Instead, they are conflicted by their feelings of responsibility and the mixed reactions that they receive from women in the Japanese society. Suzuki (2007) reports that many Japanese men consider Japanese women "too demanding" (p. 432). A greater number of Japanese men have sought marriage partners outside of Japan due to the disconcerting roles that are expected of them. Since Japanese women no longer feel comfortable with the assumed traditional Japanese family roles, men who desire to live by the traditional masculine traits have increasingly taken Filapina brides (Suzuki 2007). Such women are able to mesh better in a family environment with traditional Japanese husbands and fathers, who do not know how to reconcile their masculinity and the independent Japanese woman (Suzuki 2007).
Men are also finding a new role in fatherhood, often hampered by their instinct to be a "hands-off" father. In one case described by Seto, Becker & Akutso (2006), a businessman sought counseling because of his inability to process a situation in which his wife had left his family due to their son's delinquent behavior. Not only was the man unable to relate to his teenage son, but he was also completely unaware of his wife's unhappiness. As a result, he was surprised and confused by her leaving and did not know how to proceed as a single father. This lack of awareness, born out of a male familial aloofness, is very common among husbands and fathers in Japan (Seto, Becker & Akutso 2006).
Fathering is perhaps the most difficult change for men who are expected to maintain their masculine traits while adapting to a new family model. Fathering is difficult for Japanese men because they have internal conflicts between maintaining a socially acceptable masculine facade and attending to family needs (Seto, Becker & Akutso, 2006). While their new social position has necessitated that they have more hands-on contact with home and family life, their traits stay the same because they are so ingrained in the social fabric.
Though studies report that men are now less masculine than stereotypes expect them to be, "Japanese society still strongly believes and practices a gendered division of labor in which a man's place is at work and woman's place is at home" (Sugihara & Katsurada 2000, p. 311). Further, both men and women in modern Japan were found to favor male stereotypes, especially in comparison with female stereotypes, when tested (Sugihara & Katsurada 2002). The conflict from these social beliefs makes it difficult for men to find their place in the family unit because they are torn between adjusting to the modern social changes or bowing to long-standing social expectations.
While Japanese men have retained the masculinity, they no longer have the power that masculinity formerly ensured. While Japanese men do appear to have maintained the traditional traits expected of them for hundreds of years, those traits no longer have the social structure to reinforce man's hierarchy in the family. He may still be aloof and uninvolved with the direction of the family home life, but that no longer guarantees him the respect and reverence that was so long assumed.
While Confucianism once dictated the family life of Japan, it now seems to affect the individual traits but not the overall social traits. In other words, individual men still hold the ideals of hierarchy and discipline but they have no social structure to back up these ideals. They may remain distant but this no longer gives them power or even a happy family life. Technology and social change in modern Japan has made these ideals obsolete, demanding much more from the men of Japan: they must choose between the long-standing demands of masculinity and the roles that are emerging for them as active fathers and husbands who no longer seek power in the home but sustainability.
Roberson, J. (2003). Men and masculinities in contemporary Japan: Beyond the urban salaryman model. London: RoutledgeCurzon.
Seto, a., Becker, K.W., and Akutsu, M. (2006, Fall). Counseling Japanese men on fathering. Journal of Counseling & Development, 84, pp. 488-492.
Sugihara, Y., and Katsurada, E. (2002, Nov). Gender role development in Japanese culture: Diminishing gender role differences in a contemporary society. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, pp. 443-452.
Sugihara, Y., and Katsuradam, E. (2000). Gender-role personality traits in Japanese…