Does the term 「大和撫子」for describing the ideal Japanese lady predate WWII, or was there an equivalent term before that?

These sites here and here indicate that the term was co-opted for propaganda during WWII, but that seems to imply that the term/concept existed before the wartime refashioning of it. What is the origin of the phrase and when does it date from?

If it wasn't coined until WWII, what similar phrase was used before the war?


2 Answers 2


To summarize the answer given in holywise's link:

Comparisons of women to the ナデシコ flower date back to the 万葉集 (8th century). For example:


The actual term 大和撫子 probably dates back to the 10th century, as attested in e.g. the 古今和歌集:


So, yes - the term 大和撫子 definitely predates WWII, by a lot.


I am not certain if 大和撫子 predated WWII, but there is the term 良妻賢母{りょうさいけんぼ}, which was coined in 1875, according to Wikipedia:

It represented the ideal for womanhood in the East Asian area like Japan, China and Korea in the late 1800s and early 1900s and its effects continue to the modern day. Women were expected to master such domestic skills as sewing and cooking as well as develop the moral and intellectual skills to raise strong, intelligent sons and daughters for the sake of the nation.

Childbearing was considered a "patriotic duty", and although in Japan this philosophy declined after World War II, feminist historians have argued it existed in Japan even as recently as the 1980s.

The term originates in China, according to this blogger.

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