A biography of an African-American woman in Durham, North Carolina, focusing on issues of poverty, segregation, and violence.
Sakaue Toshié was born on August 14, 1925, into a family of tenant farmers and day laborers in the hamlet of Kosugi. The world she entered was one of hard labor, poverty, dirt, disease, and frequent early death. By the 1970s, that rural world had changed almost beyond recognition. Toshié is the story of that extraordinary transformation as witnessed and experienced by Toshié herself. A sweeping social history of the Japanese countryside in its twentieth- century transition from "peasant" to "consumer" society, the book is also a richly textured account of the life of one village woman and her community caught up in the inexorable march of historical events. Through the lens of Toshié's life, Simon Partner shows us the realities of rural Japanese life during the 1930s depression; daily existence under the wartime regime of "spiritual mobilization"; the land reform and its consequences during occupation; and the rapid emergence of a consumer culture against the background of agricultural mechanization during the 1950s and 1960s. In some ways representative and in other ways unique, Toshié's narrative raises questions about conventional frameworks of twentieth- century Japanese history, and about the place of individual agency and choice in an era often seen as dominated by the impersonal forces of modernity: technology, state power, and capitalism.
This book investigates one of the great success stories of the twentieth century: the rise of the Japanese electronics industry. The author concludes that behind the meteoric rise of Sony, Matsushita, Toshiba and other electrical goods companies was neither the iron hand of MITI nor a government-sponsored export-led growth policy, but, rather, an explosion of domestic consumer demand. This efflorescence mirrored the massive consumer boom underway in the United States; but the author argues that widespread poverty and miserable living conditions made Japan’s experience qualitatively different. Electrical goods companies recognized that they must exert every effort to create new markets for expensive products (such as televisions, washing machines, and refrigerators) which had no established tradition in Japan, and about which people had little knowledge. The book opens with an account of the prewar development of Japan’s electrical communications industry, which was an essential prerequisite for the postwar rise of Japanese electronics. Chapter 2 describes the re-envisioning of Japan that took place during the Allied Occupation, including the quest by business leaders visiting America to identify the keys to American prosperity. Chapter 3 recounts the little-known story of the launch of television in Japan, under the stimulus of an American drive to create anti-Communist propaganda outlets in Asia. Chapter 4 describes the massive import of both product and marketing technologies during the 1950s: a process that had the full support of US business and government. Chapter 5 investigates the efforts by Japanese companies to stimulate domestic demand for their products. Focusing on themes of “rationalization,” “scientific living,” and the “bright life,” companies endeavored to foster a culture of consumption even as the government and others preached a gospel of saving. Chapter 6 tells the story of the transistor radio, Japan’s first export success in electronics. The chapter argues that at the heart of this success was not technological prowess, but the “nimble fingers” of young female workers who were paid as little as $17 a month. In the conclusion, and throughout the book, the author relates his story to some of the key themes of the twentieth-century experience: the role of technology in promoting social change, the rise of mass consumer societies, and the construction of gender in advanced industrial economies.