The group environment is central to Japanese life -- and this begins within the family. With Japanese men typically working very long hours, six days a week, some children rarely see their fathers, which means the child rearing is left to the mothers. While American families often seek to encourage individuality, Japanese families tend to groom children to belong to the group.
Dependence on the Mother
The mother-child bond is especially strong in Japanese culture. In many cases, a Japanese woman will quit her job after becoming a mother, especially in the early years. Co-sleeping is common in Japan -- and children may sleep in the same room with their parents and grandparents until they are as old as 12. When it comes to eating, the mother will often feed the baby directly, rather than allowing the child to do it himself. Mothers typically choose the clothes for their children and dress young children rather than encouraging them to do it themselves early on. Mothers are also often responsible for disciplining the children, but rarely display anger -- and instead explain the consequences of a child's actions as reasons for self-restraint.
As the child becomes older, conformity and being part of a group becomes more important. As a popular Japanese proverb goes, "The nail that sticks up will be hit down." Parents encourage their children to join many groups, including sports teams or classical music groups. The child's popularity and ability to belong to many groups is a reflection on the parent. If the child is at all "different," the parent will discourage this difference and encourage the child to do more popular activities, even if the child doesn't excel in this pursuit.
"Kyoiku mamas" -- mothers who push high academics -- are common in Japan. Future success for Japanese children depends on going to the "right" schools, and entrance into these schools, even colleges, depends solely on the ability to pass the entrance exam. A child who goes to the right preschool will be able to test into the right elementary school, then the right junior high school, high school and college. After-school tutoring businesses -- called jukus -- exist to help students pass these tests. A kyoiku mama will not only push the child to study for several hours after school, she'll also sign the child up for extra lessons in math, English and other subjects after school.
Living at Home
Because of the focus of belonging to a group, it's not common for Japanese children to live on their own after graduating high school or college. Though modern times are breaking this tradition, with some children moving away from the family to work or go to school, many Japanese children, both girls and boys, expect to live with their parents until they get married. Even when married, it's common to have a multi-generational home with at least one set of parents living with the newly married couple.
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