On Being a Perfect Japanese Housewife

Since moving to Japan, I have comfortably accepted the designation of a “retired” senior. Admittedly, I do not have much to do, particularly within the pandemic imposed limits on one’s activities. With Keiko working a demanding job, I have defined a supportive role for myself taking on my share of responsibility for some routine household chores, shopping, cooking and pet care.

I enjoy my role but was recently taken aback when Keiko said to me with all sincerity that I had become a “perfect Japanese housewife!” It was certain she was paying me a compliment, but perhaps, I thought, something was being lost in translation.

With some quick research I discovered that the Japanese phrase ryosai kenbo, meaning a “good wife,” describes a woman who has mastered the arts of kaji (household chores) and devotes those skills and energy to the creation and maintenance of a happy and peaceful home.

Although fewer Japanese may women embrace the ryosai kenbo role with pride today, the custom of teaching women to marry the house and not the man, still holds. Indeed, they say, Iye wa onna no takara (the house is a woman’s treasure).

The act of soji or cleaning, particularly using washiki or traditional Japanese ways, nourishes the soul — the more a woman does it, the closer she gets to heaven. Housework is not shigoto (a job), exchangeable for cash, but a michi (way) that ultimately leads to self-knowledge and inner peace.

I embrace and cherish the honor; proud that our relationship reflects a degree of gender equality in contrast to the persistent gender inequality still evident in Japanese society.

I see my household activities as “productive work” and I was pleased to learn that recent studies confirm that the time spent day-to-day in such activities, including cooking, cleaning, and other household chores, also has a positive impact on my health.

An Apology

I regret I have been inattentive to my web site.

When left the United States for Japan in October 2019 I closed my Facebook account. The decision reflected my frustration with a platform that had become more of a source of annoyance and irritation that diminished its purpose to keep me in touch with family and friends.

I thought the use of my personal web page,, would both fulfill my desire to stay in touch as well as enhance my ability to share my experiences and commentary of a new life adventure of living in Japan. Sadly, as the boredom and anxiety of the pandemic took its toll on my energy and enthusiasm, I failed to sustain the effort required to adequately update and maintain the site for a small but very loyal audience.

While I will retain the site and seek to revitalize it as a personal archive for those interested in its content, I have decided to try using Facebook to reconnect and share news and experiences with family and friends.

I may also be directly reached through my e-mail or Japan phone number. Of course, if you are heading to Tokyo, please do get in touch before or during your visit.

I look forward to connecting again.

Having received my first vaccination on May 22; second coming on June 26 I am grateful and relieved. However, given circumstances here with continuing infections, a slow and mishandled governmental response and growing concerns about the potential threat posed by holding the Olympics, continued caution is required.

Nonetheless, I am enjoying the spring season and fortunately my expanded activities (including tennis and golf) can be realized within the limits of our Adachi location. Barring a post-Olympics catastrophe, I am looking forward to getting on with my plan this fall to enjoy both my favorite Japan experiences as well as exploring new ones.