October 13, 2005

Maid in Japan

As its young women say no to motherhood for longer, the country's population has begun to shrink, write Deborah Cameron and Willhemina Wahlin in Tokyo.

How Kuwabara lives today is an insight into the way that the life of a 32-year-old Japanese woman, a university graduate and dedicated company type, can virtually stop.

Her husband, 33, is an executive at a mobile phone company who wants her to stay as a traditional wife and mother. She quit work before her son was born. Her husband cannot, does not, and will not cook, and has no time to help in the house at all. His father was a workaholic and his mother kept a perfect home and he wants the same, although Kuwabara hopes he might change with a child of his own.

As it is, she sees her husband off to the office at 9am and waits for him to get home, as regular as clockwork, at 12.38 am the next day.

"He comes home on the last train and I can't ask him to come home any earlier," she says, explaining that she wakes up to serve him dinner. It has been the cause of a lot of strain, she says. "My son may forget my husband," says Kuwabara, balancing the child on her knee and sipping black coffee from a paper cup outside a suburban Tokyo coffee shop.

JAPAN is full of young women who have run a mile from its brand of motherhood. Two-thirds of households have no children at all. In fact, the country has more registered dogs than children, according to the pet industry. Fifty-four per cent of women aged between 25 and 29 are single, more than double the number in 2000.

Last month, two years before expectations, the country's population went into absolute decline, with the number of deaths exceeding the number of births. The numbers are so finely balanced that an exodus of holiday travellers last year caused a noticeable dip in the population statistics.

No comments: