Recent years have seen an increase in fathers who try to share in the raising of their children — an activity that even university students are starting to encourage.
The group Fathering Japan Student’s, which aims to teach future parents the importance of a father’s role in child-rearing, held an event in Tokyo on Dec. 16 to solicit new members.
The gathering was attended by 20 students who came to hear from and exchange views with child-rearing fathers, who have come to acquire the nickname “ikumen” — a term coined by the Hakuhodo advertising agency, combining “ikuji” (child-rearing) and men.
Soichiro Nishimura, the group’s representative, said the 20th century was a time when men went to work and their wives stayed home to raise the kids, the the 21st century will start to see more participation by fathers at home.
“This is the dawn of the era when both parents have careers and also share in caring for their families,” said Nishimura, 22, the father of a 2-year-old boy.
Nishimura said the social changes now occurring have made fathers’ participation in child-rearing inevitable.
Husbands alone can no longer bear the increased economic responsibilities because, unlike in the past, when economic growth stagnates or slows, their salaries no longer keep rising. Also, the number of double-income households has already exceeded that of families with full-time housewives, Nishimura said.
In addition, wives used to get help in child-rearing from neighbors, but that is often no longer the case, so many need their husbands’ help to share the burden, he said.
Besides urging male students to take part in child-rearing if they become fathers, the group also hopes to provide them with opportunities to think about their future and about what family life should be all about.
“If you imagine yourself becoming a parent, it will also help you envision what kind of person you want to be,” Nishimura said.
Started by four students in 2009, the group now has 14. It organizes lectures and events where participants can learn about work, marriage, child-rearing and cooking, as well as many other topics.
Some 500 students have so far attended 11 lectures.
Members also have been given opportunities to gain practical child-rearing experience from couples with kids. Starting next year, the group plans to organize events in which the students exchange views and information on job-hunting, marriage and child-rearing with fathers.
Tomohisa Ichikawa, a 21-year-old university student and an FJS member, feels it is worth participating in the group’s activities.
“They have given me a real chance to dream and visualize a warm and very joyful family,” he said.
Daiki Takei, 21, said he was initially reluctant to go to the December event, but his outlook changed after he went.
“Honestly speaking, I haven’t thought about having my own child or getting married. I thought that those things will come to me in the very distant future,” Takei said. “But the gathering really made me think that I want to have a (good) family in the future.”
Haruka Saito, 19, and his wife, Yurie, 18, are expecting a baby in January.
“Although I thought it would be definitely hard for me to be both a child-rearing father and a university student, I now hope to be both and I’m working toward that goal,” Saito said.
“We hope to happily share household chores together and do not wish to make our family gloomy,” his wife added.
Nishimura believes increasing the number of child-rearing fathers will also lead to fewer cases of child abuse and divorce.
“If we can enjoy caring for our families and our children, as well as the housekeeping, we hope to get the message across that happiness can be found in this kind of life,” Nishimura said.