Table of Contents
A period of stable growth
Japan had achieved political stability and economic prosperity1 in the 1980s. Throughout the period, Japan’s GNP grew at respectable rate, and inflation was under control. People’s standards of living are generally good.
Overseas Investments and Western Idealization (Esp. US)
In the 1980s, Japanese corporations began to acquire assets overseas at a rapid pace. Within this period, the electronics sector, in particular, continued to grow and expand satisfactorily.2 Many industries in Japan started global operations. By the end of 1986, approximately one-third of Japan’s industry operations come from overseas factories.3 Japanese industries began to set up subsidiaries overseas, especially in America. At the end of 1970s and early 1980s, there was a constant flow of investment funds from Japan to US4.
This was reflected in the first two books of the section chief series, whereby the story evolves around Shima’s experiences when he was transferred to New York. From the manga, we can see that it reflected the growing trend of Japanese investments in US at that time. Japan and US were bound together not only by common interests (economically), but also by common political values such as free elections, freedom of speech and respect for human rights5. Japanese tend to see their relations to the US as a form of relation to the free world6. In the manga, the author often associates the relationship between America and freedom. Also, westerners in the manga were often portrayed as intelligent, smart and witty.
The manga also reflects the different Japanese men’s perception of Western and Japanese women. Western women were portrayed as smart, interesting and straight forward; while Japanese women (like Shima’s wife), is seen as submissive, not understanding and uncaring. During this period of time, western influences began to seep into the lives of Japanese people. In the manga, many scenes reflected the gradual adoption of western lifestyle by the people. (for eg, Shima going for a theatre play in America, and he enjoys western style of fine dining.)* The manga also brought up the racial discrimination problem in US. This might be a true reflection of the discriminations Japanese faced in reality during their stay in America.
Increasing number of women in the workforce.
The employment growth in the 1980s was remarkable – particularly in the female workforce7. More and more women were entering the labor market. During this period major legislative development took place in the female working environment8. In the late 1970s to 1980s, companies in Japan began to hire female part-time workers on a large scale8. This phenomenon was also reflected through the manga, whereby there are more female characters in the work place for the Section Chief’s series than the Young Shima’s series*. Yet, despite the increase in the number of female workers in the work force, equity in treatments between different genders at the work place had not been achieved. This fact is pointed out in the manga, when one of the female character told Shima that it was so much harder for women to find jobs than men in Japan*. However, this period was very significant as it marked the beginning of women’s liberation from their traditional domestic role in Japan, and paved the way for the emergence of more females joining the work force in years to come.