National Defense Women's Association

(between 1937 and 1941)

IHL Cat. #1936


A color lithograph patriotic fan sample print, likely created between 1937 and 1941 during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945)*, promoting the Japanese National Defense Women’s Association, formed in 1932, which, at its height, boasted over 9 million members.[1] The two women wear white aprons (kappōji) over kimono, with a sash bearing the association's name, 大日本國防婦人会 (Dai Nihon kokubō fujinkai). The red text to the left of the women reads, 興亞長期建設, a reference to the government's long-term national policy on East Asia, whose stated purpose was to unite Asian nations and solidify and create a continental identity to defeat the hegemonic designs of the Western nations.

The print carries the sample catalog number そ印 參百五拾貳號 (so in Sanbyaku go jū ni gō [352]). These numbered fan prints (uchiwa-e 団扇絵) were gathered into a sample book (uchiwa mihonchō 団扇見本帳, or uchiwa gachō 団扇画帖.) to show wholesale customers the range of available designs.

The white aprons worn by the women in this print were a type of uniform that became synonymous with the Association, which performed a wide range of services, including holding tea receptions and the solicitation of donations for relief packages. The apron symbolized the egalitarian nature of the association. "By wearing aprons outside the home they metaphorically took the kitchen with them, thus defusing the anxieties caused by women in public space.”[2]

Note: Transcriptions and translations are my own unless otherwise noted.

[1] The Second Sino-Japanese War is referred to in China as the War of Resistance Against Japan.

[2]  Feminism in Modern Japan: Citizenship, Embodiment and Sexuality, Vera Mackie, Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 104.

Print Details