Time distorts, concealing the individual drops of humanity within the great tide of history. “Beauty in Disarray” attempts to reveal one such individual threatened to be lost in time, a woman named Noe Ito. In telling Ito’s tragic story, biographer Harumi Setouchi (now known by her Buddhist name Jakucho) also reveals early feminist Japan. Setouchi’s work itself threatens to go out of print, but a Kindle version made available this year brings Ito’s story to the digital age.

Set in the turbulent Taisho Era (1912-26), Setouchi discovered the existence of Ito while researching a more famous writer of that era, Kanoko Okamoto, as both women worked on the early feminist journal Seito (Bluestocking). In 1911, Henrik Ibsen’s controversial feminist masterpiece “A Doll’s House” was performed in Tokyo, setting off a tide of controversial thought consummated in an all women’s literary society being formed, Seitosha (Bluestocking Society). Their infamous journal became a symbol of the “New Woman” — and later a platform for Socialism. Ito joined the society while still a teenager and became its editor during the journal’s final persecuted year, 1915-16.

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