As I commented earlier, not only is fashion and popular music firmly stuck in the 80′s here, but so is much of society in general. Only recently, according to newspapers and acquaintances of mine, has the divorce rate begun to rise. The way women are treated in Japan is still extremely traditional. Heck, even big hair is in.
This means that, for example, while Nova promotes itself as being the largest employer of women in the country, it isn’t employing women out of some forward-thinking, progressive hiring policy. It hires so many Japanese women to staff the front offices of its schools because it’s a cost-saving measure. Men, simply put, would have to be paid more.
(Yes, I’m sure it’s not the only reason they hire women, and I’ve even seen a male Japanese staff worker in one school, but bear with me here.)
This isn’t just for the Japanese staff of the various major, private English schools around the country. Women get paid less. Period. Across the board, you never, ever hear of a Japanese woman earning as much as a man with comparable skills, nor will they hold similar positions in any given business.
Even if a woman is more talented and qualified than the man she is competing with for a leadership position, the job will more likely go to him than her because the company is expected to hire men for those sorts of jobs.
There is no equal opportunity employment act here. (Granted, if things continue heading in the direction the Republicans seem to be driving them, there won’t be one in the U.S. much longer, either, but that’s dead horse to flog some other time.) It’s tough to find a job after you turn 40 because you’re expected – expected! – to stay with the company you’ve worked for after that age.
And as hard as it is to believe, many women still quit their jobs to be housewives when they get married, simply because that’s what is done.
This isn’t to say that all Japanese women are like this, or that all Japanese companies espouse such policies. I’m sure somewhere, somehow, there is some middle-sized company that will be called a forerunner 20 years hence. Maybe it’ll even be Nova. (Not friggin’ likely.)
But it seems, six weeks in, that much of Japan is about the clash between modern and traditional values. Where else can you see sumo wrestlers, dressed in their specialized kimonos, walking along a street that has 10 hentai vendors hawking their porn on sidewalk tables set up in front of electronics stores selling goods top-of-the-line stores in the U.S. will never see?
Hopefully, as Japan continues to evolve, the best parts of its traditional culture will remain intact as the more noxious and abhorrent aspects are abandoned. Of course, there’s no telling what the future holds.