Powerful political analysis is combined with a passionate personal story in this
exceptional documentary about the Japanese womens liberation movement in
the 1970s and its influence on contemporary Japanese society. Director Nanako
Kurihara left her homeland in the 1980s, frustrated by the lack of interesting
roles for women in Japan. In New York, she met a Japanese woman who had
been involved in the womens liberation movement in Japan in the 1970s.
Kurihara returned to Japan, bringing together interviews with veterans of the
movement, fascinating archival footage and her personal impressions to produce
a film which explores the meaning of the liberation movement, the factors that
motivated it and the effect it has had on peoples attitudes. "Ripples of Change"
is an excellent resource for the study of global feminism, womens roles and
I don’t know if they were conscious of it or not, but the women who came to the [Lib] camp were finally able to utter words that had somehow been stuck or "clogged" deep down in their throats (nodo no oku ni tsumekonde-ita kotoba ga yatto dasete, 喉の奥に詰め込でた 言葉がやっとう出せて) for such a long time, words they had not been able to get out before. By speaking out, they weree able to become more aware of what they wanted, of what their hopes and desires (kibô, yokubo) were. [Note: How Tanaka uses words like anoo, koo, ima made no koo.....as the thinks and struggles to actually come up with the right words to express the idea she is trying to get across. It seems that this is evidence that still, many years later, it was still hard to find the language that can actually capture the feelings that were generated in the early 1970s. As we see below, she talks about how through action, certain things become visible or come in to your perspective (行動することによって、見えてくる) and I note how Kishino uses that same perspective in the title of her memoir Things Visible (見えてきた物) from a Woman's Perspective. ]
You realize things by DOING them, not by figuring them out in your head. Action leads you to see things anew. We experienced this feeling of a natural high. We had this overwhelming feeling: the future was on OUR side. This feeling floated all over the whole camp. We expressed the feeling that each of us had power and I felt that this was very meaningful.
When our movement started, many people thought that society had already become gender-equal and that discrimination had been ended after WWII. We tried to keep a fire going when there was no smoke. We kept going so that the smoke we generated would not disappear. They were, like me, women who might be a little hasty, who had no status to lose, and had felt the stinging pain of being women. We were strong with good intuition, but it was not logical (rikutsu). It was based on the feeling that we were directing our own era, our future, our hopes. If we didn’t do it, who would? But it was very tough (taihen datta!).
On the performances of the Silly Pumpkin Theatre:
It was for anybody—they might not have known any books on women’s liberation, but simply hated the arrogance of men—hated the feeling that when their father came home from work, they felt it grow dark—or they were discriminated against at work. Ordinary people could see our performances and think, “Yes, that is right.”
Many young people these days feel that there is no place for them in society (居場所がない). Even people in their 30s and 40s are wandering around, lost. Their problem seems to be that they just cannot find their place in the family or at work. I think you should have your own place within yourself. Even if everyone in the world speaks ill of you, you can still accept yourself. You have to become the prime supporter of yourself. The New Left looked down on us. Boo onna. I asked myself so many times, “Is it really OK to live as “a Lib”?
My wonderful self (すてきな私) and my not so wonderful self (すてきじゃない私) they are both myself. It is the base on which I stand. I created that base by being in Lib. It was great for me that I had been a Lib and determined not to be anyone else but me.
Also in the 30 Years of Sisterhood DVD, Akiyama Yoko tals about how "We began to talk about ourselves and about women's issues. We wanted to write for ourselves." An, also, she says that "We finally got to say what we felt. There would not be so many intersting women (who are attending the reunion) if it hadn't been for the Lib Movement." Moreover, Watanabe Fumie who, like Yoshitake, had been raped by fellow students during the student struggle of the late 1960s, talked about how she used to blame herself until she read Komashaku Kimi's book Witch's Logic which exposed her to the idea of the master-servant relationship upon which the patriarchy thrives. You might remember Komashaku Kimi's name from Ch. 4 in Changing Lives. She was a good friend of Kishino Junko and basically introduced her to the Lib Movement. Remember? They went out to dinner together to celebrate the 40th birthdays and they began having deep conversations on women's issues, literature, etc. Like Kishino, Komashaku was one of those older women (40s) drawn to the movement; Kishino considered her more deeply committed than she was. But, also, Komashaku was an active literary critic and a professor. She published many books of literary criticism from a feminist perspective using the of the image of the "witch" to typify the unruly female critic who offers a different perspective on literature from that offered by the typical male gaze.
At the end of 30 Years of Sisterhood the main people interviewed are identified:
Akiyama Yoko (mentioned in the Conclusions of Changing Lives, Tanaka Mitsu, Kitamura Mitsuko, Watanabe Fumie, Kuno Ayako, Wakabayashi Naeko, Asakawa Mariko (one of Gruppu Tatakau Onna founders), Doi Yumi mentioned in my footnotes and who lives in San Francisco and I corresponded with her via email in the final stages of preparing my manuscript.