When colleagues at work boast about their wives' prowess in the kitchen, Mr T, a 43-year-old staff member at an IT company, can only gnash his teeth in envy. Although he's been married for eight years, his better half seems to have no common sense at all toward menu preparation.
Mr T had recently shelled out 50,000 yen for one of those newfangled devices that automatically bakes bread using rice as the main ingredient. His wife took to it with a vengeance. Now she bakes a loaf every other day. This, and a warmed-up plate of semi-prepared food from the supermarket is what she serves for supper. Dishes from that morning's breakfast remain piled in the sink.
"The bread really came out great again today," she gushes to him. Big deal, he shrugs -- the whole process is automated, so she'd have to try hard not to get it right.
Mr S, age 45, works for an ad agency. Declining revenues has resulted in a cut of 500,000 yen from his annual salary. Since his child just started primary school from April, he suggested his wife consider taking a part-time job to help ends meet.
"She flatly refused, going as far to say 'I don't want to work any more,'" he sighs to Nikkan Gendai (May 20). "At the time she graduated from school and began looking for work, times were hard, but even back then, her goal was to become a full-time housewife. She finally got her wish, and now she's dead set against going back to work, even part time. But would that be so horrible? It's not like she's a showbiz celebrity or something."
Up to last month, Mr S had handed over his entire pay packet to his wife. From this month he stopped.
About a decade ago, a government report in Great Britain coined the term NEET, an acronym for "Not in Education, Employment or Training." It was applied to people between the ages of 16 and 24. Japanese quickly picked up the term, and widened the NEET eligibility from the ages 15 to 34. It also included housework in the criteria.
Nikkan Gendai reports that NEET housewives in their 30s appear to be on the increase. According to the most recent survey on labor trends, conducted by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, 42% of females in their 30s agreed with the statement, "Husbands should work outside the home and wives should be full-time home makers." That figure marked a 7% rise over the previous survey and the first increase since the survey began in 1993.
As long as wives perform a reasonable amount of house chores and look after the kids, the tabloid concedes, husbands shouldn't begrudge what they do in their spare time. But all too often they become wrapped up in some outside interest.
Mr M, a 43-year-old staff member of a printing company, looks at a copy of the women's magazine his wife regularly peruses and snarls, "That's a total sham!"
The object of Mr M's ire is a special section in the magazine about the dolce vita lives of what it calls "Mama-san Models." A weekly activities calendar includes such entries as "Wednesdays: café lunch with cronies in Futago-Tamagawa" and "Saturday: invite kids to a home party." The articles encourage wives to engage in conspicuous consumption and -- all the more vexing -- disregards the very existence of the hardworking hubby, who appears neither in the articles' photos nor the text.
After the March 11 earthquake, Mr M's spouse dutifully donated her old items of clothing to disaster victims in Tohoku. That same evening, she returned with an armload of shopping bags. "Everything was on sale for just for two days," she told him breathlessly.
Although the public is being encouraged to conserve electricity, Mr M has noticed that when he returns home in the evening, as often as not, his wife will be curled up on the sofa, snoring loudly, with the television turned on.
"Being a busy housewife really takes it out of one," Mr M remarks caustically.© Japan Today