One of the things that never ceases to amaze me about Japan is how EVERYONE is interested in my marital status. At every school I have taught at, at some time throughout my first day, someone has asked me if I’m married. And not just the students, the teachers, too! A few of them have even asked me during the very first conversation I’ve ever had with them. It’s not that strange that the students ask me because children are naturally curious beings and are not shy about saying anything they want. But the teachers! No chill. The conversation always starts off with when I came to Japan, and where I’m from. Then the next question is always, “Did you move here with your husband?” or “Do you live with your husband?” And they are always shocked when I tell them that I came to Japan totally alone, without a husband. To be honest, this conversation gets really old when it happens every time I meet someone new, even with taxi drivers and the security guards at my schools! Maybe it can be attributed to the difference between American and Japanese culture, but if I met someone who had recently moved from a foreign country, I would assume that they moved alone, not the other way around.
I can’t help but think that the reason this happens to me so often is because I’m a woman and I look like I’m around the age that one should be settling down and starting a family (I look older to Japanese—they always think I’m around 27 or 28, but that’s a discussion for another day). This really got me thinking. Is it strange to them that, as a woman in my 20s, I came to Japan for a job and just to experience living in another country? That leads me to one of the biggest problems I have about Japan: the gender gap is still so wide.
I think most Japanese people think that the top priority for a woman in her 20s is to get married. I can’t think of the right words to properly articulate this feeling I get from Japanese people about this subject. But, it’s almost like I feel that they think a woman NEEDS to depend on a man. I get the feeling that most times, it’s not a mutual thing, where two people equally depend on each other. I almost feel like they think a woman isn’t complete until she has a man to complete her, and to start a family with.
Sorry, people of Japan. I’m not married yet, but I will get married one day, not because I’m pressured by society to, but because I want to and I’m ready to. And you all will probably be the first to know, since you’re always asking me about it.
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