Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Art History



First Advisor

Jonathan Frederick Walz

Second Advisor

Kelly A. Scheffer

Third Advisor

Trenton Olsen


This paper analyzes the shōjo, kawaii, and yōkai iconographies in Chiho Aoshima’s digital painting Strawberry Fields and examines how they relate to contemporary gender dynamics and anxieties in Japan. The painting bears the artist’s distinctive, characteristic style, which includes elements that are childlike and monstrous, cute and dark. The work, rich in layered context, simultaneously reminisces about the innocence and freedom of adolescence, and critiques the prominent the unequal, rigid, and highly restrictive gender roles dictated by the Japanese patriarchal system. The distinct two halves of Strawberry Fields depict the dichotomous vision of Japanese women—innocent and girly versus defiant and subversive. Through the two female humanoid figures inspired by traditional yōkai, the artist expresses strong sentiments against the dependence and dominance of men on women in Japanese society. The painting offers a window of escapism and solace from reality by celebrating a temporary freedom from established norms and order. Imbued with Japanese popular cultural codes and folk beliefs, the work offers a uniquely Japanese experience. Strawberry Fields appeals to Japanese and non-Japanese, as well as male and female, viewers alike. The image’s appeal derives from the fact that the sense of oppression and constraint under the patriarchal system, and the desire to free oneself from the binding social norms imposed by the system is universal across culture, gender, and nationality.