Boys may still be sleeping with their mothers late into their teens. Women drive the process, and it may be that motherly inter- vention is needed to divert the teenage scholar from distracting desires. The reason they do not go home is that they are not wanted by their wives, who dis- paragingly refer to their husbands as 'cock- roaches'. My first experiences of Japanese life might well have supported the traditional view of a male-dominated Japanese soci- ety.
Even the famed Japanese 'love hotels', the gothic concoctions supposedly used by Japanese businessmen for illicit liaisons, are frequently used by the henpecked hus- band just to enable him to watch his favourite television programmes. I would frequently return late at night after hours of heavy drinking with Japanese businessmen in Ginza bars to find Mrs Katsube waiting up for me on the step inside the front door of her typical Japanese house. Though by its own standards America at least appears to have failed the equality test. While not openly discussed, the domi- nant-woman or mother complex is a recur- ring theme of modern Japanese literature. More recently, Japan's best-known postwar nov- elist, Yukio Mishima, acquired his fame through homoerotic novels such as Confes- sions of a Mask and Forbidden Colours, which would have been unpublishable in the England of the s. The image is even more explicitly explored in Fumio Niwa's story, The Buddha Tree, where the main character is adopted and then seduced by his foster-mother, who subsequently mar- ries him off to her daughter. A confused Irishman was given the expla- nation that the men would lose face if they returned home early, as their wives would suspect that their careers were going nowhere and would punish them accord- ingly. From that point onward wives sleep with their children and rarely with their hus- bands. There is a market for books about the geijin foreigners' experience in Japan which few foreign journalists have been able to resist. The roots of Japan's matriarchal society run deep. As Edwin Reischauer, for- mer United States ambassador to Japan and one of the best modern commentators on the country, has written: The goal of this system, and the winning hand in the marriage stakes also arranged by mummy , is entry to an elite college, of which Tokyo University Todai and partic- ularly its law department are the pinnacle of success. No matter what time I returned at night, she would be up at 5 o'clock the next morning to prepare my breakfast. Japan's silence on the subject of 'moth- er-son' relationships is not surprising. Although Confucian ideas may subsequently have altered the position of women in the public and later business life of Japan, their role at home has remained dominant. Women domi- nated both literature and the court in the earliest age, and ruling empresses were common until the 8th century. Such is the dominance of this elite a system comparable in the West only with France that while I lived in Japan it was estimated that 78 of the top 80 bureaucrats were Todai graduates. The politically correct view that Japanese executives leave their wives to wither at home while they go off to the eating shops of Shimbashi or the drinking dens of Ginza, is entirely wrong in attributing their behaviour to a male-dominated society. Women drive the process, and it may be that motherly inter- vention is needed to divert the teenage scholar from distracting desires. After the ritual response, tadaima I have returned, just now , she would then rush to pour my bath, fix me something to eat and roll out my futon. Japanese men are literally motherf—ers! Here jobs become interchange- able with politics, and later commerce or finance. The reason they do not go home is that they are not wanted by their wives, who dis- paragingly refer to their husbands as 'cock- roaches'. Com- pared to the remarkable men, charac- terised by their humility, dignity and steeliness, who rebuilt Japan after its destruction in the second world war, many of whom I was fortunate enough to meet in the early s, their latter-day succes- sors appear pale shadows.. I telephoned another old Japanese hand to tell him the news. Being underwhelmed by the level of productivity he found in his department, he decreed a ban on all over- time payment and ordered that his employ- ees should leave the office by 5. Rolf' On the face of it, the experience might well support the male chauvinist case, in reality, however, I never felt like the domi- nant sex in this relationship.
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