A Maid in the U.S. House: Architecture, Occupied Japan, and Tokyo Joe


This paper aims to shed light on the hitherto understudied relations between Japanese women and architecture in the postwar Hollywood film Tokyo Joe (1949), starring Humphrey Bogart. Set in Japan during the postwar U.S. occupation, the film features a well-equipped dependent housing designated as a "U.S. House" and a nursemaid who works there. In historical actuality, U.S. Houses were upper-class residences requisitioned from Japanese owners for SCAP (Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers) officials’ residences and were looked after by a retinue of Japanese kimono-clad maids whose salaries were paid for by the Japanese government. In Tokyo Joe, SCAP lawyer Mark Landis, his wife, Trina, and a daughter, Anya, live at one of those U.S. Houses. What this paper seeks to examine is not the nuclear family at the center of the U.S. House, but a Japanese nursemaid, a seemingly marginal and dependent character. Specifically, I focus on Nani-San, a sympathetic nanny turned villain who works for the Landis’ to spy and kidnap their child. As I demonstrate it, she is a mediator who connects the U.S. House and its exterior world that is occupied Japan, thereby propelling the narrative forward. By situating Tokyo Joe at the juncture of two converging histories, the cultural history of architecture and the social history of dependent Japanese women, this paper examines the imbricated relation of the nursemaid and the U.S. House in occupied Japan and argues that this relation significantly complicates the narrative of Tokyo Joe.

Author Information
Nominerdene Enkhbayar, University of Tsukuba, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: ACCS2021
Stream: Cultural Studies

This paper is part of the ACCS2021 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Enkhbayar N. (2021) A Maid in the U.S. House: Architecture, Occupied Japan, and Tokyo Joe ISSN: 2187-4751 The Asian Conference on Cultural Studies 2021: Official Conference Proceedings https://doi.org/10.22492/issn.2187-4751.2021.10
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.22492/issn.2187-4751.2021.10

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