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JAPAN

JAPAN
Women in Culture, Business & Travel
Women in Culture ........................................................................................................................................1
General View and Position in Society ..........................................................................................................1
Legal Rights ..............................................................................................................................................1
Education .................................................................................................................................................1
Dating, Marriage, and Family .....................................................................................................................2
Health ......................................................................................................................................................2
Interesting or Unusual Social Customs ........................................................................................................2
Women in Business ......................................................................................................................................2
General View.............................................................................................................................................2
Legal Rights ..............................................................................................................................................2
Women in Professions ...............................................................................................................................2
Women as Business Owners ......................................................................................................................3
Foreign Businesswomen Visiting the Country...............................................................................................3

The Traveling Businesswoman


Women on the Global Road ..........................................................................................................................3
Advice for Female Travelers ..........................................................................................................................3
Cultural Considerations .................................................................................................................................3
Business Attire .............................................................................................................................................4
Women's Health Issues ................................................................................................................................4
Helpful Resources ........................................................................................................................................4
Business Strategies for Women .....................................................................................................................4
General Safety Tips ......................................................................................................................................5
Hotel Safety Tips..........................................................................................................................................5

International Standard Book Number


ISBN 10: 1-60780-197-3 • ISBN 13: 978-1-60780-197-9

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Women in Culture, Business & Travel Japan

JAPAN
Women in Culture, Business & Travel

Women in Culture
General View and Position in Society
The stereotypical image of submissive Japanese women has a basis of truth in many traditional households, where wives are
expected to do the housework and take care of the children while men work long hours and wield the authority in the family. The
increasing number of women in the workforce, the difficulty in climbing the corporate ladder in Japan, the expense of raising children,
and the younger generation’s rejection of patriarchal values has caused a major rift, where more women are now choosing careers
and personal freedom over the traditional path of early marriage and motherhood.
Princess Masako of the Japanese royal family is a popular living example of the pull between the traditional and modern worlds, since
she gave up a very promising career in order to marry and bear an heir to the Japanese imperial throne (after refusing the prince’s
first two marriage proposals).
Even those in the majority who do decide to get married and have children are getting married later, having fewer children, and
asserting themselves more in their households. These patterns are in response to the fact that women who choose to work and have
a family have to work very hard at it. Government research showed that full-time working men spent 26 minutes each weekday on
domestic chores, compared to 3 hours, 18 minutes by full-time working women. Working part-time is not an attractive option, since
women are paid less than half the rates of full-time workers and childcare options are both limited and expensive.
While male domination has decreased significantly in recent decades, Japan can still legitimately be called a patriarchal society.
Domestic violence is a problem, with 1 out of 20 women experiencing “life-threatening” violence. Women are verbally honored at their
workplaces, but are often subject to discriminatory practices and attitudes.
In politics, the total portion of women in the upper and lower seats of the Parliament in 2005 was 9.3 percent, with 10 percent of
ministerial positions held by women. In the judiciary, Japan has had a couple of women who held the post of Justice of the Supreme
Court. The number of women passing the National Bar Examination has also increased over the last few years.
Japanese women are actively involved in the medical field. In the business sector, an increasing number of women are setting up
their own businesses, and this growth is expected to continue.
Urban women enjoy a status that is on par with the men in almost all areas of society, but rural women are more vulnerable to
traditional, discriminatory patriarchal attitudes and practices. Japan’s pockets of poorer rural populations live in harsh conditions, the
reality of which is often masked by Japan’s overall prosperity. Women from such areas live a hand-to-mouth existence, with limited
access to economic opportunities, and there have even been reported cases of people starving to death. The Ainu, Buraku, and
people of Korean descent are particular social groups who have experienced a lot of discrimination. Women from these groups have
faced difficult challenges, as shown by the statistic that only five percent of Buraku women have attended school.
There are no dress code restrictions for Japanese women.

Legal Rights
According to Japan’s Constitution, women are eligible for all the legal rights enjoyed by men. Women received the right to vote in
1945. They also have the right to drive and to own and inherit property.
Japanese law permits an abortion in certain circumstances, such as when the parents are suffering from a hereditary infirmity, if the
life or economic status of the mother is at risk, if there is severe fetal impairment, or if the pregnancy is the result of a rape. Japan’s
abortion laws, however, are liberally interpreted, and abortions are almost available on request.
It is easy for a Japanese woman to initiate and obtain a divorce. In a divorce, women can lay claim to custody of the children and in
most cases, are awarded sole custody.

Education
Japan has the second largest higher educational system in the developed world. Girls have equal access to quality education.
According to 2003 estimates, the literacy rate for Japanese women was 99 percent, which is on par with that of the men.
Virtually 100 percent of Japan’s girls complete their primary education, with a majority of them going on complete their higher
education as well. Boys choose technical courses in colleges while girls choose vocational courses such as commerce, culture, and
design. The number of co-educational institutions is increasing, although single-sex schools are preferred by some families due to
deep-rooted patriarchal values.
There is still a “glass ceiling” in Japan where working women feel they need be more talented and hardworking than their male
colleagues if they are to expect any promotion or improvement in their current designations.

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Women in Culture, Business & Travel Japan

Dating, Marriage, and Family


Weddings that are purely based on an attraction between individuals are common in urban areas, while people from rural areas
generally prefer unions arranged by matchmakers. The mean marrying age for Japanese women is 26 years, and that for men is 28
years. According to a survey in 2000, 75 percent of Japanese women aged 30-34 were unmarried, and this percentage is on the rise.
Dating is very common in Japan, and young people generally start dating at the age of fifteen. Girls and boys can meet at movie
theaters, discotheques, and other, similar hangouts. Some use the services of dating agencies.
According to Japan’s Civil Law, a newly married couple can take either the husband’s or the wife’s surname. However, 98 percent of
the couples select the husband's surname and most women change their surnames. Japanese women can hold assets separately
from their husbands.
Japanese women are having fewer children and they are having them much later in life. Japan's birth rate is one of the lowest in the
developed world at 1.29 children per woman in 2003, down from 1.54 in 1990. Although childless couples are rare in Japan, there is
no social stigma involved in remaining childless.
In the event of a divorce, the wife can claim a share of the family’s assets. The custody of the children of a divorced couple usually
belongs solely to the woman. The father can obtain the custody of the children only if he is very influential or wealthy. A Japanese
man married to a foreigner can keep custody of the children.

Health
Women have equal access to Japan’s excellent network of healthcare facilities, so it is no surprise that the infant mortality rate in
2006 was 3 deaths per 1,000 live births and the maternal mortality rate for 2005 was 7.3 fatalities per 100,000 live births. These are
among the lowest rates in the developed world.
Japanese women usually make healthcare decisions after consulting their spouses. In certain cases, the consent of the spouse or
father is mandatory.
The use of the contraceptive pill as a mode of birth control was legalized only in the year 1999. Only 1.3 percent of Japan’s women
aged between 15 and 49 use the pill as a contraceptive, and Japanese couples show a clear preference for non-medical
contraceptive methods like condoms and withdrawal (76 percent and 21 percent respectively in 1997). For the period 1995 to 2003,
56 percent of adult women used birth control.

Interesting or Unusual Social Customs


Traditional customs required upper-class married women to have three important features: a heavily powdered face, shaved
eyebrows, and blackened teeth.

Women in Business
General View
Social traditions and constraints long inhibited women from playing an active role in Japan’s economy, but that is no longer the case.
About eighty percent of all women work (representing over 40 percent of the total Japanese workforce), although many work part-time
or drop out from the workforce to take care of their children.
The government is actively trying to increase the level of participation of women in the workforce in response to the country’s aging
workforce and low birthrate. These efforts may have an impact on women’s substantial under-representation in politics, the diplomatic
corps, law, medicine, and the higher levels of private industry.

Legal Rights
According to Japan’s Constitution, Japanese women are eligible for all the legal rights enjoyed by men. Women were given the right
to vote in 1945, and women and children became eligible for their shares of the family property in 1946. Before then, the oldest son of
a family was considered the sole heir to the family property. Women are also legally permitted to own businesses.
The Basic Law for a Gender-Equal Society (Law No. 78 of 1999) has prompted many government proposals designed to help women
participate in the work force, like more flexible working hours and the elimination of age restrictions on employment.
The salary paid to full-time working women is approximately one-third less than that paid to men. In part-time work this gap shrinks to
just 5 percent.

Women in Professions
Japanese working women are mostly employed in education (45 percent of all teachers), government (32 percent of low-level
employees), manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, and at restaurants and bars. Half of them are employed part-time, making up
78 percent of Japan’s total part-time workforce.
Representation in the medical and legal professions is low (16 percent and 11 percent, respectively), but has been increasing to the
point where half of all medical students are now female and a quarter of all candidates for bar exams are women. Women hold only
two percent of senior government posts.
The overall percentage of women at the executive level in private business is only 14 percent (two percent as division managers,

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Women in Culture, Business & Travel Japan

three percent as section managers, and eight percent as group managers), and only a few women are seated on boards of directors
at major Japanese companies. There are, however, several well-known female business ownersand executives in Japan. A few
popular examples are Sawako Noma, the president and CEO of Kodansha; Yoshiko Shinohara, the president of Tempstaff; Hiroko
Wada, the president and COO of Toys "R" Us Japan; Merle Okawara, the new CEO of e-bay Japan; Fumiko Hayashi, the chairman
and CEO of the supermarket chain Daiei; and Tomoyo Nonaka, the head of Sanyo Electric.
Studies indicate a slow but constant growth rate for Japanese women in business. The Japanese government has undertaken several
efforts to increase the number of women in top-level posts in government and business.
State-sponsored childcare is available in Japan. Municipalities and private sources also fund kindergartens. Employed women can
also use private or company-sponsored childcare centers.

Women as Business Owners


The number of women running their own businesses is generally low, but four out of five small business owners in Japan are women
and a largeumber of the self-employed are also women. In Tokyo alone there are 7,000 businesses owned by women.
Fifty-six percent of female Japanese entrepreneurs are engaged in the agriculture sector, 14 percent in forestry, and 17 percent in
fisheries. Besides these three industries, Japanese businesswomen are involved in a diverse range of other sectors.

Foreign Businesswomen Visiting the Country


The Japanese generally find it uncomfortable to do business with women. Western women in high-level positions must establish their
position of authority immediately.
The Japanese consider pants or a skirt, paired with a shirt that does not expose much skin, acceptable business attire. Wear low-
heeled shoes that can be removed easily, because wearing high-heeled shoes may make women appear dominant over men. Casual
attire is a strict no-no.
Business cards, called meishi, they play an integral role in business dealings. Take special care of the business cards that are given
to you. Your cards should be printed both in your language and Japanese.
Japanese greet one another with a bow or a handshake and address each other by their surnames, not by their first names. They use
titles for superiors, doctors, and politicians. One thing to remember during business negotiations with the Japanese is that they tend to
answer in the affirmative to any question.

Women on the Global Road


Now an established presence in the management workforce and as traveling executives, women
may find themselves on the road as much as their male counterparts in seeking to further business
opportunities. However, specific gender concerns do need addressing when it comes to conducting
business and travel in a country, place, or culture other than one's own. Arming oneself with
information in advance will do wonders in overcoming many a difficult situation. The best sources
from which to derive helpful hints are other female travelers. Seek them out and inquire of them what
to expect, most especially those who have been to the destination to which you will travel. In a pinch,
their tips may turn out to be your saving grace. Similarly, upon arrival it is in a woman's interest to
observe female behavior in the country of travel to learn what is appropriate and how best to blend
in.

Advice for Female Travelers


Japan is far and away the safest of the wealthy G20 economies. Street crime is almost nonexistent,
so basic precautions will be sufficient in most cases. Recently it has been revealed that there is an
underground "hostess" system in which foreign women (usually westerners) are lured to Japan on
false promises of legitimate employment. Instead, they are forced into prostitution with wealthy
business clients. While this is not widespread, foreign women should keep in mind that all is not
what it seems in this formal and orderly society. Much occurs behind a beautifully crafted mask.

Cultural Considerations
Women must consider that cultural norms are different for females in a foreign country. To argue with long-established customs may
only serve to antagonize your hosts and a prospective business deal. To establish respect, a woman should remain low-key with her
delegation and avoid public displays of affection. Professional, reserved behavior and dress are imperative since a woman may fall
under sharper scrutiny than her male counterparts.
Cultural Tips

• State your wishes clearly so that mixed signals do not become a problem.
• Wear a wedding band and carry a photograph of a husband and children (even if you have none) to stave off harassment.
• Try and look for other women to sit near on public transport; all-women compartments or areas are designated for this
purpose.

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Women in Culture, Business & Travel Japan

• To repel harassment, ignore sexual advances, exposed genitalia, whistles, and various forms of catcalls; avoid eye contact
and do not engage in any conversation.

Business Attire
Japanese attire is often conservative and formal. British style is favored over American and definitely over Italian. Women should wear
conservative necklines, sleeves, and makeup. Skirts, blouses, stockings, and suit jackets are worn even on the most humid of days
and have become almost a uniform for Japanese women.
There are two exceptions to the formality. If you find yourself in a small-scale business in an industry such as fashion, jewelry, or arts
and crafts, your contacts would expect you to dress more casually and freely. If you work in a local concern, you may be expected to
dress like your fellow workers.

Women's Health Issues


Traveling involves extra stress and health concerns to consider. Change of diet, time zone, and living conditions will take up an
enormous amount of physical reserve. Women should consider taking extra vitamin, mineral, and food supplements to ensure
optimum physical health. Other points to consider:

• Expect to experience irregular menstrual cycles or none at all due to jet lag, stress, and new and irregular eating and
sleeping habits.
• Bring any female hygiene products that you use at home, i.e.: tampons, pads, medication, prescriptions, etc. as they may
not be readily available at the time of your arrival or even at all.
• Birth control pills may not work properly if you experience stomach upset or diarrhea. If you vomit within three hours of
digesting a pill, take another to ensure proper protection.
• Yeast infections become more problematic in hot, humid climates. Stick to cotton undergarments and clothing that is loose
fitting to allow maximum airflow to your body. Nylons and tight pants may also induce yeast infections. Come prepared with
medication.
• Carry the telephone number or email of your gynecologist at home in case you have urgent questions.

Helpful Resources
Advancing Women
Web: www.advancingwomen.com
Canasian Businesswomen's Network
Email: cabninfo@apfc.apfnet.org
The International Alliance (TIA)
Email: info@t-i-a.com|
Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT)
Web: www.owit.org
Women in Technology International (WITI)
Web: www.witi.com/center/aboutwiti/
Email: info@witi.org
Women's Institute of Management (WIMNET)
Web: www.wimnet.org.my
Working Woman
Web: www.workingwoman.com

Business Strategies for Women


1. Prepare in advance what to expect, not only in terms of business, but attitude of the local culture toward women.
2. Behave and dress conservatively; it is your first and basic step toward gaining respect.
3. Anticipate equality issues as they will likely surface.
4. Maintain a sense of humor. A foreign country has many oddities, your presence possibly being one of them. Relieve some of
the stress with a humorous outlook.
5. Brush off sexual innuendos and comments about appearance and carry on with the business at hand. Keep a cultural
outlook on such remarks. If a member of the other delegation becomes a problem or nuisance, take him aside and inform
him that it makes you uncomfortable, or tell another member of his delegation to put a stop to it.
6. Exhibit tolerance and understanding for the other culture. Questions about your marital status and family may prove
ubiquitous, as it interests people how things work for you.

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Women in Culture, Business & Travel Japan

7. If you are a team leader, prepare your delegation in advance to treat you in a matter-of-fact, supportive fashion. A reaction
from a delegation unaccustomed to working with females in authority may be derailed a bit if they observe your role is
nothing but routine.
8. Generational attitude differences may exist toward women. Prepare to adjust to them.
9. Professional behavior, a respect for local traditions, and an in-demand service or product will assist you as a
businesswoman.

General Safety Tips


1. Prearrange transportation for your arrival. In many countries, hagglers and touts will approach you at the airport offering
transportation options. If you have none, decline and find the transportation booth in the airport; or, if possible, befriend
someone on your flight with whom you might share a cab.
2. If you are being dropped off in an unlit area, ask your driver to wait until you are safely inside. Women should avoid traveling
at night.
3. Find out from your hotel staff where it is safe to go alone and what areas merit avoiding.
4. If you plan on meeting with a stranger, do it in a busy place outside of your hotel.
5. If you encounter someone gesturing or honking for you to stop, do not stop until you have found a busy public place with
plenty of lighting before determining the problem.
6. Women can dine alone outside of the hotel in Asian countries, but may receive curious looks from Japanese wondering why
they travel alone; women in Japan generally do not dine out alone.
7. Jogging is not recommended in Asian countries; such activity may be viewed as immodest and unorthodox, unless you are
part of a club. Top-end or expensive-rank hotels often have fitness facilities to use instead.
8. If you find yourself on a crowded bus, subway, or train with a male pressing up against you in an obviously sexual way, try
embarrassing him by shouting in English. Public shame or humiliation will often keep further advances at bay.
9. Try and look for other women to sit near on public transport. If you feel uncomfortable in any situation, get out of it.
10. Women with light-colored hair will invariably receive more curious attention in more remote Japanese communities. Tying
your hair back and/or donning a head covering will assist in taking some immediate attention away from you.

Hotel Safety Tips


1. Women should ask for a room on the second floor or higher and near the center of the hallway corridor away from fire exits
where would-be assaulters can lurk and escape with more ease.
2. Don't feel shy about asking to see your room before deciding to take it.
Do not let anyone except the front desk clerk see or overhear the number of your room.
3. Do not show your room key in public, and keep it under tight security.
Avoid stairwells, an easy place for assaulters to hide, and don't travel in elevators alone with male strangers about whom
your instincts send you a warning bell.
4. If a stranger is wandering the halls when you plan to enter or exit your room, wait until he leaves. If he doesn't, report him to
the front desk.
5. Do not open the door for anyone who knocks whom you do not expect. Use the peephole. Call the front desk if necessary to
verify the presence of any hotel staff wishing to enter.
6. When leaving the room, put out the "do not disturb" sign, and leave the TV on if you wish to deter possible thieves.
7. Pack a flashlight should the lights suddenly go out.
8. Take the business card of your hotel before going out in case you get lost. Do not give out the name of your hotel unless
absolutely necessary, and do not share with anyone that you are alone. Use your creativity and make up a story if you must.
9. Always lock the door when you are inside the room. A portable extra door-locking device may prove a prudent pre-trip
purchase. A rubber doorstopper is also an easy item to pack.

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