• Japanese;
  • gender;
  • femininity;
  • ideology;
  • representation;
  • dialect

How is ‘authentic’ linguistic femininity in Japan manifested in popular texts? We analyze the dialogue of female characters in Wakaba, a 2005 Japanese drama set in two very different parts of ‘regional’ Japan – Miyazaki and Kobe. Through this analysis, we examine two contradictory discourses circulated through popular media. The first is that linguistic femininity is based in Standard Japanese – a surprisingly persistent ideology despite a current trend to examine cases in which language ideology and practice do not match. Other studies reflect another dominant discourse, that of the ‘authentic’ dialect speaker, who expresses local alignment by using dialect forms outside the bounds of ideologically modern linguistic forms. The tension between acting linguistically feminine and ‘authentically’ local raises some interesting questions for Japanese language and gender studies, including studies of gendered representations: are women who are speakers of regional dialects authentically ‘feminine’? Can they be? Do some dialects express femininity better than others?