de Matos, C. (2012). Occupying power: Sex workers and servicemen in postwar Japan [Book Review]. Japanese Studies, 32(3), 476-478. doi:10.1080/10371397.2012.735535
The caricature of the ‘pan-pan’, or amateur female prostitute, complete with western-style fashions and garish makeup, has become an iconic symbol of Japan’s defeat in the Asia-Pacific War and subsequent Allied Occupation. Portrayed in a mostly negative light, she simultaneously represents the ostensible sexual excesses of female liberation, the most visible rendering of Japanese emasculation, and the sexual exploitation of women by Allied servicemen. She has, as Sarah Kovner suggests in her new book, the signs of defeat and occupation inscribed onto her very body. Yet recent research on gender, sexuality and military occupations has begun to question the whore/ victim model of the ‘pan-pan’ and of occupation sexual interactions more generally. Rumi Sakamoto asserted in a recent issue of Portal that ‘“pan-pan girls” resist being reduced to pure signs of “victim” or “sacrifice,” given that they embody complex articulations of interracial desire, material ambition and opportunism, as well as victimhood’ (Sakamoto, 1). This complication of understandings of occupation sexualities continues in Kovner’s Occupying Power.
Peer-reviewed, Japan, military occupation, women