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NO MORE “クリスマスケーキ” IN JAPAN?

SLOWLY, BUT SURELY, women’s lib is transforming Japanese society. As reported by Motoko Rich in The New York Times, August 3, 2019, “Craving Freedom, Japan’s Women Opt Out of Marriage.”

Kaori Shibuya, center, is described in The New York Times article as a Japanese woman living with a new independence. This and the following images by Andrea DiCenzo for The New York Times.

Marriage? No way! “Not so long ago,” Motoko Rich writes, “Japanese women who remained unmarried after the age of 25 were referred to as ‘Christmas cake’ [クリスマスケーキ], a slur comparing them to old holiday pastries that cannot be sold after Dec. 25.”

Rich continues, “Today, such outright insults have faded as a growing number of Japanese women are postponing or forgoing marriage, rejecting the traditional path that leads to what many now regard as a life of domestic drudgery.”

A Celebration of Selfhood. A thriving business has evolved around single women celebrating solo bridal ceremonies. These come complete with fancy dress, bridal portrait, and friends gathering for a banquet.

Kanae Ito, 25 and single, prepares for her solo bridal portrait.

Many Japanese women no longer sense needing husbands for emotional or economic security. Rich observes that for women in their late 30s, nearly 25 percent have never been married. This contrasts with only about 10 percent two decades ago.

Why Marry? Rich quoted a professor of political science at Tokyo’s Sofia University: “When they marry,” said Mari Miura, “they have to give up so many things, so many freedoms and so much independence.”

Women-Only Responses. As an example of a new lifestyle, Rich notes that Tokyo’s One Kara karaoke bar caters to singles, with a separate section cordoned off for women. It’s behind sliding doors marked “Ladies Only.”

A growing number of Tokyo restaurants are adopting decor that caters to singles, women and men alike.

Women in the Workplace. Rich writes that nearly 70 percent of Japanese women age 15 to 64 now have jobs, a record. By contrast, here in the U.S., the percentage is somewhat lower: According to, “As of 2014, nearly six in ten women aged 16 and older have worked outside the home (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2015).”

Rich notes of Japanese working women: “But their careers are often held back by the relentless tide of domestic burdens, like filling out the meticulous daily logs required by their children’s day-care centers, preparing the intricate meals often expected of Japanese women, supervising and signing off on homework from school and afterschool tutoring sessions, or hanging rounds of laundry—because few households have electric dryers.”

Men Being Not Renowned for Housework.… A single woman, Shigeko Sirota, says of her married friends: “They are happy as long as they are with their kids, but some of them just describe their husbands as a big baby. They don’t really like having to take care of their husbands.”

Ms. Sirota says, “We don’t have to rely on men anymore.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019

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