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Previous Publications


Ofra Goldstein—Gidoni.  1997. Pub:  4'] : 
Wedding;  Biuirm1And Brides.  g‘ apflmmw

56 0 Housewivesollapan


From:  Mnrilto

Sent:  Thursday,  February 26, 2009, 2:46 PM
To:  Ofra

Subject:  RE:  query...
58 I Housewives oflapan

married,  had children and became housewives” (0chiai,  2005).  These same
active women,  she lam...
60 I Housewivesofiapan

indoors—so “naturally” resign her job upon marriage and become a house-
wife who “guards” the hous...
62 I Housewives oflapan

describes her decision to leave work upon marriage clearly lllllstllifi the
significant role other ...
64 I Housewivesofjapan

where real social life takes place,  that is,  in a Japanese company (larirl/ a)—
the bigger,  the...
66 - Housewivesofjapan

Generally accepting the mrural order of thing.  including the mandatory
‘hanging one’s hips” in th...
68 0 Housewivesollapan

I don’t think I would want to buy brand-name handbags as I used to do
when I was an OL.  I'd rathe...
70 0 Housewivesofiapan

child raising,  Inoue-san decided to take a simple,  part-time ofliee job not far
from home.  Altho...
72 0 Housewivesoflapan

marriagaable daughters by confining them at their homs or by restricting
their activities out of th...
74 I Housewivesofjapan

for eating before you” (arisen arakini itadzéinmnr).  I say it even when he is
not here [at home]....
76 o Housewivesoilapan

As much as Mariko was bewildered by this ‘mothers’ group, " it was
apparently not their tendency t...
78 o Housewivesoflapan

need to have the option to take a day off when my child is sick.  It’s the
most important conditio...
so 0 Housewivesoilapan

only be used when mothers rally have to work and not when they are pursu-
ing careers for their ow...
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  1. 1. Previous Publications Books Ofra Goldstein—Gidoni. 1997. Pub: 4'] : Wedding; Biuirm1And Brides. g‘ apflmmw Housewives of Japan An Ethnography of Real Lives and Consumerized Domesticity Ofia Galdstein-Gidani palgrave am macmillan
  2. 2. 56 0 Housewivesollapan 2009 From: Mnrilto Sent: Thursday, February 26, 2009, 2:46 PM To: Ofra Subject: RE: query 0-chan Comen [sorry] for not answering you earlier. I was still fighting with tax [forms], which I finally finished yesterday. Today I spent in Esaka, look- ing for a nice shade for our living room. I found one in Toltyu Hands. You know, I was thinking the other day why I was reading feminist books in those days and why [feminism caught] my attention. . . I think, it's because it's something that gave me a new point of view to what I had been believing as atarimae [the natural order of things]. I suddenly remembered how when Yuki was small when I was still living in C31, one neighbor, [an] obfichan Igrannyly when I told her [that] I was tired of child rearing and daily life, said to me "what is there to be complaining about? You have your kawaii [cute] kid, you have your sweet husband working and bringing you money, what else [do] you need? ” Maybe she said that without any big intention, only said to encourage me but something [got] stuck. . . like, "so you mean I have to feel happy about this boring situationif” News: remember; the area beside Royal Heights [that] was in con- struction when you visited the last time? Well, the street where the new Delicious [cake shop] is seems to have become a street of restaurants, etc. and. . . today I saw a new Starbucks in constructionl Sugoi desune [Great isn't itil. This area is tuming into a big city center! Mariko CHAPTER 3 On ”Naturally” Becoming Housewives Who Are the Women of Royal Heights? Mariko and I interviewed and followed the lives of over 50 women, most of whom lived in Royal Heights. ’ By deciding to focus on one neighborhood, not only did I follow the ‘‘classical'’ anthropological path ofstudylng a com- munity, but I also took advantage of the unique opportunity to meet with women who share many social aspects, including their age and life stage, the age and number of their children, and. more generally, their social class. It is customary in japan to define people by their age groups. The women who formed the largest age and social group in the neighborhood and who made up the majority of the interviewees were born between I966 and 1970 and were in their 20s during the last days of the “bubble economy. “ They were known as the last of the "Hanata tribe” (Harrakn-uh: _), ’ after a women's magazine titled Hamlin. whose advice on fashion. dining, and travel was almost religiously followed by its readers, most of them young women (Pollak, 1993). Hannah’: zealous radars were allegedly extremely consumer oriented and leading a flashy, hedonistic lifestyle while pursuing their office jobs after graduating from college. Sociologist Ochiai Emiko describes the women born between 1966 and 1970 as a generation that extolled the consumer lifestyle while “dancing on the platforms in discos” but that at the same time also maintained a high labor-force participation ratio. Cultivating so-called individualistic ideas unknown to former generations of women in Japan, the Hanahn were expected to make a change both in women’s lives and in the nature of the Japanese family. However, reaching their 505. “one after the other [thcyl
  3. 3. 58 I Housewives oflapan married, had children and became housewives” (0chiai, 2005). These same active women, she laments, despite holding a promise for major change. broke this promise, as they all became housewives. How right is Ochiai in her explicit disappointment with the Hanaolrar who. in her eyes, failed to fulfill the promise they allegedly held to produce a major change in women’s lives and gender roles? Or. in other words, what are the implications of the fact that most women of that generation seem to have followed their mothers by becoming housewives? How much is this description true for Royal Heights women who are of this same generation. and, even more imponandy, what did becoming a housewife really mean for them? In this chapter. I aim to tackle these quutions as I bring in the narra- tivt: of Royal Heights women who talked about their lives, about how they "naturally" became housewives and about their views and concepts of their mles in family and society. Listening carefully to the similarity and diversity in the women’s narratives, I begin this chapter by looking at the way this "natural" process is embedded in the larger social structure. The “Natural Order of Things”: The Hanakos Become Housewives l have never asked myself if it's okay to be always inside the house as a housewife only. My mother was there to guard the house (it o rruunaru). I thought it was so natural (ararirnae) to resign when you get married. Murakami-san, interview. October 2003 I worked at a bank. I was a good student. It was the time of the [economic] bubble. Good times for banks. so they were able to employ many people. I worked for three years, only to am money to get married. My parents opposed our marriage. They expected me to get married to a banker. My mother also worked in a bank. She had to quit [the bank] when she got married. At my bank also girls had to quit when they got married. It was natural (ararimae) to quit. The girls were treated well. .. We were the oflice flowers (rhnkuba no Imus). When they got old [meaning they passed the time for marriage]. girls were sent to the central office to work inside the office [not at the counter serving clients] . ‘ Katoh-san, interview, November 2005 As the women of Royal Heights narrated their lives and especially as they talked about moving through life stages, one of their striking realizations was the strength of the "natural order of things" (ararirrta: -ness) that gov- erned these transitions. "1 have never thought about thwe things until now, ” 15: On "Naturally" Becoming Housewives u 59 Murakami-san said at one point in the lengthy conversation Mariko and I had with her. "What do you mean by ‘now’? .' I asked her just to get reas- surance for my supposition that other women, just like Mariko, used the crossroad in the housewife's life plan when she becomes less occupied with child rearing as a point for contemplation about this social role. However, she replied, to my surprise, "I mean, now, right now, here. ” ln—depth inter- views have the propensity to become shaped differently as the circumstances and the people involved change. Some of the interviews Mariko and l con- ducted tumed into open and often extremely thoughtful conversations, which obviously were concerned not only with the life of the "interviewee, " who became a partner in a mutual exchange of ideas and feelings. Many women acknowledged this unique opportunity to think about their lives and to talk about topics they hardly ever discuss. For many of them, this conversation provided a rate angle for observing the natural way in which they had made their role transitions in their livt: so far, from a student to an ofiice lady (OL) and then from a company employee to a "professional housewife. ‘ Listening to other women narrating their lives inevitably made Marika think about her own life. thus, on one of the occasions when the conversation fiacused on this ‘natural way" in which Japanese women of her generation quit their jobs upon marriage, she suddenly said: That's right, I actually never thought about it. I feel that I really stopped thinking when I started working. After getfing a job in a company, I began just following the way the river pushed me. I never really planned any- thing, like, for example, "I will give birth after working for three years and then . . . ," I mean, these kinds of Ihings. The extent of this "natural-ness" as a major feature In the lives of the women was further manifested as we listened to those women who expresed some kind of negation or resentment toward the lhflfil role but nevertheless abided by it Muraltarni-san, who so bluntly said that she had never asked herself ‘if it's okay to be always inside the house, ” was in fact one of those few women who openly admitted that they disliked being a housewife. ‘I'm not a good housewife. ' she said, ‘I cannot stay still, I feel frustrated staying always in the same place; others [other housewives] don't understand me. " As she also “hate[s] doing the same thing every day, ’ she always keeps herself busy with shopping or lunches with friends. During her interview as well as on other occasions, Muralrami-san also often expressed her aversion to the patriarchal and old-fashioned views that most Japanese husbands still hold. What was it then that made her—a person who hates the thought of being
  4. 4. 60 I Housewivesofiapan indoors—so “naturally” resign her job upon marriage and become a house- wife who “guards” the house from within? The Hanaltos' life Course: A Sequence of Clear Social Roles Ivry. in her illuminating research on pregnant women (2010, p.138), found that Japanese women who could economirally afford to quit their jobs when they were expecting their first child basically saw this act as replacing one full-time job with another. The stories I heard from Royal Heights women strongly support this idea. Moreover, as I will show, retiring upon marriage or pregnancy did not merely mean an occupational change but surely also signified a transition into a new rnrialmle. This significant transition should be regarded in the context of a general social order that has developed in corporate postwar Japan, in which individuals tend to identify themselves at each life stage with a single role that is clearly gendered. Being by and large daughters of rnidclle—class families. Royal Heights women have a college education, although, like most women of their gen- eration, this usually means that they attended a junior college and not a four-year university. Japanese female education has been vastly differentiated from male education.7 In a comprehensive study about gender and work in postwar Japan, Mary Brinton (1993) shows how the labor-market incentives that motivate males to acquire higher education are not applied to women. Brinoon demonstrates how the position of employers, combined with govern- ment policies, has been discouraging women from entering four-year univer- skim. ‘ As a consequence. one educational track. the junior college system, evolved to become almost exclusively female. Junior colleges (tarrdai) tend to offer areas of study considered "feminine, " including home economics, education, and humanities. They got a reputation for functioning like “bridal schools, " preparing women for their first rule as office flowers and their sub- sequent role as good wives and wise mothers (see McVeigh, 1995. 1997). The way the Royal Heights women discussed their education clearly matched with the general idea that education for women is more of an "education for its own sake" and especially for the sake of making a good marriage match and being a good mother. Very often, these women were apologetic when talking about their studies: they usually were not very pre- cise about what their majors were, and when their major was English they felt especially embarrassed, feeling that they could not show any special pro- ficiency in the language that they assumed I can speak. ’ Yamaguclri-san studied modern Japanese literature in a private women's four-year university. After graduation she worked as an 0L for a few years; however, she never had any intention to work for her whole life. she says. On "Naturally" Becoming Housewives 0 61 Being employed was only a temporal stage between school and marriage. When I ask her why, then, she chose a four-year university instead of the more popular two-year college, she replies that it was not a question of choice, it was just the "normal step" for students at her high school. Apparently, her family could afford sending her to one of those comprehen- sive private and sheltered schooling systems that allow students to matricu- late from one school to the next without entrance examinations. Entering a four-year university was in fact not only “natural” for her and her class- mates, furthermore, studying at a four—year university did not impose any special academic burden on her: I majored in modern Japanese literature at the faculty of literature. However. the important thing was actually only to graduate. not the studies. I played a lot. I especially liked tennis. We [me and the man who later became my husband and who studied at the adjacent all-male uni- versity] were in the same tennis club so we practiced tennis together. He majored in economics. We are of the same age so we graduated together and we both started working at the same time. I became an OL at a trading company Crbdrba). I didn’t like the job; it was only for the time in-between [school and] marriage (lzelzkon mm mule rm aida). I started working with the intention to quit. We had a clear plan to get married. After working for two years. I dedicated two years to bridal training (lmnayomz rlzugyo). I studied Japanese things (niban no alveikc) like the tea ceremony and ikebana, with the aim of becoming a “good bride. ” I never thought about any promotion in the company. The way women narrated their life transitions seems to deeply reflect a tendency to follow what can be described as a carefully written script of a strictly ordered life plan in which each life stage is firmly fixed. This tendency has been described in statistically revealing terms showing that Japanese women’; entry into a position both in the educational system and in marriage is carefully timed and typically occurs once in a lifetime. Not only do women tend to marry and enter schooling at the same age as their friends, but they also usually make such changes in life role one at a time (see Brinton. 1992). The way women narrated these ordered transitions highlights what actually lies behind this orderliness. '° Key adults—those individuals Brinton refers to as “stakeholders"—play a critical role in shaping the ‘socially embedded” life courses of Japanese women. " Women, in their stories. gave a very significant role to their parents. especially their mothers, in decisions such as retiring from work upon marriage or during pregnancy with the first child. The way Sakai-san
  5. 5. 62 I Housewives oflapan describes her decision to leave work upon marriage clearly lllllstllifi the significant role other adults play in shaping such key life transitions: I worked as a computer instructor always walking around writing on white boards. Initially, I was planning to take a maternity lave [and resume working]. However, even though the company’s regulations offered such an option, no one has taken it before Moreover, it was my first child and my mother strongly objected. She herself was a profs- sional housewife (rengyi r/ ngfir), so she advised me to follow her way for the sake of the child. She said that I should first become a professional housewife and only after that could I think about what I would like to do next. My husband just told me to do what ever I wished to do, though, naturally, the heavy duty [of child raising] would be mine because I’m the mother. " Thur again. I had always longed (ahrgitre) to become a professional housewife, so I retired. Sakai-san lucidly narrates the details of her retirement from work in terms of a transition from one social role, with which she totally identified (“always writing on white boards"), to another clearly socially ascribed role, that of the professional housewife. Her mother’: words are not only clearly heard in her narration but also were inevitably and compliantly followed by her. Employers and coworkers also play a significant role in the decision to quit work. Most women explained that quitting not only felt natural but also was accepted by all the people around them as the only possible step in the circumstances of getting married or expecting a baby. In Sakai-san's case, even though the option of maternity leave eristcd, “no one" actually took it. The striking disparity between Japanese companies’ fizrmal stance and informal atmosphere was very evident in many other accounts. Endoh-san, one of the very few women in the neighborhood who had had the experience of taking a maternity leavc—although she later resigned and became a filli- time housewife (more on this later)—worked as an OL at one of those com— panies considered "woman friendly? " Nenrtheless, she mcallgd the nonfriendly atmosphere for working wives and mothers: Even if the company changes the system, it's hard forthem to their way of thinking. Basitally, companies are men-dominated, so [in my company] there were high-position personnel who didn't like the idea of working mothers. They used to say that women should remain at home takingcareoftheir children. Maybeafter all these old men retire andwhen the group of the leading members of the comparrywill be that of men who have worltingwives, then they might change. but itwill surely take time. On 'Natura| ly" Becoming Housewives 0 63 Japanese companies have formally developed new programs for combining home and work; however, the informal messages women receive from their coworkers and mainly from their employers appear not to fully correspond with this direction. " The same active Hanaknr of the 1990s with their high participation in the labor force were in fact informally but often quite firmly encouraged by their employers to “harmoniously separate" (nmmu rairbcz) from their companies upon marriage or childbirth. This cordial encour- agement for OL to leave their companies included monetary incentives to women who chose to retire upon marriage or childbirth (see Ogasawara, 1998, p.65). Some companies also used to offer temporary unemployment benefits. or in eflect a wedding dowry (Saso, 1990, pp.37-8). “Social Studies”: Women Becoming Members of Society In postwar Japan, at least until the 1990s, there were two distinct contexts that mark the transition into a full adult member of society (: balrar'}'in): the first is entering the world of work (Roh| en, 1974, pp.49—50). and the sec— ond is marriage (Edwards, 1989, pp. ll6—27). Albeit significant markers of adulthood for both men and women, marriage and specially childbaring seem still more crucial for becoming a wholly mature person (iebininmae) in the case of women (see Matsunaga, 2000, p.123; Brinton. 20ll, p. 31, n 19). This dual idea of social adulthood may, on the one hand, lie in the background of the initial encouragement of women to enter the corporate world upon graduation and, on the other hand, to "harmoniously" leave this same world after a few years. The short tenure of corporate work for women is often refened to as knrbihake, which literally mans ‘hanging one‘: hips” on an uncomfortable chair. However uncomfortable, the few years that female college graduates spend in the labor market hdore marriage have in fact larger social implica- tions than those sigrrifcant practical considerations of earning some money for their later married life or even than the more important aim of looking for an ideal husband among company employees. " Like other stages in the strictly ordered life plan of the Japanese woman, this period seems to have a particular purpose with regard to maintaining as well as reproducing the social structure. From the women of Royal Heights it was revealing to learn that even those who had graduated with a certain specialty such as nutrition, lan— guages, or preschool edutation were very strongly advised not to take the professional direction at the crucial life stage right after graduation, which for junior college students parallels the formal coming of age at twenty. " Graduates were strongly encouraged to go and study satiety (sbalrai benlryd)
  6. 6. 64 I Housewivesofjapan where real social life takes place, that is, in a Japanese company (larirl/ a)— the bigger, the better. The Royal Heights women, in their narratives. repeatedly mentioned the strong parental pressure to enter a proper company. Katoh-san, the daughter of the senior banker who followed her mother and worked for a short time in a good bank, as mentioned previously, recalled how her acquired license as a kindergarten teacher did not convince her parents that there was any direction open to her upon graduation other than working as an OL. She was certainly not the only woman who had such memories, which were sometimes bitter. Studying society, or “social studies” (sbakai finrlyé), has a very particular meaning in the context of growing up as a woman in corporate Japan. The theme repeatedly came up in conversations, and as I found it hard to fully understand the implications and confines of what is deemed necessary to constitute a proper site and occupation for such essential studies or experi- ence, I insisted on asking for explanations. One of the lengthy ones was given by Takahashi—san as the tried to explain to me how it was that working as a translator was not considered a properjob by Mariko’s patents upon her graduation from a university for foreign studies. Takahashi-san is a little older than most of the women we interviewed and thus, has older children; the eldest of three was already attending uni- versity at the time of the interview. On the one hand, she presented herself as a "carefree" (nnulvina) mother in a typically apologetic way, as she com- pared herself with other women in the neighborhood, whom she generally saw as model or hardworking (gznbarteiru) mothers. On the other hand, she seemed to regard herself as a typically genuine exemplar of corporate Japancse society. The topic of “social studies” came up as Takahashi—san was lamenting her own poor language skills. She talked about her fnistra- tion that, unlike the generation of her children, she might need an inter- preter if she wanted to travel abroad. Like many others in the neighborhood, Takahashi-san admired Marilto for her special language skills. As our con- versation moved smoothly between personal and more general themes, she asked Mariko about her work upon graduation. I knew Matiko's biography (or thought I did). However, I was intrigued by the following conversation and especially by how Takahashi-san so easily or ‘naturally’ understood the position Mariko's parents took at the time: 77:1-nlraslzi [a. <h'ngMaril-0]: What did you do for a job. ’ Mrrrilm: I worked at a German company. During my studies, I went to Mexico to study for one year on a scholarship. After coming back, I graduated and started working as an OL in a German shipping On “Naturally” Becoming Housewives 0 65 company. When 1 was in Mexico I worked as a translator and inter- preter, and coming back to Japan I wanted to look for a job using my language skills, but my parents opposed, so I had no other choice but to work for once as an ordinary adult member of society (firm? no rhalmjin). Talvalmbiz I know, parents were like that at those times. Ofrrr: But why? Isn't a translator a rbdlraijin? Marika: I am not sure. They insisted that, no matter what, I have to be in an organization. Tul-aIm. rIvr': Maybe it was a special feeling of our parents‘ generation, of those who were born before the (Second World] War. Ofia: Is this what you call t/ mini bark; -o‘? Marilw: Yes, [it means] to be a member of an organization. Tirkaharlzi: We had to enter the office at a certain hour, stamp the time card . . . everything was under strict control. And if we happened not to be members of such a controlled organitation, our parents were wor— tied that their children were "off" track. or going what was considered to be the wrong way. It was the tendency of that age. and if you did not act like this, it was as though you were moving against the stream. As long as their children began working in a company after graduating from high school or college, patents felt okay, as if they were putting them on the right trail. But. what happened if one of their children suddenly quit? The parents were in total panic. They believed in one job lot a lifetime. They could hardly believe in the existence of freetets (firrirri). .. '7 They [our parents] were of a generation who believed that it was a virtue to work in one company until retirement, so they wanted their kids to belong to one organization. They wished for their children to start working in a company of respectable siu so that they would not have to worry about their future, economically. That’s why they wanted their kids to work in a well-known company. Ofia: I understand that this was expected for boys, but what about girls. what about OL? Ta. £aI: a.r/ u’: OL were expected to quit at their marriage. This exchange shows that the homology between "company" and "society" is very clar to both men and women in Japan. Working in a company, or entering the corporate world. is in fact considered in terms such as ‘being in (or entering into) society” (1/mini ni / miru) or ‘seeing the bigger society’ as other women explained. This experience, although short lived for women, is still considered an extremely significant brick in the general social structure that is constructed from the strictly planned life courses of individuals.
  7. 7. 66 - Housewivesofjapan Generally accepting the mrural order of thing. including the mandatory ‘hanging one’s hips” in the real world of worlr before marriage. Mar-ilto was surely not the only woman who told a story of some kind of resistance to this natural order. Ikeda-san, who at the time of the interview had recently started working as a part-timer at a Fast-food restaurant as her two children grew older, had a sour memory of this period. As she recalled, after graduating from a four-year university majoring in linguistics. she had some thought; ofan-y. ing on with ha work as a ballet-dance assistant, which she had been pursuing on a part-time basis (arubaito) during her studies at the university. " However. her mother insisted that she quit assisting her ballet-dance ueadrer and enter a company. As in Marikos case, llteda-san's determination to pursue her own talent or inclinations instead of entering the company track was futile: I argued a lot with my parenu. especially with my mother. She [my mother] said she would never accept it [continuing with the ballet]. Even though she was the one who sent me to study ballet when I was a child. she later didn’t approve of my job as a ballet teacher's assistant. Both Ilreda-san and Mariko had to succumb to the social order and enter a company upon graduation in order to lave some short yars latter to become housewives. The way Mariko narrated her frustration wltile referring to this same painftrl atperience during another interview pointing out her presum- ably unique position of having spent some time outside Japan only under- scored the rigidity of the social structure into which the Hurrah: were bom: [After returning from Mexico, i day after day I thought about how I could gel out of Japan again. But my family obviously was against it. My grand- father told me to stay. I also thought about becoming an interpreter at that time, but my parents, especially my mother, did not approve and told me that it was necessary to work In a company for doing lmyl social studies. So, finally, I gave up. I thought that the only place for me to work in Japan was at a foreign company, " so I got a job at a Gemran company, worked for five years, got married, got pregnant and retired. Entering the Home: kites and Symbols of Role Initiation Royal Heights women‘: life plan has been described so far as a sequence of social roles. Certain role transitions just seemed to occur, as iflyy an almo5[ passive adherence to the nrles of the ‘natural order of things. “ However, other transitions required a more active involvement. Whereas upon gradu- ation young women tend to relatively passively abide by their parents’ strong On ‘Naturally’ Becoming Housewives - 67 desire that they get a job in a proper company as something that "can't be helped” (rbrllara go nai). ’° most women tend to describe their entry into the role of the 'prt-tfusional housewife‘ in more active terms. At that stage in their life course, they already tend to feel like members of society. The women of the Hanaka tribe. who were highly criticized for their hedonistic lifestyle. are daughters of postwar-generation housewives, the epitome of ‘Japan's new middle class" (Vogel, 1978), who along with their salaryrnan husbands allegedly built Japan after the war. Their mothers’ carefully ascribed social role as professional housewives required the invest- ment of high levels of self-sacrifice, endurance (garnan), hardships (krmi), and arduous work (Iaibm) for the cflicient and proper management of the household (Lebra. 1984, p.55). The discrepancy between the values of these two generations is thus hard to ignore and was in fact highlighted by the public condemnation of the ‘selfish’ generation, which has become a ban mt since the 1990:. The japanme media and public commentary on the whole have tended to empha- size the generation gap between the young. mrefree, and indulgent women and their family-oriented. responsible mothers (Nalrano and Wagatsuma, 2004). Tnrly, this critical campaign, largely promoted by conservative mrle politicians and social critics. cannot be simply explained only in terms of value disapproval. In its background was the almost national panic with regard to ]apan's demographic problem. of which delayed marriage and nonmarriagc have been largely identified as major causes, as will be discussed in later chap- ters. " However, in reality, at least in the 1990:. most of this tribe's hedonistic and selfish women did in fact finally get married and have children. As already suggested, for Japanese women, marriage and bearing children are usually considered as the final crucial steps for becoming frrll social per- sons. Howevcr, it seems that in the case of the Hauler, who were inherently suspected for their inaptness in the role of wife and mother. the change of marital status alone was not enough. Their initiation into their new social role required further symbolic acts to mark the genulncnus of this transition. In the happy days of the economic bubble, the excessive consumption of brand goods became one of the emblems of the lifestyle of young 0L. However. alas. what should a perfect housewife, who is expected to put the welfare of her family before her own personal needs, do with sudr symbols of consumerist self-fulfillment? Sairai-san, one of Royal Heights‘ prominent second-generation ‘model housewives" (see later) described this dilemma when two contradictory sets of ‘necessities’ or "nonnal' habits clash: If I were no work and have some income. I would spend it on my family. There are so many nrcwary [Salrai-san's emphasis] things that I need.
  8. 8. 68 0 Housewivesollapan I don’t think I would want to buy brand-name handbags as I used to do when I was an OL. I'd rather buy my son a soccer ball or some clothing. I still have some brand-name shoes and handbags, a total of five items, but tmly I have no idea how to use them now. When I was an OL I went to sales, I shopped at duty free shops when traveling overseas, just because it was the normal thing to do. In fact. I am not so sure anymore if I really liked them in the first place. Sakai-san still holds onto the precious objects that she now deems useless. whereas others with more entrepreneurial notions or better access to tech- nology actually sold such items of theirs through Amazon Japan. “Where would I use a Chanel bag? "; "Can I wear a brand-name blouse when going to a PTA [Parent-Teacher Association] meeting”; ‘I don’t go out anyway” were the frequent explanations they gave for this explicit act. Putting the practical considerations aside, I believe that this act of aban- doning consumer goods should not be analyzed in terms of puritanism. as such. ” Instead. the act in which the women discarded the epitome: of their happy, consuming years should be regarded as a symbolic act of role initiation. By getting rid of the symbols of their self-oriented hedonistic years as OL. the young married women had initiated themselves into their new social role as wives and mothers. Housewife as a Social Role and Identity Robin beBlanc (1999. p.28) argues that for the women of suburban Japan, "‘housewife' is a label for public identity. " For most women of Royal Heights, becoming a housewife was just the ordinary thing to do or become when they got married. The social role of the "housewife" and, more specifically, the “professional housewife. " has undoubtedly gained rather clear meanings and implications in postwar japan. Women‘; perspectives on the role of the housewife and actually on their social role as women in family and society have been largely affected by the idea of the housewife as the idal woman in middle-class postwarjapan. However, the careful study of women as house- wives does reveal some significant distinctions among women or among those who are often seen and commonly also see themselves as “regular house- wivs” (LeBlanc. 1999). Attentive listening to the women's narratives reveals some other factors that have affected their lives and more particularly their perspectives with regard to their idea of what constitutes a proper housewife and a proper woman. These include some usually neglected “thin” class dif« ferentiations, certain generational gaps, and other structural and personal characteristics. In the following. I begin to explore these particularities by On “Naturally” Becoming Housewives 0 69 focusing on those perspectives of housewifery and women's roles that can- not easily fall into the ordinary housewife category. By doing this. I hope to raise some new questions about the role of the housewife and more generally. about gender roles, gender relations. class and social structure, which will be further developed throughout the book. Model Housewives and Wannabe: At least until the beginning of the l990s, about 90 percent of I3Plfl¢-W identified themselves as ‘middle class‘ (Pempel, I989, p.23). This tendency has usually been analy1.ed in terms of the pervasiveness of “middle-class consciousness" in postwar social life in Japan (Kelly, 2002, pp.236—41). However, although largely accepted. this pervasiveness of the “middle” has been questioned. While most critics concentrate on changes after the burst of the economic bubble (see Ishida and Slater. 2010), a few have expressed a more harsh criticism of the mere idea of Japan as a society of “new middle mass" (see Taira, I993. p.182). The professional housewife has surely become a symbol of postwar mid- dle-class family life. When women in Royal Heights are asked to define their identity or status, whether It is for formal purposes like in surveys or questionnaires or on any other occasion when a self-introduction (jiko rbolm’) is required, they mostly use the label “: hufi4." Nevertheless. as we have already begun to see. not all of them feel satisfied with this role or consider themselves as totally fulfilling the role expectations. Among the women there is. however, a group who are not only proud of their role but are also considered by everyone (which always actually means by all other housewives) to be "model housewives" (s/ ngfit no lmgami). Whereas a "charisma housewife” (a more recent term that will be dis» cussed at length in later chapters) is someone who is usually marked by a special domestic expertise, usually in cooking, baking. or house decoration. a “model housewife” is more of a paragon of perfect role performance as a wife and a mother. I carefully suggest that the model housewife is I sOm¢- what modernized version of the “good wife. wise mother. ” who emerged in Japan at the end of the nineteenth century and at least until the 19805 epitomized the role of the married woman who devotes herself to taking care of the house and her husband and to raising her children. lnoue-san is considered such a model housewife. She is married to a uni- versity pmfessor and is a mother of two girls, aged eight and nine at the time of interview. She worked as an OL at an insurance company after graduat- ing from junior college. Like most of her fellow OL. she quit her job upon marriage. After spending over ten years fully dedicated to housework and
  9. 9. 70 0 Housewivesofiapan child raising, Inoue-san decided to take a simple, part-time ofliee job not far from home. Although at the time of the interview she was working five days a week from 9:00 am. to 3:00 p. m., she insisted that housework remained the “main part of [my] life. ” I consider rbufir my profession, and my prim (part-time work) as a way to pass time. That's why I define myself as rhufit. I'm a r/ rrgfi, who might quit the job suddenly, but I would never quit being a rmgd slmfit. I will be a rmgd slmfia all my life; rargyd slmjir is my profession. Inoue-san said that she does not work at the ofiice "because I want to. " She decided to leave the house for work only because she felt 'lonely' when the girls became busy with school and friends. She had no doubts about her true self, which seems to totally overlap her social role. - Sometirnes at the office, I serve tea or clean the room. [I feel that] my body moves very easily when performing such tasks. Sometimes, some- one ar the office might say, “I'm sorry, Inoue-san, [that you have to do this], ” but I always tell them “don’t worry. this is my real profession. ‘ Following this conviction, Inoue-san, like many other housewives who leave the house for part-time jobs when they become ls: busy with child rearing. is determined to work only as long as her work does not ause any trouble (meiwa/ an n hzkrnar’) or any disturbance to other family members’ sdrodults. Finally, Inoue-san admitted that she works ‘also for the money. ‘ “I don't want to spend all my time doing some volunteer activities, ’ she said, prob- ably eomparing herself to her mother, from the former generation of house- wives. ‘Now [that I am working], I have my own money for traveling or for buying things for myself. Now I'm actually working for [buying] a wine cellar, " she ultimately divulged. Still, one should not be misled to think that all women of Royal Heights who work as part-timers are motivated by the pressing ‘need’ to purchase a wine cellar fill’ their elegant apartments. There are certainly others who are more or [as compelled to work in order to help the family budget. Nevertheless. in the course of the tmearch it became quite evident that those women in the neighborhood who tend to be model housewivu are those who not only married ‘well, ’ but also are likely to be daughters of relatively well-to-do middle-class Families. Mariko seemed to be aware of this tendency for model ho ‘ to run in the family and she often made a point of it to draw my attention. When sending me transcribed interviews as e-mail attachments, Mariko always included a brief explanatory note. This was one of the pattems we On ‘Naturally’ Becoming Housewives 0 71 developed through the yars of our collaborative study. As Mariko boame busier with her work as a translator. sometimes months went by before she could transcribe the interviews we conducted together. Mari| to's introduc- tion would remind me of the person and the circumstances of the interview. The short introduction she wrote when she e-mailed me the transcribed interview with Sakai-san contained the following: Remember her? She is a real shufu no kagarnl, she likes cooklng and housework. Her mother has also been a model housewife who is mar- ried to a model salaryman (sararrman no kagami). She [her mother] used to even bake breads on such a regular basis that it made her dauytter believe, until a rather late age, that breads were usually made by mothers at home, just like rice. Sakai-san, the same woman who told us about her strong conviction, pre- dominantly influenced by her mother, that quitting her job as a computer instructor upon marriage was the right thing to do. and who could keep her useless brand-name items and was not tempted to sell them for money as others did, indeed talked a great deal about her mother. She admired her mother‘: domestic capacities: “my mother makes everything with her own hands; [she even prepares] homemade miso. ” She also told us about her life- long yearning to become a rengri rbrrfia, just like her mother. This same alleged strong yearning to become a housewife seems to char- acrerize those women who are considered model housewives in the neigh- borhood. In all these cases, the impact of their mothers on cultivating such childhood or adolescence dreams is evident. Inoue-san, who told us how she sees her role as a housewife as a lifetime commitment, gave a very similar acoount: From a very young age, my dream was to become a cute young wife (kawoii oyornemr). It wasn't as though my mother [clearly] told me so, but I was raised in such a family. My mother never worked after gradu- ation. She did her bridal training (hanajome . tImgyi), ” without work- ing, and then got married. I was often told this story, so I thought I should follow her. Since I was a child, I was always told. ‘women should be women, men should be men. " so I just thought this is how things should be. [Growing up, ] I wasn’t allowed to go out at night. My neigh- bors used to call me a ‘daughter-in-a-can” (ban-iri rnurrune) instead of a ‘daughter-in—a-box" (halo-in‘ nrurume). In prewar japan, especially in the Kyoto-Osaka arm. the term “bail-o-in’ rnrr. mrn: " was largely used for dmcribirrg the custom of overptotecting
  10. 10. 72 0 Housewivesoflapan marriagaable daughters by confining them at their homs or by restricting their activities out of the house. Thae "boats" of confinement could be intel- lectually as well as physically oppressive ($ievers, 1983, p.34). “ Replacing the “box” with a “can, ” Inoue-san's neighbors apparently gave the phrase a more modern maning and at the same time probably also referred to the excessive strength of the confinement. Sending 0ja‘. mma, ’5 girls from "good families, " to private schooling, especially to single-sex education, is undoubtedly one of the mechanisms for such protection. As we could see by the way Yamaguchi—san related her “natural” choice of a four—year university, it seems that for women who grew up in the right families, this educational path, which allows than to skip the harsh Japanae system of entrance exams and which is in fact unaffordable to most ordinary middle-class families, is practically taken for granted. The protected environment of this educational system seems, however, to be expressed also in these institutes’ educational agenda and values. Yamaguchi-san’s firm attachment to her . r/mfit role. which she sees as “number one and anything else is number two, ” is apparently not based only on her evident attempt to follow the steps of both her mother and her mother-in-law, whom she admires especially for their skillful perseverance (jizu m’ gamut slriteiru). Her determination to become a model housewife was also not only the effect of her mother’s advice to her that ‘becoming a good wife and a good mother will bring her happiness” (ii gamma m‘ mm, ii afasan m’ nam rm warbrbwarr). One of the strongest impacts can actually be found in the unforgettable words of her schoolmaster, who from junior high school through university strongly taught his female students that they should become good mothers (ii whim: nf rmmnuar‘, it’ of-iron m’). In a society that has proclaimed itself to be a middle mass one, class distinctions are naturally too "thin" to be observed, let alone acknowledged. Nevertheless, within the context of the mass of narratives of the "standard" middle—class family background. the protected aristocracy of model house- wives was not the only one to stand out. The "wannabe" middle-clam nar- ratives were no less intriguing. Naturally, unlike those of model housewives, thae narratives are normally much less often heard and are sometimes even muted. However, an attentive listening to womens voices and a careful observation of their lives reveal that some women need to work harder in order to fit in or to join the professional housewives’ club. The rules of entry ttrt: surely not indifferent to class. Shibata-san and Yamada-san are not the only women whose family background does not exactly fit that of the “standard middle—class family. " However, the striking similarity between their social and economic back- grounds and their rather uncommon views about what constitutes a perfect On "Naturally" Becoming Housewives I 73 housewife were too intriguing to be ignored. Later in the book, when I focus on discourses of class and change in Royal Heights, we will get a closer acquaintance with Shibatavsan's experience and views, as they were revealed in a memorably long and intimate conversation with her and her mother. In this lengthy conversation, she expressed surprisingly critical views on current housewives and their unacceptable conduct. Like her, Yamada-san articulated extremely old-fashioned or “traditional” views about the role of the housewife. Yamada-san and Shibata-san were not in any manner raised as pampered daughters-in-a-box. They both married atypically young. in their very early 20s, and they both left home before their marriage, or “played around to a dangerous level, " as one of them put it. Whereas both families were lucky enough to purchase an apartment in the comfortable mans/ um of Royal Heights, their husbands’ definition as salarymen seems to relate to those stretchrs of the term that have come to cover almost any more or less regu- larly working man. As for their natal families, Yamada-san’s father was in fact not a regular salaryman—he had his own small business, and her mother had to work as his income was irregular. Shibata-san's father was a salaryman, but he worked for a small company that allowed the family only a relatively meager middle-class lifestyle. In both cases, however, the parents made efforts to produce a middle-class environment or consciousness. Yamada-san recalls how her father always insisted that her mother would quit her job at some point in time, which is very typical of salarymen who wish to create the right middle-class image of the breadwlnner. Shibata-san's mother was so eager to play the proper role of: professional housewife that she did not worlt outside although the family needed the money, and instead she became intensely involved in typical full-time housewives’ activities such as voluntary work and a demanding PTA participation. Iust like Shibau-san, who took time to agree to talk with us, and finally oonscnted only on her own terms (a joint conversation with her mother to take place at her own apartment), Yamada-san preferred to meet Mariko and me at her home. She does not go out very much and feels more comfortable in her own apartment. Sitting at her dining table with her younger daughter playing around, she begins by telling us her views on contemporary house- wives and their lack of respect for the "pillar" of the household. I think that housewives have actually become too strong. My father was very powerful. He was the pillar (dailtalrubaslrira) that held up our family. He was our leader. “ Now, I try to do the same. I try to make the kids respect my husband. When we eat, I begin by saying. "Father, tntcuse us
  11. 11. 74 I Housewivesofjapan for eating before you” (arisen arakini itadzéinmnr). I say it even when he is not here [at home]. it is in fact very rare that we can all eat together. Yamada-san has three children. Her husband is a salaryman but not a typi- cal one who spends all day at the ofiice. His hours are not set, and he often works weekends. Like many other women we interviewed, Yamada-san says that her occupation (rlmlrugyd) is mtgyd I/ Iufia. However, when I ask her what this occupation means for her, she expressu a rather distinct view: [The] mrgi r/ mfia is normally considered the one in charge of house- work. She is the one that does the laundry, the cleaning and the child ruring. But, for me, it also means to make a place where my husband can relax himself. Always before he comes back home [from work] I try to prepare everything in the house and make it clean and nice, especially for him to relax. Both Yamadaasan and Shibata-san convey a rather excessive identifiution with the role of the housewife. They also hold to a very rigid and patri- archlc concept of the division of gender roles. However, differently from model housewives. neither mentions any memory of a yearning (alragnre) to become a housewife at adolescence. In fact, Yamada-san openly confessed that she ‘hated housework in general so [she] never dreamed or thought about becoming a professional housewife. " Yamada-san, lilte Shibata-san, who clung to the company of her mother, is aware that her views are not very common among the housewives in her neighborhood. They both tend not to associate much with other housewives in Royal Heights. As Yamada-san explains. she cannot tolerate the "rlnrfir of these days who have lunches at nice restaurants while their husbands (artisan), who are working so hard. have the cheapest lunches. ‘ Her neigh- bors. on their part, may have never heard the views she felt free to express in the interview but at any rate regard her as somewhat difletent and hard to socialize with. Likewise. Shibata-san has a strong aversion toward “new-type housewives, ‘ who forget their proper role of total dediution to house and child rearing. and is particularly disgusted by their latest tendency to ‘have their nails done. ‘ Two uses of women who aresimilat in their class background and apress similar “traditional” views about gender roles are surely not enough for gen- eralizing. Nevertheless. in the context of talks with many other women in the same neighborhood. I date no suggst that just like in the use of model housewives, whose class background and socialization did not leave them many other options but to “naturally” become perfect housewives, On "Naturally" Becoming Housewives 0 75 so is the use with women of la favorable class background. In their case, their excessively “traditional” views with regard to the gendered role of the housewife may be interpreted as a mechanism to overcome their relative incompatibility with the social class required for the production of proper professional, let alone model. housewives. The Younger Generation of Happy Housewives I have always felt a kind of generation gap (or maybe they are just another kind of people) with this mothers’ group. I fell that they enjoyed them- selves too much, much more than when I was raising Yulti. ” They seem to be together all the time, eating lunch and dinner together (almost everyday, it seemed). I was worried about what could happen to their private lives, because they seem to be too close to each other. The group is about six or seven mothers, always loudly talking to each other and with their children. Chaosl They also go traveling together with their hus- bands, another incredible thing lor me, because my husband would never [agree Io go]. Mariko's introduction to the transcribed conversation with Hara-san and Kaneko-san Mariko and I met Hara-san and Kaneko-san at the nice cake shop in the neighborhood where we conducted some of the interviews. The fancy shop seemed to agree with the two elegant-looking young women. Mariko first met Hara-san at the park and had always been imprused by the careful attention Hara-san gave to her daughter’: “cute” (kawaii) look. Whereas Marilto's relationship with Kaneko-san was one of “just saying hello. " she had always thought that Kaneko-: an’s daughter was very beautiful and wanted to recommend that the try modeling. When Marilto asked Hara-san if she was willing to be interviewed, it was very natural that her close friend, Kanelto-san, be asked to join as well. It is hard to say whether the “generation gap" Mariko mentioned in her introduction to the transcribed interview is really related to the mere four or five yurs of age difierenoe between her and these “young” mothers. If anything. it may better reflect the elfect of the age of their first child, or, to put it more deatiy, the specific social context in which they became moth- ets. In any use, the diflerenoes she was pointing at are worthy of note. This "young rengyi xbajia group, " as Mariko referred to them in an introduction to an interview with other women of the same or a similar group of young. happy housewives, "seem to feel fewer obligations about mxga rlmfii life. as if enjoying [themselves] very much. ”
  12. 12. 76 o Housewivesoilapan As much as Mariko was bewildered by this ‘mothers’ group, " it was apparently not their tendency to “be together all the time‘ that she found perplexing. Sengyd rlnrfir in fact tend to give high priority to their “inside group” unit (nalramn), which consists of mothers from their neighborhood; similar units have been observed by others (Hendry, 1992, pp. l7l—2). I have also already mentioned the significance women give to the “well-side confer- ences" in Royal Heights. What Mariko saw as unusual was that their closed circle was based on enjoyment and on an active attempt to make life full of pleasure and recreation. rather than on obligatory, perfunctory meetings. The younger generation of happy housewives in Royal Heights seems to represent a somewhat novel attitude toward the idea of the “good wife, wise mother, " or even the basic ideal of the housewife. Wheres their life plan appears to have followed a very similar route to that of “regular” housewives. they seem to have never had any clear aspirations to become model house- wives. However, their position is not a result of any inferiority they may feel toward perfect housewives. This new image of the housewife who does not necessarily have to be hard working, suffer (bird), or endure (gaman) has been defined as the ‘new orientation of housewives” (shin mayo‘ r/114?: shika‘). This new wife and mother is allowed to enjoy herself, to pursue her own hobbies and interests, and, very importantly, after finding the “right” husband, she knows how to use him and his money to do so. " Is this new generation of happy housewives creating a new reality for Japanese women? Are they the harbingcrs of a major change in women's lives and gender roles? Later chapters will further tackle these questions and related issues, both, as they appear in the discourses and narratives of the women of Royal Heights and as they are discussed, criticized, debated, and reproduced in the public sphere. In the meantime. however, I bring to a close this attempt to look at the natural order of things that made the women of Royal Heights into housewives by looking at the small group of women who are not full-time housewives. Woddng Mothers or Non-Full-Time Housewives Housewives. and more particularly full-time or professional housewives. are the main lbcus of this study. The great majority of women interviewed were not employed, at least when their children were young. They followed the general tendency of Japanese women to leave the workplace for childcare and adhered to the strong belief that mothers must take care of young children, as epitomiwd in the three-years-old myth. Their later return to the labor force, upturned by the typiml M-curve pattern. is usually to part-time, nonregular, and low-paid jobs, as will be discussed at length in the next chapter. On ‘Naturally’ Becoming Housewives 0 77 Neverthelus, among the women with whom we spoke there was a small number who had some experience working full time when their children were babies. Being a working mother carries with it superfluous burdens. It is still women—and not only in ]apan—who have to perform most of the work in what Arlie Hochschild (2005) has referred to as the "second shift, " mean- ing the houschold duties awaiting the return of those who work outside their home. Bolton (2000) has aniculated the "third shift, ” which signifiu the inner dialogue and self—doubt working mothers tend to experience. However, Japanese middle-class women seem to need even more support than American or Israeli women in order to make the decision to carry on with their (outside) work after having children. The narratives of those few mothers who experi- enced full-time work reveal the social. cultural, and institutional difficulties facing women who dare to go against the “natural order of things. ” Okamoto-san was in fact the only one among the interviewees who was a firll-time worker at the time of the interview. When she gave birth to her only child she took a maternity leave for a year and then went back to the same workplace in the public sector, which is known for its relative support- ive and encouraging conditions for working mothers. Okamoto-san is well aware of the favorable environment of the public sector, which she describes as having “no gender discrimination, ” at least with regard to working condi- tions and paid holidays, though not necessarily with regard to promotion and the accessibility of managing positions. The private sector seems to offer much less favorable working conditions for mothers. The situation for women employees in Japan began changing in the mid-I980s, with the passage of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law (EEOL) and increasing globalization. Nevertheless. despite the admin- istrative guidance approach to enforcing “family (or woman)-friendly” leg- islation, it is mostly larger companies and especially foreign firms that have endorsed ‘woman-friendly’ programs (see Roberts, 2007). Moreover; as we have heard from Endoh-san above, who used to work for such a “woman- friendly" company. the formal title is not always in accord with the actual working environment. The condition is apparently much worse when a young mother wants to make a fresh start in the labor market. Okada—san left her job in the private sector at marriage and, after spending two years at home with her son, decided to try to go back to full-time work. She was willing to work hard and long hours using the facilitis of a day care center; nevertheless, her experience had been very discouraging: I'm too old. I'm thirty-three, and the companies want [women in their] twenties. There is a huge difference [between the two age groups]. I also
  13. 13. 78 o Housewivesoflapan need to have the option to take a day off when my child is sick. It’s the most important condition for me for any job. Working for the previous three years or so as a contracted worker through a temporary agency, Okada-san was not paid well and did not have any kind of security or social benefits. She had also lost any hope of finding a permanent job. As much as a supportive labor market is essential for convincing women not to follow the regular path and stay at home. a supporting husband is no doubt another crucial factor in the decision to take this uncommon step. Husbands’ (and children’s) approval seems to be considered as required even in the case of part-time jobs, and certainly no woman would even think about taking a full-time job before consulting her husband. There are. however, also some structural fictors to be considered. A senior colleague of 0kamoto—san. who joined the conversation at Okamoto-san’s pleasant apartment. was one of the first women at her job to keep her position after having children. Talking about the difficulties of working mothers. she said that "it's only natural” that most women who keep theirjobs are married to men who are employed in "any kind of job that is not that ofa regular sala— ryman. " She soon further explained: "otherwise. how can she [any woman] do it [keep her job]—what [would she do] if her husband had to move on a job transfer (rail-in)? " Job transfers. which are central to the Japanese labor market. are surely one of the symbols of total commitment to the company. in fact, other women used the threat of their own job transfers to explain why they could not even think of pursuing permanent positions, as it was unimaginable that their husbands would join them if they had to move to another city. Another significant factor in the decision to work is the parental. espe- cially the mother's, position. Whereas very few women can act as t2regiv- ets for their grandchildren since most ‘new families" live far away from grandparents. their views and moral support seem to be no less significant in the case of working mothers as they were in the case of those women who became full-time housewives. Hasegawa-san had not worked full time after childbirth but had been working a few days a week since her child was a baby. While her salaryman husband never clearly opposed her work, he was typically not very enthusiastic about it and often reminded her that her outside work should not affect child rearing or housework. in her case, her mother was a significant role model: After moving to Osaka [due to my husband's job transfer]. I was a full- time housewife for only three months before realizing that this doesn't On ‘Naturally’ Becoming Housewives 0 79 suit me. I had not desired to become one before marriage My mother has been always working. I respect her [for that]. [i think] she, who is not a professional housewife, is great Crureh‘) with her own job and position. Unlike Hasegawa-san's mother, Okada-san's mother was a full-time house- wife. Neverthelss, she strongly encouraged her daughter to go out of the house, tdling her that it was in fact as good for her to have her own world as it was for her child to have a mother who has her own world. Okada-can believed that her mother wanted for her daughter something that she could not have-—she had wanted to work but instead stayed at home. Okada-san’s mother also promised that she would help her daughter tarry on with work. There is at least one more critical obstacle a mother should overcome befizre she decides to go out to work. She has to be prepared to use the facilities of a day care center (hvikum). The force of this obstacle gradually became clear to me (and in fact also to Mariko) as we repeatedly heard the same phrase “bani-urn ni azukm made, " roughly translated as “[not] to the level of leaving [my child] in the care of a day care center, ” when mothers tried to explain whether they ever thought about having full-time work, Day care centers are not regarded as of poorer quality compared with kindergar- rcns when it comes to childcare and education. As a matter of fact, not a few of the mothers considered the “veteran” day—care-center workers as better caregivers than the less experienced kindergarten teachers. The difference which is epitomized in the "nor to the level of" phrasing lies in a deeper structural distinction. Kindergartens (vi: /rim) are usually open half-days and cater to children aged four and five, whereas lraibum (day care centers) accept children from a very early age and operate much longer hours. The meaning of this dis- tinction is taken to be that day care centers are only for the use of working mothers (single, divorced, or married), and kindergarten; are for the use of full-time housewives. This concept is formally supported by the day care system itself. which allows only mothers who can prove that they are work- ing to enroll their kids. ” The significance of the provision of social support such as parental leave and daycare centers has been acknowledged by the Japanese government as a means to encourage women to join the labor force and to help both men and women to balance work and household responsibilities (see Osawa, 2005). Nevertheless, it is paradoxically in these same instinrtions that are assumed to be supportive that mothers find the most unsupportive attitude; they are often faced with teachers who hold to "traditional" views about the mother’: place at home (see Steury. 1993). Working mothers are often reproarhed by caregivers who may scold them by saying that the day care system should
  14. 14. so 0 Housewivesoilapan only be used when mothers rally have to work and not when they are pursu- ing careers for their own satisfaction (White, 2002. pp.58—9). Furthermore, the uonsupporrive position of day care centers is in effect revealed in the heavy duty that they impose on mothers. Endoh-san, who had always been feeling guilty for not being a good-enough mother when she was working full time and who had finally decided to resign and become a good mother and full-time housewife. related that one of her greatest reliefs was that she no longer had to carry the heavy burden ofperfomring as a good day—t-are-center mother. She could not forget thou sleepless nights when she had to prepare a handmade doll for her daughter as a small substi- tute for her own absence, or to embroider her daughter’: class’s cute squirrel symbol on some clothing. She also found the burden of the compulsory use ofcloth diapers, which the mothers had to wash every night as a symbol of their 'motherly self-sacrifice and dedication, “ as very tiring and frustrating. Endoh-sen was very clear about the aim and purpose of all this excessive duty: ‘working mothers have less time to spend with their kids, [so] they [the day-care-center teachers] use such obligations so that the children can feel their mothers’ love. " And in the end. day care centers, just like other institutions in contemporary japan, may use this imposition of motherly tasks to convince those mothers who can afford it that their “natural” place is at home. Intertext IV 2004 From: Mariko Sent: Tuesday. January 20. 2004, Il:00 PM To: Ofra Subject: |Talteuc| tl)-san's Interview and more. . . Dear Ofra About [Takeuchi]-san [one of the women we interviewed] and I: I think I feel that we are similar at the point that somehow we both have quite an old way of thinking. And both of us are now realizing that our idea is too old. When I got married and maybe until quite recently, I had the idea that wives should respect their husbands if they want to build a stable family. And If we respect them, they will tom into. ..respectfu| per- sons. (I) I also thought that mothers receive the job of raising children from god and that we should do that without being unsatisfied, giving all our soul to them [our children). [I also thought] that we shouldn't ask someone else to carry out this sacred job, if we do that, it's like running away from your responsibility (haha to shine subeki koto [what we should do as molhersl). A friend of mine from the university (she is not married yet). ..to| d me that she was surprised how I've changed after I got married, [as] she didn't expect me to be so conservative. And even though I told her how happy and satisfied I was being a sengyri shulu, since I didn't look happy at all, she didn't feel any envy [of] me. when you and I talked the other day with Mana-chanl'sl mama [my neighbor], I really could understand what she said. [I saw how she looked I just like me [a] few years before, trying to convince herself that she should (eel happy raising children. And for more, when I saw her changing Into la] very tired shufu each time we met, as she was a quite beautiful lady before having Mana-chan, I felt really sad and many times I wanted to tell her that she can be more free, site doesn't have to be a prisoner of her job as haha [mommy]