Why do many Japanese women walk pigeon toed?

Without specifically mentioning Japanese women, the December 2014 edition of the freebie Tokyo Families warns parents that pigeon toed feet could be a consequence of “W sitting” (similar to kneeling seiza, but with the bottom on the ground and legs down the sides of the body). This is a more likely explanation than seiza kneeling position, given how seiza has become less common but pigeon toed walking seems less common among older generations. Not sure that W sitting is a major factor though, given that you see young boys sitting that way and you rarely see pigeon toed men. It could be that W walking combined with a lack of other muscular development is the reason that explains both generational and gender differences, but I still think it’s mainly a cultural thing and if people disapproved of women walking that way it would soon decrease.


Why is it okay for women to obsess over cross dressing female Takarazuka actors?

Japan hardly being famous for open expression of homosexual love.

“girls and women are given both implicit permission and active encouragement to love other women – specifically, the male-role players – under the pretext that this affection is not (homo-)sexual in nature, because the object of their love is ‘male’, and therefore does not compromise the subjects’ ‘normal’ sexuality. On the other hand, the very fact that Takarazuka otokoyaku are not biological males means that they are apparently not usually perceived by the husbands of married fans as rivals, nor by the parents of single fans as a threat to the marriageability of their daughters.” Gender Gymnastics pg7

That still leaves a big “Why?” unanswered to me…

See the last couple of posts for more from this book on this fascinating phenomenon.

Why would anyone get obsessed by the Takarazuka all-female theatre?

… particularly the otokoyaku who play the male roles.

“Recent Anglophone scholarship has addressed this issue at length through one specific focus- that of sexuality. Two opposing opinions emerge- that the main attraction of Takarazuka for its fans is sexual… (Robertson 1998b, 145) or that it is ‘a-sexual and a-gendered’ (Nakamura and Matsuo 2003, 59)…”

“The Takarazuka otokoyaku’s portrayal of masculinity is different from that of a typical man, sometimes seeming sexless or gender-neutral, sometimes deliberately seductive and erotic.” Gender Gymnastics pg9

Being both at the same time seems not only possible but also particularly East Asian, with most all-female J-pop and K-pop groups somehow both sexy and sexless. The real appeal lies in this, though, I reckon:

“For many women, Takarazuka is also a place of respite from a boring, unpleasant or unfulfilling everyday existence as a female in Japanese society.” pg 7

making it similar to the reki-jo (history girl) phenomenon more recently.

Why does the Takarazuka all-female theatre exist?

Unlike what I’d read about being set up simply to keep a private rail line busy, it seems that it didn’t come out of nowhere:

“Takarazuka is one example of a distinct genre within twentieth-century Japanese popular culture, the ‘all-female revue (shojo kageki)’, composed of a number of different performance groups with common features.” Gender Gymanistics pgs 3 and 4

Don’t have the book here to check if it’s exactly the same, but the whole thesis on which it was based seems to be available in pdf format for free here:




Why so much mutton dressed as lamb in Japan?

For those who aren’t familiar with the idiom, this has no connection with Genghis Khan-style barbecue restaurants or the continuing resistance of the Japanese public to the smell of lamb chops, but rather refers to older women dressing like their daughters or even granddaughters. I blame the also huge number of mother and daughter shopping couples, which I don’t know what to blame on…

Why the heavy eye make up? 2nd attempt

As a mask is traditionally worn for six months of the year – three months to protect from colds and three months to protect from hayfever – Japanese eye make up, like that of veil-wearing Arabs, is specifically designed to go with it.

That’s supposed to be a joke, though you never know…

In fact, I still think I was onto something with my first attempt. Japanese make up has never been natural-looking, and in fact obvious artifice and showing how much effort you have put in is part of the culture more generally, as seen in the grunts people make as they exert themselves and in the attitude to nature in Japanese gardens.

More specific to eye make up, many Japanese women seem convinced that they, and Japanese women generally, are somewhat lacking in the eyelash department.

Why don’t the bored housewives volunteer instead of studying English?

“A nice Japanese housewife is not expected to do volunteer work for strangers. ‘If she has time to help people she doesn’t even know,’ her relatives would grumble, ‘why doesn’t she do more to help her own kids study? Why doesn’t she run for an office in the P.T.A. at their school?’ Most middle-class Japanese people seem to think that poor people deserve to be poor- it’s their own fault or the fault of their families and relatives. Nobody should expect help from total strangers. As for conserving nature, that is the job of biologists. My friends have a hard time justifying their passion for gardening to their husbands and in-laws. If they were to spend their afternoons taking care of injured wildlife or clearing marshes of trash instead of cleaning their houses and preparing special meals for their children, their families would probably disown them”

Polite Lies by Kyoko Mori page 176.

The first explanation would also explain silliness like Chara- ben (kyara-ben, making packed lunches in the shapes and colours of cartoon characters). It could also explain the boom and bust of Eikaiwa (Japanese conversation schools). Perhaps for a while it was one of the few acceptable hobbies for women to have and they didn’t have to explain why they were doing it, and so they all rushed into it. Later there were more options of what to do with their time, and Eikaiwa actually became a bit of an embarrassment due to various scandals and so you could more easily avoid uncomfortable conversations by doing hot yoga or ikebana.

Why do Japanese wives love complaining about their men? 2nd attempt

This is very noticeable, or even shocking, when you teach Japanese housewives particularly if you expect them to avoid personal topics completely. It is even more common is group classes with other housewives, so it is not (just?) social norms being broken because a gaijin is in the room. In my first attempt, I therefore came up with complex arguments based on modesty and such-like. Might be, however, that they simply do have more to complain about:

“One survey that asked married men and women in thirty-seven countries about their views on politics, sex, religion and other issues found that Japanese couples ranked dead last in compatibility, by a huge margin. Another survey revealed that if they were doing it over again, only one third of Japanese would marry the same person”

Thunder from the East page 176

The next question is then, of course, why they are so incompatible…

Why are Japanese women still so far behind?

My wife and I are presently caught in one of the major catch 22s, which is childcare. You can’t get your child into a houikuen (kind of daycare centre) until you both have full-time jobs, but you can’t get a full-time job until you have somewhere to put your child. That works better if you already had a job before you gave birth, but most companies will guilt trip you into quitting once you can’t do the ridiculous hours of overtime or if you actually plan on taking your maternity leave. When your child reaches three you can send them to a youchien (kindergarten), but you’ll have difficulty sustaining even a part-time job with their short hours, long holidays, PTA duties and expectation that you will be at home waiting every time they want to phone you to bring in an extra pair of shorts or take them home because they are crying.

Other factors include:

– Women not being able to take a full part in the drinking, golf and occasional whoring that Japanese corporate entertaining consists of

– Social pressure to quit as soon as you get married, and certainly within weeks of getting pregnant

– Very few women being recruited on the management track

– Women still being expected to wear uniforms, bring tea, etc

– Many women not wanting the slavish devotion to the company that they see from their men

– Polite female behaviour and language making it very difficult to do business

Nice quote on the last one:

“Talking seems especially futile when I have to address a man in Japanese. Every word I say forces me to be elaborately polite, indirect, submissive, and unassertive. There is no way I can sound   intelligent, clear-headed, or decisive. But if I did not speak in a ‘proper’ feminine language, I would sound stupid in another way – like someone who is uneducated, insensitive, and rude, and therefore cannot be taken seriously. I never speak Japanese with the Japanese man who teaches physics at the college where I teach English. We are colleagues, meant to be equals. The language I use should not automatically define me as second best.”

Polite Lies by Kyoko Mori pg 12

Why are pregnant Japanese women so mollycoddled?

My wife wasn’t supposed to even cook for one month after giving birth. My theory was that the (hidden) reason was to save them from the traditional slavedriving of their mothers in law. One commenter on this great post on all the things that are banned for Japanese women who are expecting seems to agree.

« Older entries