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What Japanese Words Say About Women (30th Anniversary Edition)

Thirty years after its first publication, Womansword remains a timely, provocative work on how words reflect on female roles in modern Japan. 

Short, lively essays offer linguistic, sociological, and historical insight into issues central to the lives of women everywhere: identity, girlhood, marriage, motherhood, work, sexuality, and aging. 

A new introduction shows how things have—and haven't—changed.

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5.5 x 8.5"




“A very graceful, erudite job… Insights that will enlighten those readers who know nothing about Japanese women and those who do know something, those who do not speak Japanese and those who do. Many of the expressions Ms. Cherry presents are extraordinarily revealing.”

The New York Times, Feb 7, 1988

"Cherry's short, meticulously researched pieces are filled with lively descriptions and illuminating historical tales about words relating to women, illustrating how womanhood, femininity and the role of women are perceived in Japanese society. Womansword remains a rich treasure trove of words and reflections on aspects of Japanese womanhood that you won’t find anywhere else."

The Japan Times

"Wonderfully written and charming throughout... Womansword illuminates Japanese cultural norms and values through an examination of a great number of well-known and not-so-well-known expressions. It is a lot of fun for language learners and very insightful into the culture."

Kyoto Journal

"Womansword is indeed a joyful read and a fascinating introduction to gender tensions in Japanese culture through insightful sociolinguistic analysis."

Cha: An Asian Literary Journal

"Womansword is as intriguing and funny as it is eye-opening and surprising."

The San Francisco Book Review

"A delightfully insightful read.... It remains one of, if not the best, English language resources for learning about the women of Japan through the language they use."


“After three decades, Womansword still cuts to the core of gender dynamics in Japanese society. With a new Introduction giving us updates on various topics and a plethora of recent words, this book remains one of the most accessible and intriguing guides to the status of women in Japanese society.”

Ayako Kano, University of Pennsylvania, author of Japanese Feminist Debates: A Century of Contention on Sex, Love, and Labor (University of Hawai’i Press, 2016)

"Kitt Cherry has a long, storied career balancing and brokering the values of tradition with the excitement of the modern. Womansword charts, through evolving language, changes that have radically transformed Japanese women – and Japan -- for decades. From tom-boy fashion ("Prince Lolita") to national discussions of a possible female emperor, Cherry captures the vibrancy of the new Japan. This book is a vital read for feminists, linguists, and everyone interested in how culture changes.”

Michael Bronski, Professor of Women and Gender Studies, Harvard University

"Japanese is, or at least seems to be, an order of magnitude more gender-layered than English and Womansword is an attempt to pick these meanings apart; it does so with clarity and good humour."

Asian Review of Books

"A fascinating read and a striking reminder of how language can reflect the general mindset and culture of society."

JQ Magazine

"Informative, deep, and even a bit troubling... Womansword is a powerful, powerful book."

Andrew Joseph,It's A Wonderful Rife

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About the Author(s)

Kittredge Cherry

Kittredge Cherry

With a talent for analyzing language trends led to her first book, Womansword: What Japanese Words Say About Women, originally published by Kodansha International in 1987.

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