“The Women I Met in Nagoya, Japan” – Bisnis Indonesia

“The Woman I Met in Nagoya” – Bisnis Indonesia (Pg.14)

Bisnis Indonesia

Bisnis Indonesia – June 22, 2013  

(Picture Caption: Japanese women are one of the biggest assets for the growth of the country’s economy)

(Written by: Anugerah Perkasa. Anugerah.perkasa@bisnis.co.id) OR CLICK HERE FOR ONLINE ARTICLE (Only in Indonesian)

Article Translated from Indonesia to English

“The woman I met in Nagoya”

 I fell in love with Nagoya on my first visit to Japan at the end of May. Nagoya is a serene town; clean roads, fine traffic with respect to pedestrians. Nagoya is a perfect mix where modern meets traditional.

 (Picture Caption: Japanese women are one of the biggest assets for the growth of the country’s economy)

 (Written by: Anugerah Perkasa. Anugerah.perkasa@bisnis.co.id)

There were not only a lot of office buildings, five star hotels, and electronic center, but also temples:  the place to utter all wishes. Nagoya is where I met the latest generation of Japanese woman. Her name is Youki Harada.

Youki, who was in her mid 20s, had shoulder length, slightly wavy hair with the sweetest smile. We got to know each other in an event held by Toyota Motor Corp (TMC) on hybrid car technology. I was invited as a reporter, while Youki came as a PR representative from Delphys, the PR company for Toyota Singapore. I watched her travel back and forth between hotel and media conferences, preparing seminar documents or acting as a timekeeper that announced the start of the sessions.

“ I am happy to be working in Singapore as I am able to meet people from various walks of life, “ said Youki, “Unlike here, where you mostly meet Japanese people only.” Youki was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, with liberal values. This was why she could be comfortable sharing her thoughts and opinions.  Her other four siblings had already been working and her youngest sibling was still in school, while studying full-time university studies, Youki worked part-time in Vancouver. Youki’s parents raised them in heterogenous culture: mixing japanese tradition with the open minded culture of the west. Growing up, Youki often received video recordings about Japan popular manga shows and variety game shows from her grandmother. Although this did not stop Youki from watching Walt Disney movies either.

We conversed throughtout the whole bus journey back to the hotel. Youki sat behind me and leaned forward, while I turned my body to face her.  Within our conversation, we talked about everything, from undergraduate days, career, japanese youth cultures, to environmental topics. After she finished her degree in advertising, Youki had a stint in Tokyo as a content editor.  Currently, Youki is in her 4th year of her advertising career. Youki often played with her hair as she conversed.

“As a Japanese women working in Japan, I have learnt how to voice my opinions with elegance and feminine, “ she said. “ At first, it was frustrating, but after practising for some time, I started to see how these benefit my career in the advertising industry in Tokyo, Japan.”

I considered Youki as an example of the modern Japanese women who has benefited from education. In 1995, the book Japanese Women: New Feminist Perspectives on the Past, Present and Future by Kimi Hara explained how modernisation of education flourished for Japanese women after the world war 2 ended in 1945. Even so, we should not forget that Meiji Restoration in 1868 also played an important role for females in the country. Education around that time, Hara explained, was forefronted by Christian missionaries from various origins such as USA, England and Canda. Meiji restoration also brought about bun-mei kaika, which means civilisation and enlightenment.

However, there were also other means for educating women at those times – to be a good wife and wise mother. The goal was to learn on how to serve the husband and family, as well as to align one’s self within the patriach system.

So what about the men? Hara stated that the point is clear: to enrich the country and srengthen the national army forces. But slowly, education progressed along with the influential feminist movement within the country in 1970s. Female education had gone through a long journey.

Apart from these, the book also revealed the reality of current Japanese women: pursuing education and delaying marriages. But for Youki, she felt that some things remained unchanged, “I often been told of the same thing over and over again, of how men will bring happiness to women’s lives, “Dating white guys are also considered as something to look up to.” What Youki had mentioned, I believe, came from her own experiences. The conversation became more and more interesting.

As a Japanese woman who was brought up in the liberal western culture, she felt that women in Japan still face obstacles in the road towards independency. On one hand, Japan had progressed to be modernised, but patriach system still deeply rooted within the society.

*** 

Based on a survey done by the Sloan Centre on Aging and Work from Boston College last year, Japan did not improve much on the patriachy system. Studies were done to understand the roles of each gender for 2 main components: gender-based specific roles and equal responsibilities.  Couples from 7 countries (USA, Netherlands, Brazil, China, India, England and Japan) took this survey. Gender-based specific roles included couples’ opinion on stereotyping men’s role as main provider of the family while women’s role to take care of the household matters. Equal responsibilities included sharing responsibilities on every matters pertaining to providing and taking care of household together. Scoring system was based on 1 to 6, with 6 as the highest point.

“Since the 1950s, there were significant increases in the number of women joining the workforce,” said Rucha Bhate, one of the researchers in the Centre, “however, traditional values for gender-based roles are still popular in various communities.” The centre did the survey on working adults and found that Japan scored 3 points in favour of gender-based specific roles. For equal responsibilities, the country scored 4.5. This was, however, the lowest score compared to the rest of the participating countries.

Brazil, for example, scored 5.5 for equal responsibilities and 1.5 for gender-based specific roles. Others such as USA, Nethrelands, England and India scored an average of 5.5 for equal responsibilities and – except for India – scored lower than 2 for gender-based specfic roles. India scored 2.5, while China scored almost a 3.  The survey also uncovered interesting perspective regarding male dominancy. Conventional masculine community like China and Japan scored higher, 2.9 and 3.1 respectively. And for equal responsibilties, each scored 4.9 and 4.7, while other countries scored a mean of 5.5.

“The traditional perspective on gender forces women to marry, to put education and career behind their kitchen counter,” stated Bhate,”This resulted in the disanvantages for women to fully maximise her education.” Readings from Sloan Centre on Ageing and Work, in my opinion, are not too far fetched from Youki’s environment in workplace and in the society where she grew up in. On one hand, she wanted Japanese women to be more independent. We continued our conversations throughout the Toyota event. In the bus, dinner, while waiting at the hotel and at last, via electronic mails. I remembered when her nose turned red as she battled against the raging flu, or when her cheek rosied up against the afternoon sun. Those did not stop her from smiling. “I wish to meet women who are more independent, who can bring changes,” said Youki, “They will be one of the biggest assets for the growth of the country’s economy.”

Download Original PDF Link: Perempuan yang Kutemui di Nagoya_BI220603  

Written by: Anugerah Perkasa. Anugerah.perkasa@bisnis.co.id  

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