Female empowerment is a prerequisite for a just and sustainable developed society. Being the most developed non-western country, Japan offers an instructive window onto concerns about gender worldwide. Although overall gender equality is advancing in Japan, difficulties remain, especially in achieving equality in the workplace. We draw on theories of ontological commitment and the psychology of fiction to critically analyse the role of popular culture - in this case manga - in the reproduction of gender inequality in the Japanese workplace. We present examples of four of the most popular mainstream manga aimed at working men and women in Japan and show how women are depicted. We argue that the hyper-mediated fictional realism of representative tropes generates an ontological commitment to characters and narratives among consumers that reinforces the reproduction of a culturally exceptionalist national political economic space, one of whose essential defining characteristics is a gendered workplace. Our research suggests important implications for researching the relationship between culture, in all its forms, and spatial variation in persistent institutional biases among varieties of capitalism. © 2014 The Authors
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