Japan was a very different place when I came here back in 1991. Back then, foreigners were happy if we could received FEN, the U.S. military’s A.M. radio station, to hear some news or sports coverage in English. Fast forward to 2013, and I’m able to stream the BBC’s news radio channels on my iPhone while at the gym, something that would have seemed like science fiction two decades before. Last night I tuned in to hear a program discussing “leftover women,” a term being used in China to put pressure on women who aren’t married by the age of 27, no doubt doing unpatriotic things like receiving educations and building rewarding careers. I had to smile at this silliness. Japanese society used to place a lot of pressure on women to marry early, and the term “Christmas cake” was actually used to describe women who hadn’t gotten marriage by the age of 25 (since no one would want to buy a Christmas cake after December 25th). Things have really changed, however, and it’s far more acceptable for both men and women to get married later in life without a stigma.
There’s far less pressure for women to get married in Japan.