The Daily Life of the Japanese Housewife 1/3 of women in Japan want to be housewives. We interviewed some to find out why

    Here on Tofugu, we talk about all kinds of different people in Japanese society. The politician, the salaryman, the artist, the musician. But seldom do we focus on a large section of the Japanese population – the housewife. Though being a stay-at-home mom has fallen out of fashion in other parts of the world, it's still a popular option for women in Japanese society.

    U-Can and I-Share conducted a research study in Japan. Out of the 1,243 women surveyed, 53.9% said they wanted to be housewives with the primary role of "attending to housework and raising children."

    I wrote about Japanese housewives a little bit in one of my previous articles, which focused on the perception of women in Japan. In writing that piece, I found that Japanese men aren't alone in wanting their wives to stay at home. Many women are very keen on the idea, as well.

    Because of this, I thought it worthwhile to take a look into some of these women's lives. So I organized interviews with four different women about their daily lives. Of course, there are a lot of Japanese housewives and each one leads a different life, so this is just a sample to give you an idea. But hopefully this small sampling of information will shed some light into this part of Japanese society.

    Note: The women I interviewed wished to remain anonymous and provided pseudonyms in place of their real names.

    Japanese Housewife #1 – KonnichiwaKitty

    cute dinner scene of toy pig family with pig housewife
    Source: domkey kong
    • Pseudonym: KonnichiwaKitty
    • Age: 27
    • Occupation: Housewife, does not work outside the home
    • Housewife Career: 1 year

    Q. Could you tell us about your daily routine?

    6:00 – wake up 6:30 – have breakfast and relax 8:00 – prepare baby food and feed the baby 8:30 – play with the baby 10:00 – do housework and prepare for lunch 12:00 – have lunch 13:00 – play with the baby 15:00 – do housework 17:30 – prepare baby food and feed him 19:00 – bath time 19:30 – cook dinner for me and my husband 21:00 – go to bed

    Q. What do you do for fun or to relax during the day?

    I just try to enjoy an extended breakfast time alone in the morning. It gives me time to relax while my son is still sleeping.

    Q. What's the best thing about being a housewife?

    To be able to closely observe my child as he grows.

    Q. What's the worst thing about being a housewife?

    Other than that short window of time in the morning, I don't really have any extra time that I can devote to myself.

    Q. How many hours a week do you think you work as a housewife?

    If playing with my son isn't considered working, it would be one to two hours during the week and five hours on each day over the weekend. I tend to do a lot of cooking over the weekend and freeze those meals for the upcoming week.

    Q. How much does your husband help with the housework?

    He helps me a lot. He takes the garbage bags out, washes the dishes, cleans our bathroom, and takes care of our child.

    Q. Have you ever considered working full time instead of being a housewife?

    I haven't considered it.

    Japanese Housewife #2 – Miki

    visual description of the image
    Source: Kristina Alexanderson
    • Pseudonym: Miki
    • Age: 37
    • Occupation: Housewife (and has a part time job online)
    • Housewife Career: 8 years

    Q. Could you tell us about your daily routine?

    6:00 – I wake up and start making bento lunch for my husband. I prepare breakfast for him and my daughters and then I do the laundry. 7:30 – After my older daughter leaves for school, I hang the laundry out to dry and then read the newspaper. 8:00 – I eat breakfast with my younger daughter, then wash dishes. 8:30 – While my younger daughter is playing by herself or watching TV, I finish some work online. Afterwards, I spend time with her, like taking her to a park. 12:00 – Lunch 13:00 – I work online while playing with my child. 14:00 – I bring in the dry clothes and then clean the house. If I still have some time, I'll do more work online. 14:45 – My older daughter's school ends around this time, so I walk to her school with my younger daughter to pick her up. 15:30 – I check my older daughter's homework and then I make preparations for dinner. 16:00 – I take my older daughter to her friend's house or to one of her lessons and I go shopping. 17:00 – I pick my older daughter up and then I start making supper. 18:00 – We all eat dinner. 19:00 – I do the dishes. 19:30 – We all have a bath. 20:30 – I read or tell stories to my daughters. 21:00 to 21:30 – My daughters go to bed. (If I am tired, I go to sleep, too.) 21:30 – I work online. 22:30 to 23:30 – My husband comes home from work and I serve him his supper. 24:00 – I go to bed.

    Q. What do you do for fun or to relax during the day?

    After sending my older daughter off to school and finishing the dishes, I enjoy having a coffee and listening to music.

    Q. What's the best thing about being a housewife?

    To be able to closely observe my children grow up. When I am sick or not feeling well, I can simply rest. Although I'm unable to get out into the workforce, I do have time to study, learn new things, and brush up on some skills.

    Q. What's the worst thing about being a housewife?

    I have to fight against loneliness. I don't have many ties to the community or much of a social life and I sometimes feel fear and question myself, "Can I really keep doing this?"

    Furthermore, people hold the stereotype that housewives are lazy and useless for society, which makes me sad. I believe that staying at home and spending time around your children when they are young is better for them because you have a chance to positively affect their lives as they grow. So I intentionally chose to be a housewife for my children's sake, instead of spending time at some random part-time job.

    But there are a lot of married couples in which both partners work nowadays and it may be a little difficult for them to understand what it means to be a housewife without a job. They should be aware that many housewives want to work, but intentionally choose to stay at home for the sake of their children.

    It's especially difficult when I have a quarrel with my husband. He sometimes says, "I'm the one who is earning the money for this family. The stresses and hardships of working and being a father is incomparable with just being a housewife." It's very upsetting to hear that from him.

    I know many mothers who choose not to work until their children finish pre school/kindergarten, but they all take the job of properly raising their children very seriously, and I respect them for knowing how important that is. Of course, some women have to work out of financial necessity, but that's a different story.

    Q. How many hours a week do you think you work as a housewife?

    Basically from the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep, I think I am always doing work in some form or another. I barely even have time to sit down and watch TV for a while.

    Q. With all this time spent on housewife-work, how do you find time for your online job?

    I am usually able to find two hours on weekdays to work online. On weekends, my husband is home to cook and play with the kids, so I work for about 3 or 4 hours then, but I also still work as a housewife.

    Q. How much does your husband help with the housework?

    On weekdays, he works all day and gets home around 10:30pm or 11:00pm, so he can't help with anything. On weekends, he cooks and plays with the children, but I don't know how things are with other families' husbands.

    He helps with cooking because he likes to cook, but he doesn't do the dishes because he doesn't like to. It's still helpful and I can work while he is cooking. He also bathes the children on weekends and that's really helpful because I don't get chance to take a bath by myself and relax at all during the week.

    He wants to relax on weekends, but the children want him to take them outside and play. He doesn't help with the cleaning at all, but if the dried laundry has piled up, he'll help with folding them, so I guess he cares about housework.

    However, he tends to not realize what I want him to help with and I wish he would ask me what to do before starting something. It might be a stereotype, but there may be many husbands who try helping their wives on their own regardless of what the wives actually want them to help with. He feels satisfied because he knows he helped me, but it'd be better if he talked to me so we could share the necessary workload.

    Q. Have you ever considered working full time instead of being a housewife?

    I absolutely do. I would work full time, if I could. However, my children are still little and my husband works very long hours. I can't ask for support from either of our parents because both sets live pretty far away.

    My mother-in-law lives fairly close, but she can't drive. I also live in the countryside, so finding a good job also means a long commute. Therefore, I don't think I'll be able to work full time for a couple more years. I also think that many Japanese companies are a far cry from providing an easy and comfortable work atmosphere for women. The problem of wait listing children for kindergarten and nurseries still remains, too.

    I think the way that society is and the way companies conduct themselves need to change first. It's really rare for a woman 40 years of age or older to find a full-time position. My friends have mostly only been able to work part-time after being a housewife for so many years. I feel as though it's nearly impossible to get a full-time position after being a housewife.

    I personally think that housewives sacrifice a great deal more than people think. By taking on this role, many women learn patience through raising children and by working on their friendships with other mothers. I feel I have grown a lot, so much more than when I was single. In that sense, I hope that companies will come to value housewives more in the future and see them as people that possess a certain set of transferable skills. We should be granted a better opportunity to work full-time.

    Japanese Housewife #3 -Wasabi

    lego brick kitchen with lego housewife holding frying pan
    Source: Matija Grguric
    • Pseudonym: Wasabi
    • Age: 53
    • Occupation: Currently a housewife without a part-time job (has experience with both full and part-time jobs.)
    • Housewife Career: 30 years

    Q. Could you tell us about your daily routine?

    Morning: Housework (Cleaning, shopping, laundry, etc…) Afternoon: Watch TV, read books, or other such leisurely activities. Evening: Walk our dog, make dinner, and wash the dishes afterwards. Night: Watch TV, read books, or other such leisurely activities.

    Q. What do you do for fun or to relax during the day?

    Watch TV or read books.

    Q. What's the best thing about being a housewife?

    I am free to use my time however I want.

    Q. What's the worst thing about being a housewife?

    I can't really think of anything.

    Q. How many hours a week do you think you work as a housewife?

    Approximately 40 hours.

    Q. Have you worked a part-time or full-time job in the past, and if so how did you find enough time to be a housewife?

    When I worked part-time it was 4 hours a day, so I had enough time to work as a housewife. But when I worked full-time it was 8 hours a day and I was too busy to do things around the house. My commute was really long. It took me an hour and a half to get to the office.

    Q. How much does your husband help with the housework?

    He takes the garbage out and makes his own breakfast. He walks our dog in the morning. If I ask him to do something, he is willing to do it, but I often don't like how he washes dishes. I'm also better at cooking than him, so I usually handle all things kitchen related.

    Q. Have you ever considered working full time instead of being a housewife?

    Yes. I tried, but it was too difficult, especially while raising my children. So it didn't last very long.

    Japanese Housewife #4 – Ninja-Pie

    family of four represented in toy family
    Source: Julie
    • Pseudonym: Ninja-Pie
    • Age: 62
    • Occupation: Housewife without any part time job
    • Housewife Career: 35 years

    Q. Could you tell us about your daily routine?

    6:00 – I wake up. 7:00 – I eat breakfast and relax 8:30 – Cleaning, laundry, and other housework. 11:00 – Prepare lunch. 12:00 – Eat lunch 13:00 – Clean the dishes and do other housework 14:00 – Free time for myself 16:00 – Prepare supper. 17:00 – Go for a walk 18:30 – Supper 21:00 – Have a bath. 23:00 – Go to bed.

    Q. What do you do for fun or to relax during the day?

    I have teatime after breakfast and dinner, and enjoy a couple snacks with coffee.

    Q. What's the best thing about being a housewife?

    I can have some time for myself.

    Q. What's the worst thing about being a housewife?

    It's difficult to keep myself in good shape because I tend to stay inside all day. That's why I try to devote a certain amount of time each day to walking.

    Q. How many hours a week do you think you work as a housewife?

    About 35 hours a week.

    Q. How much does your husband help with the housework?

    He helps with the shopping and by cleaning the bathroom.

    Q. Have you ever considered working full-time instead of being a housewife?

    Never.

    Would You Want to Be a Housewife in Japan?

    toy housewife stormtrooper holds the hand of stormtrooper offspring
    Source: Kristina Alexanderson

    Special thanks to our interviewees for letting us into their lives and how they feel about being a housewife in Japan. What do you think about their answers? Do these situations seem different from housewives' lives in your country? Share your thoughts with us on twitter!