We’ve written a lot on Unseen Japan about women’s rights in Japan, and how women are struggling to gain greater acceptance and support in the workforce in the face of discriminatory attitudes that date back centuries. This struggle is also occurring in the home, where, as Motoko Rich covered in an excellent New York Times piece recently, even working women find that they bare the brunt of home and child care.
It’s not that nothing has changed in the 21st century. There’s a general awareness that this is a problem that needs to be addressed…somehow. And, as usual, it’s more common to see a change among the young. Around 2000, a new word was even coined to refer to men who take a greater hand in child-rearing: ikumen (イクメン), a play on ikemen, a slang word for an attractive man, and iku (育), the kanji for child-rearing.
However, as Rich’s article notes, working women are still doing an average of 25 hours of housework a week, while their husbands are doing less than five. According to OECD, this is the worst imbalance of any country on Earth. And while many Japanese men hold the erroneous conception that their wives have tons of “free time,” the reality, as shown in the OECD stats, is that Japanese women work slightly more than men; it’s just that a larger percentage of their work is unpaid.
Fleeing Their Own Homes (and Responsibilities)
The issue is that, even as women demand more participation from their husbands, cultural attitudes among men aren’t changing. Instead, men find ways to avoid their spouse’s demand for greater participation in their home life – for example, by refusing to head home when the work day’s done.
Around 2016 or 2017, a new word cropped up to refer to this phenomenon: furariiman (フラリーマン), which refers to a salaryman, or regular office worker, who fura-furas (putters aimlessly) around the city rather than getting on the train and returning to his family. The phenomenon came about as more and more companies implemented workplace reforms that send workers home earlier so they can better tend to their households. Rather than use this time for its intended purpose, however, some men choose to hang out in bars or Internet cafes, and feed their spouses a line about a deadline or important business meeting.