS Macduff , confessed to having personally taken ten women and three men on board once the ship had left the harbour of Kuchinotsu: In his petition dated 15 September , requesting the expulsion of Japanese prostitutes from Thursday Island, Sasaki Shigetoshi, a former samurai and community leader of the Japanese labourers on the same island, informed the Japanese foreign ministry that Japanese men and women connected with prostitution manage to board foreign vessels that call on the ports of Nagasaki, Kuchinotsu, Karatsu, Shimonoseki and Kobe.

Subterranean Economies The dynamics of the underground economy revolving around the brokering of Japanese women was revealed in detail by an investigation compiled by Hong Kong consul Inoue Kizaburo in the summer of See No Boundary The subterranean economies and social practices involved in the informal migration of Japanese abroad hint at another aspect of the world inhabited by the rural poor.

Amakusa, Migration, and Sex Work In his classic text Wasurerareta Nihonjin The Forgotten Japanese , folklorist Miyamoto Tsuneichi tells of the practices of his own rural household in Yamaguchi prefecture and the transmittance of wealth along matrilineal lines. A young schoolteacher sent to a village on the Amakusa Islands for practical experience wrote that: It is worth quoting at length: Not only do they turn deaf ears to our remonstrations, it often happens that they turn around and rebut those giving advice, saying things such as: They feign unconcern and reply: For example, when you search for a film, we use your location to show the most relevant cinemas near you.

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By the mids, Miike coal replaced Takashima coal as the major energy source available on the Hong Kong market. As a result, Kuchinotsu, along with Nagasaki, emerged as one of the major coal-export ports in East Asia. During this period of Kyushu dominance in the Asian coal market, it was common practice for companies such as Jardine, Matheson and Co.

Nagasaki and Kuchinotsu maintained their status as the major coal export centres until the mids. At that juncture, there was a shift of the main coal exporting centres from Nagasaki and Kuchinotsu to Moji and Wakamatsu in northeast Kyushu. The Chikuho coalmines in northwest Fukuoka prefecture suddenly became profitable when developments in coal utilization widened the market for lower grades of coal.

Heavy investment by Mitsubishi mechanized some of the better mines in the Chikuho area and output increased tremendously. Domestic politics also contributed to the shift of exporting coal from southwest Kyushu to the northeast part of the island.

The abolition of the export duty on coal in , 15 the establishment of Moji as a special export port in , and the completion of a railway between the Chikuho mines and Moji in all contributed to the relocation of the major coal-export ports in Kyushu. The export of coal from the ports of Nagasaki, Kuchinotsu, and Moji provided the rural poor of western Kyushu with the means to seek work abroad.

Informal practices of migration sprouted in tandem with the development of the coal industry in Kyushu. For example, the opening of Kuchinotsu as a special coal-exporting port in , unlocked new possibilities for migration overseas. Miike mines in Fukuoka transported their coal by rail and sea to Kuchinotsu for export to Hong Kong and Singapore. The development of regional transport nodes such as railways and harbours attracted people from neighbouring villages to the port with the intent of traveling abroad to escape the poverty that surrounded them.

Local Kuchinotsu lore often refers to frequent outbreaks of fires in the hills surrounding the harbour when it was a major coal exporting port. It is said that people purposely set the fires, diverting the attention of the harbour police so that they could secretly board the coal ships anchored in the harbour.

In a missive sent to Tokyo in , Miyagawa states that from the intelligence gathered, it is his opinion that:. The increase in the flow of foreign ships entering and leaving recently opened special export ports such as Kuchinotsu and Karatsu 18 for the purpose of exporting coal, has also increased the opportunity [for women] to slip secretly abroad.

The same opportunities for overseas travel were available in Nagasaki. The linkage between Kyushu coal exports and Nagasaki as the starting point for rural poor women to migrate informally abroad is visible in the following example. Forewarned by the governor of Nagasaki, the Japanese consul requested the local colonial authorities to organize an inspection of the vessel for thirty Japanese women allegedly hidden onboard. An extensive search by the Hong Kong harbour authorities revealed thirty-eight stowaways: In his statement to the marine magistrate and master attendant, Edward Porter, the master of the SS Macduff , confessed to having personally taken ten women and three men on board once the ship had left the harbour of Kuchinotsu:.

Would I pick them up? We passed close by the boat and stopped and picked them up. The women and the procurers used stealth to go abroad to evade the numerous measures the Japanese government implemented to prevent them from leaving Japan or taking up work abroad. In Minami Sadatsuke, Japanese consul for Hong Kong, came to an informal agreement with the Hong Kong register general to restrict the number of Japanese women working in registered public brothels to fifty-two women at one time.

During their meeting, the consul would instruct the women that they were prohibited from registering as prostitutes and that the best course of action would be to return home.

The consul would then proceed to ascertain if the women had any legal guardian in Hong Kong so that they could be informed of their circumstances and returned to their care.

In cases where the women interviewed had no legal guardian, and lacked money for a return fare to Japan, Minami placed them temporarily in the Wanchai Lock hospital, while he tried to identify family members in Japan who would pay repatriation expenses. The Japanese consuls noticed that the Hong Kong colonial authorities were reluctant to intercept and search ships unless they were almost certain that they would find women hidden abroad.

The colonial authorities did not want to obstruct the movement of ships entering and leaving the harbour unless necessary.

Japanese-run inns, restaurants, and taverns relied on the flow of Japanese women coming through the port for their livelihood. Ships departing from Kyushu carrying coal from the Takashima and Miike mines and bound for city ports in Southeast Asia were not the only means of travel available to the women.

By the turn of the century, the increase in postal, passage, and cargo services between Japan and the rest of the world had generated new migratory routes.

In his petition dated 15 September , requesting the expulsion of Japanese prostitutes from Thursday Island, Sasaki Shigetoshi, a former samurai and community leader of the Japanese labourers on the same island, informed the Japanese foreign ministry that Japanese men and women connected with prostitution. With the expansion of shipping routes from Japan to Southeast Asia, the means by which the women migrated overseas also changed.

It was common to see groups of young Japanese women traveling in the third-class section of Japanese ships en route abroad. In May—June of the same year, with the assistance of the local colonial authorities, Tanaka investigated the means by which women travelled to Singapore.

Tanaka found that over one thousand women had made their way to Singapore in the last year with the aim of working as prostitutes, an average of around twenty arrivals per week. Tanaka elaborated on his findings. The first method of transporting women to Singapore had been the most prevalent.

Recently, however, there had been a decline in this type of practice. The authorities in Singapore attributed this decline to a combination of reasons: Tanaka, on the other hand, believes that the cause was more the marked decline in the number of ships carrying coal from Japan to Singapore, as Japanese coal was now channelled to the domestic market to meet the energy demands of a rapidly growing post—Russo-Japanese War economy.

Accordingly, the second method was the most common and had the highest rate of success. Tanaka suggests that this was due to the laxity of harbour officials in screening passengers. The third practice was allegedly a recent development that was used mainly by women from the Kish u region Wakayama prefecture. Tanaka concludes his report by stating that the information collected by the British colonial authorities identified Moji as the port from which the highest number of women began their journey to Singapore, followed by Kuchinotsu and Kobe.

The number of women leaving from Nagasaki, on the other hand, had reportedly fallen. Their role was to guide others to overseas locations in exchange for money. To do this successfully, the procurer had to be familiar with things, people, and events in dispersed and often distant geographical locations.

People seeking work overseas depended on the procurer for direction on two levels: I do not contest these arguments, but do wish to modify them. What I argue is a more complicated story. The localized knowledge that circulated in rural communities in western Kyushu—in the form of rumour, hearsay, gossip, and letters from relatives abroad—was formative in grounding the experience of living abroad in truth claims that made travel to locations overseas plausible and attractive.

The oral nature of this localized knowledge means that it has no formal archive or discernible events to mark its existence—but this does not mean that this knowledge was inconsequential. To recover this knowledge, I turn to contemporaneous narratives of observers who deplored the procurement of the young women of these rural communities, but who also reveal them to have been agents and not merely victims. These forms of oral transmissions point to forgotten social practices steeped in the world of the everyday, which allowed the possibility of finding work abroad.

Procurers, female as well as male, based overseas, generally avoided returning to Japan if they could find a third party to do their bidding. Only when they were unable to mobilize or lost their connections in Japan would the procurers return, usually to their place of origin, where they would wander from village to village. Procurers were able to win over young women by speaking from experience when they made claims about life overseas. The women did not undertake travel overseas innocently; they entertained various assumptions—some of which were valid and some not—concerning what life was like abroad, which prompted them to leave Japan.

The successful procurer spoke to those assumptions. A pamphlet written in by a Japanese Christian organization aimed at eradicating Japanese prostitution abroad hints at how, in rural areas where many of the women originated, the local women were highly informed about what—in terms of work, economic, and cultural possibilities—might be available to them in specified destinations overseas.

The monthly wage Yokoyama promised was an enormous amount for the rural poor when one considers that a male day labourer would earn less than half this amount in a month. Due to expense and the danger of being caught, whenever possible, brothel owners tried to establish stable connections with third parties to ensure a constant supply of women to replace those who had ended their term of contract, became ill, or died. One ploy was to use former employees, such as Yokoyama Kikuno, returning to Japan on the completion of their contracts, to recruit other women.

In return for a handling charge, certain agencies would mediate for young women in finding employment overseas in such positions as domestic servants, waitresses, and child carers.

Households and families living on the periphery of these ports, alerted by the gossip of the returnees and the numerous stories found in newspapers concerning the money to be made overseas, would send their daughters to these agencies to find work. Women from Kyushu did not migrate overseas blindly but tactically, following the footsteps of those who preceded them, with the aim of making the best of a bad situation, finding work, making money, and hopefully striking it rich.

In her statement to the Hong Kong authorities, Onio revealed that at strategic points along the route she took to Hong Kong, she gained new social knowledge through exchanges with other intermediaries that helped her to proceed. The point to note here is that the forms of knowledge Onio accessed and utilized in her efforts to migrate overseas points were steeped in the world of the everyday.

Letters from relatives or conversations with people who had been overseas, were formative in grounding the experience of living overseas in truth-claims that made travel to such locations plausible and attractive. Moreover, the presence of coal-ships in the harbour, and the many groups of people who worked at the harbour loading, cleaning, or maintaining the ships, formed an ensemble of local, but, nonetheless, effective and practical allies with the knowledge and resources to enable the women to migrate overseas.

The dynamics of the underground economy revolving around the brokering of Japanese women was revealed in detail by an investigation compiled by Hong Kong consul Inoue Kizaburo in the summer of The impetus for the investigation was allegations made by local Japanese businesspersons against the Nagasaki police force accusing them of abetting the trafficking of Japanese women to Hong Kong and the Straits Settlements.

Furthermore, six of these seven women came with the consent of their parents. As for the three women out of ten who did possess proper travel documents, they had been obtained by bribing prefectural officials. It was customary for the procurer to reach an agreement with the respective parents in advance over the amount of money they were to collect for the sale of their daughter.

The procurer usually collected between seventy and one hundred yen from each sale, as commission for having guided the women during their journey out of Japan. The procurer also took out the following expenses from the sale of the women: A further fifteen yen was deducted for traveling expenses. It also maps out an informal economy, which profited the predominantly male actors who participated: There are recorded instances of the constabulary giving up their work and turning their hand to smuggling women overseas.

The arrangements for financing the journey were organized in such a way as to work against the woman. The reason for this seems to be connected with the credit of the procurer. Most brokers had to borrow heavily to finance their operations, often at high rates of interest. A missive by Miyagawa Kyujiro, Japanese consul of Hong Kong, to the foreign minister provides testimony to this fact. The subterranean economies and social practices involved in the informal migration of Japanese abroad hint at another aspect of the world inhabited by the rural poor.

The women were members of a larger transient community that transgressed linguistic and national boundaries, shaped by the rhythms of abundance and scarcity found in agricultural production. In the social territory occupied by the rural poor, the labor of children was a resource to be sought during cycles of abundance and shed when the consumption of the household had to be reduced during times of scarcity.

As previously mentioned, as early as the eighteenth century the rural poor of the Amakusa and Shimabara regions migrated to Nagasaki in search of work. The strategy of migrating abroad to escape dire poverty was asserted in an interview by a woman from the Shimabara region who had migrated overseas to find work at the turn of the twentieth century. He sustained himself and family by the little money his wife and children brought in, and from the increasingly resentful benevolence of his relatives.

The social ambitions the father nourished for his family were limited. His only demand on his wife and children was work. To make ends meet S-san was sent to work as a domestic servant to a local merchant in her early teens. She continued working there until she was sixteen, the year her mother died. The wages she received were not enough to sustain her father, three younger siblings, and herself, let alone pay for any repairs to the house they were living in, which was more like an open hovel than a house, hardly offering any protection from the elements.

The following night, S-san and her sister were smuggled onboard different ships anchored in Kuchinotsu. On her arrival at the brothel, she was placed in the care of an older woman a native of a village just east of Shimabara, with whom S-san was faintly acquainted.

The woman was the eldest daughter of a well-to-do peasant family. She and her two younger sisters had left their village to work as sex labourers in Singapore. After working for two years in the brothel, S-san was bought out of her debt by a young English man working for a big rubber plantation company on the Malaysian peninsular. The other interview was carried out in the summer of The subject was K-san, a resident of Ushibukai, Shimo-Amakusa. K-san was born around thirty years later than S-san, but as her life narrative reveals, the older forms of labor organized around the reproduction of the household still persisted.

K-san first left her home at the age of twelve or thirteen to work in the spinning mills in Osaka. After five years of service at the mills, she returned home. Within a few months, she obtained a job as a child-carer komori in Nagasaki through an intermediary in the village. Two years later, around —36, at the age of about twenty-one, she left for Shanghai, together with five other women.

In Shanghai, she worked as a chambermaid at a Japanese hotel located in the Japanese settlement. In contrast to the experience of S-san, K-san had little or no contact with people of other nationalities because the Japanese community in Shanghai was both well established and insular. In his classic text Wasurerareta Nihonjin The Forgotten Japanese , folklorist Miyamoto Tsuneichi tells of the practices of his own rural household in Yamaguchi prefecture and the transmittance of wealth along matrilineal lines.

In eastern Japan, the father is the key figure in transmitting culture and wealth. In western Japan, familial and communal authority is commanded more by age than gender, thus offering women greater authority in the household and the possibility for the matrilineal transmission of wealth. It seems that in Shimabara and Amakusa regions at least, in the construction of social personage for the women from these areas, becoming a migrant labourer was one of the prescribed forms of conduct.

In both regions, village leaders did not try to prevent the local women from leaving. Indeed, in some circumstances they encouraged the women to find specific forms of work overseas. A majority of them were women who engaged in sex work. Women of the Amakusa region were required by cultural convention to produce half of their dowry. The perceived social value and marriage potential of the women increased directly in relation to the amount of money they earned and remitted.

Moreover, the social status of the family itself within the local community increased according to the wealth and status of the employer and the amount of remittance received: Although there were many women from the Amakusa Islands who were not fully informed by their parents - or persons recruiting them for work abroad - that they were being indentured into overseas brothels, many others evidently understood the nature of the work required.

There is evidence that, at times, the parents mediated in these negotiations. A young schoolteacher sent to a village on the Amakusa Islands for practical experience wrote that:. An evil custom of this village is that they do not see prostitution as shameful. In the surrounding villages too, prostitution is regarded as a vocation. Moreover, what is extraordinary is that people with a good living follow this practice. If anything, these people treat those who do not engage in prostitution with scorn and ridicule.

According to this observer, whom we can assume to be knowledgeable, in the case of the women of the Amakusa and Shimabara regions, it seems sex work was perceived as just another form of labor, without the attachment of stigma.

To illustrate this point, I turn to Sasaki Shigetoshi, a former low-class samurai involved in a Japanese migrant labor enterprise on Thursday Island, Queensland. In his petition to Tokyo, Sasaki describes how he appealed to the better nature of the brothel owners and women to cease working the brothels and how his best intentions came to nought. It is worth quoting at length:. At times, we turn to the [brothel] owners and remonstrate, exhorting them to cease their occupation and to change to another line of work.

Not only do they turn deaf ears to our remonstrations, it often happens that they turn around and rebut those giving advice, saying things such as:. You boors do talk a lot of rubbish. From the time we left Japan, let alone now when we are standing on foreign soil, you have no grounds to point an accusing finger even if you had the authority of the Japanese government behind you. I see no particular reason why I should change what I do.

Now, money talks in the world. No matter how base the occupation, if I can live the rest of my life in my own home in comfort, why should I concern myself? What matter to me the fortunes of the nation? Yet, you demand a lot.

What you advise, we will not do. Then, there are those amongst us, who turn to the women and advise them to become upright and honest, and to return to their homes in Japan as quickly as possible. The majority of these women are extremely simple and know no honour. Hardly any of them listen to the advice given. They feign unconcern and reply:. Thank you for your gracious concern. Your words are fit for the innocent girls living back home who know nothing about the world.

However, for ignorant women such as us who have crossed the open seas and have come to a foreign land thousands of miles away, your sermons are useless—like chanting sutras to a scarecrow. In Japan, poor people like us have sweat on our brow night and day working like beasts of burden. Far from having the wherewithal to cook our daily meals, we barely have that to rinse our mouths.

Now that we are living overseas and engaged in such a profession, as for things heavy we pick up nothing more than a knife or fork. All our wishes are respected. We have all that we desire. What could add to our happiness? We do, alas, regret most profoundly not to have been born daughters to such gentlemen as you. Sasaki vehemently objects to the existence of the brothels as it indicates a hatred for hard toil and a delight in relaxation, which erodes social order, and as such, the polity of Japan, for without the latter the former could not exist.

As Sasaki laments, it is not only the humiliation, but. Also, in relation to overseas commercial, agricultural and other enterprises, in political comparison to the Chinese, we Japanese are exceedingly inferior now because of the display of the likes of these filthy women Learn More about our data uses and your choices.

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