Women are increasingly calling the shots in Japanese households, with the influence of husbands – not long ago the undisputed master of the home – in sharp decline.
The latest edition of study conducted every decade by the Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living shows that more than 30 percent of married women believe they have the final say on important family matters, up from a fraction over 10 percent when the research was first conducted in 1988.
Thirty years ago, 72.4 percent of men said they were in control of decisions at home, a figure that has shrunk to a mere 38.7 percent in the most recent survey.
Among married couples in their 20s and 30s, the role reversal is complete, with husbands and wives in agreement that the woman wields more power.
The researchers quizzed couples between the ages of 20 and 59 living in and around Tokyo. Couples were asked who decided the children’s names, whether the wife would have a job and more trivial matters, such as who got the final say on whether friends would come to dinner.
“We both work and we have two young children, so we talk a lot and reach decisions equally, which I think is fair”, said Kiyoko Imamura, 38, who lives in Yokohama, south of Tokyo and works for a foreign car company.
“Young women are working more and more outside the home, they have independence and they are making their own decisions in the home as well”, she said. “And I think that is likely to continue to increase in the future”.
Mrs Imamura says, however, that the statistics for Tokyo are unlikely to be replicated in her home town in Kyushu, in southern Japan.
“In Kyushu, we still have the tradition of the ‘Kyushu danji’, or strong-willed men who make all the decisions in the home, and I would say that only 10 percent of housewives there get a say in what happens, even today”, she added.
Slightly over 29 percent of the women taking part in the study said they were housewives, down from 53.9 percent 30 years ago, while more than 67 percent of the husbands agreed with the statement “I cannot continue to live without my wife”. Among the wives, 59.5 percent said they could not go on without their husband.