JAPANESE MEN, OTAKU AND HERBIVOROUS MALES

JAPANESE MEN

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A lot of Japanese men come off as nerdy and detached. With the exception of their early childhood, their college years and retirement, their lives are often ones of duty and drudgery. Their middle school and high school years are dominated by cram schools and examination hell. Their working careers are characterized by long hours and long commutes with occasionally drinking bouts to offer relief.

Men have a lot of stress and often have few outlets to get ride of it. They don't take breaks or change their lifestyles out of fear of being accused of dropping out. They generally don't like to talk about their problems and reluctant to seek professional help. The suicide rate among men is high and hikikomori ("withdrawal") is increasing among men in their 20s and 30s.

According to one survey 50 percent of men in their 30s are single or divorced, double the rate in 1980s, and 16.5 percent of men in their 40s are still single, compared to two percent in the 1960s. In the old days if a man wasn’t married by the time he was in his 20s it was the duty of his boss to find him a wife. The rise in the number of single men is partly attributed to the economic slump and the doubts many have about having enough resources to raise a family. The number of men working part time jobs has increased, making it harder for them to become independent and get married.

In August 2012, Jiji Press reported: “Among all age groups in Japan, men in their 40s are the least happy, a survey by a private think tank has shown. In the survey conducted by Dai-ichi Life Research Institute, men became happier as they aged, peaking in their 80s, while women peaked in their 60s with a steady decline after that. The survey, released Tuesday, said men in their 30s rated their level of happiness at 6.83 on a scale of zero to 10 on average, while those in their 40s rated the lowest, at 5.51. Men in their 80s rated highest at 8.00, showing a dramatic recovery. The institute surveyed 763 Japanese men and women nationwide. [Source: Jiji Press, August 9, 2012]

Websites and Resources

Links in this Website: JAPANESE FAMILIES Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; MALE BEAUTY, TATTOOS AND COSMETICS FOR MEN IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPANESE SALARYMEN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPANESE WOMEN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPANESE GIRLS AND YOUNG WOMEN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPANESE MOTHERS Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPANESE WORKING WOMEN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPANESE CHILDREN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPANESE TEENAGERS AND YOUNG ADULTS Factsanddetails.com/Japan

Good Websites and Sources: Dating Japanese Men mynippon.com ;Herbivorous Males slate.com ; Myths About Japanese Men stason.org/TULARC ; Favorite Fetishes whatjapanthinks.com ; Blog Essay on Japanese Men hackwriters.com ;Guys and Pillows weirdasianews.com ; Gender Patterns in Japanese Family ; Gender Roles family.jrank.org

Otaku Urban Dictionary urbandictionary.com ; Danny Choo dannychoo.com ; Otaku Dan Blog otakudan.com ; Otaku Generation Blog generationotaku.net ; Dumb Otaku dumbotaku.com Otaku story in the Washington Post Washington Post ; Otaku History Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Academic Pieces on the History of Otaku cjas.org ; cjas.org and cjas.org ; Early Piece on Otaku (1990) informatik.hu-berlin.de ; Man, Nation, Machine informatik.hu-berlin.de ; Otaku from Business Perspective nri.co.jp/english ; Otaku Sites The Otaku, Anime and Manga Portal and Blog theotaku.com ; Otaku World, Online Anime and Manga fanzine otakuworld.com ; Otaku Magazine otakumag.co.za ; Otaku News otakunews.com ; Danny Choo dannychoo.com ; Spacious Planet Otaku Blog spaciousplanet.com ; Otaku Activities Maid Cafes stippy.com/japan-culture ; Male Maid Café yesboleh.blogspot.com ; Akihabara Book: The Best Shops of Akihabara---Guide to Japanese Subculture by Toshimichi Nozoe is available for ¥1,000 by download at http://www.akibaguidebook.com Akihabara Murders : See Government, Crime, Famous Crimes . Websites: Picture Tokyo picturetokyo.com ; Akihabara News akihabaranews.com ; Akihabara Tour akihabara-tour.com ; Otaku story in Planet Tokyo planettokyo.com

Types of Japanese Men in Japan

Expressions for men include "oversize trash" (a useless retired husband equated with unwanted items that cost more to haul to the dump), "wet leaves" (a useless retired husband compared to sticky leaves that can't be swept away from the house), "home papa" (a derogatory term for man who would rather stay home with his family than go out drinking with his buddies) and "a thousand yen husband" (a man who can get only a small allowance from his wife).

On young Japanese men, Richard Lloyd Perry wrote in the Times of London, they “rarely make the overt displays of aggressive masculinity that Westerners deploy from time to time to impress or intimidate. They seldom preen or strut. To a relative newcomer...they might appear “sweet,” “shy,” even “boring.”

On her experience with single Japanese while hitchhiking around Japan, a 21-year-old British student told the Times “there’s a difference between men over here and men back home. They are generally shyer, and that can come across as naivety and trustworthiness.”

One 25-year-old Chinese prostitute, working in Tokyo, told the New York Times, "None of us like Japanese men. They're so different from Chinese people. They are cold, and we're warm. They like distance, and we like to be close. I wouldn't choose them for pleasure.”

“Ikumen” is a newly coined term derived from “iku” (“raise a child”) and English “men” that describes Japanese men who are want to come home from work early, take their kids to day care and otherwise take part in raising their kids.

Otaku

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Otaku describes a subculture of young, male geeks who lose themselves in a hermetic world of manga comic books and video games. In the past it was a derogatory term used to describe men who were obsessed with computers and hung out at game arcades and in the manga section of bookstores and had some issues that developed out of their passions.

Cyberpunk writer William Gibson defined otaku as a being “pathological-techno-fetishist-with-social-deficit...the information age’s embodiment of a connoisseur.” They embrace what Peter Schjedahl of The New Yorker called a bizarre mix of “apocalyptic violence, saccharin cuteness (“kawaii”), resurgent nationalism, and variously perverse sex.”

Otaku when roughly translated means “hey sir.” Otaku tend to fall into three different groups based on their obsession: 1) games and computers; 2) anime and manga: and 3) pop idols. There is some overlapping between the groups.

Oxford English Dictionary has recognized otaku . In Japan: A Reinterpretation . On the its deeper meaning Patrick Smith wrote: to be “an otaku is merely the final word in private individuality. It is to reject anyone who would diminish the protected ego and to acknowledge an inability to achieve the intimacy of authentic human contact.”

Otaku are seen as “anemic, inward-looking, vaguely autistic.” They prefer “things to people” and virtual worlds to real worlds. Etienne Barral, a French journalist who studied them, wrote: "They know the difference between the real and virtual worlds, but they would rather be in the virtual world."

Otaku Encyclopedia by Patrick Galbraith, a Ph.D, candidate researching otaku at the University of Tokyo, comes across more as a work by a fan than a scholar.

Hideo Azuma and the Origin of Otaku Manga

Some trace the origin of otaku culture back to the late 1970s when mangaka Hideo Azuma created the lolicon phenomena by pioneering bishojo-moe (fetishistic devotion to the cuteness of pretty girls). [Source: Kanta Ishida, Yomiuri Shimbun, may 27, 2011]

Kanta Ishida wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun, “Azuma debuted as a mangaka in 1969. In those days, Azuma excelled at depicting naughty slapstick comedy in which the rounded shapes of the characters reflected the influence of Osamu Tezuka or Shotaro Ishinomori. In 1978, he began to attract the attention of people who would today be called otaku, although the term had yet to be coined. His science-fiction manga Fujori Nikki (Irrational diary) won the Seiun Award, decided through balloting by the nation's sci-fi fans, thanks to Azuma's maniacal parodying of a variety of domestic and foreign stories in the genre.” [Ibid]

“He further distinguished himself by starting to work in dojinshi self-published manga circles, which was unusual for a professional mangaka in those days. In 1979, he put out Cybele, a photocopied magazine off limits to readers aged 17 and under, with his assistants and others. A point of history that only avid manga and comic lovers know is that the dojinshi became a foundational work for the so-called lolicon boom, and greatly changed the world of comics for adults in the 1980s and after.”

Meiji University Associate Prof. Kaichiro Morikawa, who has organized exhibitions of Azuma’s work, told the Yomiuri Shimbun there are four motifs that often appear in Azuma's works, all of them related to pretty girls (bishojo). These are the robotization of bishojo, the copying and multiplying of bishojo, bishojo with animal ears, and the combination of bishojo and strange creatures. Morikawa said Azuma was the first mangaka to intentionally depict underground eroticism with Tezuka-esque "adorable" pictures. [Ibid]

“Azuma, who grew up in a complex, patriarchal family, said in an interview in the special edition of Bungei that since he does not like to see women oppressed he looks for independent strength in women he draws. Considering the merits and demerits of the lolicon boom, his statement seems somehow self-contradictory. But I think Azuma's words are fairly meaningful when thinking about why his works evoke empathy or where the roots of otaku culture lie. [Ibid]

Moe and Women

Otaku have their own expressions and slang. Moe (pronounced “moeh” and literally meaning “budding”) describes an overpowering love or fetish towards manga- or anime-related cuteness. Otaku expert Kanta Ishido described “moe” as “the sensation of being blissfully overwhelmed by cuteness or attractiveness.”

“Moe” is used in expressions such as “Suzumiya Haruhi moe,” a strong special feeling for the high school heroine of Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu, a popular anime based on a novel for teenagers; “Seira-fuku mie, meaning a passion for sailor-style schoolgirl uniforms; and “meganekko moe, describing a fascination for girls wearing eyeglasses. “Moe” is seen as a word used by an otaku to express his emotions for objects of his desires. If they see something that gets their emotions going they exclaim “Moehhh!” as a kind of release.

On the role of women in otaku culture, Tom Baker wrote in the Daily Yomiuri, “masculinity has almost no place in the otaku world...whereas femininity runs wild---but not in any realistic or healthy form...The women...tend to be big-breasted fantasy figures striking suggestive poses while dressed in swimsuits, frilly skirts or cute cat ears. Few of the women look strong, intelligent or independent. As for the men, they are often nondescript, incidental figures gathered around a female “idol.”

Otaku Activities

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Akira Fujitake, a communications professor at Gakushuin University told the Japan Times, "Despite their inner loneliness, Japanese youth don't want to be bothered by others. They like such devises as mobile phones, PCs, TVs and comic because they are free to access or shun them whenever they like."

Otaku specialist Makoto Fukuda wrote in the Daily Yomiuri, “There is a tradition in Japan’s otaku culture that even such things as trains or computer operating systems can be changed into cute characters in a way that turns inanimate subjects into characters meant to inspire a 'moe' response.”

The maid café phenomena in Japan is something that evolved to meet otaku tastes. In Akihabara there are over 80 maid cafes packed into a few block area and girls in maid costumes are frequently seen on the streets handing out fliers. The first maid cafes opened in Akihabara in 2000 and the popularity gained momentum after they were mentioned in the popular film Densha Otaku. Today there are so many and the competition is so stiff that its said you have to be special to survive.

Some otaku are geeky juvenile delinquents. They are notorious for engaging in shoplifting, petty crime and small time arson and occasionally violent crimes with knives. When the term “otaku” was first used it had very negative implications. Tsutomu Miyazaki---a psychopathic killer who killed four children and cannibalized two of them and left an ear in box at the house of one of his victims---was described as an otaku after police found a lot of manga and anime in his apartment

Otaku Chic

In the mid-2000s it suddenly became very hip to be an otaku. The geniuses behind Japan’s best manga, anime and Internet businesses all seemed to be otaku. One of the most popular books and films (Train Man) revolved around an otaku romance.

One party girl who said she had a thing for otaku told the International Herald Tribune: “They just come across as so much more sincere and relaxed about things. At this point, guys who dress well and take care of their appearances are slightly ridiculous, I can’t take them seriously.”

We’re All A Little Otaku

Roger Cohen wrote in the New York Times, otaku denote “a whole universe of monomaniacal geek-like obsession, whether with an electronic game, some odd hobby, or the cartoonlike “manga” comic books devoted to everything from kamikazes to kinky sex. Let’s face it, we’re all going a little otaku in a world where technology encourages a solipsistic retreat into private worlds and even flirting has been cyber-infected. But nowhere has this process gone as far as in Japan.” [Source: Roger Cohen, New York Times, December 14, 2009]

“My sense is that four factors have contributed to this: wealth, postmodernism, conformism and despair. Japan is rich enough, bored enough with national ambition, strait-jacketed enough and gloomy enough to find immense attraction in playful escapism and quirky obsession. Yes, Japan is rich. All the deflation since the great bubble burst almost two decades ago has not changed the fact that Japan has the second largest household financial assets in the world (about $16 trillion). That’s an ample cushion to angst, however frayed once-predictable careers have become.

Japan is also moderately bored. The days of rising Japan Inc... and fears of a Japan takeover were rampant “ those days are gone. China has occupied that space. So the Japanese have settled into a postmodernist ennui, an Asian outpost of that European condition,” which coexists with a tremendous conformity. On Sundays, when traffic is closed around the imperial palace, I saw lines of people waiting for pedestrian lights to change even though there were no cars. Smiling deference can seem so uniform as to constitute a gleaming wall. I can see how the urge to escape from this homogeneity could be strong.

Finally, gloom seems rampant, a national condition. I couldn’t find anyone ready to tell me the worst is over or that Japan, or jobs...So what’s left for this comfortable, perfectionist society of narrowed ambition is otaku escape.

One in Three Young Japanese Men Feel They Can't Marry

In November 2012, Jiji Press reported: “One out of three Japanese men in their 20s think they may not be able to marry, despite their wish to do so, with about 60 percent citing economic insecurity as the main reason, a survey by the Tokyo-based life insurance company Lifenet Insurance Co. revealed. A better economy may encourage more people to get married, thereby helping increase the number of children in the nation, company officials said. [Source: Jiji Press, November 9, 2012]

The poll was conducted on the Internet in September covering 450 men in their 20s. Asked whether they think they can marry, only 27.8 percent said they want to marry and can, while 35.3 percent said they do not want to marry. The proportion of respondents who fear being unable to marry despite a desire to do so came to 36.9 percent. Topping the reasons for this was economic insecurity, cited by 60.8 percent, compared with 48.2 percent who said they are not popular with women. [Ibid]

The survey also showed that 87.8 percent of all respondents want to actively engage in child-rearing. But 74.9 percent said they are concerned about whether they can earn enough to cover financial costs such as education for their children as well as living expenses. A total of 82.4 percent feel insecure about their future, but 89.6 percent said they are not taking specific steps such as saving money to ease their anxieties. [Ibid]

Ratio of Unmarried Men at 50 in Japan Grows to over 20 Percent

In May 2012, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “The ratio of lifetime unmarried Japanese--the percentage of people who remain unmarried at the age of 50--rose to a record high of 20.1 percent among men and 10.6 percent among women as of 2010, it has been learned. In 1980, the ratio was 2.6 percent for men and 4.5 percent for women. During the last 30 years, this figure has increased by about eight times for men and more than doubled for women. The ratios began increasing sharply around 1990, according to the Cabinet Office. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, May 4. 2012]

“By age bracket, the ratio of unmarried people aged 25 to 29 was 71.8 percent for men and 60.3 percent for women. That of men aged 30 to 34 was 47.3 percent, while for women of the same age it was 34.5 percent. The ratio for men aged 35 to 39 was 35.6 percent and that of women was 23.1 percent. [Ibid]

Herbivorous Males and Girlish Men

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Some young Japanese men are called soshokukei danshi (“herbivorous males”) because they don’t like to go out drinking, are happy to keep their relationships with women platonic and generally display unmacho behavior. A survey conducted by the research company O-Net in 2009 seemed to indicate these young men are fairly common. It found that 80 percent of men turning 20 did not have girlfriends and one third didn’t want one, saying things like “being single is fun” and “I want to spend my time and money on something else.”

“Herbivorous males” contrast with nikushoku (“carnivorous”) males who chase after women and like macho things. Ojoman (“girlie men”) is a more specific kind Herbivorous male, describing men that have little interest in sex, like to cook and sew and prefer kawaii (cute) things over cool ones. They are generally in their twenties to mid thirties and became adults after the bubble economy. Rekei-kum (“men who study or work in the math or science fields”) are regarded as a kind of sohiku-kei.

An increase in the sales of male cosmetics and sundries and sweets among men and a decline in sales of alcohol, cigarettes, flashy cars and meals at restaurant where one takes a date to impress her has been attributed to the rise in the number of “herbivorous men.” Some retailers have begun making products aimed at such men such as sweets that one can eat with one’s mother.

Otome refers to the girlish side of even the most macho and handsome men. The brisk sales of the Wishroom line of men’s bras in Japan is an illustration that this side of Japanese men is alive and well. In feedback to Wishroom satisfied customers have said the bras make them feel more relaxed and at ease and as a result they are nicer and more gentle to the people around them. A survey by toilet maker Toto found that a third of Japanese men prefer to sit down on the toilet when urinating.

Catering to the new kind of Japanese man are new magazines with titles like “Men’s Precious,” “Little Flowers for Men” and “Men’s Fudge” and articles on cooking, raising children and the latest hairstyles. One issue of magazine called “Men’s Lee” had the articles entitled “Gathering at a Men’s Pasta Cooking Club,” “Men in Your 30s Your Hair Should Float, Not Be Set Solid,” and “Raising Kids by a Pro-active Father.” [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, October 2010]

Manly Food Campaigns Challenge the Herbivore Trend

Wakako Takeuchi wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “Although the term "soshoku-kei danshi" (literally, herbivore men) has been in the spotlight due to the recent focus on a type of gentle, docile man unhindered by societal conventions of manliness, the food industry has set out to reestablish machismo and voracious appetites as traits to be sought after. Restaurants and food makers now frequently use the word "otoko" (man) in product and service names to highlight "manly" portions or "masculine" flavors. [Source: Wakako Takeuchi, Yomiuri Shimbun, August 10, 2012]

Convenience store chain Ministop recently released the "Otoko-musubi--Sosu-meshi to Okonomiyaki," a gigantic rice ball that is double the normal size and comes stuffed with richly flavored okonomiyaki filling. Stuffing a carbohydrate (okonomiyaki batter) into another carbohydrate (rice) is expected to appeal to young men with hearty appetites. The 250 yen product is the second in the Otoko-musubi series. [Ibid]

At the izakaya pub chain Shirokiya, groups of more than two male customers are eligible for "Shirokiya Otoko-kai" man-parties that feature one-liter mugs of draft beer for 500 yen. For vittles, the otoko-kai, available Sunday to Thursday until the end of September, serves up five burly dishes, such as big servings of yakisoba fried noodles and succulent chunks of fried chicken. An average Shirokiya customer spends 2,700 yen, but Otoko-kai customers only need 2,000 yen or so to fill their bellies. [Ibid]

Glico Dairy Products Co. is offering a twist on a classic product with a non-sweet pudding called "Otoko no Pucchin Purin--Otsumami Hiyayakko-fu" for a limited time until mid-August. The 170-gram soy milk-based snack tastes like cold tofu hiyayakko but looks like old-favorite Pucchin Purin. What in the conventional product is caramel sauce is a soy sauce-based, ginger-flavored broth in this real-man's pudding. But Pucchin Purin fans need not despair--the men's version still lets you snap the tiny tab on the bottom to let the pudding out. [Ibid]

Hoping to prove that more is manlier, Kimura Drink Co.'s "Otoko no Choiwaru Tsuyo Soda" packs 10 percent more carbonation than its regular Choiwaru soda, and comes in four varieties--plain, lemon, plum and tonic. A 300-milliliter bottle sells for 126 yen. Kimura Drink says its strong Choiwaru soda makes a great fizzing high-ball or can be mixed with shochu and awamori liquors. [Ibid]

Family Customs and the Oldest Son in Japan

The traditional Confucian concept of male-dominated family succession endures in Japan. Under this custom the eldest son is held in the highest esteem and carries certain responsibilities.

The oldest son is usually responsible for taking care of his parents in their old age, providing a gathering place for family get-togethers, presiding over ancestral rites, making funeral arrangement when a parent dies, and tending the parent’s tombs.

The oldest son also has traditionally had the responsibilities of carrying on the lineage and the family name, taking care of family businesses and receiving the bulk of his parents property and inherited wealth. These customs are largely shared throughout Asia, which is one of the main reasons there has traditionally been a preference for boys.

Inheritance without a will is the rule. Traditionally priority was given to the children and then the spouse.

Absent Husbands in Japan

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Men's only club in Fukuoka
Japanese husbands are sometimes perceived as providers and little else. Often they spend so little time at home they are described as "not so much members of a household as sightseers there." A survey among fathers of young children 52.7 percent said they placed greater importance on their work than their family and that 50 percent of fathers come home too late from work to have dinner with their children.

Dads used to known as “thunder father” but they are called now “Sunday friend” because Sunday is really the only day he has opportunity to spend time with his kids. During the week and on Saturday he often works late into the night and his kid's don't even see him. In one survey 23 percent of father said they have little or no time to spend with children on weekdays,

When they are home fathers often aren’t worth not much. One woman who divorced her husband told the New York Times, “For the first 10 years at least he made an effort at conversation. But the company was everything for him, and after a while, he would just come home tired and sit silently watching TV, drinking beer.”

Unhelpful Fathers in Japan

A survey in 2005 found that 77 percent of the respondents felt that father don’t do enough raising children. A total of 74 percent said the father should be stricter and, saying they should scold their children when necessary. In addition, 58 percent said fathers are not respected by their children, and 53 percent said they are not relied on as heads of the family,

A white paper issued in December 2006, urged others to help out more with child rearing to help reverse the declining birth rate. A study found that on average Japanese men with children under six spent 25 minutes a day engaged in child care and 48 minutes doing housework, compared to 1 hour 13 minutes a day on child care and 3 hours 26 minutes doing housework for American fathers and 1 hour 7 minutes a day on child care and 3 hours 21 minutes doing housework for Swedish fathers

According to one study Japanese fathers only spend 17 minutes a day caring for their children as opposed 2 hours and 37 minutes for mothers. One Japanese man told the Washington Post he changed his children’s diapers, about once every six months, and spent more than few minutes with his kids about once every 10 days or two weeks.

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virtual wives

Husbands and Wives in Japan

Some husbands would like their wives to refer to them as shujin ("master") as opposed to danna (a more neutral term for husband). In 1998, one man even tried (unsuccessfully) to divorce his wife on the grounds that she would not clean his socks and cook the way he expected her too.

In many households the wife make the rules and control the finances. In any cases they give their husbands a monthly allowance of around $500 by their wives, which they use to but food, alcohol, cigarettes and entertainment.

Often times, men do stuff together and women do stuff together rather than couples or mixed groups doing stuff together. Few Japanese wives describe their husbands as romantic and some say they are glad their husbands rarely come home. "Its just one less person to arrange my life around," one housewife told National Geographic.

A Japanese electrical engineer described his wife as "a very mysterious person. I don't understand her" and said that the ideal wife is "a quiet woman...someone who can cook well and clean well." He said that one of the attractions of his wife was that he didn't love here and therefore didn't have to impress her and "could talk with her causally, as friend rather than as a woman." [Source: Book: A Year in the Life of Japanese Woman and Her Family by Elizabeth Bumiller (1995, Times Books/Random House).

Kim Myongan, a Tokyo-based sexologist told the Asahi Shimbun, that the majority of his clients are women in sexless marriages, “The problem is,” he said, “that once a couple get married, that often turn out to be the end of story for husbands. They soon lose sexual interest and deal with their wives as they would their mothers.” This problem extended beyond sex he says. “These husbands won’t even hold hands with their wives. Kindness and understanding are beyond them. Eventually there is no real contact at all---the wives just become their personal servants.”

Kim’s therapy to get the women to feel good about themselves is sex with a volunteer that he selects. “Its like a massage, or rather, a rehabilitation process.:

Husbands and Household Chores in Japan

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Men at a festival
Studies have shown that Japanese men do much less help around the house than their American counterparts. According to one survey the average Japanese housewife spends 2 hours and 34 minutes a day doing housework, while average husband sends 7 minutes. Similar studies show that American men do about an equal amount of household chores as women. One sociologist told Newsweek, many Japanese men "are for gender equality in principal but against it at home."

"Not having time” or “manly pride” are often the excuses given for avoiding child care. Many men worry that their job performance will suffer if they spend to much time with their families. Men who take child-leave from the jobs risk losing their jobs. One man who took off three months to take care of his newborn triplets found that his employee ranking went from C to E, the lowest on the scale,

In 2010, the governor of Hiroshima took leave when his third child was born to help his wife by taking care of the older children during workdays for about a month. Many people were surprised. It is unusual for men take leave like that and unheard for a man in an important position like governor to do such a thing.

Bookstores are full or publications that give advice on how to escape the corporate grind and start a new business, start a second career and enjoy life more. In 1999, the government issued a report that men should do more to help around the house and participate more in childbearing and television ads began appearing with a famous male dancer holding his infant son with the message: "A man who does not help raise his children cannot be called a father."

Some younger husbands are changing. They help with cooking and cleaning and take care of the children when their wife is working. In poll in 2006, 64 percent of housewives in their 20s and 30s said their husbands helped with the housework.

Husbands in Okinawa Most Helpful at Home

In April 2012, Jiji Press reported: “Husbands in Okinawa Prefecture do more housework than their counterparts in all of the nation's other prefectures, a recent online survey by Kirin Brewery Co. showed. Husbands in the prefecture do 22 percent of the housework on average on a weekly basis, compared with the nationwide average of 17.6 percent. Regarding husbands who help with housework, Aomori came in second at 21.8 percent, followed by Kochi at 20.6 percent, then Niigata and Tokushima, both at 19.4 percent. The worst performer was Gifu Prefecture at 14.6 percent. The survey was conducted over eight days through Dec. 15 and covered couples in their 30s and 40s. Valid responses were received from 18,800 people. [Source: Jiji Press, April 23, 2012]

Okinawa also topped the country's 47 prefectures in terms of husbands who cook. Among the wives who responded in the prefecture, 51.5 percent said their husbands cook, compared to the national average of 40 percent. Also in Okinawa, 45 percent of male and female respondents said they cook or prepare food with their partners, the highest figure of any prefecture. [Ibid]

The proportion of respondents that hope to cook more often with their partners was highest in Kagoshima at 77 percent, compared with the national average of 70.9 percent. Both Kagoshima and Okinawa had high rankings in terms of satisfaction in matrimonial relationships and the affection that respondents felt for their partners, Kirin said. "Cooking together seems to positively affect matrimonial harmony," said Kirin, a unit of Kirin Holdings Co. [Ibid]

Male Activities in Japan

In recent years special model building cafes, where men can gather to glue together plastic models, have become popular. Most of the customers are men in their 40s who enjoyed making Mobile Suit Gundam robot models when they were kids and assemble similar models at the café today.

Customers pay ¥180 per 30 minutes and often sit by themselves contentedly putting together models without talking to anyone. The cafes are busiest after 7:00pm on weekdays when men come to relax after work. One customer told the Yomiuri Shimbun, “I am told by family members that building plastic models is a nuisance and makes a mess in the house or that the glue smells bad. But I indulge myself here.”

Image Sources: 1) Japan Zone; 2) and 3) Hector Garcia; 4) Strange and Funny Japan blog 5) and 7) Ray Kinnane and 6) xorsystem blog

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated January 2013

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