‘The study of gender has contributed greatly to our knowledge of history while challenging preconceived notions of sociocultural phenomena and processes in Japan and elsewhere’
Sabine Frühstück’s ‘Recreating Japanese Men’analyses the contrast between sex and gender, while shedding light on how gender has formed masculine and feminine ideals within Japanese history. However, Anne Walthall who has written the first chapter ‘Do Guns Have Gender’ manages to differentiate these gender ideals of masculinity and femininity through Japan’s history of weaponry.
Whether it be a samurai’s sword or a solders gun, there has always been a sense of masculinity attached to the objects. Through this a formation of social hierarchy was created which enabled men to establish their status and class depending on the craftmanship of the gun. Anne Walthall gives a balanced analysis of both men and women and their relationships with weapons, allowing a more in depth understanding of how masculinity affected both genders.
Although swords were considered the soul of a samurai, guns co-existed with the blade as a means of aiding in battle and for hunting. However, for women guns were used as further attempt to isolate them from warfare. Walthall explains further insisting that women within Japanese history were able to learn to wield daggers, but this was used more as a cautionary purpose rather than establishing a fairer groundwork between men and women in warfare. This becomes more evident regarding guns and the lack of involvement of women. They could hold one, but shooting one was considered too masculine for them. This was also attached to gift giving, which men were more likely to receive a weapon as a gift, whereas women would be gifted art and literature.
Wielding of guns was considered a further development to a man’s maturity and masculinity. This, therefore, connects back to the introduction within the text, which is co-authored by Sabine Frühstück and Anne Walthall in which they highlight the connection between maturity and masculinity, which added to the masculine hierarchy within society. ‘Rural social mechanisms were hierarchically structured to produce men whose superior masculinity was based on their maturity’. By pursuing skills and activities which would better themselves, while boosting this sense of masculinity, this was considered further developing their masculinity. This was applied to all men no matter their status or class. Therefore, not being able to wield a gun was considered a lack of development and their roles could be put into question.
‘Not all shoguns mastered this weapon, proof that their gender identities had to be constructed and remained unstable’
This attachment of masculinity to objects and mannerisms was one of the root causes of excluding women from society and forming a stronger sense of control over feminine roles. This masculine attachment to guns was also added to the functions of family’s, which meant that fathers were likely to hand down their guns to the sons. This perhaps was not the same as a Samurai handing their son the family sword in hopes that they would take on the same route, but to push them further into a masculine role. Walthall draws upon historian Amy Ann Cox analysis on the values of masculinity to better understand why Japanese men associated their masculinity with guns. This was because guns represented the same values such as freedom, independence and liberty.
Therefore, what Walthall is trying to argue is what defines masculinity and how it can be manipulated into society to ensure it’s hierarchy. By attaching masculine values onto weaponry and behaviours that allow them to display power, it creates an unbalanced platform between men and women. Although Walthall highlights her intentions to focus on guns and status within the Tokugawa period, there is more that can be uncovered regarding Japan and its depictions of femininity and masculinity, which therefore, paved the lives of men and women. By just looking at guns Walthall has managed to breakdown the foundations of masculinity because the weapon became ingrained within the masculine etiquette, allowing it to manipulate Confucian teachings and Japanese culture.
Furthermore, although guns provided a variety of new skill to Japanese men and enabled them to use this within battle, what Walthall really does is present an underlying argument which highlights to absence of women in many areas of Japans society during the Tokugawa period. Her focus on guns enabled her to uncover Japans Confucian education, politics and warfare, therefore, Walthall has perhaps unintentionally brought a new understanding of how masculinity had been crafted and branded on to mannerisms and objects to ensure the silence and absence of Japanese women within important areas of their society.
 Sabine Fruhstuck, Recreating Japanese Men (University of California Press, 2011) p.3.
 Sabine Fruhstuck, Recreating Japanese Men (University of California Press, 2011).
 Sabine Fruhstuck, Recreating Japanese Men (University of California Press, 2011) p.6.
 Sabine Fruhstuck, Recreating Japanese Men (University of California Press, 2011) p.21.