The Questioning of the Concept of Masculinity in Joyce Lebra’s The Scent of Sake

Sindhy Sintya Mianani, Elisa Dwi Wardani


Gender is the social construction of elaborating sex, which is supposed to be distinguished from the biological categories of being male or female. Gender is said to be a very complex phenomenon and one has to acquire it through the process of socialization. Sex itself determines gender, while gender determines gender roles, whether it is masculinity or femininity. This study discusses Joyce Lebra’s The Scent of Sake as a novel which portrays a violation to the concept of masculinity recognized in Japanese male gender roles, or also known as daikokubashira, through the analysis of its male character, Jihei. The discussion consists of the analysis of how Jihei is depicted as an unmasculine man in the novel. Then, followed by the discussion on the reason why Jihei’s unmasculine characteristics are considered as a form of violation to the concept of masculinity recognized in daikokubashira.

The results of this study shows that Jihei is depicted as a man whose characteristics reject the masculine qualities expected by society. Thus, they are also said as questioning the concept of masculinity recognized in daikokubashira. Hence, it can be said that Joyce Lebra’s The Scent of Sake portrays and encourages masculinity as a mandatory characteristic which is supposed to be possessed by men, especially in patriarchal culture, but it also counts as a double-edged sword for them.

Keywords: questioning, masculinity, ‘daikokubashira’



Full Text:



Heterosexual Men and the Dynamic of Gender Conformity” in Genders, Transgenders and Sexualities in Japan. Eds. M. McLelland & Romit Dasgupta. London: Routledge, 2005.

Devor, Holly. “Becoming Members of Society: Learning the Social Meaning of Gender” in Gender Images: Reading for Composition. Eds. Mileta Schaum and Connie Flanagan. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.

Eckert, Penelope and Sally McConell-Ginet. Language and Gender. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Gill, Tom. “Structuring Masculinity on the Japanese Margins” in Men and Masculinities in Contemporary Japan: Dislocating the Salaryman Doxa. Eds. James E. Roberson and Nobue Suzuki. London: Routledge Curzon, 2003.

Helgeson, Vicky S. The Psychology of Gender. Boston: Pearson Education, 2012.

Jeremy, Michael and Michael Ernest Robinson. Ceremony and Symbolism in the Japanese Home. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1989.

Kawamura, Sayaka. Marriage in Japan: Attitudes, Intentions, and Perceived Barriers. Dissertation. Bowling Green State University, 2011.

Lebra, Joyce. The Scent of Sake. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 2009.

Matsunaga, Louella. The Changing Face of Japanese Retail: Working in a Chain Store. London: Routledge, 2000.

O’Neill, James M. Gender Role Conflict Theory, Research, and Practice. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 2016.

Onogwu, Elizabeth Odachi. “Reversing Patriarchy: A literary Examination of Adopted Husbands (Mukoyoshi) in Japan” in Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities, Vol. VII, Number 3. Eds. Tirtha Prasad Mukhopadhyay & Tarun Tapas Mukherjee, 2015.

Pilcher, Jane and Imelda Whelehan. 50 Key Concepts in Gender Studies. London: SAGE Publications Ltd., 2004.

Showalter, Elaine. “Feminism and Literature” in Literary Theory Today. Eds. Peter Collier and Helga Geyer-Ryan. Cambridge: Blackwell Publishing, 1990.

Stets, Jan E. and Peter J. Burke. Femininity/Masculinity. Washington DC: Washington State University, 1998.

Storey, John. Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction. London: Pearson, 2008.

Yamada, Nobuaki. “Metaphors of a Pillar in English and Japanese” in Intercultural Communication Studies. Japan: Chubu University, 1993.


  • There are currently no refbacks.



Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  Journal of Language and Literature - Department of English Letters, Universitas Sanata Dharma, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Flag Counter