This introductory chapter puts emphasis on the importance of law and legal discourse in Japan's creation and regulation of gendered subjects and social norms about sexuality and the family. It also briefly outlines Japan's legal history, in the process revealing that the relationship between gender and law is both complex and profound. However, in Japan, legal historians have focused almost exclusively on struggles among officials, jurists, and academics, and on the legal debates that accompanied the framing of the civil and criminal statutes and institutional reforms. The cultural and social history of law has been almost ignored, a situation that partially explains the paucity of historical work on gender and law. Only in the late 1990s did that situation begin to change as a new generation of historians, many of them feminist in their orientation, published groundbreaking work.
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