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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, paulmyer.com, 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 paulmyer.com 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.

Stranger Than Fiction!

I have previously commented on the number of times I find life in Japan filled with many surprises.  This evening watching BBC world news on TV a headline caught my attention: “Runway dining at $540 a meal proving hit in Japan.”

Curious, I discovered that Japan’s biggest airline, All Nippon Airways (ANA), is offering first-class luxury dining on a parked plane at 59,800 yen (US$540.00) a meal. Diners can opt for a cheaper business-class experience for 29,800 yen.

The dining experience takes place on a Boeing 777 parked at Haneda Airport in Tokyo.  ANA just started offering the service this week. After they sold out quickly more dining slots have been added for April.

The “restaurant with wings” idea was conceived by employees who wanted to better utilize idled aircraft as travel demand has evaporated due to the coronavirus pandemic. Having spent countless hours flying around the world, food was always low on my list of flight benefits. I will pass on the opportunity.

Cherry Blossom Time

There are many wonderful cherry blossom viewing venues in Tokyo and we hope to get to one in coming days. But for now, the beautiful and magical blossoms can be seen on trees throughout our immediate neighborhood. These photos are taken in the park across the street from our condo.

The 26th Amendment

On March 23, 1971 the United States Congress passed the 26th Amendment to the Constitution lowering the national voting age to 18. The 26th Amendment was promptly ratified by the necessary three-fourths of state legislatures and took effect on July 1, 1971.

The amendment’s adoption ended a 30 year effort to enfranchise young American men and women who were called upon to defend their country but were not allowed to vote.

Most accounts about this historic event either do not recognize or fail to appreciate the level of political resistance and fear that denied extending the right to vote to 18-year-old citizens. The last thing political leaders of both parties wanted was to allow nearly 12 million new young men and women the right to vote. There is little discussion of the fact that the arguments that those old enough to be drafted for military service should be able to exercise the right to vote had been endorsed by politicians for years but Congress never acted.  Many simply attribute the success in 1971 to Congress responding to the protests and turmoil surrounding the unpopular Vietnam War. But there was far broader and deeper support than political pundits realized.

However, in the 91st Congress (1969-71), despite that growing support and the positive rhetoric and endorsements, it was never certain that the Congress would ever pass a constitutional amendment to lower the voting age or that a sufficient number of states would eventually ratify it.

While the anti-war movement and the media coverage certainly played a major role in shaping public opinion, it was the dedicated student and other young voting-right activists, not the protestors, who organized youth all across the country to deliver a positive political message and created a massive grass-roots lobbying effort that finally captured the attention of state and federal legislators.

And it was an organization called the Youth Franchise Coalition (YFC), created to focus that movement’s energy on the U.S. Congress, that helped change the political dynamics. Believing that the Congress had the power to change the voting age, the YFC advocated the use of the legislative process to secure the path that quickly led to the adoption of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution.

The Congress actually lowered the voting age to 18 on June 17, 1970 when it passed a bill extending and amending the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 that included a provision that lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 in federal, state and local elections.  President Nixon signed the bill into law on June 2, 1970 but questioned the constitutionality of the voting age provision. 

The constitutionality of the provision was immediately challenged in the Supreme Court (Oregon v. Mitchell).  On December 21, 1970, the Supreme Court struck down the part of the provision lowering the voting age in state elections as unconstitutional but upheld the part of the provision that lowered the voting age in federal elections.

In order to correct this injustice and avoid the confusion and increased costs facing by local and state governments, the 92nd Congress quickly adopted a constitutional amendment establishing 18 as the uniform national voting age.

I am hopeful that a new book, “Let Us Vote”: Youth Voting Rights and the 26th Amendment, forthcoming later this year from New York University Press, will help renew interest in this important subject at a time when efforts to suppress rather than encourage voting and other efforts to limit citizen voting rights dominate the political agenda. It is time for a new generation of voting rights activists to make their voices heard.

Read Americans Can Vote at 18 Because of Congressional Action 50 Years Ago at https://historynewsnetwork.org/.