History · Japan

The history of… (part 1)

I live in Japan.  I haven’t been married long (a little over a year) and my husband and I just celebrated 3 years together.  He’s Japanese.

Japan is a country steeped in tradition.  They pride themselves on their ideals and their values however outdated they may be.  These staunch traditionalists strove to hold onto their values and was even a closed country for 250 years.  Bottom line?  Japan doesn’t change easily.  Here’s the bad news, Japan is an aging country with a declining birthrate.  In 2005 it was estimated that Japanese women would only have (on average) one baby within their lifetime.  This is not enough to sustain Japan’s population (2 babies per woman would be needed to do so).  One of the main reasons for Japan’s declining birthrate is women in the workforce.  Women wanted to work (rightly so) and because of Japan’s ancient way of thinking, they couldn’t work if they wanted to have a family.  Many older Japanese people believe a woman’s place is in the home, so if a woman who had a job wanted to have a family she couldn’t do both and had to quit her job.  So they had to choose.  Work?  Or family?  Some women chose work over family, and some people married late in life or not at all.  Of course, women could go back to work after having a child but because of Japan’s old style value system, many women who have returned to work have been bullied and shamed (for not taking care of their children) by their coworkers and even superiors.  It’s no wonder the birthrate began to decline.  Some women themselves hold on to this old way of thinking and quit their jobs immediately after getting married.  I’m not saying this is wrong.  I’m saying that a woman should be able to do what she wants (not what she is forced to do by societal standards), and if she chooses, a woman can have it all.  It should be her choice.  The good news is that Japan is trying to change this by offering more parental leave and by encouraging women to return to their jobs after having children.  However, remember that aging population I mentioned?  These are the strongest opponents (and voters) who don’t want Japan to change at all.  Incidentally, these are the same people who don’t want foreigners in Japan, but that’s a rant for another day.  So why all this talk about Japan’s aging population and declining birthrate?  Because I still see so many BABIES EVERYWHERE!

There I said the title of the blog in the blog.  Here’s a Family Guy clip on that.  I guess when something is on our mind we have an increased awareness of it.  Day in and day out I am constantly running into (not literally) babies with their giant heads of hair.  Of course, that could be due to my daytime hours (man I don’t leave the house at night in this cold weather).  This journey is gonna be hard.

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