A New Favorite Japanese TV Show Promoting an Alternative Lifestyle // アットホーム・ダッ or At Home Dad

With the goal of learning Japanese, I stumbled upon a TV shows that I immediately fell in love with called 結婚できない男, or “A Man Who Can’t Get Married.” It’s similar to an American TV show called “Monk.” In both TV shows, the main character is OCD, meaning that he’s painstakingly particular about details in both his personal and work life. As such, both characters routinely insult people because they are either too honest or don’t act normally in social situations.  

Mesmerized by Abe Hiroshi’s acting in 結婚できない男, I now wanted to watch all of his shows. It’s like discovering an author you like, or a teacher you love. After finding them, all you want to do is keep the good stuff going.

By searching Abe Hiroshi’s name in Netflix, I discovered a TV show called アットホーム・ダッド, or At Home Dad by Fuji TV. And of course, this show immediately sparked my interest. After all, I am researching female entrepreneurship and empowerment in Japan.

Now halfway through the show, I have fallen in love with the storyline, characters, and lifestyle that this TV show portrays.

A typical male breadwinner is the star of the show. At least in the beginning… A man who recently purchased his first home, and is extremely proud of his career, leaves all of the household / family responsibilities to his stay-at-home wife, or 専業主婦 like 98% of marriages in Japan.

But a friendly next-door neighbor is a ‘househusband,’ who spends 100% of his time cooking, washing dishes, taking care of his son, and doing the laundry, while his wife runs her own company.

At an unexpected turn of fate, the main breadwinner of the family — Abe Hiroshi — loses his job, his livelihood, and his way of life. Simultaneously, his wife receives an unexpected call from her former employer asking her to return to work.  

Now, the situation becomes unclear. What should the husband do? What can he do? Does he want to follow in the footsteps of his next-door neighbor, whom he looks down on? If he’s lost his job, then he either needs to find a job immediately, or allow his wife to snatch an opportunity that has already presented itself.

With very few options, he half-heartedly takes on the role of a househusband.  

While there are very few statistics around the number of ‘househusbands’ in Japan, the numbers are extremely slim. One statistic compared the number of women who claim spousal tax exemptions versus men. “According to welfare ministry data, women who claimed spousal tax exemptions for their husbands in fiscal 2013 stood at around 110,000 ...  while, working men who claimed spousal tax exemptions for their wives declined to 9.3 million in fiscal 2013.”[1] In other words, the difference is stark.

Another interesting social context factor about Japan is that men can only claim this tax exemption, if the wife makes under a certain amount, encouraging most women to only work part-time at low-paying jobs. Although I am not sure if the same rule applies for women who claim the spousal tax exemption, the majority of women are still responsible for all household, childcare, and elderly care duties, regardless of any additional role they take on in society.

The fact is well stated by Ohara Masako, who is a full-time professor with two young children. “Traditional views on femininity reinforce rigid sex-role stereotyping. The myth of motherhood is very strong. Mothers are expected to bear all the practical responsibilities for childcare.”[2]

And while Japanese people are slowly, but surely, changing their perspective about traditional female roles, women still do serve the tea in companies, and most women over 40 are household wives, who may have occasional volunteer or paid jobs outside of the home. Thus, most parents of young women still hold fast to the traditional role of women.

The most important point is that Fuji TV launched a TV show that didn’t last very long, but made a bold statement. After all, the more you experience a new way of thinking, the easier it is to fathom as a future possibility for you, your children, or your friends. And it did an outstanding job of addressing many of the societal concerns that affect the husband, the child, and the wife separately.

For example, the husband is criticized for his sloppy cleaning by his mother-in-law, his lack of masculinity by his male friends, and chided for his wife’s inability to attend school-related events by local housewives.

In one scene, the doctor scolds Abe Hiroshi for not knowing enough about his child’s health, and criticizes his wife for not being physically present at the doctor’s visit. And in another scene, a child teases Abe Hiroshi’s daughter for having an unnatural lifestyle with a dad who stays at home.

And one of the most interesting aspects is that the wife works with an understanding from her husband, her boss, and society that if her husband secures a full-time role, she will have to return to being a housewife.

Many societal and family concerns are addressed in this TV show. But as the show proceeds, the househusband begins to enjoy taking care of the day-to-day responsibilities, especially caring for his young daughter. He gains an appreciation for the difficulties of the tasks a typical housewife takes care of, and realizes how important quality time with his family is to lead a truly satisfying life.

And while this TV show is not representative of general societal trends — at least not yet — it is embracing and promoting an alternative lifestyle.

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In urban cities such as Tokyo, stereotypical gender norms are changing at a faster pace. The term 育メン, or a “man who enjoys childrearing,” is becoming more and more popular. In fact, there was a matchmaking event in Tokyo that brought育メンand career women together. The event was organized by a group of 20 stay-at-home dads, who met each other on Facebook. Now, they host events ranging from panel discussions to “a ceremony to honor people who helped increase the status of house husbands.”[3]

Besides local communities taking on leadership roles to promote an alternative lifestyle, the government is encouraging men to take longer paternity leave, and spend more time taking care of household duties. Change is still a long way to come, but at least there is progress being made on a daily basis.

The more we are exposed to novel ways of thinking, the more we can expand our horizons and support those who do take on a househusband role, or even men who work a few hours less at work to spend quality time with the family.


Thank you very much for reading this blog post. Read more about female empowerment and entrepreneurship.

[1] Aoki, Mizuho. "House Husbands Gaining Acceptance in Japan as Gender Stereotypes Ease." The Japan Times, 28 Apr. 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016. <http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/04/28/national/social-issues/house-husbands-gaining-acceptance-japan-gender-stereotypes-ease/>.

[2] Liddle, Joanna, and Sachiko Nakajima. "Regulatory Social Practices." Rising Sons, Rising Daughters. By Masako Ohara. London: Zed, 2000. 257. Print.

[3] Aoki, Mizuho. "House Husbands Gaining Acceptance in Japan as Gender Stereotypes Ease." The Japan Times, 28 Apr. 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016. <http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/04/28/national/social-issues/house-husbands-gaining-acceptance-japan-gender-stereotypes-ease/>.