Following the Meiji Restoration of 1868, Japanese statesmen and the press worked to catch up with the West and its civilized image of manliness. As officials and cultural commentators continued to grapple with the ideal images of boyhood and adulthood, they expressed anxieties about Japan’s national direction in the early twentieth century. That history of masculinity is explained in terms of cultural construction as gender studies scholars focus on Japanese women and their liberating, subordinate, and transgressive relationships to patriarchy and society. Moreover, the discussions of gender and masculinity center on the Japanese metropole and otherwise are limited to the construction of difference between civilized Japanese and indigenous people in Japan’s colonies.
This paper addresses the material, familial, interactive forms of masculinity in relation to colonial Taiwan (1895–1945), examining how Taiwanese men, households, and the Japanese colonial courts centered the treatment of women in the construction of masculinity from the late 1910s through the mid-1930s. Taiwanese men, as the descents of settlers from southeastern China, built their power onto domestic authority and marital obligations in the Chinese family system. In the 1920s, however, the Government-General of Taiwan and its courts began applying the 1898 Japanese Civil Code concerning family and marriage to civil cases on Taiwanese brides and adopted daughters more often than before. By analyzing recently available judicial case records, this study reveals the equitable changes and resilient continuities of male roles in the boundaries of household relationships, suggesting how masculinity was gendered in Japan’s and other empires.