Saturday, January 22, 2005

The media brings us news that Japanese women are unhappy with Japanese men. Single male readers of this blog, this might be an opportunity!

This weekend's WP devotes an article to elaborate fantasy-making among Japanese women:
So what if they were not real glass slippers; they sparkled nonetheless with the bits of crystal that Reiko Handa, 59, applied to a pair of new pumps. Her hair, voluminous from extensions, soared in a regal bun as she dashed through the brisk Vienna night last winter. There, she recalled, handsome Austrian gentlemen escorted her up castle stairs to a lavish ball where Handa and a group of other Japanese women realized their childhood fantasies of being Cinderellas for a day...

Fantasy chic has become an art in Japan, where theme parks bring foreign countries to life and "cosplay," dressing up like the characters in Japanese animation and manga comics, has been a hit for years. In the name of fashion, young non-Christian couples sometimes hire local Westerners to preside over their weddings as faux priests.

But even so, the princess trips are raising eyebrows as escapist fads among Japanese women... women have turned to "celebu" -- or celebrity -- lifestyles. What started as mimicking the fashion tastes of American personalities has turned into a cottage industry, including popular classes. In one class, called "How to Behave Like a Celebrity," students spend hours studying how to walk, talk and gesture like a movie star.

Still other Japanese women are paying thousands of dollars to attend elaborate etiquette schools, mostly with the aim of jetting off on school-run trips offering the chance to briefly brush up against European high society. Such schools offer trips during which housewives and secretaries can sip champagne alongside royals in Monaco or wear wide-brimmed hats as they watch the ponies at the Prix de Diane Hermes outside Paris. Women often take the classes to boost their self-esteem.

"I breathed the same air as the high-class people of Europe," said Yoshiko Mito, 36, a former flight attendant who has had free time since marrying a man whose job often takes him away from home for days at a time. "It gave me more confidence, being among those people and behaving correctly."

Sociologists are offering a variety of explanations for the immersion of Japanese women in role-playing fantasies...Women are ... confronting changes in gender roles, as they increasingly put off traditional lives of marriage and childbirth in favor of careers in a society that is still dominated by men.

"Women are confronting a chauvinist society where it is hard to feel a sense of fulfillment in the workplace," said Terue Ohashi, a sociologist at Reitaku University in Tokyo. "Therefore, they are finding ways to express their frustrations, by living a temporary dream or escaping reality. Think of it as catharsis."

Surveys have shown that years of economic stress have created a gulf between Japanese men and women. Married men, who often lead lives separate from their families, are working longer hours and spending more time on business-related entertainment. Many are taking separate vacations, to play golf or to ski.

Enter the princess vacation concept, which both vendors and clients say is about finding fulfillment...

...[travel agent Makiko Krone] blames Japanese men -- who, she said, are too often absent and lacking in chivalry, and expect to be served by women.

"In Japan, the men do not open doors for us or allow us to enter first," she said. "But in Austria, they know how to treat a lady." .
On the other hand, a Times article a while ago highlighted the immense popularity a Korean actor provokes among Japanese women:
Consider Yon-sama, the $2.3 Billion Man.

A 32-year-old South Korean actor past his prime in his homeland, he has become, thanks to a syrupy television series, the most popular man in Japan, the object of desire of countless middle-aged women, the stimulus behind an estimated $2.3 billion rise in economic activities between Japan and South Korea.

Widely known here for a year, his popularity may have peaked a few weeks ago when thousands of women in their 40's, 50's and older thronged the airport to greet him. A thousand of these same middle-aged Japanese women - a group not known for rowdiness like, say, English soccer fans - then ambushed him at his hotel here. They jostled one another for 10 minutes to get a glimpse of the actor; some threw themselves at his car.

Ten women, aged 43 to 65, were taken to a hospital for bruises and sprains. One 51-year-old woman from Oita Prefecture, in faraway western Japan, had her foot run over by a tire...

In a society gripped by a pervasive malaise, where uncertainty and pessimism fill magazines with headlines about men and women who don't marry, don't have children, don't have sex, Yon-sama seems to touch upon the Japanese nostalgia for an imagined past, and upon middle-aged women's yearning for an emotional connection that they lack and perhaps believe they cannot find in Japan.

What is even more striking is that they are looking for it in South Korea, a country that the Japanese colonized in the first half of the last century and condescended toward in the second half. In the nexus of power, gender and love, Japanese women may have turned to blue-eyed Americans but never looked twice at a Korean. Nowadays, thanks to Yon-sama, Web sites for young Japanese women looking for Korean men are multiplying.

Kim Eun Shil, a South Korean scholar of women's studies and a visiting professor at Ochanomizu University here, is researching the effects of Yon-sama on "postcolonial relations between Japan and Korea." In the past, to Japanese, Korea conjured up images of "dark, noisy, smelly," she said, but now Yon-sama's middle-aged fans associate Korea with "beautiful things" and look to him as the idealized male.

"The women are creating a fantasy," Professor Kim said, "because they are disappointed in reality."

"I will make great efforts so that I will be as popular as Yon-sama and be called Jun-sama," Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said in August during elections for the upper house of Parliament...

... Yon-sama's middle-aged fans said he had qualities lacking in Japanese men: that he was sincere, pure, giving, passionate and soothing. Many Japanese women, even younger ones, have begun to think they could find those qualities in Korean men.

"I'm a 17-year-old girl who loves Korea so much," Haruna wrote on, a Japanese Web site devoted to all things Korean. "I want to be an international couple in the future. I have an impression that Korean men are very much sincere."

Like many cross-cultural romantic fixations, this one, being based on a television character, was perhaps bound to be divorced from reality, as some Japanese men pointed out, somewhat resentfully.

"Why are Korean men so good?" the film director Beat Takeshi wrote in a magazine called Sapio. "They are supposed to be pure and more sincere than Japanese men. But that's only in dramas, and naturally, Koreans are the same as Japanese men. They lie, they have affairs, and are sometimes violent."


Post a Comment

<< Home