Organized Panel Session
My paper examines how Japan’s wartime regime (1937-1945) attempted to manage and optimize the health of its population by integrating welfare systems and gender ideology. Existing studies of Japan's wartime history that have focused on the irrationality of fascism often obscure the fact that Japan’s wartime state deployed different governmental apparatuses to rationalize both human and material resources. In an attempt to rethink Japan’s wartime fascism, my paper focuses on how the wartime state manifested itself as “rationality” and how rigorously the state’s rational principles were emphasized in governing the welfare of the population and the health of the maternal body. The wartime population discourses, primarily deployed by the Ministry of Health and Welfare (Kōsei-sho) and its subsidiary organizations, aimed at integrating the Japanese population into the readily mobilizable workforce under the slogan “healthy soldiers and healthy people (kenpei kenmin).” As the welfare-warfare state made comprehensive efforts to increase the population size and improve its quality on eugenic grounds, the female body became the focal point of population governance, social engineering, and gender politics. The state’s meticulous care of the maternal body, as typified in the launch of the Handbook for Pregnant Women (Ninsanpu techō) system in 1942, not only reinforced the gendered division of citizenship, but also reduced womanhood to its reproductive role. In this respect, this paper argues that the female body—women’s reproductive health and their social roles as healthy mothers, in particular—became increasingly important in the welfare-warfare state.