Perfectly Japanese: Making Families in an Era of Upheaval

Perfectly Japanese: Making Families in an Era of Upheaval

Perfectly Japanese: Making Families in an Era of Upheaval

Perfectly Japanese: Making Families in an Era of Upheaval

Synopsis

"White debunks the idealized image of the Japanese family held by many Americans as the exemplar of traditional family values--stable, dutiful, homogeneous, harmonious. This is also the 'official image' promoted by state, the media, and other institutions. Instead, White shows that families in Japan are as diverse, complex and contested as ours. She exposes the struggle of individuals and families as they negotiate the gap between the ideal and the realities of the post-industrial world of the twenty-first century."--Arlene Skolnick, author of "Embattled Paradise: The American Family in an Age of Uncertainty

"Japanese politicians have pronounced the declining birthrate a national crisis. White gives us an enlightening bolt of reality, showing how Japanese families are really coping with the enormous changes surrounding them. Creative new patterns in dealing with the elderly, shopping, young people living at home, and married couples who continue to have an average of two or more children, are explored in depth."--Ezra Vogel, Henry Ford II Research Professor at Harvard and author of "Is Japan Still Number One?

Excerpt

The power of official versions of family life in Japan—the patriarchal Confucian lineage family, the home as the source of respite, solace, and nurturance—startled me when I brought my young son, age two months, to Tokyo in 1978 for a conference on women's studies. My son's picture appeared for three days running in a national newspaper as evidence of his mother's dangerous feminist priorities. the articles argued that I had put him at risk by bringing him half a world away from the paternal roof and before the end of the traditional three months' “seclusion” period guaranteeing the safety of a newborn child. This rhetoric brought me face to face with the norms and attitudes I had been viewing as an outsider. and a few years later, when I reported a prevalent Japanese attitude that women with children in school should not work but stay home to provide a backstop for their studying children, the news media in Japan took my words as an American expert's warning that women who work away from home are putting their children's futures in peril. When I told my Japanese friends about my mother's admission to a nursing home with advanced Alzheimer's disease, they were concerned. They wondered aloud: had I considered living with her, hiring a live-in nurse—anything but admit her to an institution?

I thus experienced both the model and the living complexities of family life in Japan. Knowing as I did that many of my friends themselves were not sticking to the standard menus of approved family behavior and were constructing their own very personal strategies and modes of . . .

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