Arama They Didn't

4:31 pm - 12/23/2012

Switching to mama mode is not easy for today's gals


Switching to mama mode is not easy for today's gals

By KAORI SHOJI
Special to The Japan Times

Bad news on the kekkon sensen (結婚戦線, marriage front) — hardly anyone's doing it. According to a government survey, more than 60 percent of single men and close to 50 percent of single women are not in relationships, nor are they particularly interested in dating. At this rate, Japan's already dwindling birth rate is expected to drop another couple of notches, accelerating the trend of chōkōreika shakai (超高齢化社会, super-senior society).

It's not that people don't want marriage, it's more that they don't want to wind up like their parents. For women, it's a familiar feeling. The more I talk to my single friends, the more I hear the phrase: "Jibun no hahaoya no yōni dakewa naritakunai" (「自分の母親のようにだけはなりたくない」"Anything is better than being like my mother"). And who can blame them? If they were smart, the legion of Nihon no okāsan (日本のお母さん, Japanese mothers) would have formed a union decades ago. Even a casual glance at a Japanese mother's job description reveals its thankless, long-suffering, utter doormat nature. A time-worn phrase goes like this: "Onna wa sangai ni ie nashi" (「女は三界に家なし」"In three worlds, a woman has no home"). Meaning that when she is young, she must abide by the law of her parent's household; after marriage, she's under the thumb of her husband and mother-in-law; finally in late middle age, she enters the household of her eldest son and must obey his wishes. By that time her elderly in-laws are in need of kaigo (介護, care and aid) which as the okāsan, she's expected to provide. "Bummer" doesn't begin to describe the life and times of a Japanese mother.

But the old okāsan image has undergone a major revamping as the ultimate, respected eikyū shūshoku (永久就職, eternal employment) position. Thanks to home electronics, the okāsan is no longer a bowed-down slave in the kitchen. She has time during the day for keshō (化粧, makeup), puchi zeitaku ranchi (プチ贅沢ランチ, a semi-extravagant lunch) with her mamatomo (ママ友, mom friends), trips to the gym and other pleasurable pastimes. The concept of the sutekina okāsan (素敵なお母さん, nice-looking, sophisticated mom) has been generated to alleviate the stress and koritsu (孤立, isolation) that too often plagues the Japanese mother.

On the other hand, a surprising number of young women say the smiling, ever-toiling, hard-working okāsan is their ideal. Kaseigaku (家政学, home economics), which is recently also being called seikatsu kagaku, 生活科学), is an immensely popular course at women's universities, along with eiyōgaku (栄養学, nutrition science). And many sociology courses now include kekkongaku (結婚学, the study of marriage), to steer students into leading a stable, tax-paying, children-raising existence that would keep Japan from going haiiro isshoku (灰色一色, gray altogether). The kind of knowledge and mindset that our grandparents knew instinctively, must now be studied at a place of higher learning.

Twenty-nine-year-old Asami, who favors pin heels and skinny jeans, says, that more than anything else, she aisaretai (愛されたい, wants to be loved). Asami works at a shōkengaisha (証券会社, securities firm) and lacks for nothing financially, but too often finds herself stuck on the treadmill of work-shop-pass-out-on-the-couch-with-a-wine-bottle. Asami knows from experience that a few gaijin otoko (外人男, foreign men) have found this cute and funny, but fellow Japanese took flying leaps out of the relationship and never came back.

Which brings me to the observation that traditionally, the Japanese male has always had this burning need for a proper okāsan. At a hinanjo (避難所, shelter) in Fukushima, a 64-year-old man sighed and said that he was of the last generation brought up by the furuki yoki nihon no haha (古き良き日本の母, the traditional Japanese mother of bygone days) who had no education and was badly informed but was a veritable gold mine of love, common sense and living skills. This man could build a little shack from scratch, grill fish over an open fire consisting of bits of trash and a few twigs, traverse 20 km on mountain paths in search of sansai (山菜, edible wild herbs). He said: "Kāchan ni shikkari sodatete morattakara daijōbu" (「母ちゃんにしっかり育ててもらったから大丈夫」"My Mom brought me up well so I'm okay"), but lamented that in the shelter, single people in their late 20s to early 40s could not be relied upon to boil water much less care for others.

Back to Asami: these days she says that her gyaru mōdo (ギャルモード, gal mode) days are over. She would like to morph into a warm, loving wife and mother who can whip up dinner in no time and look perfectly adorable in an epuron (エプロン, apron), the widely acknowledged armor of the okāsan. Trouble is, like many others she has no idea where to begin.

source

so, what, do they need to back to the old ways just so the marriage and birth rate becomes high again.... or....
glider 23rd-Dec-2012 11:38 pm (UTC)
wow is this article trying to expand my Japanese vocabulary or
fumine 23rd-Dec-2012 11:49 pm (UTC)
Iesu (イエス, yes)
energenki 24th-Dec-2012 01:32 am (UTC)


Edited at 2012-12-24 01:33 am (UTC)
royu_kiyo Must bookmark24th-Dec-2012 02:37 am (UTC)
I have no complaints.
dearmisterecho 24th-Dec-2012 02:55 am (UTC)
as someone who is nihongo wo benkyoushiteru (日本語を勉強している, studying Japanese), I find the ranndamu (ランダム, random) insertion of tango (単語, vocabulary) extremely fucking annoying and forced.
mister_robatto 24th-Dec-2012 05:52 am (UTC)
this. give this article to me in my textbooks then we'll talk
naru_hime 24th-Dec-2012 07:25 am (UTC)
Some of the vocab was useful. Like marriage front and super-senior society are just simply things I don't see in my university texts yet they're vocabs relating to current issues.
dearmisterecho 24th-Dec-2012 07:27 am (UTC)
It is useful, but the author went way overboard with it and was vocab-dropping every other sentence. It made for a very awkward reading experience.
toshi_hakari 24th-Dec-2012 09:44 am (UTC)
That was my first thought as well, holy shit.
december_clouds 24th-Dec-2012 01:52 pm (UTC)
I think it's an article from the Japan Time's monthly bilingual column. The purpose of the column is to introduce new words and phrases. Different people tend to do them at different times.
urubaby21 26th-Dec-2012 04:44 am (UTC)
ha, exactly what I was thinking while reading.
haruno21 23rd-Dec-2012 11:48 pm (UTC)
wow this article is interesting but horrible to read.
every 2 words, kanji and parentheses...
very_pinku 24th-Dec-2012 12:28 am (UTC)
lol too much Japanese words. Just write it normally, writer person.

But honestly, I think Japan just needs to expand their definition of husband and wife.
It's not good to restrict each individual in a certain category when every person has different ideals and aspirations.

If more people realize difference is okay, maybe it'll make people feel like
they want to get married or have kids because there's no set standard that one needs to follow.
annhh 25th-Dec-2012 12:06 pm (UTC)
YES
umbrellaphone 24th-Dec-2012 01:21 am (UTC)
There was a similar article today but on US Birth Rate. "In Europe, Asia, and most advanced countries, people are running away from marriage, children, and family life at an amazing rate."
dramaticsurgeon 24th-Dec-2012 01:52 am (UTC)
I find this article fascinating, to be honest, and it may shed some light on current Japanese attitudes towards marriage and families. Obviously it doesn't speak for every citizen in Japan, but Asami's failed relationships with Japanese suitors hints at the underlying issues.

It's only my hypothesis, subject to change, but it sounds like many modern Japanese women like the IDEA of motherhood--or rather, the stability and honor that image represents. But they have no idea how to bring this image to life in reality because, quite simply, that static image no longer exists in the present.

Back then, women were often stuck in a relationship for fear of the shame a divorce would bring her family, thus the illusion of stability. "The Great Learning For Women" in the feudal era also played a large part in training women to believe it was required and honorable of them to submit to their male family members. Divorce is much more common now, allowing women more freedom, but this also removes that perceived stability. And there's virtually no governmental support for a single, working mother.

Now add the ever-increasing economic strain that requires two incomes for a family to survive, and the reluctance of Japanese companies to promote women (maintaining the assumption that all young women will only quit later to have children,) combined with the advent of the Digital Age that's made it easier for people to withdraw completely from their local society at the end of the day. The very definition of a relationship itself has changed for many, and doesn't necessarily have the same responsibilities as in the past.

Taking all of this into account, the image of a hardworking, well-loved mother that everyone relies on, performing thankless-yet-satisfying duties probably seems like an appealing dream to women in a culture where a family's very existence once depended on such a mother.

Appealing...but impractical.

So now they're stuck with a romanticized view of an archaic yet comfortable cultural image, wanting something that was never truly real to begin with while living in an era that makes such an image impossible to recreate. The face of Japanese women is slowly changing with the times, to the surprise of their suitors--as with Asami's. I fear that looking to the past will only slow their attempts to save the future.
royu_kiyo An idea for a dorama24th-Dec-2012 02:44 am (UTC)
「自分の母親のようにだけはなりたくない」"Anything is better than being like my mother"
A comedy about a single woman looking to get married but is paranoid about her mother and doesn't want the boyfriend meeting her mother. The problem, the mother is the boss of the boyfriend so the single woman creates a new alias. A nice family comedy.
Feel free to expand or give feedback on this, just got back from work and too tired to go into detail.
oceandezignz Re: An idea for a dorama24th-Dec-2012 11:20 am (UTC)
I'd watch it!
very_pinku Re: An idea for a dorama25th-Dec-2012 07:15 pm (UTC)
lol good idea, I'd watch it too.
dearmisterecho 24th-Dec-2012 03:24 am (UTC)
Economics play a role. Young folks don't want to jump into a marriage until finances are in order, and considering the job market here is still pretty lacking, it's no surprise people are waiting/not popping out a million kids ASAP.

Also unless you are in clubs at University/find someone interesting at work, your chances of meeting someone new seems pretty difficult. While the U.S. have many venues for meeting strangers (bars, clubs, etc), Japanese people almost NEVER approach strangers in such places. You go with friends. The only people I see trying to talk to strangers in these places are very forward foreigners /anecdata out the wazoo, take with a huge grain of salt

I also blame shifting gender roles in a society with traditionally very strict gender roles (that have stuck around into modern times). While I despise traditional gender roles and welcome their abandonment, I feel like Japan is still in its infancy when it comes to addressing gender equality, so I think a lot of men/women are having conflicting feelings about what they want and what is expected of them, and it's easier just to avoid the romantic situation all together.

I'd also throw out the idea that Japan's history of arranged marriages means that the Western idea of marrying out of personal determination is still fairly new/still just a lovely fantasy that young folks don't quite know how to materialize into reality.

Edited at 2012-12-24 03:27 am (UTC)
wheresthepaper 24th-Dec-2012 11:31 am (UTC)
Also unless you are in clubs at University/find someone interesting at work, your chances of meeting someone new seems pretty difficult. While the U.S. have many venues for meeting strangers (bars, clubs, etc), Japanese people almost NEVER approach strangers in such places. You go with friends. The only people I see trying to talk to strangers in these places are very forward foreigners /anecdata out the wazoo, take with a huge grain of salt

YEP. This is it, exactly.

And no wonderful fateful meeting, etc=no lovey-dovey marriage thing. With that being said, my husband's friend did approach one of my best friends and I, and now my husband and I are married, but I think that's really uncommon, and husband's friend was very......into foreign girls, so it's definitely the exception.
dearmisterecho 24th-Dec-2012 12:49 pm (UTC)
hahaha, yep!
I'm lucky in that I met my boyfriend at work (he was - and still is - one of my students, muahaha). Otherwise I'd imagine I'd still be forever alone..
katzsong 24th-Dec-2012 04:02 am (UTC)
No, the solution is not going backwards. Not with this kind of economy. The only way is to move forward.






So many things I want to say but my mind is on holiday's mode :P
sakinah95 24th-Dec-2012 04:31 am (UTC)
I think the Japanese men are being pampered too much.....
wheresthepaper 24th-Dec-2012 11:32 am (UTC)
Yes, yes, they are. They REALLY are. DX
citrine047 24th-Dec-2012 07:29 am (UTC)
as a woman i find this very disturbing, esp considering the following generations.
takarai_karin 24th-Dec-2012 07:55 am (UTC)
Make it easier for women to have children and continue their career and you'll get more women having children, Japan. Repeat after me: Child care support. Child. Care. Support.

On another note this article is written really really fucking annoyingly. If you really can't find the English equivalent and need to use parentheses, fine. But parentheses for 'isolation' and '愛されない'? Really, author? As a professional translator this hurts my eyes.
rainbow_yarn 25th-Dec-2012 08:11 am (UTC)
A+
arashic5 24th-Dec-2012 11:11 am (UTC)
Eh.. I might found myself at home in Japan then..
wheresthepaper 24th-Dec-2012 11:38 am (UTC)
If LJ had a like button, I'd be going through liking every comment complaining about the insertion of Japanese words seemingly every other sentence. I get it. This is a Japanese article, it's translated, and the effort itself is appreciated. However....the random words/phrases in Japanese make the flow of the article very broken, and it gets distracting and difficult to read.

I, too, am studying Japanese. I practice by translating things, and study as much as/when I can, and love it. So, hey, maybe this can be seen as practice, or a chance to learn vocabulary I might otherwise not see, but if you would prefer to throw in those words and such, just put the English in the article, with an asterik or something to denote it, and put the Japanese word at the bottom of the article. Then we can read it and learn, if we choose, or ignore, if we choose.

In regards to the article, I guess all I can really say is: "Not all that surprised, bleh. This country has it's amazing points, and it's bad points, just like every other country. They could stand to work on this from a few different points, but I'm not going to be holding my breath."
asth77 24th-Dec-2012 12:35 pm (UTC)
"when she is young, she must abide by the law of her parent's household; after marriage, she's under the thumb of her husband and mother-in-law; finally in late middle age, she enters the household of her eldest son and must obey his wishes. By that time her elderly in-laws are in need of kaigo (介護, care and aid) which as the okāsan, she's expected to provide"

what a sad life.
I knew an Obaasan (お祖母さん, grand-mother, lol wtf) who had a very strong personnality and a member of her familly told me it's the way lots of old women are because of how they were raised to be always submissive.

It actually happens in other social groups, especially concerning women, strong-willed women.
rainbow_yarn 25th-Dec-2012 08:10 am (UTC)
idk, stop viewing every change in trend as a downward spiral. Times change; one gender isn't made to take care of the other in a specific way.
igglepoof 25th-Dec-2012 02:35 pm (UTC)
It seems that males in seemingly every society is raised to need a mother figure to take care of him and his needs. When the male finds a lady friend he expects her to be his mama and his mama expects said lady friend to be his mama too. It doesn't help that some girls are taught to just find a man and you'll always be taken care of. The relationship becomes more parent child and just ends up feeling incestuous.
urubaby21 26th-Dec-2012 05:01 am (UTC)
wow, these kind of articles are always interesting to read. I have so much to say, but I really don't feel like thinking about it too hard.

"According to a government survey, more than 60 percent of single men and close to 50 percent of single women are not in relationships"

No shit single people are not in relationships. I get the point of the sentence, but it could have been worded better or my brain is comprehending stupidly.

And everyone bitching about the japanese+romaji+translation clusterfuck up there, I feel you all on that one.
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