Commentary Magazine


Women in Japan

To the Editor:

Women are, indeed, treated differently from men in Asia, as noted by Francis Fukuyama in his excellent article, “Asian Values and the Asian Crisis” [February]. This is a great source of strength in these societies and one that women themselves, at least in Japan, have a high stake in preserving.

It is true that in Japan one does not find women in the halls of power in politics or business. Japanese women, however, are supreme in other, more important areas: first, they control the money in most families, and second, they are responsible for rearing the children, including, of course, overseeing their education. The husband is given an allowance for his daily needs, and the wife handles all other expenses, including the all-important saving for the children’s education and the parents’ old age. It cannot be stressed too much how important education is in Japan. I would say that it is the single most important goal of the family, since securing entrance to a good university will largely determine a child’s success in finding suitable employment; and for girls, in finding a suitable mate.

Accordingly, this means that women are responsible for two closely related endeavors upon which the foundations of Japanese society (any society) are built; and this in turn gives women in Japan an enormous amount of power and prestige. The idea of Western feminists that female fulfillment resides in working in traditionally male occupations, and their almost complete lack of interest in children and child-rearing, have not taken hold in Japan. In opinion poll after opinion poll, women have made it abundantly clear that their main goal in life is to marry and have children.

What we find in Japanese society, therefore, is a clear delineation of the roles of men and women, with the latter’s role often superior to that of the former. This gives Japanese women a high stake in preserving and maintaining the status quo and will, I believe, continue to spare the country what Mr. Fukuyama calls “the social disruption that has attended economic change in the West.” After all, drastic economic change has already come to Japan, and for a rather long time now.

Chet Gottschalk
Sagamibara City, Japan

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