HKU TOURISM SEMINAR SERIES
Japan’s Postwar International Flight Attendants: Embodying Modernity and Exoticism in the Air
100% VIA ZOOM
Meeting ID: 976 5084 0424
Dr Yoshiko Nakano
Associate Professor, School of Modern Languages and Cultures, HKU
Yoshiko Nakano is an Associate Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Hong Kong. She works on Japanese corporate history in a global context, focusing on international aviation, food and food technology. She is particularly interested in the way in which non-Japanese cultural intermediaries have facilitated the flow of Japanese products and services. She is the author of Where There are Asians, There are Rice Cookers (2009, HKU Press).
This talk explores Japan’s entry into international commercial aviation in the wake of World War II with particular emphasis on its implications for female flight attendants’ job duties and training. In 1953, the newly established Japan Airlines (JAL) faced the challenge of fashioning an attractive brand for the American market. In preparation for the launch of its first transpacific route from Tokyo to San Francisco, American advertising executives recommended that JAL design its corporate image around its “stewardesses” by dressing them in kimonos. At the same time, JAL’s management saw the need to train them to meet international standards of inflight service and engaged a “stewardess instructor” from United Airlines for this purpose. I argue that JAL “stewardesses” stood at the intersection of Japan’s aspirations to modernity and the American imagination of the Orient, and that they learned to enact both, thereby assuming simultaneously a gendered yet paradoxically “modern” role in Japanese postwar aviation.