Motherless: Single Father Families in Japan
According to the 2011 Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare Census, there were about 223,300 single father families in Japan as compared with about 1,237,700 single mother families (1). The number of single fathers is relatively small, but it has been increasing every year due to widespread divorce and cohabitation without getting married. Yet in the country of male-dominated workplace and work-obsessive culture, being a single father is both demanding and challenging. It is especially so now because Japanese men have to work longer hours in response to the current recession and globalized competition. There is also so much risk of their being marginalized and left alone. In fact, not until 2010 did single fathers start to receive the child-rearing allowance because of the anachronistic prejudice and Childcare Act which were based on the assumption that a single father could take care of his family easily as compared with a single mother and denied the allowance to single father family. A few single fathers start raising their voices against the stereotype and their plight, and trying to establish a new way of motherless life and community through networking each other(2). I examine how single father families are adapting their way of life to the new circumstances and surviving in this ever-changing society.
Takaki Hara (38) and his only son Rukiya (12) in Kanagawa prefecture are one of the single father families. He has been a single father since he got divorced 13 years ago. He has a wide range of careers starting from a clerk in cell phone store to a manager of restaurants. Now, he puts his energy for his own NPO for single parent’s community called “SINFA” (the acronym of “Single Father or Family”) with constant intake habits of smoking and Red Bulls while managing three restaurants in Osaka. In addition to his natural-born smart business skills, he is a master in Japanese Calligraphy and an excellent chef as well. He said that he had perfect confidence in his ability to take care of his son after he divorced his wife. Although Rukiya had an open heart surgery for congenital aortic stenosis 4 years ago, Takaki and Rukiya keep their family unit intact with support from friends and their single parents’ community.
June, 2011- March, 2013
(1) Excluding single father families living with grand-parents.
(2) One can say that it would be impossible without the advent of the internet and social networking sites such as Japan's Mixi or Facebook.