Japan from the inside out


Posted by ampontan on Monday, October 18, 2010

We are not troubled by things, but by the opinion we have of things.
– Epictetus

IT WAS ONE OF THOSE teapot tempests that keeps the mass media in business. The incident was so trivial as to be nearly meaningless, but it provided the copy for newspaper articles that allowed some women to feel superior to men, some of the young to feel superior to the old, some of the self-congratulated progressives to feel superior to the unenlightened, and some Westerners to feel superior to the Japanese.

Yes, a Japanese politician slipped again and said something “sexist” in public.

This time it was Nakayama Yoshikatsu, the vice minister of economy, trade and industry, speaking at the Women’s Entrepreneurship Summit on 1 October in Gifu, Japan. The summit was jointly hosted by Japan and the United States.

“Japanese women find pleasure in working at home and that has been part of Japanese culture…That should be given more credit through (raising their husbands’) salaries, but it has become impossible as the situation surrounding men became severe.”

(He) also said that Japanese women hold the power behind the throne, and repeated that it was part of Japanese culture for them to stay at home.

Even though there’s more than a bit of truth in there–particularly the part about holding the power behind the throne–most of us could write the rest of the script before we read it.

“I was embarrassed because his remarks revealed how backward Japan is,” said a Japanese woman who runs her own business and attended the conference.


Women angered by the remarks formed a protest group Oct. 7 to demand Nakayama, a House of Representatives member from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, retract the remarks and apologize.

Here was his retraction and apology:

Nakayama told Kyodo News on Thursday that he “regrets” what he said. “I would like to do what I can, albeit small, for women to play a greater role in business,” he said.

One woman said:

A U.S. participant told her that in the United States, no one would say such a thing in public even if he or she held sexist ideas.

“In America, we’ve even succeeded in stifling free speech!”

Japanese women might want to think twice before they choose American feminists as role models. They’re the ones who killed feminism as a serious socio-political movement in the U.S. in 1998 by consistently supporting then-President Bill Clinton even after it was revealed that as the Governor of Arkansas, he had a state policeman summon a female state employee to his hotel room, whereupon he dropped his trousers and ordered her to “kiss it”. And even after a very credible woman went public with a very credible rape charge. And even after he played games with cigars with a young White House intern in the Oval Office while keeping international VIPs waiting for meetings to begin.

But he was a progressive, and sexual harassment laws aren’t written for them. They’re really written for non-progressive business executives and military officers.

The “feminists” haven’t changed a bit since then. There will be an election for governor of California next month to replace Arnold Schwarzenegger. Former governor Jerry Brown is running against Meg Whitman. Other than a few years spent as an attorney after graduation from law school and another few years working as a talk show host on radio, Mr. Brown has been a politician for four decades.

In contrast, Ms. Whitman was the former CEO and President of eBay from 1998 to 2008, was a senior executive for other companies, including The Walt Disney Company, DreamWorks, Procter & Gamble, and Hasbro, and has a net worth of $1.3 billion, which she seems to have made on her own without sledding on her husband’s coattails. Who would know more about empowering women in the workplace?

It was revealed last week in another teapot tempest that Mr. Brown’s aides referred to Ms. Whitman as a “whore” during strategy sessions. Less than a day later, the National Organization of Women endorsed Mr. Brown. (If you didn’t know the party affiliation of the candidates, you do now.) When the language used by the Brown campaign became an issue, national NOW President Terry O’Neill said that anyone who “from here on” calls a woman a “whore” should be fired.

Giri-giri safe!

Back to the article:

Last year, a United Nations committee recommended that the Japanese government deal with discrimination against women in laws, employment and wages.

Japanese women might also find better sources for advice. This the same United Nations whose peacekeepers ran child sex rings in Europe and Africa. You know what they say about idle hands. It’s the same UN that elected Iran to be a member of the Commission on the Status of Women, a body that is “dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women.”

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran wrote a letter of complaint about their selection that said Iranian women:

“…lack the ability to choose their husbands, have no independent right to education after marriage, no right to divorce, no right to child custody, have no protection from violent treatment in public spaces, are restricted by quotas for women’s admission at universities, and are arrested, beaten, and imprisoned for peacefully seeking change of such laws.”

If the UN were really serious about women’s rights, they might more profitably spend their time on this:

According to the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America, forcing your wife to have sex against her will really isn’t rape.

That’s because, according to an Egyptian cleric:

Allah had created the punishment of beating a wife for refusing her husband sex and that this was a way of honoring her.

But they won’t, because the UN is just as useless as the National Organization for Women, and just as intent on pushing an agenda rather than on maintaining their integrity. They push against Japan–and groups and people like them–because they know they won’t get pushed back. Pushing Muslims around, however, can be hazardous to your health.

“Encouraging women to stay at home is a 20th century” way of thinking, said Mariko Bando, head of Showa Women’s University who drew up a number of policies related to women while she was a senior bureaucrat.

Putting aside the fact that Mr. Nakayama was not quoted as encouraging women to stay home, Ms. Bando might be surprised to discover that in the 21st century, there is a real possibility that women will choose not to follow the footsteps of Meg Whitman, but go with the flow back to patriarchy instead. That’s the thesis of demographer Phillip Longman, who wrote in an article on the website of the New America Foundation, “Like it or not, a growing proportion of the next generation will be born into families who believe that father knows best.”

He argued:

(F)alling fertility is a recurring tendency of human civilization. Why then did humans not become extinct long ago? The short answer is patriarchy.

Patriarchy does not simply mean that men rule. Indeed, it is a particular value system that not only requires men to marry but to marry a woman of proper station. It competes with many other male visions of the good life, and for that reason alone is prone to come in cycles. Yet before it degenerates, it is a cultural regime that serves to keep birthrates high among the affluent, while also maximizing parents’ investments in their children. No advanced civilization has yet learned how to endure without it.

Through a process of cultural evolution, societies that adopted this particular social system — which involves far more than simple male domination — maximized their population and therefore their power, whereas those that didn’t were either overrun or absorbed. This cycle in human history may be obnoxious to the enlightened, but it is set to make a comeback.

The charge of rightwing troglodyte won’t stick. Most of the directors of that foundation are on the left rather than the right, and Mr. Longman himself has written a book holding that public sector schemes for health care insurance are superior to those of the private sector.

Indeed, a case could be made that bad old Mr. Nakayama wasn’t so far off base at all. Here’s another Kyodo article from May this year on the results of a government survey:

The proportion of wives who favor a traditional domestic role is increasing, mainly among people in their 20s, a government survey showed…According to the results of the fourth such survey…45 percent of the total supported the view that husbands should work outside of the home while wives should attend to housework, reversing a downward trend from the first survey in 1993, when the figure stood at 53.6 percent, to the third survey in 2003, when it stood at 41.1 percent.

By age group, the figure for wives aged 29 or younger stood at 47.9 percent, up 12.2 percentage points from the previous survey in 2003…


In the survey, 55.3 percent favored being full-time homemakers, followed by 43.5 percent who favored being self-employed or working for a family business, 39.6 percent who favored being part-time employees and 33.3 percent who preferred full-time employment.

The Japanese and those people familiar with the country are more likely to understand implicitly the nature and the circumstances of the women in the second group than people with less experience here. Mr. Nakayama certainly does.

To continue:

Of the total, 85.9 percent favored the view that mothers should raise their children without working outside the home until their children are around 3 years old, an increase of 3 points.

Perhaps those are some of the reasons women accounted for just 4.1% of department heads in private Japanese corporations in 2008. Well, that and the fact that spending 60 hours a week pushing papers with the objective of selling more zinc bushings is not an appealing lifestyle choice for many women, let alone men.

It isn’t that being young and single puts women at a financial disadvantage, either. Reuters reported on another survey this week:

Income for single women under 30 hit an average of 218,156 yen ($2,680) a month in 2009, edging above the 215,515 yen ($2,640) of their male counterparts for the first time ever, according to an Internal Affairs ministry survey.

This is attributed partly to a decline in men’s salaries and a rise in women’s salaries after the last survey was taken. According to Kumano Hideo, chief economist at the Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute:

“(M)any more men work in manufacturing than women, and after the Lehman failure things for this sector really chilled.”

Back to Ms. Bando:

“Japan ranks low (with regard to the status of women) because there are many politicians who do not pay attention to the realities of the world,” she said.

Perhaps it is Ms. Bando and her compatriots who should be the ones to pay attention to the realities of the world. If politicians had the ability to alter human nature and engineer social outcomes, socialism would have worked. The American feminist left is a spent force that rendered itself irrelevant, and if the UN weren’t so obtrusive, expensive, and intent on serving as the template for future global governance, it would be a parody of itself.

Broadly speaking, the Japanese women I’ve seen over the past quarter century are very capable of plotting the course of their lives and steering it in the direction of their choice, even if it isn’t always the direction those with a different agenda–politician or activist–would prefer.

Sometimes–but not always–it’s even in the direction Mr. Nakayama thinks it is.


What better way to close this post than with a clip from composer/musician/singer Suzuki Saeko? She released four discs in the 1980s before retiring from the music business (though she might be eying a comeback; she appeared in a TV commercial not long ago). Japanese of a certain age will remember her has the singer for the Nissin Chicken ramen commercial (Sugoku oishii!). I’ll always remember her as the headliner of the first Japanese live show I attended. She played all the keyboards—including the Fairlight, which was a big deal in those days—marimbas, vibes, and drums. During that concert, she spent about 80% of the time behind the keyboards, but her opening number was this stunner on which she plays the marimba. That’s until the 4:30 mark, however, when she gets behind the drum kit and casually shows off chops that would have gotten her hired as a drummer by any band anywhere. In fact, they did; she was the drummer in Sakamoto Ryuichi’s first band.

There’s a Zappa influence, but the music is also feminine with Asian touches, and all of it’s hers. If there are Western women doing anything like this, I haven’t heard of them.

This video is almost 25 years old. If watching it doesn’t shatter some preconceived notions about Japanese women, nothing will.

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5 Responses to “Womanizing”

  1. toadold said

    What’s been kind of sad here in the States is the career women who bought the myth and tried to live like single business men. They slept around, had abortions, worked their career hard. Then they hit forty and feel the urge to have kids. Not that easy after you hit forty. Fertility drops and the chance of having a kid with problems, Down’s syndrome for example,increase. The studies show that kids raised without father have a lot more emotional problems than those that do so where does a 40 year old woman get a man who wants to marry her and have kids. An upscale male her age is likely to hooked up with a 24 year old trophy wife. She’ll have to compete for the left overs and/or find a guy who is up for the adoption of kids.

  2. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

    My question is “are you happy?” and that question is mute.

    Some go fishing in troubled water, I would like to go fishing like this song.

  3. sigma1 said

    In another post you have suggested you are favourable to the thought of JSM. In which case, I direct you to the following:

    Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself.

    One thing I do like about Japan is that the value, and in some ways the embrace of motherhood. And in particular that you are not looked down upon as somehow being less of a “woman” if you make a thoughtful and rational decision to stay at home and raise your child, like you might be in professional/elite circles in some Western countries. But, the statistics you cite above have very little to do with a return to the aesthetic conceptualisation of gender-roles/motherhood of the early postwar period. If you really understand the plight of Japanese women in their 20s and 30s these numbers make complete sense in the context of the decreasing opportunities for young Japanese in general where a soft and subtle social tyranny exerts a great deal of pressure on young women in particular. But be assured that Japan is not turning out a generation of 細木数子.

  4. Tony said

    Interesting interpretations here. Who knew American Feminism was dead? Certainly not American feminists. As for the stats, well I’ve long lost any belief in stats just as I have in the Easter Bunny, Santa and the Tooth Fariy. Use them at your peril as they will always reveal what ever the person requesting the survey wants. By the way, where did those surveys come from? Ahh that’s right the very government whose vice minister showed such a clear lack of understanding. By the way, good call on the woman’s statement of “no one would say such a thing in public even if he or she held such ideas” presumably because they would lose their job or at the very least, social standing (just look at that poor bloke Juan Williams from NPR). You’re right there, censorship is still censorship.

    Tony: Thanks for the note.

    The American “feminists” of the left may think they’ve still got credibility, but few others do.

    Speaking of interesting interpretations, the suggestion that the Japanese government is making up survey numbers is another one.

    – A.

  5. Tony said

    I never said the government was making up the numbers, I’m sure the numbers are real, in that they were really derived from surveys. However, the credibility of those numbers is about as strong as the credibility that Santa exists because I saw him in the mall or that the tooth fairy exists because I got a quarter under my pillow. I was saying though that the numbers the governments want when they request the surveys to be done are nearly always the numbers they get. Are they prescient, in which case would negate the need for a survey or do they want numbers that fit their view? You may believe in the former, or even the purity of their intentions, however; I am much more skeptical.

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