"My husband and I live together with his parents," the 29-year-old woman writes in Shukan Gendai (June 19). "My in-laws have been tolerant of my unfamiliarity with housework, and my mother-in-law in particular has been a big help, doing the cooking and cleaning while I was pregnant."
So what's her problem? After taking a bath, it seems both her in-laws are in the habit of prancing around the house in their underwear.
"My father-in-law puts on trousers but stays bare from the waist up. 'Before, I used to walk around completely naked,' he told me. While I was growing up, not even my own brother and sister ever went around the house in their underwear. My husband said to me, 'Can't you put up with that at least?' But I'm really at a loss about what to do."
Similar tribulations can be read every day in the Yomiuri Shimbun's famous Jinsei Sodan advice column, Japan's equivalent of Dear Abby.
"For over 20 years, my husband has been secretly putting on women's clothes," complains a woman in her 50s. "I tried to talk to him about it, but he just looked down and mumbled, 'I must be sick,' and refused to discuss it further. If he can manage on his own, I want to leave him."
The column's response typically calls for patience and tact.
"This kind of interest is part of your husband's personality, his second nature, so to speak," the counselor advises. "I suppose you can't make him stop. . . If you have no other problems, I think the best thing is to accept that your husband has a kinky aspect to his personality and leave it at that."
One of the column's contributors, Keisen University Professor Masami Ohinata, says she replies to seven or eight letters at a time. Reviewing and rewriting the drafts typically takes her at least four to five days.
The dozen sample letters appearing in Shukan Gendai range from a married woman embarrassed over an old tattoo she got during her wild youth to a husband flustered over his wife's pachinko addiction. Complaints over the behavior by in-laws seem to be most common.
"My father-in-law, who became a widower two years ago, came to live with us," writes a 54-year-old woman. "We never hear a peep from his room, and he's meticulous in the bath and toilet. The problem is, two or three times a week he goes to a sex shop."
How does she know this? The shop provides pickup services for customers in a large foreign car with out-of-prefecture license plates.
"The driver, a young man with dyed hair, rings the doorbell and Dad nonchalantly says, 'Well, I'm off.' When a neighbor asked me what was going on, I just told them I had no idea," she says.
When poking around in the old boy's briefcase, the daughter-in-law also found a business card from the shop with 'Hope you'll come again' scrawled in a young female's handwriting.
"When I brought it up with my husband, he said, 'It's no big deal,' and wouldn't discuss it any further," the woman rues. "Certainly, no one is being hurt by Dad's going to these places, but if he has that much money to spend, I'd rather he leave it to his grandchildren."
Shigehiko Toyama, professor emeritus at Ochanomizu Women's University, puts a positive spin on dealing with life's annoyances.
"It would be a great mistake to think that a good life is one with no troubles or stumbles," he observes. "Rather, dealing with problems offers us an opportunity to use them as a springboard for development. To do such and such, first of all we have to ponder our next move. Then we ask advice from others. The bigger the negative, the greater a positive that is likely to result."© Japan Today