Thursday, August 16, 2012

A woman's Place

Women are in a position of inferiority in Japan. The proper roles for a woman are liable to manage family and support men. Today, the movement to change this gender inequality has arisen and Japanese life-style has changed, more and more women come to have roles outside the house. However, Japanese women who pursue power, prestige or material success in their own right, still face a problem with their achievement.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, men and women were treated unequally, and women were in a marked inferiority position.  People believed that women had to do housework and take care of their children, while men work outside. The important role for women beside the house work was only respecting for men. These gender inequalities were common all over the world.

However, the equality between men and women has improved by the women's right movement lately, although the movement is not perfect in Japan. The first movement happened in the United States, so that the women's right has made rapid progress in the United States. This movement in the United States has also had impact in Japan. Because of the characteristic of the Japanese to accept foreign ideas and fashions, a Western-style women's movement arises in Japan. This movement is tiny, fragmented and slavishly imitative of the women's movement in the United State, although this women's movement surely will have more power in the future.

Another important reason for progress the gender equality in Japan is from their life-style changes. As advance of globalization, Japanese life-style has been Americanized.  For example, nuclear family patterns have spread widely and household appliances have proliferated, resulting in reducing the amount of the time that a Japanese woman must spend on housework. Therefore, Japanese women come to have both ability and freedom to do something besides managing their family. This life-style change has also caused the problem with shortage of money for their life. Indeed, only one wage earner to support their life has been difficult, because the standard of their desired life have been higher than before, and they need more money for achievement the life. Those sifts in Japanese life-style have given more desire for women to work outside.

Although the movement and shift have improved the gender equality, Japanese women still face a problem with their achievement outside the home. In fact, more and more Japanese women hold jobs every year.  However, unlike in the United States, women still play only the most peripheral part, so that the salary of the average woman is lower than the average man. Despite this inequality, career-minded women are increasing. Indeed, younger women who go to college or university are increasingly common, and they are better educated than their mothers. Those educated women want to achieve outside the house. Furthermore, most Japanese women believed that women who have the desire and ability should be allowed to enter the fields previously considered reserved for men. However, the Japanese industrial and financial institutions are still likely to refuse to hire women except for menial or clerical jobs.

As a resulting of the women's movement, the minds of young Japanese men have also changed and the number of men who help with the children and the housework are increasing. However, many Japanese men still oppose the idea of equality for women. Even if men agree with the idea of equality, most Japanese women still lead restricted lives, particularly during the years when they have small children because of the lack of child care systems in Japan.

Consequently, Japan still has a problem with inequality between men and women. The movement to demand women's rights and the change of their life-style have reduced inequality, but women still have difficulty achieving important roles outside their house. Due to these important changes, woman might gain a position more equally in the future.


  1. Hello, Mizuho. I have been traveling in Honshu for the last three weeks. I've wanted to travel to Japan for many years. It is an incredible, amazing, and--as a woman--frequently frustrating country.

    One of the things I find most pernicious here is the infantilization of woman. Just as one example: the use of female childlike tones that used for all mechanized greetings within the service industry. There are plenty of Japanese women who speak with beautiful modulated tones, but all of the hotels, convenience stores, and fast food restaurants I've been in employ the slightly crazed overly-enthusiastic voice of teenagers. I can't help but feel that this reinforces subservience as an ideal trait in women. Because of the ubiquity of the message, it would be difficult to escape its influence.

    There are so many small things like this that seem to highlight the gap between the sexes. These things make me feel that women are not to be taken seriously in anything other than their offerings of service. I've read plenty of blogs that claim that Japanese women are not subservient and that at home they rule the roost, but that's not the same as equality in the workplace. As you say traditional roles are seemingly difficult to escape--even for the most educated women.

    It's been eye-opening for me. When I arrived in Tokyo I was so taken with the city that I imagined myself living there. It's fantastic on so many levels. But I was struck time and time again that my views of my sex were so much at odds with those held by many Japanese. I like to be taken seriously in employment and academia and I'm not sure that would be possible in Japan. The personality traits that I've cultivated and aspired to (directness, honesty, and ambition) I would be thought of as brash, Western, and crude. Especially in a woman.

    It creates such a dichotomy. Japan is one of the world's most advanced countries. You have only to ride the trains for walk through the subways to appreciate how marvelous Japan is. And tradition is important as well--preservation of the temples, the influence of Shintoism apparent in the tiny gardens present everywhere, the importance of the tea ceremony and traditional dress. One wouldn't want to lose these traditions. But I'd like to think it's possible to maintain them and leverage women's position within Japan's society.


  2. Great! Rise up women of Japan!

    I like strong and independently minded women. Also, I like personal relationships where you can talk about interesting work topics. What do you have to talk with your husband/wife about if they are completely separate in their activities?

    I think it's a great thing in the long-run.