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A Journal From Japan

Marie Stopes

Book Overview: 

Marie Stopes was a highly controversial scientist and activist in her era, campaigning for radical new views of love-based marriage, birth control, and women’s rights. As a scientist, she was a renowned palaeobotanist, specializing in issues concerning coal; these scientific pursuits led her to spend several years in Japan, where she went into some of the country's remotest coal mines to study fossils. While there, she pursued a notorious relationship with Japanese botanist Fujii Kenjiro as well as several romantic dalliances with European women in the lively Tokyo diplomatic community. She established the first birth-control clinic in England in 1921, committed to an abortion-free philosophy of family planning. Stopes continues to be an ambiguous figure in historical consideration, her family-planning philosophies verging throughout her life on less-savory views such as eugenics and race purification, though the terminology employed at the time makes it unclear whether or not she was merely advocating more careful, consciously-planned, and responsible parenthood. That she rejected fascist views of eugenics is plain by her anti-Nazi passions in later life. These journal entries from Japan cover the period of August 6, 1907 through January 24, 1909, and show both her incisively scientific observational powers and a profound appreciation of the poignant beauty of Japanese culture and sensibilities, which she saw to be under threat during that era of modernization and industrialization.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Tokio certainly makes one very sleepy, and also demands the expenditure of much time to get a small result.

September 26.—Official visit to the Director of the Survey—time spent getting there and back, three hours—length of visit, ten minutes. The rest of the day at the Institute.

September 27.—An amusing day spent at the sale by auction of all the household effects of the Spanish consul. It appears that these sales are recognised[36] social functions, and all the good Society was represented, from the Embassy and some Baronesses downwards. I managed to get two feather pillows for twice what they cost in England, but half what they cost here in the shops; and so hope to rest more peacefully at night now. There is such a frightful duty on all foreign goods that every one here buys what they can at these sales; as they are all the goods of friends, which have sometimes been the round of several distinguished families, there is . . . Read More

Community Reviews

The journal of a woman living in Japan in the early 1900s. Marie Stopes collected fossil and plant specimens while working with a university.

The book had moments of beauty, humor (I still chuckle about her first earthquake, and defending against a robber), and the spectrum of feelings associated...more

This is an extremely unusual story as it is of a liberated, scientifically trained woman in a foreign country. Stopes was one of the first female geologists and this is one of the first insights of a western woman in Japan after it opened to the west. Very highly recommended.