Japan's Evolving Family: Voices from Young Urban Adults Navigating Change

by Glenda S. Roberts

Publisher: Honolulu: East-West Center
Publication Date: 2016
ISBN: 978-0-86638-274-8
Binding: paper
Pages: x, 72
Free Download: PDF


In recent decades, Japan has become a rapidly aging, low-birthrate society. Late marriage and no marriage have also become commonplace. With the prolonged recession, stable employment declined, wages dropped, and the reputation of the prototypical "salaryman" of the postwar period took a beating. In this milieu, how do young adults feel about conventional gender roles? Have attitudes changed in regard to marriage and childrearing, and if so, how? How do the unmarried envision themselves in the future, and how do the married wish to raise their children? In this interview study, diverse views can be heard, but those relating to childbearing and rearing remain fairly conservative. Furthermore, expectations that women should be solely responsible for the "double shift" of household labor and caregiving upon marriage, as well as continued discrimination against women in the workplace and a workplace culture of long hours, appear to underlie the hesitancy young adults have in acting on their dreams in the recessionary economy.

About the Author
Glenda S. Roberts obtained her PhD in Anthropology from Cornell University in 1986. After holding research and academic positions in Honolulu from 1988, she has lived and worked in Japan since 1996, first at the University of Tokyo Institute of Social Sciences, and then, from 1998 to the present, at the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies of Waseda University, where she is a professor. Her major areas of research are gender, work, family, and migration policy in contemporary Japan.


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  • Women and Labor Force Participation
  • The Stereotype of the Salaryman
    • The Good Husband: Unmarried Men
    • The Good Husband: Married Men
  • Women and the Stereotype of the Salaryman
    • Economic Mainstay of the Household
    • Men and Domestic Work
    • Communication and Cooperation
    • Equal Partnership vs. Companion
  • Envisioning the Family: Readiness
    • Men's Readiness
    • Women's Readiness
    • Marriage as an Exit Strategy for Women
    • Cohabitation
    • "Shotgun" Marriage and Extramarital Childbirth
    • Unwed Mothers and Abortion
    • The Family of My Dreams
    • Legacy Expectations?
  • Balancing Work and Life: Obstructed at Every Turn (Happō Fusagari)
  • Conclusion
  • More on the Project