Saturday, August 20, 2011

Children in Japan: Have They Ever Had Fun?

The art of child raising in Japan generally has high expectations of children, but with a high amount of indulgence (and that’s not just anecdotal: see this study and this discussion).

Make Wise Mothers

The focus on children and their mothers began in the late Meiji period (1900s), when men’s jobs kept them away from home and women had the responsibility to become the family’s “supreme ruler.” Many of these women learned how to be “wise mothers” from their education; the last two years of girls’ high school was devoted to becoming a good mother. That makes sense--it takes time to learn how to make tempura and learn to teach children morality (girls’ morality classes were twice as long as boys’). While the samurai lifestyle expected children to be little adults, the turn of the century saw a heightened sensitivity to children’s needs. It’s this emphasis on mother-child relationships that, in my opinion, led to its idealization and spillover into non-maternal relationships (referred to as amae, but that’s a discussion for another day).

Expectation of the Superior Student

So as not to cramp the child’s energetic nature and individuality, mothers started giving their children more practical clothing and their own self-decorated rooms. This included in one instance, hanging the bookshelves crooked at the child’s request. The child was to have the most spacious, sunniest room (as referenced in Real World: "We'll make Ryo's room the sunniest one on the second floor"). Along with these indulgences, mothers expected their children to be “superior students.” The pressure on boys and girls to be at the top of their class so as to get a good job later on remains to this day. And it wasn’t just for men; the higher and more prestigious a woman’s education, the higher her desirability as a wife.

Mothers and Children In Japan Today

Many mothers are also working, though they do not receive the same seniority pay raises as their male counterparts, and about 40% of Japanese people think that women shouldn’t work while they have children at home (my source is from 1999). There’s still this incredible pressure on children to do well in school, but Japanese people are recognizing that sometimes kids need a break from studying. Indeed, one magazine found that children who had time to relax in the summer got better grades (so... they want children to relax so they can do better in school, basically).

I think it’s great for a mother to stay home with her children if she is able to and desires to do so. I don’t think I would raise a child in the indulgent style, but it appears to work alright. What do you think of traditional Japanese child rearing practices?

Most of the information in this article came from Children as Treasures.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Another Koko vid

Here's Koko tearing apart a thistle. She's 12 weeks old now, and she's getting even more energy and chewing on everything. Thanks to Koko, we've been going for more walks, and I've been trying to get up earlier (although for a while I was waking up to let her out and then crashing for another three hours).

I'm trying out new ways to study Japanese. I've started yet another blog, mostly for myself, where I take clips of anime and write out what they're saying in Japanese. It's a little harder than I thought it would be! So, I'm looking for anime with good examples of daily speech and especially polite speech. So far I think I have plenty of material to work with. I'm also thinking of getting a conversation partner through livemocha or something. Maybe I'll start out with a blog on lang8; chatting to friendly strangers is scary! But I guess the worst thing that could happen would be that I have to block someone (or get taught the wrong things).

Thursday, August 04, 2011

August rain and lunches

Koko snoozing
Koko at 10 weeks looks out the window

I think it has rained every day for the past two weeks. It even hailed a ton one day:

It's the first August in Utah I've had where it is possible to be outside at 3pm and be comfortable in pants. I love the cooler weather, and I'm sure there will be a hot day somewhere down the road that really feels like summer. I got super-soaked by a four-year-old and Koko did nothing to protect me. She fled, not even barking a threat. Maybe when she's older she'll be less bitey of me and less scared of everything (last week the vacuum was nothing, this week it's a monster about to eat me). 

We got a breadmaker, and even though I've messed up the last two recipes, the products have been delightfully edible. Oh, and I picked up some old bento boxes from Balgram, which renewed my vigor in making them (also, I promised I would use them, so this post is in part proof). I've been looking to Bento Love for inspiration; I love all the photos. Here are all the lunches I've made in the past week (also, sorry about how Blogger and photos never get along):
Zuccini, cabbage, mushrooms, and ground beef. I forgot to salt the beef. 

Steamed cabbage with blanched bean sprouts and bonito flakes on the right. The left is shrimp taco leftovers: Red onion, corn, and shrimp combine with mango and cilantro (thanks to my Aunt Melissa for the idea)
Barley salad from Shana's recipe sharing circle; that stuff is rice pudding. Two tiers is especially nice for this kind of setup.
Spaghetti with green beans, chicken, mushrooms, and spinach
Spinach, sweet omelet, and ginger garlic chicken over rice (pickled ginger garnish)

Having leftovers like the chicken and spaghetti made making these lunches a lot easier. It also helped that I was getting up earlier to take Koko out (although I've simply gone back to bed some mornings). It's a way I show my love for my husband, and also it helps me experiment with new food stuff in a low-risk situation. I'm still content with a bagel and an apple for lunch, but I think making myself a portion beforehand is a good way to make sure I actually eat something other than pieces of bread (the laziness of the afternoon!).  Anyway, that's what the last two weeks have been like.