chapter  8
14 Pages


References are frequently made by social commentators to the differentiated sexual roles in Japanese society. Typical is the picture of the husband-and-father at work all day long, and the wife-and-mother staying at home managing the household budget and bearing almost singlehandedly the responsibility for bringing up the children, urging them to conform to the social norms, and (what amounts in the present context to an extension of the same thing) nagging them to do their homework. It is a stock situation reflected in literature, film, and television, and sure enough it is a fair reflection of the dominant pattern of modern Japanese social life. That a few striking exceptions may exist serves only to bring out and delineate the dominance of this pattern. Improved education for girls since the end of the war and the existence of a Women's Liberation Movement have opened up employment opportunities for women, including married women, but the married woman is still expected to be, and in the typical situation expects herself to be, a homemaker. There are no legal disabilities standing in the way of the advancement of women in Japan. Since the adoption of the present constitution in 1946 all such disabilities have been removed. But however western in inspiration the Constitution may originally have been it is interpreted by the Japanese in a distinctive manner of their own that is informed by a centuries-old tradition of Confucian beliefs and practices. No matter if an individual Japanese today does not acknowledge, or even consciously strives to disregard, his or her Confucian heritage. Some do; some do not. But none can escape the fact that he or she is living in a society that for all its recent inpourings is stiII the product of an ancient tradition totally unlike the traditions of the west.