THE BLUESTOCKINGS OF JAPAN: New Woman Essays and Fiction From Seito, 1911-16, edited by Jan Bardsley. Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 2007; xii + 308 pp., $70 (cloth), $26 (paper)

In 1911 a new publication appeared in Japan. It was singular in that it was written, edited and published entirely by women, and that it was named after an 18th-century English all-women salon (Seito is the translation of Blue Stocking). Few Japanese readers could have appreciated this connection, but this did not prevent the response to the new journal from being surprising.

The first issue, 1,000 copies, was sold out in a month, and the modest editorial offices were flooded with more than 3,000 letters asking for memberships, subscriptions and personal advice. And the success continued — a complete set of Seito consists of 52 issues and thousands of pages. At its height the magazine was selling 3,000 a month and was sold in bookstores or by subscription all over Japan.

Here women authors wrote in every available genre. There were classical waka, haiku, experimental modern poetry; sketches, stories and the popular kanso, impressionistic essays; and a large amount of dramatic criticism. The writers had been inspired by recent Japanese productions of Henrik Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler" and "A Doll's House." There was also an amount of translation: stories by Anton Chekhov, essays by Havelock Ellis, writings by Western women (Emma Goldman, Olive Schreiner) related to what became known as the fujin mondai, "the Woman Question."