For Immediate Release | February 11, 2019
No Room for Romance?
Masculinity, Femininity and Changing Ideals in Japan
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, but Japan’s not feeling the love. Recent market research indicates that this year, 62% of women intend to buy chocolates for themselves, bucking tradition by showing little interest in giving them for romantic reasons. This shift comes amid often-vexed public discourse around falling marriage and birth rates and Japan’s gender gap, which have been the subjects of increasing media attention over the years.
This Valentine’s season, The Japan Foundation, Sydney shines a spotlight on anxieties and tensions around love with a talk series titled ‘No Room for Romance? Masculinity, Femininity and Changing Ideals in Japan’, February 27 to March 5. The series draws on the expertise of Laura Dales and Debbie Chan, two Japan scholars from The University of Western Australia (UWA), to explore evolving attitudes toward romance, relationships and gender norms in Japan from the perspectives of male and female experiences.
Laura Dales heads the series with a solo talk titled, ‘Sacrifice or Safety Net: Romance, Marriage and Japan’s Gender Gap’ on February 27, focusing on challenges for women in heterosexual relationships. Following on March 2 is ‘The Scoop on Relationships in Japan’, a discussion between Laura Dales and Debbie Chan on recent media coverage about gendered issues in Japan. Debbie Chan wraps up the series on March 5 with a solo talk titled, ‘Barriers to Love: Masculine Perspectives on Relationships and Marriage in Japan’, looking at challenges for heterosexual men.
Says Laura Dales,
Marriage is still an ideal in Japan, and it is structurally supported by law and policy. But gendered differences in the perceived gains of marriage versus those of singlehood are driving marriage delay and decline. Japanese adults now live more of their lives as singles, broadening the gap between ideals and lived realities, and slowly redefining the social landscape.
Says Debbie Chan,
Public and intellectual debate about Japan’s shrinking population overwhelmingly focuses on women. It’s true that Japanese women’s needs and expectations are changing, but they’re not alone. Masculinity in Japan is also changing, and it’s important to consider the role that this plays if we are to paint a balanced picture of decreased dating, marriages and fertility in contemporary Japan.
The series is dedicated to the late Romit Dasgupta, a prominent scholar of Japanese masculinities and formerly Associate Professor of Asian Studies at UWA, who passed away suddenly last year. While Romit’s voice will be sadly missed in this series, we are delighted to welcome Debbie Chan, whose doctoral research on masculinity in Japan has been largely conducted under Romit’s tutelage.
ABOUT VALENTINE’S DAY & WHITE DAY IN JAPAN
In Japan, Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14. However, unlike in Western society where Valentine’s gifts are equally likely to be given by either men or women, Japan’s customs challenge women to make the first move. Within a heterosexual context, it is seen as a woman’s role to give gifts (typically chocolates) to their partner or love interest on Valentine’s Day. An extension of this tradition often sees women buying chocolates for male friends, and also giving “obligatory” chocolates to male colleagues (a practice that has become so expensive and stressful that even chocolate companies are encouraging women to abandon it). Men reciprocate a month later on March 14, known as ‘White Day’. White Day originated in Japan, but has since come to be celebrated in other parts of Asia, including China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Vietnam.
ABOUT LAURA DALES
Dr Laura Dales is a Senior Lecturer at The University of Western Australia. Her expertise centres on agency, sexuality, friendship and dating broadly, as well as singlehood and marriage in Japan. Laura is currently working on a project examining intimacy beyond the family in contemporary Japan, funded by the Australia Research Council DECRA award. Her wide range of publications include Feminist Movements in Contemporary Japan (Routledge, 2009) and the co-edited collection Configurations of Family in Contemporary Japan (Routledge, 2015), as well as chapters in Intimate Japan (University of Hawai’i Press, 2018) and Happiness and the Good Life in Japan (Routledge, 2017).
ABOUT DEBBIE CHAN
Debbie Chan is a researcher in the department of Asian Studies at the University of Western Australia, and is in the final year of her PhD. Her current project focuses on how masculinity was constructed in Japanese visual and literary culture during the interwar years, and explores the links between gender construction and Japan’s project of nation-building in the early twentieth century. Debbie’s research on masculinity is Japan has been largely conducted under the guidance of Romit Dasgupta.
ABOUT ROMIT DASGUPTA
The late Romit Dasgupta was Associate Professor of Asian Studies at The University of Western Australia until his sudden passing in the middle of last year. Romit was well known and respected among scholars for his research on Japanese masculinity (including his seminal book, Re-reading the Salaryman in Japan: Crafting Masculinities), and was loved by his students for his passion and energy. While Romit’s voice will be sadly missed in this series, we are delighted to welcome Debbie Chan, whose doctoral research on Japanese masculinity has been largely conducted under Romit’s tutelage. This series is dedicated to Romit’s memory.
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Sacrifice or Safety Net: Romance, Marriage and Japan’s Gender Gap
February 27 | 6:30pm – 7:30pm
The Scoop on Relationships in Japan
March 2 | 2:00pm – 3:00pm
Barriers to Love: Masculine Perspectives on Relationships and Marriage in Japan
March 5 | 6:30pm – 7:30pm
Doors open 30 mins prior to start.
The Japan Foundation, Sydney
Level 4 (via lifts), Central Park
Chippendale NSW 2008
Limited capacity; bookings recommended