The Japanese working environment continues to hinder men from getting positively involved in parenting. How is it then that fathers interested in parenting – so called Ikumen – are on the rise? In 2010 the word Ikumen was even selected for the Buzzword Awards’s Top Ten. Has the paternal role undergone profound changes from a family sociological perspective?
The Work-Life Balance (WLB) politics of the early 2000s in Japan led to an intensified discussion on the compatibility of work and family life. Only in recent years have fathers become a target group of WLB measures, which can be especially observed in the Work-Life Balance Charter in 2007.
In the last few years, NPOs were formed to address the issue of acceptance for Ikumen. These NPOs are actively engaged in improving the paternal role by offering fathers information and support. In this talk I intend to present preliminary results of my fieldwork on the NPO “Fathering Japan”. Through ethnographic research such as participant observation of NPO events, interviews with NPO staff and members I will explain how the NPO motivates potential participants. My research suggests that the NPO’s network-forming character greatly supports active parenting and can lead to a change in father’s behavior toward parenting. Despite these findings, a significant change in the paternal role of Japanese fathers cannot be identified yet.
Tabea Bienek studied Japanese studies at Free University (FU) Berlin, minoring in Sinology and German as a Foreign Language. Since 2011, she is a PhD student at FU Berlin doing research on WLB in connection with the changing paternal role in Japan. Tabea Bienek currently works as a lecturer at Chuo-University in Tokyo.