Many young Japanese women are now choosing to
delay marriage
This week, Everywoman takes a look at the changing  lives of women in Japan.

It is a society where wives have long been subservient to their husbands. But many young Japanese women are now choosing to delay marriage, and many older women are choosing divorce.

Everywoman explores the culture shift and asks, how is the role of women changing, and where will it lead? 

Japan is a patriarchal, conservative society where traditionally women have taken second place to their husbands. But not any more. 

In fact, where women are concerned the country is seeing some of the biggest social shifts in the world.

For the first time, a quarter of all Japanese women aged 30 to 35 are unmarried. A huge change in a society where marriage was once viewed as an obligation.

And Japan's middle-aged women are changing their lives too, with the rate of divorce for over 45's the highest in Japan.

Men are spending too much time at home after
retirement and bullying their wives
In April, there was a reform in the pension law allowing women to get half of their husbands' pension in a divorce.

So what does all this mean for Japanese society?

Shiulie Ghosh is joined by Professor Sumiko Iwao, author, academic and women's activist, and by Kaori Shoji, a writer for Japan Times and the International Herald Tribune.

They discuss the impact the ingrained corporate culture has had on women's lives and talk about the growing phenomenon known as Retired Husband Syndrome – a stress-related condition brought on by men spending too much time at home after retirement and bullying their wives.

Women suffer symptoms like rashes and migraines for no apparent reason. But while some wives opt for divorce, others take a more creative route, as Everywoman reporter Ju Lin Ong discovered.
For the older generation, marriage was seen as a duty, not an option. But that is now changing, with one in four women in their early 30s putting it off, in favour of concentrating on their careers.

One of the ways these women wind down is by visiting host clubs; an alternative version of the hostess club where men traditionally go to relax with a drink, and some conversation with female staff.

Many older women in Japan are choosing
In host clubs, the staff are male and modern women pay often exorbitant prices to spend time and drink with them. And this disturbs the men who say they are finding it harder and harder to find a wife.

In some Japanese cities there are now Bridegroom Schools where men go for lessons on how to attract a wife. There they learn what to say and even what tie to wear.

Professor Sumiko Iwao and Kaori Shoji both agree that things are slowly changing but women still feel they have to choose between marriage and career and many believe the real breakthrough will come when there are successful career women who are also wives and mothers to act as positive role models.

But Japan has a declining birthrate and an aging population so only time will tell if today's generation will make these changes work for them.
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This episode of Everywoman aired from 7 September 2007.

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