Picks and Pans Review: A Half Step Behind

updated 12/02/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/02/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Jane Condon

"Women are the foundation of this country," an 83-year-old widow tells the author, "like the foundation of a house, something you don't notice, but something you depend on." Traditionally, women in Japan looked after children, household and husbands, in that order. They were expected to be passive and agreeable and, until not long ago, to walk three steps behind their husbands. Condon's subtitle, "Japanese Women of the '80s," suggests they have moved a step or so closer but are still far from equality with males. The author learned that "the Japanese have an uncanny ability for seeing what they want to see and not seeing what they don't want to see." She says they will overlook a husband's infidelity, and most will ignore the proliferation of sexy ads and pornography. Through dozens of interviews, the author provides insights into the lives of a cross section of Japanese women, including the rarity of a top executive for a department store chain. Condon, a correspondent for PEOPLE and LIFE in Japan, succeeded in getting the women to speak revealingly and she illuminates much about the country with which we are so widely involved. Best are her reactions as a female foreigner, held in contempt by 12-year-old schoolboys, in what still seems to be a rigid, role-locked culture. (Dodd, Mead, $16.95)

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