Miyoko Shiozawa-san

The first time I went to Japan, in 1978, I attended a meeting at which women from several Asian countries got together, hosted by Miyoko Shiozawa, to discuss common issues for women workers.I followed up by applying for a grant from the Australia-Japan Foundation to travel to Japan and find out more about women workers in Japan. Miyoko Shiozawa was my first point of contact.

Miyoko Shiozawa started her career as an activist in a trade union organising Japanese young women textile workers – those working in the silk industry. As Japanese industries began to shift their production to Asian countries in the 1970s, Shiozawa became concerned that the harsh working conditions which Japanese women endured would be transferred to women in other countries. In 1981, a women’s group called the Committee of Asian Workers (CAW) was formed in Hong Kong with the support of a Christian organisation in order to raise awareness about the problems of women workers in Asia (After 1992, CAW became independent of the Christian organisation and currently functions as a networking organisation linking female workers’ groups from 13 Asian countries through its office in Bangkok). Shiozawa was involved in the establishment of CAW and, in line with this work, an organisation called Asian Women Workers Center (AWWC) was formed in Japan in 1983 as a way to disseminate information regarding conditions affecting Asian workers since overseas Japanese firms have substantial control over working conditions and labour management practices.

For an interview with Miyoko Shiozawa, conducted in 2008, see:

http://www.amrc.org.hk/alu_special/gender_and_the_labour_movement/gender_and_labour_column

Writings

Miyoko Shiozawa has been a freelance writer, researcher and activist specialising in the situation of women workers for most of her career. She has produced many books, some of them available in English.

Katasumi no hatsugen (1968)

Kataritsugitai koto : nensho joshi rodo no genba kara, in Japanese.

She wrote a book called Made in South-East Asia, about the export-oriented, labour-intensive work done by women workers throughout Asia.

Discrimination against women workers in Japan (1988) was published in English.

Protective legislation

Being an organiser for the Textile Workers Union

Negotiating a portion of fish in the girls’ diet

Her novel – about going up the snow-covered mountain

More modern heritage of this system of employment

Japanese women are traditional – really?

When Shiozawa-san was a young woman, just after the war, she was chosen to go on a youth delegation to the United Nations. At a reception she was approached by an earnest American matron. “Can you do traditional Japanese flower arranging?” the woman asked. She bowed her head. “I am sorry, I cannot.” The woman paused, then asked “Can you do traditional Japanese paper folding?” Again she bowed her head. “I am sorry, I cannot.” The woman looked perplexed, then continued “Can you do the traditional Japanese tea ceremony?” Again Shiozawa-san bowed her head. “I am sorry, I cannot. I can swim, I can ski, I can climb mountains, but, I’m sorry, I cannot do those things.”

Shiozawa-san was a qualified swimming teacher, and used to go for a swim every day. She was also a keen hiker. When I was in Japan, she took me on one of her hikes. I remember being struck by how odd it seemed to be in a country where pine trees were native. In Australia they are introduced, and I feel a sort of jarring note when I see them where they don’t really belong. I commented that the trees in the Japanese landscape were different. “Ki-wa chigau-te” she translated to her friends, using the informal level of Japanese that is OK between friends.

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