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Objectification of Moga in Tanizaki’s Novella “Naomi”

At the beginning of the 20th century, there was a toxic enchantment with the West in Japan, which transmitted an extremely negative imprint on women who got influenced by it. Junichiro Tanizaki investigated Japan’s fascination with the West for many years and documented his observations in numerous writings. The central figures were usually Moga — Japanese girls who succumbed to the modern obsession with foreign culture. They formed a Eurasian representation by connecting the lifestyles, behavior, clothing, and hairstyles of traditional Japan and the free West. Despite everyone’s obsession with a new trend, these girls were always considered weirdly modernized objects of desire, rejected, and denounced by society (Pettey, 2017). One of the writer’s stories tells about the perniciousness of a man’s harmful delusion with Moga Naomi.

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The main character of the novel Joji became fascinated by Naomi essentially due to a feverish global dependency on the West. Having met her in a cafe, he promptly drew attention to her European name and a definite resemblance to the American actress Mary Pickford. Even her body became the target of a toxic fetish due to its European standards. For Joji, Naomi was the epitome of Western freedom and a fresh breeze in boring traditional Japan. From the beginning, he saw only a proper body that could be adjusted to the necessary standards by playing and suppressing the personality. The story is good at exposing the hypocritical and derogatory attitude towards the Moga girls, who were fetishized and displayed as a living commodity in the entertainment industry (Pettey, 2017). Joji obsessively molded Naomi into a Western woman, as Pygmaleon sculpted Galatea, being at the same time in solidarity with judgmental society. He taught her English, matched her clothes, wrote down the slightest changes in the special diary, and stopped noticing her personality hiding behind a sexualized image.

The relationship between Naomi and Joji is a sad story about destructive objectification and imposed obsession in Japan after World War I. Joji’s sick delusion is a metaphor for Japan’s heightened interest in the West and an urgent desire to replace tradition with freedom. Blind adherence to the global bias and violent passions created the hypertrophied sexualized Western concept for females and suppressed the personality of a living soul.


Pettey, H.B. (2017) Japanese avant-garde and the Moga (“Modern Girl”). In: J. Grossman, R. Palmer. (Eds.), Adaptation in visual culture. Palgrave studies in adaptation and visual culture (pp. 235–253). Palgrave Macmillan.

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