The Place of women in the Japanese Society

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“Kaka najua bado hujaonja lakini I say la hapa lina shika kushika. Kule kwetu nyumbani kama hujabarikiwa kidogo itakuwa balaa.”

A cheeky East African friend was telling me in the way of orienting me (pardon the pun) into “the land of the rising sun.”I don’t know why the country is known as “the land of the rising sun” yet couples in New Zealand and Australia respectively enjoy their morning glory before those in Japan. Speaking of time zones, I am still baffled by the fact that Bungoma and Moscow are in the same time zone.

Boys being boys, we were discussing high school biology, for obvious reasons, but I digress.

I mean just the other day; a lady politician had it rough with her male colleagues when she took her baby with her to the Kumamoto Municipal Assembly. Imagine that.

Japan is one of the most patriarchal societies in the entire world. The treatment accorded to women around here is sickening if not nauseating. When a woman gets married, a Pandora’s Box is opened. If she is not an heir to the family’s empire, chances are she has to quit her job and focus on raising the child, become a perfect housewife that the society expects her to become.

I saw this as the epitome of unusual altruism in a first world country. Or so I thought at first. Being a hierarchical society, female chief executives are hard to come by. The vast top leadership positions are held by men. To them, women can “jeopardize” their careers, that are obviously intertwined with the companies’ best interests. I mean just the other day; a lady politician had it rough with her male colleagues when she took her baby with her to the Kumamoto Municipal Assembly. Imagine that.

Of all the places this could have happened, it occurred in Kumamoto. Not that it should be tolerated anywhere on earth. But at least not in Kumamoto! Women in Japan are therefore expected to give up work after they enter into motherhood.

FYI, the minimum wage in Japan is quite high, it is unthinkable of hiring a househelp as it may bankrupt a family. But still, the country is so rich, and successful you wonder why they are yet to circumvent the social Gordian knot.

The current P.M. Abe is working round the clock to improve women’s affairs but unfortunately, time is running out. Women, just like men, are entitled to some of the highest institutional rankings and motherhood shouldn’t be the good night that poet Dylan Thomas would have urged them not to go into gently. Instead, the society should rally behind them in support. Japan ought to be a more youthful nation going into the future. But as they say, as they say, however, payback is an arse!

Once they drop their careers and they devotedly become housewives, they become family accountants. Not that I have one or intend to have one (I ONLY drink chai latte or a double mocha) but Japanese wives are some of the best home managers in the world or so I hear. Most men’s salaries around here are directed to the mama’s bank account. If one has to meet up with his boys for a beer or a bowling game after work, then the wife must know. If one plans to buy a new car as a surprise for his wife, it will no longer be a surprise by the time he transfers the payment to the dealership. Why? Because the wife provides pocket money to the husband and generally determines how his hard-earned income shall be spent.

Her dedication to ensure this works is above reproach. But the accounting does not end there for the Japanese wife. You have to agree on the number of children to have. Once, the children have come, the romance expires. It is extinguished like a candlelight in a storm.  She won’t give it to you any more till death does you apart. Some even move from their matrimonial bed. Not even the wrath of winter will make her come back looking for warmth. She graduates from being the accountant to a senior partner. Yes, she will do the cooking, the cleanings, and the whatnots, but you now have two heads of the house.

I have to admit though that couples around here are very much adorable under the glowing lights of Christmas. As a foreign male, therefore, if you want to plant a seed with the help of a native female, it is advisable to befriend native girls that studied abroad and are pretty much inclined towards Western values, or those that have worked overseas for long or simply someone who has a deeper understanding of your own culture. Otherwise, stick to your lane!

As Steve Irwin would have it, “Crocodiles are easy. They try to kill and eat you. People are harder. Sometimes they pretend to be your friend first.” The boy child is clearly on the losing end even when he is winning. Happy New Year! Keep it Cool.


Sekehem Kiguoya is the Nairobi Cool Tokyo Correspondent. 

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