Seminar Series

Contemporary Japanese Lookism What Underlies “World’s Three Beauties” Discourse

Thursday, 11 March 2021 | 9:00 - 10:00 (JST)
Zoom Webinar
  • Nagai Kumiko Associate Professor, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, The University of Tokyo
  • Sato Yukiko Associate Professor, Graduate School of Humanities & Sociology, The University of Tokyo
Event Description

Cleopatra VII, Yang Guifei and Ono no Komachi, or Helen. They are called “the world’s three greatest beauties of all time” in Japan. They appear in various TV commercials and other media today. Many people wonder why these women were selected and why it seems to be a story that is widespread only in Japan. In this seminar, these questions will be addressed. Tracing the history of this discourse, the origin dates back to the Meiji and Taishō eras and in the story that seems to tell about diversity at first glance, Japan’s international relations and views on women after the Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War are hidden. The speaker would like to discuss the background to the discourse and issues that this story highlights, which lead to the current concept of lookism in Japan.

About the Speaker

Kumiko Nagai is an Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo. She holds a Ph.D. from the Department of Comparative Literature and Culture at UTokyo. Her specialization is Japanese classical literature and painting, especially the picture scrolls made in the 11th and the 12th century. Her recent works include writings about the essays on the Tale of Genji and the portraits of Lady Murasaki, the author of this tale. She also studies the influence of the legacies of the Heian dynastic style culture in modern Japan.