Last month, I went to Doctor Matsuda at my local Japanese clinic, because my shoulder was killing me.
“My shoulder,” I said, “is killing me.”
“Did the pain begin gradually,” he asked, “or all at once?”
“Rather suddenly,” I replied.
“Were you doing anything in particular when it began?
“Not really,” I said, “just carrying this girl to bed. And maybe I kind of tripped.”
“Probably just a sprain,” he said. “Next time, let your girlfriend walk.”
Men’s Rights in Japan
Well, she wasn’t even my girlfriend, which shows how much doctors know. So then I was telling my buddy Brett about it. He’s sort of a Men’s Rights Activist kind of guy. In case you don’t know, Men’s Rights is a recent phenomenon based on the principle that men, uh, have rights. Okay, I don’t know all the details, but I gather that’s the overall concept.
“So you were carrying her,” Brett asked, “and not the other way around?”
“Yeah, I kinda don’t weigh ninety pounds either,” I said.
“Were you both, by chance, slightly intoxicated?” he asked.
“Well yeah, of course. I was like, ‘White wine or red?’ and she’s like, ‘Rosé,’ so I’m all, Gimme a sec and I’ll mix you up a glass.”
“But you paid for the wine, right? And probably dinner.”
“Dude, that’s just how life works.”
“In your world. When are you going to stop letting Japanese women control you?”
“About the time my balls shrivel up and fall off, I expect,” I replied.
Japanese Women and Testosterone
Recently, a reader commented that foreign guys in Japan are all “low-testosterone underachievers.” Ouch. So that was a bit harsh. On the other hand, just because it’s strong doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
By weird coincidence, a couple nights after reading that, I happened to be watching a Japanese TV show where they were testing the testosterone levels of couples. And in every case after marriage, the women’s testosterone shot up higher than normal, while the men’s plummeted. There was one couple in particular where the woman’s testosterone had increased fourfold. She squarely faced the camera and described how she made her husband do the laundry and cooking, while the poor guy just shrunk down and looked sad.
Now, I’m not a doctor. I do periodic anatomy inspections, but that’s more of a hobby. I assume that assessing human physiology involves protocols, establishing base rates, and actual science-y stuff, so I’m just talking about what I see around me. If it’s not low testosterone, then whatever, it’s something. Anyway, let’s talk about real life in Japan.
Women in the Japanese Workplace
In the Japanese workplace, men typically run the show. Women, at least while they’re young, are frequently assigned menial tasks such as demurely greeting customers, making tea, answering phones, and gossiping like plastic Barbies in 1950. It sucks, it’s demeaning, and it leads to a counterintuitive result.
It’s no secret that young Japanese women don’t make the same salary as men. That’s a bias in Japanese society (among others) and, along with racism, isn’t going away anytime soon. So a woman does what she can, which often means…looking cute, acting sexy, snagging a husband, and having children. Once that chain of events is set in motion, it’s sayonara 18-hour workdays and hello taking Junior to the Park. After the marriage is locked in, the tables turn. Now the woman runs the show.
So I was getting ready to write this and, as is my custom, figured I’d pop down to the local convenience store for a couple helpful cans of malted inspiration and possibly one of those delicious cheese-filled fish sausages.
“Ken Seeroi,” called my girlfriend, “it’s time for bed.”
“Yeah baby,” I answered, “I’m just gonna write this one thing and then I’ll be there.”
“It’s too late to go the the convenience store.”
“I suspect they’re open all night for a reason.”
“Did you do the dishes?” she hollered.
“I thought it was too late?” I replied.
“And put that bag of beer cans out for the trash,” she said. “Tomorrow’s can pickup day. And get some soy milk, eggs, and tofu if you go. Oh, and some natto.”
So after I finished about a thousand dishes and took out a massive bag o’ cans, I fumed my way to 7-Eleven mumbling obscenities about chores, groceries, and non-burnable garbage. Soy. I’d been charged with buying three kinds of soy. I could positively feel the testosterone draining from my body. Made me so mad I almost didn’t buy her an ice cream bar.
Somehow, I came to Japan thinking I’d be the man. Women would worship me, want to have sex but not babies, cook me dinner without me doing piles of dishes, and pay half for everything. Yeah, thanks for the heads-up, internet.
The reality is that, in a Japanese household, the woman’s the boss, and if there’s one thing Japanese folks excel at, it’s telling others what to do. As a Japanese guy, the best you can hope for is to stay late at the office, go out drinking with your coworkers, spend your allowance chatting up girls in hostess clubs, and be around your family as little as possible. That’s the Japanese way. As a foreign guy, you don’t even have that option.
My buddy Curtis is the foreign-guy-in-Japan prototype. The dude’s awesome—tall, good looking, several advanced degrees, funny, impressive shoulder-to-waist ratio. He was popular with women in the U.K. But after two years in Japan, he still struggles to read the lunch menu and can’t understand why the gas company keeps sending him bills printed in red. The delight of being surrounded by Japanese people has slowly been replaced by the dread of being surrounded by Japanese people, and it’s dawning on him that everybody just views him as a free English lesson. He spends half his day hunkered down on trains. If he’s lucky, he makes himself small and sits in silence.
Enter his Japanese girlfriend, Yukiko. When they go to restaurants, the waiters speak to her, not him. She reads the menu, calls out for drinks. No, she tells him, you don’t want to order that. That’s terrible. Order this. And she’s right. At home, Yukiko instructs Curtis, Don’t take a shower like that. Take it like this. And she’s right. There are a thousand tiny things, and Curtis sucks at them all. She’s in control, like Stalin in a short dress.
Now, I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. Women are certainly as capable as men; and in Japan, Japanese women are clearly more capable than foreign men. What concerns me, as a guy, is the effect this has on men. Understand that, if you’re a guy, when you come to Japan, you’re going to be the man for a short time, and then the bitch for a much longer time. You’re entering a world where all women can speak, read, joke, and bargain better than you. In other words, they’re the man.
Apparently, reduced testosterone isn’t just a Japanese thing, at least according to MD Magazine: “single men tend to have more testosterone than comparable men in long-term relationships.” But if that’s true in a country where you have full command of the language and at least some social standing, it doesn’t bode well for living overseas. Men who’ve settled in Japan seem to gradually lose that drive, vigor, testosterone, mojo, or whatever it was that made males of our species capable of leaving caves, sleeping in frozen forests, and clubbing bears to death. Instead, they’ve become infantilized, ridiculed, and accustomed to failing at even simple tasks like making phone calls or reading the newspaper.
Why Japanese Women Like Foreign Guys
On the flip side, ask Japanese women what they like about foreign men, and you’ll frequently hear the same answer. It’s rarely because they’re handsome, witty, or intelligent. The most common reply is: because they’re nice. And maybe that’s true. But I wonder if a component of “nice” doesn’t include the ability to take instructions, take a backseat, and let the woman run everything. Nice means she gets to have everything the way she wants it.
Well, maybe putting women in charge is for the best, I don’t know. They’re probably less likely to blow up the planet. Anyway, I spend too much time whitening my teeth and trimming my eyebrows to worry much about men’s rights. And now that I’ve got my hair set perfectly, I gotta run, since I’m taking my girlfriend to dinner and she hates when I’m late. She’s gonna be pissed as it is, once she sees what a mess I made of the ironing.
113 Replies to “Are Japanese Women Stealing Our Testosterone?”
You should see a show of Japan by Anthony Bourdain where they talk to a dominatrix and she says that all japanese men would love to be tied up and beaten. I hope you are not going down the same road but if you are you might as well enjoyed it.
hahaha love it!
Ken, I propose an experiment. Pick girls while you are stone cold sober, and don’t sleep with them. Don’t drink on dates. Find out whether or not you enjoy their company for a while, before approaching sex. Make sure that they are as smart and as educated as you, and that they share your values and interests. You might be surprised how well that works.
That is literally the worst idea I’ve ever heard.
I was a certified counselor for many years. I found that dissatisfied people were not open to advice, so that they remained locked into the misery that was their presenting complaint. We counselors called their responses “yes, butting.” They typically found an excuse for avoiding carrying out the advice that would help them.
Did you counsel people to develop a sense of humor?
If you’re going to read this… guy’s comments and replies you would see that it doesn’t sound as if he’s joking. How about just treating people like people regardless of gender, ffs. Besides, are you at all aware that discerning sarcasm and satire is difficult when it’s in printed form? That telling the difference between a joke and real is realllly difficult when it’s online? Or do you have some kind of psychic abilities where you always get the joke (because I assume you’re just so very smart)? If he’s kidding about this b.s. it isn’t obvious. Especially not to people like me who are on the autism spectrum.
Henceforth all jokes and sarcasm shall appear in italics, to assist the humor-impaired.
Great article as per usual Ken, but I’m not sure this is just a Japanese ‘thing’ however. I’ve seen it time and time again here in the US that once a couple get married the wife intends on running the show. Quite often it’s by being passive aggressive, sometimes by brute force. It’s like once the ring is on both fingers it is intended to tie a leash on the husband for him to be dragged around with. That marriage certificate empowers a woman more so than the man, she has more ultimate control of the situation now. Once children come into play the husband is now further down on the priority chain. I’ve seen many men end up being ATM machines for their families. Jeez, I hate to have this sound so negative it’s just the way I’ve seen relationships change after marriage. If it wasn’t so consistent I wouldn’t be writing this. As you point out maybe it’s not such a bad thing having the wife in charge as, let’s face it; men are complete idiots.
I’m assuming this is amplified greatly for a gaijin man deciding to settle down in Japan. Without complete knowledge of the language and customs he is destined to rely so much on his spouse for trivial matters that he will appear to be weak. I guess that’s a trade off for living in Japan with it’s awesome food, abandoned kittens and man-eating Huntsman spiders…
I agree with you, and I’d say you summed it up perfectly. I think a lot of things people attribute to Japan are equally present in other countries—they just never noticed them.
The main difference is just how dependent you are in Japan, although that’s more a “foreign” thing than a “guy” thing. If you can’t speak the language—and often even if you can—you have to rely on Japanese people to help you perform the simplest tasks.
Like, you know how when you want to know something, you just google it? Freaking try doing that in Japanese. For the rest of your life, you’re gonna be like, “Hey baby, google this, and then read all the web pages to me.”
Well, many foreign men don’t put in any effort themselves. After years in Japan, they still don’t know how to cook a proper meal with Japanese ingredients, they don’t know how to pay the gas or phone bill, etc. Maybe they LIKE being told what to do? It’s pretty convenient! Japanese men too, are like little children. They never really grow up because they get pampered until the age of 35…
I gotta agree with Binnenbocht-kun on this one!
Google translate. It’s not anywhere near perfect, but the general idea usually gets across. There are also phone apps like this where you can take a photo of the text you want translated and the phone will translate it, I hear. Not great for dating, but one might make it fun with the right attitude.
Lol, Periodic anatomy inspection… Just wondering, does learning japanese affect the way you think and therefore how you make jokes? Because, even if I can’t put my finger on it, it seems like the jokes are structured differently from other english speaking witters. Quite unique if I may say so. Also, you may have a rotator cuff injury… so look that up. Cheers
Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s a rotator cuff injury. I’ve been applying ice and alcohol every night, and I must say I feel much better. Tomorrow I begin an additional salt and lime treatment.
Yeah, I’ve no idea where I get my strange sense of humor. My parents always did a lot of plays on words, so perhaps that factors into things. Or maybe speaking Japanese has permanently damaged my brain. I mean, once you start thinking stick figures are actually words you know something’s wrong.
Remember ken, the alcohol with ice is for putting over the shloulder, not for ingesting. Or maybe both work i dunno.
Also dont forget after the salt and lime use the famous michael phelps cupping method. Ive heard stories of old physicians (1950 aprox) using them for treating fevers.
And I know traditional japanese medicine uses it so that’s surely effective. I mean, just like you say, why would japan innovate when you have already something that doesnt work.
Sorry for the saltiness, traditional medicine drives me nut. Overhead pressing and holding with weight is most effective really. I use it all the time at work.
Anyways hope you get better. Cheers
Like the comment above, I don’t think this as much a Japanese or Married Foreign Guy in Japan problem as a more generational one. Many guys a decade or more younger than me seem downright effeminate. But especially young Japanese men, (not my father-in-law’s generation,) but I’d rather be hen pecked than alone and humping a dakimakura pillow.
And my wife can buy her own natto, and damn well better eat it wth at least 50k radius between us.
I dunno, those pillows are pretty soft.
Now I feel bad for my husband…. he’s nice, too!
No doubt you both are. Please remember that I told only half the story. The other side involves all of the challenges and consequences that come with being a woman, in any nation. I didn’t integrate that into this article because, as a man, my understanding of women’s issues is less clear, and simply because it would be a much, much longer narrative.
There’s a lot more to be said on this story; I just described one thread.
But I think your impulse is correct. Couples need to be considerate of each other’s position, and communicate when possible.
As a foreign woman living in Japan, I experience being discriminated against for being both foreign and a woman. The biggest topics of conversation among myself and female friends in Japan include tales of sexual assault and harassment, being followed home late at night, being ignored and shut out at work and generally feeling that we are less than. Lucky me that my Japanese boyfriend doesn’t ask me to do the dishes or pick up some things while I’m at the store though. He just reads the menu and orders my food because I can’t speak Japanese, what a dick!
Keep your chin up mate, I know it must be super tough to be a white man (presumably) experiencing, the most low-key-cry-me-a-river, discrimination for the first time.
Sometimes it’s better not to tell one thread of a story when it’s so damn trivial. I’m sure your MRA friend (and other readers) will validate the issues you have discussed, so a nice chat to him will be in order after reading this comment!
So your point is…you’re a bigger minority? Well, all right.
I was merely attempting to share my experience with the hope that it might give you some further perspective and recognise that taking aim at women as the problem is quite ironic when the problems you’re experiencing are only a fraction of the problems that women experience.
Anyway, viva the patriarchy, hope your equilibrium of dominating society returns soon.
All these steps to go somewhere and I could just not walk and be farther.
Quite a subject you touched there.
Strange, that. Maybe I’m just dense, but I didn’t really see it as much of an issue.
Although I dressed it up a fair bit, at its core it’s basically a physiological response to a social situation.
It’s important to note that women aren’t the villains in this story. I’ve no doubt that if you took two gay guys, and put ’em in Nevada or somewhere, and one of the guys didn’t speak English, he’d start to feel pretty disadvantaged pretty quick. And I bet you’d see a decrease in testosterone.
It’s just his experience and perspective – so what? Are urs more valid?
Fiona, have you ever lived in a Third World country? I have. The women there have real disadvantages and discrimination to deal with. Whatever challenges you face from “the patriarchy” as a pampered female Westerner rotating through a first world country are indeed a minuscule fraction of what those women deal
with daily. So take your toxic pity party somewhere else.
OK, you win the most discriminated against competition. No, wait, a friend of mine is a woman, a foreigner, Black, and has a “non-standard” English accent, she wins.
This is not a final year thesis of a gender studies undergraduate degree, this is one person telling his story. If you think your story is more important then start a blog. I’m sure a blog about the struggles of an illiterate foreigner trying to be taken seriously at work while her boyfriend reads the menu to her would be very popular , I’d certainly read it.
Can’t fathom why you’ve taken the article as a sort of “woe is me” discriminatory attack or comment on how foreign men have such a hard time here – I found it to be a pretty neutral and observational one.
Maybe you could use that time you spend complaining with your friends about sexual harassment (you sound like a fun group) to learn how to read some Japanese. Illiteracy doesn’t often garner much respect, regardless of gender.
My initial comment was because this story did indeed seem to portray women as the villains and stealing men’s apparent rightful position of holding all the power (or as it was thinly veiled, testosterone). I thought that was a pretty bullshit thing to do when women are treated like shit, particularly in Japan.
Brett, what you’re describing there is called intersectionality, not sure if that word is too “gender studies undergraduate degree” for you, but it’s a thing and it sure as fuck isn’t a competition.
Wow Ruby, l would have to say that’s pretty vile, by anyone’s standards, to criticize women for complaining about sexual assault and harassment. Next time, I’ll be sure to get out my Genki workbook and that’ll stop him from touching me and respect me…
Soz for discussing real issues guys. Lesson learnt, do not comment on blogs, especially when it involves expats living in Japan. Byeeeeeeeeeee!
It’s good to hear a variety of opinions, and Fiona, I think your fundamental message is sound. Women do have a hard time of it in Japan, and elsewhere.
The thing is, aside from tourists and short-term visitors, lots of people here face challenges, especially the Japanese folks themselves. It’s a fun place to visit but, in some ways, a hard place to live. Well, good days and bad, I suppose, just like anywhere else.
Thank you for sharing your experience and opinions. But please don’t be disrespectful of others sharing theirs.
Ken, it’s all in the nomenclature. Had you, at the very least, used terms normative to a “gender studies undergraduate degree” in a non-binary way that accepts your guilt in the patriarchy and privilege, as a cis white man that benefits from a gender power disparity in a post-capitalist society, you could maybe expunge the air of superiority that emits from your male oriented utterances.
I think I’m out of my league on some of these comments. I had to Google “intersectionality” from Fiona’s remark. It may take several days to decipher Stephen’s comment above.
Prior to Googling the above words, I need to finish “Green Eggs & Ham” by this Dr. Seuss fella. I can understand most of it, luckily my GF assists me with the big words. It will give me something to look forward to after I’m done with the dishes, laundry, shopping and cleaning the bathroom.
Ken, please ensure that the next subject you write about will not give those who post a reply the opportunity to use big words…
Count on me to do my part. And in the future, commenters are asked to please limit their choice of words to those with three syllables or less.
Oh yeah, I’m-a get right on that.
Post-capitalist society? Trump and his pals have drug us back to the Gilded Age, where capitalism was at its height, where the rich own the working people as serfs, and people of color are livestock.
Yes, I didn’t see this article as portraying Japanese women as villains; no more so than the image of the henpecking wife portrays women in the US or other countries as villains. I just saw this as a critique of many guys in Japan giving up their agency through convenience and circumstance. Ken also pointed out that this was just his take on one side of the issue and that he didn’t have the experience or authority to speak on the other side. I think you’re free to express your views…but do so respectfully. I think all of us would like to know more about how hard it is for women, particularly non-Japanese women in the country…but your tone doesn’t engender much sympathy. Most of us in these comments are knuckleheads…but from what I’ve seen, there’s a certain level of decorum and respect even for knuckleheads.
The image that came to my mind after reading Fiona’s posts:
Nah, Genki sucks. Can use it to bash someone away at least though.
I, as a woman, love reading this blog in part for the gender-biased dickery, which is always funny, true, and an intelligent commentary on social mores. Please keep saying stupid shit in a smart way, Ken.
Thanks, Emma. I can promise I’ll fulfill at least half of your request at all times.
I always fucking love your stories.
Thanks. I fucking love comments like that.
You must be familiar with the phenomenon of the herbivore male? The old Japanese baby-boomer male might frown on them but I always figured the younger generation has watched the older generation beat themselves up for so little they decided their lives were going to belong to them not lives of servitude for a Japanese company. More power to them. That’s my opinion, I’m probably wrong.
Ken, captcha behaving kind of funky?
That was directed at Stephen, BTW. I had another captcha failure.
Sorry about that, really. I hate captcha as much as anyone, but it’s the only way to keep out the rampant spam. Everyone, please save before you post, and again, sorry for the hassle.
While there is nothing wrong with wanting to change or withdraw from a system chews you up and spits you out, as as a man, I have believe there is a better way than donning eyeliner and masterbating to anime.
Fun fact, actually historically female leaders wage more wars. There are different hypothesis for why that is.
That strange. Does it matter how big the war is, or how long it lasts? Not implying women’s wars somehow aren’t as good as men’s, by the way. Just asking.
Well they usually were expansionist wars, so I would say at the very least as big as any war. One of the hypothesis for that is the way management worked and that when a woman was the ruling monarch she would deal more with foreign politics, while her husband would be dealing with domestic issues. Of course there are also some sex based hypothesis as simple as, she is a woman, doesn’t have to do the fighting and really has no experience on the battlefield. There was one specifically nice sounding argument about this whole thing, but I can’t quite remember it, so I better not misrepresent it.
Actually I had several male (foreign) co-workers who “suffered” just like your friend Curtis.
When we all wanted to go out after work to an izakaya and asked one of them to come with us. They always said they have to confirm with their wives first … or that their wives didn’t give them enough allowance to do so.
When I asked one of them where they got their credit card (as it used to be a bit difficult to get one as a foreigner). He said he had no idea because his wife got it for him …..
Another time I asked a different guy how he got his decen phone deal … and what other deals he was looking into …. He said he has no idea as his wife did everything for him …..
Not to mention that I barely met any foreign man who was with a Japanese woman and could actually speak decent Japanese.
Not to be mean, but I always thought those guys were quite pathetic ……
Anyway, great to read your post as always. ^___^
Well, lets just add “pathetic” to “low-testosterone underachievers” and you have a solid foundation on aspiring to be a ‘wimp’. Add on needing permission to go out with coworkers along with relying on an allowance from your spouse and you are well on your way to becoming a ‘wuss’. Not bothering to learn the native language of a country you plan on residing for many years most certainly makes you a ‘fool’. Okay, let’s add this up:
Definition of a gaijin male married to a Japanese wife (I will submit this to Merriam-Webster for approval):
“A wimpy pathetic wuss fool who suffers from low-testosterone, destined to underachieve.”
Jeez, Ken. You might delay marrying a Japanese woman for a while. Then again, having your wife make all the decisions for you really leaves a lot of time for drinking with old men and getting shot at by some BB gun toting nut job. Although you might want to ask the wife for a raise in your allowance to cover the related expenses, just make sure the dishes and ironing are completed before you ask. Let us know how that goes…
Thanks for the comment, although that seems like overstating the case. These men—a great number who’re friends of mine—are far from fools or, as you say, wusses. In fact, they’re some of the most motivated, well educated, and unfortunately nicest people I’ve ever met.
How’d they end up in this situation? Well, let’s see.
First of all, most folks in the world get involved in relationships. And a great number get married. That’s why we’re still alive as a species.
So if you’re a guy in Japan, it’s quite possible you’ll eventually get involved with a Japanese woman.
It’s not hard to see how that might happen. And you’d probably be quite happy if it did.
Then what’s the common internet wisdom about Japan? Umm, the the women are cute, sexy, subservient, you’ll be a rock star, they’ll cook you dinner, scrub your back…and even if were true, nobody plays the tape forward.
What comes next? I never hear anybody talk about that.
And again, I’m not saying women are at fault here. I’m just saying that men don’t typically think very damn far into the future. We’re like, Wow, tits! Who cares about tomorrow? I’ll do anything for those!
The reality is it’s not easy to manage in a foreign country, particularly where everyone treats you like an idiot. Did I mention Japan has a long-running TV show solely dedicated to making fun of foreigners? I did? Oh right, never mind.
And learn Japanese? Does that actually help? (Short answer, no. It might even make life worse.)
The culture is far from obvious at first. It can take years before you clue in to the fact that Japan doesn’t reward high performing go-getters; it wants citizens who can quietly fit in, behave themselves, control themselves, sit still, and be mannerly. Shhhhh…
But whatever. Even if I spelled it all out clear as day, you wouldn’t care, because tits. One sexy Japanese girl invites you back to her place one night, and boom, now you’re a daddy. It’s not being a wuss that gets you in trouble; it’s having too much testosterone.
Well, I will admit my post was, shall we say, a bit over the top. And by your description above on how gaijin men end up choosing female anatomy parts over a future lifestyle leads me to think of the classic line; “The little head thinks for the big one”. This has been mans fate for generations, from ancient caves to modern mansions, from fools to intellectuals, the story remains the same. We never learn until it is too late…
Going from “the man” to “the bitch” in Japan seems like a classic example of a slippery slope. Once the process starts it’s all downhill from there and you may not even notice your boxer shorts have been replaced with womans panties until they need to be washed. It’s like “Hey, didn’t I used to wear mens underwear? Hmmmm, I guess I’ve been wearing these for a few years and didn’t notice.” The final nail in the proverbial coffin is not demanding your boxer shorts back but asking; “Honey, can you show me the correct way to fold my new undies?” Your fate is sealed at that point…
Anyway, excuse me as I have laundry to fold (I hate my new pastel panties!) and a floor to scrub while I listen to Tokyo Girl by Perfume. I need to hurry up as I have a nail appointment later today…
Hi ZoomingJapan (Jasmine),
I don’t know…
Hard to say who the sucker is. I can think of two ways to finish that sentence “pathetic…”
…because he didn’t learn Japanese, and now he has to use his native language.
…pathetic because he spent years learning Japanese, instead of doing something more beneficial.
Just saying, as someone who’s done it, put in the time, years and years of work, hey, I’m happy I can manage the restaurants, train stations, even doctors’ offices. But none of it came for free. And even now there’s a ton I don’t know, and no matter what I’ll always get the “gaijin treatment.”
On the flip side, there are a lot of guys and gals out there using that extra hour or two a day not to study Japanese, but instead to go to the gym, get an advanced degree, play music, start a business, or simply enjoy life.
“Pathetic” wouldn’t be the word. I’d be more inclined to go with “smart,” “successful,” or “wealthy”.
In my opinion this whole feminine japanese men thing definitely has something to do with the work hours. The 80s and 90s were apparently even more crazy with the hours. Dad was at work literally all day and Mom raised the kid. A father figure is very important for a child, kids might make disgusted faces when they see dad and mom kiss or hug, but they definitely learn how to act around a potential mate, like timing for touches, what to talk about etc. Now I’m not sure whether this woman=boss dynamic was there in that time aswell, but if yes, it surely amplified this issue.
Ken, that reminds of something I wanted to ask you for quite some time. Any chance you have anything interesting to say about the senpai/kohei dynamic? Personally I think it’s complete bullshit in everyday life, it blocks creativity, critical thinking, even general safety and more than likely to be abused. I remember reading somewhere a Fukushima Tepco employee saying that they saw the nuclear accident coming and tried to warn the managers, but they wouldn’t listen and ordered to continue as is. Some politicians/scientist (can’t remember) tried to spark a discussion whether this senpai/kohei culture should aborted, but it quickly petered out.
Kids see Mom and Dad kiss and hug? I can assure you that most Japanese kids have never seen their parents, or possibly anyone, do that. In Japan, those are borderline sexual acts, and rarely done where others can see them. It’s not a real touchy culture, although recently you can see young people holding hands.
So the senpai/kouhai thing…it’s just ingrained. In some ways, it’s similar to the situation in the West, where older people (usually male) are in positions of power. Managers tell employees what to do. Teachers tell students what to do. Parents, children. Wives, husbands. (Sorry, just had to sneak that in.)
The big difference lies in the ability of the person in the lower position to speak up. You know how people jokingly say, “this is going to go on your permanent record”? Well, in Japan, you really have one. You can’t just tell your boss to Take this job and shove it, because that could be the end of your career.
There’s pretty solid record-keeping in Japan, so one misstep can follow you for the rest of your life. This fear is behind a lot of what visitors see as “the wonders of Japan”—the low crime, good service, and overall social order. They’re really just afraid, because they know others here aren’t forgiving, and you’re not likely to get a second chance.
As you mentioned, the whole thing’s terribly stifling to creativity when no one speaks up. You also can’t avoid problems obvious to everyone but the boss. So the copilot just trusts the captain, even though he knows the altitude, and the plane sails into the mountain.
Gee, I haven’t heard anything about this strict record keeping. What are the people doing who stopped being a hikkikomori/homeless/jobless? Surely they must have some perspective?
Well, when you apply for a job, they’re going to call your previous employers and enquire about any gaps in your work history. You can probably figure how well it’s going to go over when you reveal you spent the last two years living in a cardboard box.
I can imagine that happening if you apply for some office job, but for low profile jobs say, store clerk, janitor or cashier? At least I would imagine that would be sonething these people could start at.
You could get a job shoveling rocks into a wheelbarrow, or laying road tar. Those are traditional options for the downfallen. But not too many business owners would take the chance of putting you around cash and inventory, especially when there are college kids, foreign students, and people retired from careers willing to do those jobs.
Nobody wants to find you sneaking a case of tuna fish out the back door, or scarfing down nikuman in the walk-in cooler.
Japan’s not the land of second chances.
Fun fact. I have seen these “jobs for the fallen” so many times in anime/other pop culture elements. I understood they were low level jobs, but now you gave me a completely different look. They are the lowest, then.
Ken, would be nice have an elaborate post on this. You know, it’s an interesting topic. The whole pyramid of job in japan, the record keeping (knew they were strict, but this is over the top), etc. What you can and can’t be. You already talked about the common office, but it would be pretty nice to read about a bigger figure.
I’ve been considering a piece on the Japanese office, so thanks for the push. I may not specifically address what you’re referring to, but hopefully I can provide a bit more insight into how businesses function (or don’t) in Japan.
Reminds me of a story I heard from a Japanese friend. Her highschool classmate put out his cigarette on the teacher’s hand, and that one action doomed him to a life of manual labor.
Mmmm,don’t really want to get involved in a he she discussion,but some proof that perhaps chicks do rule:
I could watch that all day.
The following lines will make the Japanese Rule of 7 Hall Of Fame:
…if there’s one thing Japanese folks excel at, it’s telling others what to do.
The delight of being surrounded by Japanese people has slowly been replaced by the dread of being surrounded by Japanese people..
She’s in control, like Stalin in a short dress.
… if you’re a guy, when you come to Japan, you’re going to be the man for a short time, and then the bitch for a much longer time.
These four quotes are pure gold…
Ah thanks. I’ll have to use them more often.
Hey Ken, I’ve got a bit of a pressing question, and while I’m not sure this is the best thread to ask it in, I’ll do so anyway.
I’ve read somewhere that in order to acquire Japanese citizenship, an individual must have their prior citizenship to their home country revoked. Is this true? Dual citizenship just not a thing for them? :/
I think the short answer to your question is going to be Yes.
There are a few footnotes, but that’s it in a nutshell. You may want to check with these guys—that’s kind of their thing: http://www.turning-japanese.info/
From my understanding, the final step in acquiring Japanese citizenship is to renounce the citizenship of any other nation. In my case, I’d have to give up my U.S. citizenship, which means that if I ever wanted to permanently return to the U.S., I’d be in the same boat (so to speak) as any other immigrant. You know, cross the Rio Grande and climb a shiny new wall.
Interestingly enough, I was talking to a Japanese friend of mine who’s applying for U.S. citizenship. She’s been living and working in California for a number of years.
I was like, “Wow, that’s pretty heavy. You’ll have to give up your Japanese citizenship.”
And she said, “Oh, it’s no big deal. Japanese people can get it back whenever.”
“What? How’s that?”
“Oh,” she said, “We’ve got Japanese blood. So even if we become citizens of another country, we can always go back to Japan.”
So there you go, “the Japanese blood.” A scientifically proven method for determining citizenship.
Thanks for that response. It was really, really informative. Also…wooooow. Just…wow.
Well, it’s just heresay, so don’t accept it as gospel. But from what I’ve seen of Japan, I’d say it sounds pretty right.
Hmmm actually something that I’ve been discussing with the family…for something possibly long-term. My wife asked if I wanted to naturalize at that time and I said that I already have two…I think just being a PR would be fine. Is there really a benefit to naturalizing in Japan (or really any other country) other than the patriotic reasons, if you plan to live and spend most of your time in that country?
Ken, or any other long termers in Japan…would you ever plan on naturalizing?
That’s a very good question, and one I’ve been mulling over for a while now.
This year, I’m planning to apply for either permanent residency (PR) or citizenship. (There’s a small story about that. I’ll write it up before long.) Like you, I’d be interested in hearing the opinions of others on this subject.
The reasons I’ve come up with for citizenship over PR are:
1. You couldn’t be kicked out of the country for any reason. Of course, if you screwed up that badly, it’s arguable that being deported would be preferable to being sent to a Japanese prison.
2. You wouldn’t be subject to the laws and taxes of your former home country. At least not as much.
3. There might be benefits available to citizens that are not available to PRs. I’m thinking particularly in terms of old age, although I don’t know if that’s really true.
4. You’d be able to say, “Yeah, fuck you too. I am Japanese.” That’s gotta be worth something.
There’s an equally long list of reasons not to choose citizenship, but we’ll get to those later. (And I’ll probably use some or all of these points when I write that story, so don’t be disappointed if you see them again soon.)
Actually, there is a testosterone drop in all human males after becoming ‘a steady partner’. It’s because they, biologically speaking, leave “mating mode”. There is an even bigger drop after becoming a father.
Not exactly good news for those of us who’d prefer to remain in mating mode. Stupid brain.
I recently went to a japanese clinic to have my testosterone level checked. Now i am above 40 guy with a kid and this may seem natural.
I was shocked to note that the level dropped even below the minimum level. The specialist (claims to be Harvard educated) asked me to take some vitamins, mineral and DHEA pills OR take just take testosterone pills.
Now the thing is that if you take testosterone artificially, then the sperm producing mechanism is not aware of this and hence does not produce enough sperm to make babies.You can feel your superpower exploding through your pants though!
If Testosterone is produced naturally, then the brain (which is incharge) tells the sperm making machine that yes , Houston we have a launch for delivery!
Sorry to make it boring and medical jargons, but just thought you’d like to know some facts behind this fun blog.
Given the description of your superpower, I’m going to assume you’ve tried these magic pills. Aside from not being able to make babies, what’s the drawback again?
Well one of the best comments I heard is that testosterone is like rocket fuel…yes, more energy, muscle building, libido, etc…but it does a number on your engine. So you burn hotter…but you’ll burn out quicker.
Babies are awesome, kind of a pain, but direct, love that!
Kids on the other hand are awesome but really suck in a lot of ways. I’m so dreading the teenage years…
But the rewards meted out, here an there, are astounding.
That’s good to hear. People who want to have kids seem to get a lot of rewards from them. I’m happy for anyone who has that dream.
It’s really the folks who didn’t intend to have children that I worry about. Discovering you’re starting a family overseas on the salary of an English teacher seems a radical change of plans for many foreign people.
This one was fun. Anyways, male menopause is a thing. Don’t ask me why I know that.. My dad, yeah that’s it, my dad has it. I guess AndroGel is used and someone else already mentioned, DHEA. In a boys club like Japan, I’m sure one would have no problem finding a doctor who’s an expert in hormone replacement and would prescribe such things. Best of luck Ken.
Already looking forward to your next one!
Ah, thanks very much. Sometimes it takes a while…
most of the times.
They were doing something on Japanese TV besides having celebrities eat food and say 美味しい? Wow, what’s going on there. I can’t imagine that the results were representative, though – they would’ve picked results that made the audience go “eeeeeeeeeeeh??” right? I’m guessing they were at least being paid to advertise the testosterone measuring equipment 🙂
I’m not a doctor either, but I haven’t heard of feelings of inferiority causing low testosterone. I thought it went the other way around – that some physical problem caused low testosterone, which caused emotional problems? Can low testosterone really be caused by your feelings about your relationship?
I’ve been in a relationship with Japanese girl for three years, and haven’t yet seen signs of the turnaround you mentioned, but I spoke Japanese before I met her, so I didn’t have to rely on her. (Actually, I make a point of doing admin stuff when she’s not around, because for some reason it really gets under my skin when they look at her, even though I’m doing all the speaking.)
Having made a comment that was 100% cynical, I should probably also say thanks for all the great writing. Some of your posts have me in stitches 🙂
Yeah no, it’s all good. Thanks for the props too. One quick question though–do you and your girlfriend live together? I think that makes a difference.
We do, but to be fair we’re not really in the situation you described, which is more like a 10 year relationship than a 3 year relationship. There’s no particular reason for us to be unbalanced yet – we both work full time, and go we halves on most things. I treat her to dinner a bit more, and she does a bit more housework than me, but hey, gender roles. Be interesting to see what happens if it does get to the marriage and children stage.
Out of interest, you might’ve said it in a previous blog post somewhere, but have you ever gotten to the living together stage with a Japanese girl? Was it like what you described – she suddenly became bossy? I don’t have a lot of married friends, but I do hear that story from time to time from other foreigners.
I’ve lived with Japanese ladies on two occasions. In general, both good experiences. Of course, there were certain things they could accomplish more readily than I could, namely everything, both because their Japanese was better, and because they looked the part. So I did end up taking the passenger’s seat more often. But hey, their country.
I wouldn’t say “bossy.” A better word would be “spoiled.” Japanese women have a particular concept of how things should be, and they want to get their way. But hey, I guess everybody does. Bossy is direct, which Japanese folks aren’t good at. So instead there’s passive-agressiveness, which they’re masters of.
Been married to J-wife now for 27 years. I am continually reminded of how Japanese pay attention to small detail, and how I fail to do the same. Like all women she also reminds me almost every day of everything I ever did wrong. Back in my aparto in Japan all those years ago if I wanted “a day off” being a Gaijin I could just stay home alone. But once married and now retired, absolutely no chance. Watching the new Top Gear series on the Beeb keeps happy though.
It’s funny ’cause it’s true.
I’m writing a piece right now that touches on that wonderful Japanese tendency to remind others of all the stuff they happen to be doing wrong.
Apologies, I meant watching the new Top Gear series keeps her happy, and laughing. Unfortunately it is the case that I’d best listen to her as she’s usually right. Okay I really mean about 99.9% of the time! Having paid close attention to her constant explanation of doing everything the Japanese way I can now wash rice, make green tea correctly, etc. At least now when she visits her parents without me I won’t starve. We’ll both be going back again soon to visit the JPIL’s and for as much Japan Therapy as possible, (that for me is the food and nigorizake). As a wise J-wife once said, when you try and fail just do it as your J-wife first told you. I can hear her now, “Baka ja nai!”. When you have time please address the issue of Mottainai Syndrome.
I lived in Russia for a decade and so much of long-term expat psychology things you talk about are 100% relatable – right up to where all the magic wears off and it;s just another place.
It’s almost like reading my own thoughts. only difference is a bounced out of there already with wife and daughter, i think my testosterone levels are doing fine tho
Love your blog mate, love the humour and hope you keep it up!
Thanks much. I suspect the expat life is similar no matter where you go. And I must say, I think you were right to get out. A lot of people have recommended leaving Japan, and in many ways, that seems sound advice. Get out with your testosterone intact.
Take 600 mg. N-Acetyl Cysteine (AKA NAC) supplements, available on Amazon.com (for example.) This will reduce the damage alcohol (ETOH) causes you, when alcohol is metabolized into acetylaldehyde. Alpha Lipoic Acid supplements will also help with this.
Only found your website today, brilliant read! Lived in Japan for a few years in the early 80’s. Met Miss Right while I was there. Been together now for 36 years. After 27 years of marraige can’t say that my testosterone has dropped as my mind is as filthy now as it was when I was 18. In any case I love watching Vikings and my J-wife thinks I’m bad tempered and aggressive. I rely on her when we’re back in Japan, and she relies on me in the UK. It’s called Team Work. After reading your article I thought about commenting. I read the funny bit to my wife, ie that she was the boss, so she ordered me to write a comment. Just doing as I’m told as I can’t afford a divorce. Odin!
With the same Japanese woman for 36 years? Great Asgard, that’s a long time. You, my friend, are a true Viking. Although it makes me wonder if you’d still be up for all that raping and pillaging had you stayed in Japan the whole time.
Ken, I read somewhere on the internet that an alternative meaning to “Viking” is “Seeker” or “Traveller”, which is how I prefer to emulate the Vikings. Okay, they were armed to the teeth and had a propensity for violence, but they practiced diversity and had open minds. At this point my J-Wife has just walked into the room and reminded me that today I had planned to replace the kitchen door. “Yes dear, of course dear”.
The Vikings, famous travelers and handymen. Artifacts unearthed in Nova Scotia reveal surprisingly well-preserved tape measures and Phillips screwdrivers.
Ken sensei, you may find the following article to be of interest…………….
My only issue with this article is that it fails to recognize that the Angles (Danes) and Saxons (Germans) were just the first wave of Vikings to hit Britain after the Romans left. Old English was a Viking language in its’ own right. But anyway….for an instant Viking, just add alcohol!
That was interesting. It started off sounding like the Vikings brought all these tough-sounding words, like “bull” and “club.” But that pretty much fell apart once they got to “glitter.” Still, it’s instructive to see how languages get transformed by other cultures. At this point, the Japanese language is probably 10-20% English.
Language is a loaded weapon. As that percentage increases, at some point in time there will be a tipping point where Jomon Yayoi psychology evolves as a result of the concepts encapsulated in the English they adopt. It’s easy to restrict immigration but not thought processes. Skol!
I successfully installed my very first door. Despite my doubts in my own abitities my J-Wife had every confidence in me. I did it. I now only have another 5 doors to install. Not to mention the installation of a new bathroom, kichen, block driveway and artificial grass outdoor BBQ area. My testosterone levels are OK. Daily close proximity Japanese Management over decades has upgraded my life skill set. I thank Odin for my J-wife. Odiiiin!
Just out of curiosity, are the pictures in the articles ones you have taken yourself, or just random pictures from the internet? Also, is the girl in the picture an idol or something, or is it typical to see people on the street posing for a picture?
They’re all pictures I’ve taken myself, save for three, which were taken by friends and sent to me. Thanks for asking.
The girl in the picture…I’ve wondered about that for years. It’s certainly not typical. She was posing for a series of pictures. Maybe she had aspirations of being a model, or perhaps that was her boyfriend and they just wanted to take pictures of her on a nice warm day.
My guess would be some cosplay. First things that comes to mind seeing a girl in that position with a camera on her face. Dunno the character though.
y’kno alcohol raises estrogen, which displaces testosterone; which coincidentally may partially account for the low testosterone those who drink more to destress from an overbearing woman experience…
I wish I wasn’t a Hafū…
Really? Why is that?