SOAS University of London

Japan Research Centre

Visualizing the Fetus in Pre-modern and Modern Japan: Reading Illustrated Manuals, Magazines and Guidebooks for Pregnant Women

Manami Yasui
Prof Manami Yasui (Nichibunken)

Date: 24 April 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 24 April 2019Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Khalili Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Seminar


In this presentation, I would like to explore the transition of the image of the fetus from pre-modern Japan and modern Japan, based on various illustrations like ukiyo e, manuals for pregnancy and childbirth, and so on. I will discuss the image of the fetus in pre-modern and modern Japan, addressing the complex and multi-layered perspectives on life in the context of the history of images of the body. Focusing on the history of fetal images offers a key to understanding popular knowledge of pregnancy and childbirth at any one time, perspectives of health and the body in Buddhism, the disciplines of both Chinese and European medicine, indigenous ideas of life and death and so on.

A further direction for this research will be to link the comparative study of the history of images of the body in Asia, and other areas, focusing especially on the transformation of those images, in line with developments in medicine, which was different in each country and area.

Speaker Biography

Manami Yasui is a professor at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Nichibunken), Kyoto, Japan. Her research encompasses Japanese Folklore Studies and Cultural Anthropology. After completing her undergraduate and postgraduate studies at Osaka University, she taught at the Tenri University from 1998 to 2017 before joining Nichibunken. She has also been a Visiting Professor at École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), Paris, France and Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary. Her publications include Kaii to Shintai no Minzokugaku: Ikai kara Shussan to Kosodate o toinaosu [Folklore Studies of the Spiritual and the Body: Rethinking Childbirth and Childrearing from the Spiritual World], Serica Publishing, Tokyo, December 2014) and many journal articles and book chapters including“Depictions and Modelings of the Body Seen in Japanese Folk Religion: Connections to Yokai Images,” Advances in Anthropology, Special Issue on Folk Life and Folk Culture (Walter Edwards, transl.), July 2017. While she continues to work on yōkai and the supernatural in Japanese folklore, she is also exploring customs and human relations around pregnancy and childbirth as well as changes in medical care in Japan and Micronesia from folkloric and cultural anthropological perspectives.


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Organiser: SOAS Japan Research Centre and SOAS Centre for Translation Studies

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