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Monday, August 6, 2012

Girls Follow Boys In Japan

Here's an observance... and we'll examine the significance of it, and if if there is significance, later.

As a junior high school English teacher in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan, I actually had a lot of free time. Time that I spent either moping around, checking out the cute female teachers, pondering the universe, and even doing stuff with the students.

By my third year, I had pretty much given up trying to learn Japanese. I could probably learn to speak it, but reading and writing - no way in heck.

All of which has nothing to do about anything except to tell you I really did spend a lot of time observing Japan and her culture... wanting to know what it was about them that was so similar and yet different.

Don't get me wrong... Japanese people are not that different from you and me... they love their family, work their butt off, are underpaid and appreciated and really, that's pretty basic, isn't it. We people of Earth concentrate on things like that and we'll be okay. However... there are differences.

In this case, I believe that Japan is a bit behind the times when it comes to gender equality. Looking at the US, the Boy Scouts don't want any open homosexuals in their organization and that golf grounds in Atlanta where they have the Masters - no women members... and I'm sure there are many examples all around the world  - WITHOUT getting into religion - so perhaps we shouldn't all point fingers at poor Japan.

But I'm from Canada, so screw that noise.

During physical education activities or parading or club activities, the Japanese maintain the de rigueur of its society.

When they jog, it is still boys first, girls following.

I asked a few teachers about that at various schools, and they seemed perplexed by my query... not so much WHY am I asking this, but rather WHY don't they have an answer for it.

My theory is that yes, Japan is a chauvinistic society... but the problem resides more along the women who have yet to come forth and challenge these ingrained beliefs.

It's true that change may have occurred... in the 20 years since I left...the women I talked to... and I truly believe I actually talked to more women than men about society in Japan... they were asking questions of me. Questions of equality. What are things like in Canada... so I told them my opinion. I said we believe in equality amongst the sexes BUT that it still doesn't always shone through... but there are enough advocacy groups who will fight the injustices...

Why do the girls follow the boys when they jog? Because that's the way it has always been done.

I would have bought the answer that perhaps the boys were faster, or that they didn't want the boys staring at girls asses...but not having an answer except for precedent... well, there you go.

I told you... life as a JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Program participant was less about teaching English than it was about internationalization. For you new teachers in Japan... keep that in mind.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Others have commented that the Japanese Men's national soccer team fly 1st class to events, while the Women fly Economy Class. That the men have not had the same success as the women, so why do the women not get treated the same.
This isn't an excuse, but here's the reason. The men bring in more money to the JSA (Japan Soccer Association aka Japan Football Association), and as such more money is allocated to the men. The women, despite all of their success internationally and having brought more prestige to the JSA, do not bring in as much yen to the coffers. Money rules. Women fly Economy. 

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