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  • Tia Miki

The Problems With the Japanese View of Love

The “Age to Get Married”

“You know you can’t look good in a wedding dress after you turn 25” was a phrase my mother was told when she was getting married at 37, nearly 15 years after all of her other friends got married. Though that was over 20 years ago, the same thoughts around marriage and love still exist in Japan.

Whenever I visit my mother’s small hometown in Japan from the United States, my relatives aren’t too interested in the fact I go to an art school or my part-time job teaching English to Japanese students, they’re interested in a different type of question.

“Do you have a boyfriend yet?” and “Do you prefer Japanese guys or American (by American they mean white) guys?” are probably the two most frequently asked questions that I get when I go back to my small town in Japan. Funny enough, I’ve never been asked anything along the lines of this when I’m in the United States.

The problem with these questions is the middle-aged people questioning me, a teenager.

I’ve gotten these questions asked since the moment I became a teenager. This may be rooted in the age of consent in Japan being 16, which was just changed from 13 years old. The age of consent set extremely young like this gives a problematic sense of permission for older people in Japan to see me as an adult rather than a child, which makes me extremely uncomfortable. I can’t even legally drive in Japan.

When I’m asked these questions, I feel as though I’m almost being prepared to become a bride, almost like those extremely religious teen bride reality shows that so many people are obsessed with on YouTube because how ridiculous is it that these mothers and grandmothers are basically trying to make these young girls “ideal women” for men? Right? Well, that’s what I feel whenever I’m with my grandmother, aunts, uncles, and my parent’s friends.

This also leads to the question, if I was a boy, would anything of this be happening?

The Patriarchy

“Why do you keep eating like that? You’re going to become a pig,” – My uncle, when I was 12

“Stop complaining that you’re short. Guys like that,” – My grandma, just a couple of months ago.

In Japan, I constantly feel like I’m being cooked in an oven to become the “perfect woman” for a man. But I also wonder if I was a boy, how differently would I be treated? Would I be praised for eating a lot because it will help me to grow? And, would it be fine that I’m short because eating a lot will make me grow anyways?

Japan, to me, is one big, fat patriarchy where women aren’t seen as leaders. Women only make up 9.7% of the Lower House in the Japanese Diet, which is relatively small compared to the 28% of women that make up the American Congress. There are also no laws in Japan similar to the European Union’s “Women on Boards Directive” that strives to encourage women to take leadership roles by requiring corporate boards to be made up of at least 33% women. Japan not having these laws continues the long-lasting and seemingly never-ending stigma around women being leaders in the country.

But what does all of this have to do with Japanese society’s perception of love?

The predominantly male leadership of Japan isn’t just present in politics or businesses but also in beliefs about love and romance. Because men are seen as leaders over women in society, they’re also seen as leaders over women in heterosexual relationships. In fact, Japanese royal protocol states that the Empress always has to walk behind the Emperor to show the power of the Emperor.

If young Japanese girls are taught and raised to see this as “normal,” they may be put in danger with their future relationships as they won’t believe that they can speak up for themselves in front of men.

If the patriarchy continues to take over Japan, this dangerous view of love from Japanese society will continue and harm multiple generations to come.

About the Writer

Tia Miki (she/her) is a Japanese-American student that has spent her life in between Japan and the United States. As she noticed the disparities between these two countries, she became passionate about educating young Japanese girls and empowering them to become leaders in their community.


Written by Tia Miki

Edited by Emiru Okada

Graphics by Emily Mogami

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