My research this week was ignited by Mr. Hosokawa talking about his wife and two daughters. Our novel reads, “His own daughters constantly presented him with a mathematical impossibility, one minute running around the house wearing pajamas covered in images of the blankly staring Hello Kitty, the next minute announcing they had dates who would be picking them up at seven…Mr. Hosokawa could not imagine his daughters anyplace but curled in their mother’s bed, crying for his return while they watched the news.” This sparked my interest particularly with the roles of women in Japan. Hollywood has made it seem that women in Japan have no rights and that the gender roles are clearly defined.
Before digging strictly into the particular demographic of women, I wanted to acquire a better understanding of Japanese society and their family life. Japan is the most rapidly aging society in the world. There is a projected thirty percent of elderly over sixty-five to make up Japans population in 2030. (Rebick, 5). This is an alarming statistic because it brings to light the question of longevity to the Japanese population. Not only the population but also issues of the economy and medical facilities. A large percentage of their society will be getting ill and dying within the same couple years. Much like in America we have this concern for the baby boomers generation. Another daunting fact is Japan’s decline in fertility rate over the past ten years. The current fertility rate is 1.4 and the level needed for maintenance of the population is 2.1 (Rebick, 7). When you put together a falling fertility rate with a very large demographic of elderly that seems like the economy is heading toward a digression in advancements. There will not be enough people to fill the many jobs available and the housing market as well as many other markets will subsequently crash.
Thinking of the workforce in Japan I didn’t believe women to be a big part of the economy. I thought them mainly as mainly being housewives, like Mr. Hosokawa’s wife is lead on to be. It states in An Introduction to Japanese Society, that the Japanese economy would not function without the female workers, in 2007, constituted 41.5 percent of the total paid workforce (Sugimoto, 163). Through further research I found that the census shows a steady upward trend. Approximately half of all women between fifteen and sixty-five years of age are engaged in waged labor (Sugimoto, 163). This really makes me question if there is a correlation between this rise employment for women and the decline of fertility. In America it is common to see professional women who hold successful positions. If Japan reflects our culture these women are commonly consumed with their career and are very focused on their professional life. Frequently, these women are unable to have a family because they are too busy to have time for children.
While “family” has remained a basic part of the Japanese culture, the roles of women has changed dramatically over the past ten years. The principles of the traditional Japanese culture are based on the Confusion ideals. These ideals say the man is the head of the household while the woman are dependent on their man. There was a great gender inequality throughout Japan until the twenty-first century. Women’s happiness is found only in marriage, according to tradition. Women marry between 22-27 years old. It was not uncommon for women to be socially outcast if she failed to marry by 27 (Kincaid). Ideals have slowly changed over the years for women of Japan though the help of globalization. The previously stated increase of women within the workforce has been a change of the culture. Women are able to make a difference in the economy and are seen as a contributing citizen rather than a dependent housewife. Despite the changes, Japanese TV still portrays traditional gender roles: men hold male jobs (police officer, soldier etc); women hold traditionally female jobs (housewife, nurse, etc). This is thought to slow role changes across most demographics (Shinichi, 2007). This is why I still have such a traditional way of thinking and viewing the Japanese culture. The media portrays societies as the dated, more shocking time period.
After this research, I have begun to question many parts of the Japanese culture. How is the large population of women joining the workforce going to effect the economy and culture in future years? What are some of the ideals Japanese parents teach their children? What are the differences between traditional and non-traditional households of Japan?
Kincaid, Chris. “Gender Roles of Women in Modern Japan.” Japan Powered. 22 June 2014. Web. 25 Sept. 2015. <http://www.japanpowered.com/japan-culture/gender-roles-women-modern-japan>.
Rebick, Marcus. “The Changing Japanese Family.” The Changing Japanese Family. London: Routledge, 2006. Print.
Sugimoto, Yoshio. “Gender Stratification and Th Family System.” An Introduction to Japanese Society. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010. Print.