In Defense of the Japanese Man

My articles have created a rather disparaging image of Japanese men, and somewhat unfairly I think.  After all, most of my friends in Yashiro are middle-aged men, and they’re not all that bad.  I kind of like how many of them enjoy drinking, crack filthy jokes, and are generally easier to get along with than many women.  The local men had been gathering every night at a nearby shrine to drunkenly prepare the mikoshi for the fall festival, so I decided to crack a few beers myself and hear them out.

Chivalry is dead in Japan.  More accurately, these men claim it was never alive in the first place.  They use the anachronistic excuse of bushido for their “gentlemen-first” behavior and mock the younger generations for abandoning this precept.  It may appear that the younger soushokukei men are allowing their partners to pass through the doors first, but in reality, they’re just following them around like pet dogs.  Fair enough, women don’t necessarily need to come first, but shouldn’t they at least share household chores with their wives?  The women I interviewed for my last article work just as many hours as their husbands and yet clean the house, make lunch and dinner, and take care of their kids single-handedly.  Again, the men claimed that that’s just the way things are in Japan.  It’s bushido.

In terms of fidelity, they condemn emotional affairs but declare prostitutes a mulligan. “I earned the money, so I can do whatever I want with it” seemed to be the unanimous explanation.  So long as their families can live comfortably, they have every right to visit brothels.  In fact, they claim that they need prostitutes after having their first child because the wife diverts all her attention to the kid.  Men use the steak analogy in Japan too, by the way.  “You may love eating steak, but after having steak every day of your life, you sometimes want something fresher—like a kappa-maki.”  When I suggested that their wives should then be allowed the same attitude, they vehemently disagreed.  Was this not a double-standard?  “From a foreigner’s perspective, perhaps yes, but this is bushido”—a very convenient excuse.

I then asked why it seems that so many men do cheat on their wives.  Aside from wanting the occasional kappa-maki, they believe that some marriages fall apart because there is no such thing as family or spousal counseling in Japan.  Going to see a therapist suggests mental instability, and “household” matters are strictly that—they remain in the house.  The other problem may be that the father is rarely home because of work.  Although most of the Yashiro men work locally, they know of people who commute one or two hours to work every day, work overtime, and return very late.  In the end, such fathers become strangers to their families.  I questioned why the fathers remain in such unhappy marriages or even start families to begin with.  According to them, the ability to have and support a family in the countryside is a Japanese man’s duty and matter of pride.  Actually having a relationship with the family is secondary.  This is where the Japanese man feels the burden of bushido.

So, I pushed them further, thinking there had to be something that would dispel the unfavourable image they were creating for themselves.  I asked why many of them do not speak kindly about their wives when they work so hard at home and remain faithful to them.  Apparently, that question had an obvious answer: Japanese people don’t like to brag, and speaking positively about one’s wife is tantamount to bragging.

However, as we downed our beers in front of the half-completed mikoshi, the men began to speak fondly of their families.  One guy would rather have stayed home to sleep next to his 2 year old, and another wished to spend time talking with his wife after dinner.  They do love their families.  They’re just scared of sounding like they’re bragging.  (That comes after retirement, when they “no longer have anything to brag about.”)  And, they plan on telling their wives on their deathbeds for the first time that they had always loved them.

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One Comment

  1. Love this one too.. I like the ending Rika. They plan on tell their wives in their deathbeds that they love her! OMG!!!

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