lifestyle

Japanese mother compares child-rearing techniques in U.S. and Japan

38 Comments
By Preston Phro

Raising children is always difficult, regardless of the country you live in. Whether it’s changing diapers or dealing with the “terrible twos,” it can sometimes seem like children exist solely to make their parents’ lives difficult.

But certain cultural and social factors can have a big impact on the whole process, as one Japanese mother explains after moving back to her home country after many years in the U.S.

The always-insightful Japanese website Madame Riri has posted an article detailing five differences one Japanese mother noticed between Japan and the United States. A professional photographer who lived in New York with her husband and child for many years before returning to Japan in 2010, Ms Inoue presents a unique perspective on many cultural differences.

1. What are the dietary restrictions for pregnant women?

This is sure to be a controversial topic. Food, in all its many forms, tends to be a hot topic in general, but never more so than when it comes to expectant mothers. As the article notes, mothers living in New York are told never to consume sushi, coffee, alcohol, or raw cheese. On the other hand, the author mentions that Japanese doctors weren’t so strict and didn’t mention any dietary restrictions. In fact, one Japanese book she found suggested that a cup of coffee or wine a day was fine.

2. Mothers’ conversations

Though more and more mothers are taking up full-time jobs in Japan, the number of housewives is still fairly high. The article suggests that most women in the U.S. continue working even after marriage and having children. As the article’s author was herself a working mother, she said that she had trouble finding other Japanese women who could understand her situation.

Another issue she noticed was a difference in how mothers communicated in the two countries. While mothers in the U.S. were open about discussing (and complaining about) their home lives, partners, and children, it seems that Japanese mothers are less likely to mention anything negative. The author went on to say that she at first wondered if maybe other mothers in Japan were simply living perfect lives. Obviously this wasn’t the case: Japanese mothers are simply more reluctant to discuss their private problems.

3. Party time

Just because you have a kid (or two or three) doesn’t mean that your life is over and you’re doomed to inescapable boredom. Whether in Japan or the United States, families get together for small parties all the time. But the author of the article noted one huge difference between the two countries: In Japan, men and women are sharply divided into separate groups.

While a party in the U.S. will usually see everyone chatting together in one room, drinking and eating, Japanese parties tend to end up with women in the kitchen while men sit in the living room. The author explained that in Japan it is unimaginable for wives to be friends with others’ husbands.

4. Date night

More than just a Steve Carell and Tina Fey movie, date nights are often considered an important part of marriage in the U.S. Not so much in Japan.

The article’s author explains that Japanese men often eat after work with their colleagues, leaving their wives to eat at home alone or with the children. And while American couples will regularly hire a babysitter and go out for a night on the town, Japanese couples rarely go out more than once a year – for the wife’s birthday. The reason seems to be that once a Japanese woman has a child, she is no longer a “woman” or a “wife” but a “mother.”

5. Peace of mind in Japan

But it’s not all negatives for Japan. While Japanese culture may seem limiting for mothers–especially mothers coming back from abroad, there are still some positive aspects like financial peace of mind.

The author explains that, no matter how much money you have, it seems like it all disappears once you have children in the U.S., paying for school, medical bills, rent, and on and on and on! Japan, on the other hand, makes it a bit more manageable. Child care and school are usually quite cheap, as are medical costs. In fact, Japanese mothers get 420,000 yen (about $4,200) for the delivery of each baby. The author added that her husband, an American, even went so far as to joke that “living in Japan is like living in a senior citizen’s home.”

It is important to note that the author of the article went from living in New York City to a rural part of Shizuoka Prefecture, so it is possible that her experiences would be different in a large city like Tokyo. Still, it’s impossible to deny that culture differences certainly do exist.

Sources: Madame Riri, Zenkoku Kenko Hoken Kyokai

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Tea and a chat with award-winning illustrator Yuko Shimizu -- Increasing Number of Japanese Men Opting for Bachelorhood -- Mother Unable to Tell Quadruplets Apart, Shaves Numbers into Their Heads

© RocketNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

38 Comments
Login to comment

The author added that her husband, an American, even went so far as to joke that “living in Japan is like living in a senior citizen’s home.”

A "joke" likely to become reality if they can't raise the birth rate; I doubt that 420,000 yen per kid is going to cut it.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

once a Japanese woman has a child, she is no longer a woman or a wife but a mother.

This is something that people need to keep in mind when marrying a Japanese.

A few years ago an American acquaintance asked me if I could babysit for one night a week, so that she and her husband could have date nights. When I told this to my Japanese co-workers, they were absolutely flabbergasted. One of them even said "date night? Why does she need to date him? She's already caught him, hasn't she?"

8 ( +12 / -4 )

The food comment seems off to me. I was told no raw fish and to stay clear of cold items like ice cream or juice. It was also recommended that I "range up" my salad...who would ever eat a microwaved salad?!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Child care and school are usually quite cheap, as are medical costs.

What a curious thing to say. If raising a child is so cheap in Japan, then why is the birthrate so low?

2 ( +10 / -8 )

As long as they willing to stay in the kitchen.

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

Just because you have a kid (or two or three) doesn’t mean that your life is over and you’re doomed to inescapable boredom.

Raising a kid isn't boring. It's one of the most invigorating and satisfying things anyone can do.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Hardly anything at all in that article about child-rearing techniques. Rocket News strikes again.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Japanese mothers are simply more reluctant to discuss their private problems.

What?? Are you having a laugh??

Apart from that it was very accurate I thought.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Utter crap! Usual idiotic comparing Japan with America trash.

I agree with Cleo, the children are what brings more life to you not life is over!

I live in Japan and i have children. I go out a couple of times a week, about once a month it may be a late one. I'll go out with the family 4 or 5 times a month and for somewhere special with my wife only a couple of times a month. You don't need child care in a proper marriage, one of the parents or extended family look after the children. God forbid putting in paid care with minimum wage workers, some who may be there for dubious reasons.

Having our first child took me out of manic depression (bi polar) i had suffered since 13 as i was so busy and focused that it took all the symptoms away. If you want a child to love, you will make sure you can afford and you really want and that child is with a loving family member 24/7 for the first few years at least.

2 ( +10 / -8 )

I love number three. It is so true. When I first came to Japan and started dating I remember those girlfriends saying, "I can't meet you on such and such day because I have to meet my friend" and feeling like I had been ditched. You go out TOGETHER, not separately. The thing which Preston fails to add on is that this 'separate lifestyle' thing, where you don't be friends with other husbands, means your own husband or wife does not at all know whom you are actually with -- making affairs extremely easy. Ironic.

8 ( +12 / -4 )

At least the article doesn't smack of "we do it better than you" cultural superiority. It seems to be fairly well balanced.

I also agree with Oikawa though. Just because Japanese mothers (and fathers) don't twitter about their private problems for the world to see, doesn't mean they don't discuss them with people they trust.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

While mothers in the U.S. were open about discussing (and complaining about) their home lives, partners, and children, it seems that Japanese mothers are less likely to mention anything negative.

You know, in my experience dealing with both American and Japanese mothers, it's the Japanese ones who do the most complaining. I usually take their complaints, especially about their husbands, with a grain of salt. American women are a lot more discreet, but will confide their problems if they feel they can trust you.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

TriumvereSep. 06, 2013 - 07:55AM JST A "joke" likely to become reality if they can't raise the birth rate; I doubt that 420,000 yen per kid is going to cut it.

Just a clarification for the non-parents out there. That 420 000 isn't an incentive or anything, it simply covers the hospital expenses, which are always, mysteriously, almost exactly that amount for a regular birth. If you have an emergency birth or need a c-section, then you'll end up out of pocket a lot more.

And this is only necessary because the Japanese national health doesn't cover child birth, so you need that payment, because 420k is just the beginning of baby expenses. You're lucky if you spend under a million in the first year (baby seats, baby strollers, baby bed, baby bottles, diapers, pureed food, etc, etc, etc....).

7 ( +7 / -0 )

If you have an emergency birth or need a c-section, then you'll end up out of pocket a lot more.

Quick note; while childbirth itself, being a natural biological function and not an illness, is not covered by health insurance, once medical emergencies such as c-sections kick in, the national health insurance also kicks in and covers 70% of expenses. When my daughter was born she had a few medical conditions all of which were covered by insurance, so that we ended up getting a small rebate because her treatment meant that a part of the birth itself was covered.

But if you're counting the pennies in the first year, junior is never going to make it through high school and uni....

2 ( +3 / -1 )

American women are more self entitled, what else is news?

-5 ( +5 / -10 )

Nothing really that surprises me in this article. Pretty much all accurate in my experience raising kids in Japan as a non-Japanese and now the US as a non-American.

1) Dietary restrictions - yes, absolutely true. BUT - fails to mention the ridiculous outdated advice many Japanese doctors give that women must only gain 8kgs in pregnancy with no regard whatsoever to their pre-pregnancy weight. And then worse still, try to put them on a DIET when they go over the 8kg limit. I actually found a hospital in Japan that recommended I gain 12-14kgs based on my BMI and pre-pregnancy weight. Imagine that! But they are still few and far between.

2)Mothers conversations - these are pretty much the same wherever you are - I knew many working Japanese mothers through the hoikuen and stay at home ones through the kindergarten. I can understand though the author if she is a Japanese mother in the US finding it hard to find other Japanese to relate to. There are some working Japanese mothers here (I know a university professor for example) but the majority here are here with their husbands job, and stay at home. I can also understand that being a Japanese other Japanese dont want to tell you their problems. I was the foreigner so they ALL came to me. It was like TRU (Therapy R Us) in my place at times!

3) Party time - yes, this is absolutely true, unless it is a barbeque! Just last weekend I went to a party where the (Japanese) guys manned the BBQ and the girls sat drinking plonk, and then cleaned up later. Definitely with Americans it is much more mixed up. I like both styles for different reasons. My husband has got used to the idea now that I have a lot of male friends, some of whom are husbands of friends of mine but that was a huge struggle in the beginning. Now some of my guy friends are equally friends with my husband which I love, and a few of his female friends are great buddies of mine. If you have the trust, there is no issue.

4) falseflagsteve - you need to understand that sometimes people in Japan dont have extended family close by and that makes "date night" very difficult. But it is SO important and one of the things I insisted on from the start. We went out to see the Superman movie and had Thai food the other night as MIL is visiting now, and I had the best time with this gorgeous guy I sometimes want to strangle but for the most part I adore. MIL did laugh though as he slopped out the door in flipflops and shorts and I tottered out all made up in heels having made a big effort. THAT is the difference between new and long term relationships I guess! :(

5) I think this one is silly. Money is an issue wherever you are in the world if you dont have enough of it! But I have to admit I was pretty shocked coming over to the US and finding they dont have free after school care! WTF??! After paying insurance (3000 yen) and application fee (4000 yen) after school care in Japan was free and fantastic! Here for two kids it can cost over $1000 a month!!! Elementary school PTA/lunch prices are pretty compatible though. I dont think it is any cheaper or more expensive in either place, it just depends on your lifestyle. Todays trip to the beach was free except for the cost of snacks and drinks we brought with us from the supermarket for example. I am in a place where apparently the school district is the "best in the state". This is why we chose this place. To be honest, Japanese elementary school at least pees all over it. I think once it gets to JHS its a different story, but one regret I do have actually is that my younger kids are going to miss out on a J elementary education. My oldest made it to the end of grade 3 before we moved and loved it. Her Math level is WAY ahead of the US.

Its swings and roundabouts. But its always interesting to compare, especially for me with no great loyalty to either the US or Japan as I am technically from neither place, although I do take pride in answering the question "OHMYGAAAAD I LOVE your Aksent! Where are you fraaaam?" with "Japan"!

4)

8 ( +11 / -3 )

I do take pride in answering the question "OHMYGAAAAD I LOVE your Aksent! Where are you fraaaam?" with "Japan"!

Tee hee

Been there, done that. :-)

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Hee hee Cleo!

You know, I was one of the first to get peed off about certain aspects of Japan but having left the place and viewing from afar I have to say, like the US and the UK and anywhere else, there is also a lot to love about the place. I think Im finally growing up! Nah....surely not?! ;)

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I do think the Japanese way of raising children is better than overseas. Japan has a much lower crime rate, and not so much obesity. Japanese mothers must be doing something right. And, Japanese moms look so much cuter than overseas, so they must be happy with their life and it shows because they stay young and youthful much longer.

-8 ( +5 / -13 )

@3kunfuu I think the crime rate and low obesity might be more linked to the school system. And just because someone is pretty and thin, doesn't automatically mean they are happy. Japan is ranked fairly low on the world happiness index findings

4 ( +5 / -1 )

@3kunfuu

Although I don't disagree with your points, I would like to reiterate my earlier comment: if Japan is such a wonderful place to raise kids, then why are so many Japanese people refusing to do it?

@ChibaChick

I have met many, many Japanese mothers who have starved themselves thin throughout their pregnancies, because of the draconian policies of their obstetricians (one particularly hardline doctor doesn't allow his patients to gain more than five kilos at full term, and he's really popular!). All I can think is of the trouble that they are storing up for themselves and their children in the future. What are their bones going to be like in a couple of decades? I kind of miss the days when mothers were actually allowed to look like mothers.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

if you have an emergency birth or need a c-section, then you'll end up out of pocket a lot more.

Just to back up Cleo's comment above. My wife had a c-section and because of the way child birth is treated under the kokumin hoken, it worked out cheaper than a regular birth. (I'm not advocating c-sections. My wife would have paid anything not to go through that again.) This was a long time ago, so things may have changed. Then, there was a fixed 100,000 yen 'gift' for having a child. Childbirth costs were typically about 300,000 at the time. But as a c-section was treated as a medical cost, the entire childbirth bill was covered by the insurance. Only pay 30%, and even then, there was an upper limit on what you had to pay. (At the time, I think the limit was 200,000)

[nostalgia alert] I have a fond memory from the ward office in Osaka where I went to sort out the rebate. After sorting out the rebate, I was told to then go to another counter to pick up the 100,000 'gift'. I didn't realize we would get the 100,000 in addition to the rebate, and I must have questioned this. An elderly lady behind me in the queue touched me on the shoulder and said something to the effect of, 'don't ask questions when someone is giving out money'.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Tessa, I think there has been something of a breakdown in essential values and the family structure. Many young people just want to live alone in the big city now, and pursue a career. It's also very expensive to raise children, and many people are on contract work. Many of these causes are because Japan has imported too much from the west (labor markets, fetish for career, marrying later, etc) and not stayed true to its cultural roots.

justbcuzisay, fair point, but how can happiness be measured globally? For example, what if in one culture being what may be considered unhappy is what makes people happy? It sounds strange, but it's very possible. If Japanese are unhappy, I think it's mainly to do with the erosion of our culture and the feeling that we are powerless against it.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

if Japan is such a wonderful place to raise kids, then why are so many Japanese people refusing to do it?

Part of the problem, I'm sure, is that women are made to feel like failures if they are 'only' mothers, yet having both parents working full-time and raising a kid means that neither job gets done properly. The reverse side of the proverb If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well is If you can't do it well, don't bother.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

@3kunfuu- where have you been? i love your posts. keep em coming! each one more hilarious than the last. i mean youre spot on this time. japanese women are far more beautiful than western women. cuteness is obviously related to happiness. thanks for sharing!

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

@3kunfuu I really should have not brought up the 'world happiness index' (I was approaching a tunnel and felt rushed to complete my thought) but anyway,although I do I admire that Japanese women are beautiful and youthful, I think it has more to do with society's pressure than happiness.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I always found it very unusual that I rarely met a colleague's wife when I lived and worked in Japan. Also, in Japan one's wife very rarely calls his office.... my wife is Japanese and also, only on rare occasions would she call my office. Once when she did everyone was worried that something bad had happened. Luckily that was not the case.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Part of the problem, I'm sure, is that women are made to feel like failures if they are 'only' mothers, yet having both parents working full-time and raising a kid means that neither job gets done properly. The reverse side of the proverb If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well is If you can't do it well, don't bother.

What a ridiculous statement this is. Women who work are having kids, that is why hokuen demand is so high throughout Japan. A second one just opened in my neighborhood this year. What is driving down the birthrate in Japan has more to do with the last twenty years of economic failure than anything else. Your self-serving failure rational is simply just a cover for the fact that you could not be a mother and contribute to society beyond that. In that sense it is you who is a failure, not potential mothers you pretend to psychoanalyze.

We have all seen stay at home helicopter moms who suck the life out of their kids, setting them up for years of therapy later. I am sure they justify their behavior in a similar way as the above quote.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

It is important to note that the author of the article went from living in New York City to a rural part of Shizuoka Prefecture, so it is possible that her experiences would be different in a large city like Tokyo.

MIght want to put that at the beginning of the article next time. It makes a big difference.

Besides that, I think number 1,2,3 and 4 are difficult to generalize about They are dependent upon the writer's personal experience.

Women in Japan have stricter caloric guidelines.

Uh, all I can say is "nope." At least the people I hang out with talk about everything, and with everybody.

Again, everything with everybody.

As far as I know, like my situation grandma taking care of the kids on Saturday night is a pretty regular thing,

This Preston Phro person extrapolates about 2 whole countries with millions of people, all from her limited personal experience. I can't see the point of this article.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Women who work are having kids, that is why hokuen demand is so high

And others who work are not having kids, which is why the birth rate is so low and falling.

What is driving down the birthrate in Japan has more to do with the last twenty years of economic failure than anything else.

The birthrate has been falling since the mid-1970s, way before the bubble and the crash that followed; in fact the drop in the number of births '75-'90 was much steeper than it has been '90-'13.

Your self-serving failure rational is simply just a cover for the fact that you could not be a mother and contribute to society beyond that.

Mmm, mother of 2 great kids who are now making their own contribution to society, with a career of my own......where do you pull these 'facts' from?

I see around me young working mothers who struggle with their lot, picking the kid(s) up from hoikuen on the way home, feeding, bathing and putting them to bed and collapsing into bed exhausted themselves, only to do the whole thing again the next day; and seeing them, their childless friends decide to stay childless. It isn't rocket science.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Cleo,

Its great your kids have done well, no doubt due to their mom & dads many sacrifices.

But TODAY if you do the math it is simply brutal to raise a child let alone more than one for most people, add to that they way Japan is heading, while I am glad your kids are doing well, & I wish them to continue to do so, the future in Japan is looking mighty bleak from a lot of view points & THAT is why the birth rate is dropping & will likely continue downwards at a faster pace, just reality I am afraid

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Biggest factor in falling birth rates is the "mendokusai" mind-set of many young people in Japan, also sometimes referred to as the "taihen cloud". Everything is so convenient and smooth in Japan that they are actually shocked when they have to do anything requiring physical effort and the ability to overlook unpleasantness, like child-rearing. So most young people conclude that they would rather avoid it all, especially if they are still living at home with their parents and shopping and travel are just so...much...easier...(" Ooh, the sweet, sweet high of consumerism...pass me the credit card and give me another hit...yeahhh....")

0 ( +1 / -1 )

yyj72

Most young people I know are desperate to get married and have kids, but I live in the countryside. Perhaps in hedonistic Tokyo the sentiment is different.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Most young people I know are desperate to get married and have kids, but I live in the countryside. Perhaps in hedonistic Tokyo the sentiment is different.

It's an interesting question. Have there actually been any studies done as to young people's attitudes to marriage and having children and seen what the differences are to before? There is always lots of conjecture and speculation, often quite lucid, intelligent and theoretically possible arguments, but I wonder what the real reason for the low birthrate is. You would have thought the govt. would have tried to do something about it if they could. Then again "doing something about it" is not always a strong point of society here.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The ridiculous statement was that potential mothers are not having kids due to a fear of failure, but that is obviously wrong as working mothers are having kids as is so plainly obvious to anyone. Mothers who are not working are also not having kids proving again very easily theca theory is just a self-serving justification for being a lazy stay at home mother.

Nothing said about your own kids has validity as your other statements are so clearly incorrect. All helicopter moms think they are wonderful. That is part of the problem. For example, this real news report from 2013, not 1970 as quoted above. In Japan today, not 1970, more people have pets than kids.

Japan's rapidly ageing population has suffered its biggest decrease since records began in the 1950s, according to new figures.

Study after study shows early socialization of kids through daycare makes the kids become better adjusted and more productive in their lives. These are the facts. Staying home watching TV while your kids are at school helps no one.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

The ridiculous statement was that potential mothers are not having kids due to a fear of failure

Nope. The statement was that sahms are made to feel like failures - nothing to do with any fear of failure in child-raising. (Note your own supportive comments about being 'lazy' and 'staying home watching TV'.)

just a self-serving justification for being a lazy stay at home mother....Staying home watching TV while your kids are at school helps no one

You're very good at making up your own fictitious stories. There is nothing lazy about caring for a baby/toddler - it's a 25-hour-a-day job, whether you do it yourself or pay someone else to do it while you go out to earn money. Once the kids head off to kindy/school, I'm all in favour of mums going back to work. I did.

Study after study shows early socialization of kids through daycare makes the kids become better adjusted and more productive in their lives. These are the facts.

Statistics are not facts, they can be made to mean whatever you want them to mean, and it's possible to find studies that support whatever stance a person may decide to take. My personal take is that if possible kids are better at home with a dedicated carer which in most cases would be a parent; but the circumstances of every family are different and it's the responsibility of the parent to choose what's best for the child.

http://childcare.about.com/od/daycarecenters/a/daycaredebate.htm

Working parents shouldn't feel guilty about leaving their child with qualified and quality care. Stay-at-home parents shouldn't feel guilty about choosing to remain home with their child during the first few years of their tot's life.

All helicopter moms think they are wonderful.

In my experience, it's the in-your-face helicopter mums who show the most insecurity; they have no confidence in their child or in their own child-raising skills, and so are eager to throw money at 'early education'-type daycare/kindy, and are over-sensitive at what they perceive to be the slightest deviation from what they have latched onto as 'the best way'. They don't have the confidence to let the child do his/her own thing.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Part of the problem, I'm sure, is that women are made to feel like failures if they are 'only' mothers, yet having both parents working full-time and raising a kid means that neither job gets done properly. The reverse side of the proverb If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well is If you can't do it well, don't bother.

What you are saying here is that stay at home moms are made to feel like failures, but working mothers are failures at both being a mother and working.

Above you try and amend your statement proving that really you do not understand what you are talking about and your posts are just simply self-serving.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

What you are saying here is that stay at home moms are made to feel like failures, but working mothers are failures at both being a mother and working.

No, that's what you want to read because otherwise your rant falls apart.

really you do not understand what you are talking about

Or maybe you don't read what people write

your posts are just simply self-serving

Please explain. I worked from the time my youngest entered kindy and am still working. I consider myself a working mother. You think I'm engaging in self-flagellation?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites