Raising children is always difficult, regardless of the country you live in. Whether it’s changing diapers or dealing with the “terrible twos,” it can sometimes seem like children exist solely to make their parents’ lives difficult.

But certain cultural and social factors can have a big impact on the whole process, as one Japanese mother explains after moving back to her home country after many years in the US.

The always-insightful Japanese website Madame Meriri has posted an article detailing five differences one Japanese mother noticed between Japan and the United States. A professional photographer who lived in New York with her husband and child for many years before returning to Japan in 2010, Ms. Inoue presents a unique perspective on many cultural differences.

1. What are the dietary restrictions for pregnant women?

This is sure to be a controversial topic! Food, in all its many forms, tends to be a hot topic in general, but never more so than when it comes to expectant mothers. As the article notes, mothers living in New York are told never to consume sushi, coffee, alcohol, or raw cheese. On the other hand, the author mentions that Japanese doctors weren’t so strict and didn’t mention any dietary restrictions. In fact, one Japanese book she found suggested that a cup of coffee or wine a day was fine.

2. Mothers’ conversations

Though more and more mothers are taking up full-time jobs in Japan, the number of housewives is still fairly high. The article suggests that most women in the US continue working even after marriage and having children. As the article’s author was herself a working mother, she said that she had trouble finding other Japanese women who could understand her situation.


Another issue she noticed was a difference in how mothers communicated in the two countries. While mothers in the US were open about discussing (and complaining about) their home lives, partners, and children, it seems that Japanese mothers are less likely to mention anything negative. The author went on to say that she at first wondered if maybe other mothers in Japan were simply living perfect lives! Obviously this wasn’t the case: Japanese mothers are simply more reluctant to discuss their private problems.

3. Party time!

Just because you have a kid (or two or three) doesn’t mean that your life is over and you’re doomed to inescapable boredom! Whether in Japan or the United States, families get together for small parties all the time. But the author of the article noted one huge difference between the two countries: In Japan, men and women are sharply divided into separate groups.

While a party in the US will usually see everyone chatting together in one room, drinking and eating, Japanese parties tend to end up with women in the kitchen while men sit in the living room. The author explained that in Japan it is unimaginable for wives to be friends with others’ husbands.

4. Date night

More than just a Steve Carell and Tina Fey movie, date nights are often considered an important part of marriage in the US. Not so much in Japan.

The article’s author explains that Japanese men often eat after work with their colleagues, leaving their wives to eat at home alone or with the children. And while American couples will regularly hire a babysitter and go out for a night on the town, Japanese couples rarely go out more than once a year–for the wife’s birthday. The reason seems to be that once a Japanese woman has a child, she is no longer a “woman” or a “wife” but a “mother.”


5. Peace of mind in Japan

But it’s not all negatives for Japan! While Japanese culture may seem limiting for mothers–especially mothers coming back from abroad, there are still some positive aspects like financial peace of mind.

The author explains that, no matter how much money you have, it seems like it all disappears once you have children in the US, paying for school, medical bills, rent, and on and on and on! Japan, on the other hand, makes it a bit more manageable. Child care and school are usually quite cheap, as are medical costs. In fact, Japanese mothers get 420,000 yen (about US$4,200) for the delivery of each baby! The author added that her husband, an American, even went so far as to joke that “living in Japan is like living in a senior citizen’s home.”

It is important to note that the author of the article went from living in New York City to a rural part of Shizuoka Prefecture, so it is possible that her experiences would be different in a large city like Tokyo. Still, it’s impossible to deny that culture differences certainly do exist.

So, what do you think? Where would you rather raise your kids? Personally, I’m hoping to put it off until we have robots to take care of all the messy stuff, leaving me with just the bundle of joy.

Sources: Madame Meriri, Zenkoku Kenko Hoken Kyokai
Images: Wikipedia (Children), Madame Meriri