The New Life Movement in postwar Japan was a set of loosely connected initiatives of government offices, women's groups, and corporations. Aimed entirely at women, the movement addressed a range of concerns, from morality and democratic social relations to kitchen redesign and public hygiene, but gender issues such as sex roles, reproduction and the definition of the “housewife” were central. This paper looks at all these activities, it examines in particular the efforts of dozens of major corporations to set up outreach programs to train the wives of male employees in skills of household management and child rearing. The New Life Movement was part of two crucial social and cultural processes in postwar history. It powerfully reinforced the idea that the needs of the corporation “naturally” were congruent with the needs of all Japanese people. And it naturalized a model of gender relations in which women of all social strata managed the home, while men managed the work place. This paper concludes by comparing these processes in Japan to similar ones in Europe and America.
At the beginning of the Great Depression, no successful foreign model of social security for workers existed, so the Japanese were forced to develop their own solutions. The author analyzes Japanese worker and managerial responses to the crisis of the Great Depression and their continuing impact.