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With schools slowly reopening and some parents returning to work, it might be time to reassess the proportion of work Japanese mothers put into creating meals each day.

Close to 60 percent of households in Japan now operate on double incomes, but surveys show that women continue to shoulder the burden of housework. Although it’s true that the amount of time men spend on housework has tripled over the past 30 years, they only manage to rack up a fraction of the time that women spend in terms of cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry and caring for children.

Culinary expert Kentetsu Koh says that the “amount of effort Japanese moms put into ensuring the health and happiness of their families can be overwhelming.”

On top of the regular housework, preparing three meals every day has many women caught in an endless cycle.

“Women are told that it’s OK to take a break now and then,” Atsushi Shirao writes in Huffington Post. “But it’s not a matter of taking a break and buying boxed lunches for the whole family once in a while. It’s the thought of having to deal with the next meal as soon as this one is over, in whatever shape or form that meal may take.”

In his interview with the Asahi Shimbun, Koh proposes a solution to this problem.

“In Japan, society and traditional values endorse home-cooked meals but overseas, mothers don’t face that same pressure,” he says. “In France, mothers don’t cook on weekdays. In other parts of Asia, parents pick up meals from food stalls on their way home from work. Although Japanese home-cooking is a rich and wonderful culture, the onus shouldn’t fall on mothers to keep it going. It’s OK to rely on frozen food and prepared meals. It’s OK to serve a pastry for breakfast. I do that myself. After a couple of days of doing that, maybe mothers will feel like standing in a kitchen again.”

Koh also suggests that the whole family be involved in preparing meals.

“If one person is in the kitchen making dinner, someone else should set the table and do the dishes,” he says. “My two older kids have learned to cook very simple meals, and get these out on the table. Ideally, meal times should be a fun experience, not a grueling task. To make that happen, it’s essential to always say, ‘Thank you, that was delicious to the person who made it.”

Koh says that staying home and eating in is likely to become the new normal in the short to medium term and, as such, should offer families an opportunity to reassess their behavior.

Article first published in The Japan Times on June 13.

Warm up

One minute chat about your favorite food.

Game

Collect words related to family, e.g.: home, child, love, etc.

New words

1) proportion: number or portion compared to a whole, e.g., “The proportion of elderly people in society is increasing.”

2) burden: a heavy responsibility, e.g., “The couple’s unemployed son is a financial burden to his family.”

3) endorse: to openly support, e.g., “Her candidacy was not endorsed by the governing party.”

Guess the headline

Japan’s p_ _ _ _ _s are struggling with the never-ending cycle of preparing three m_ _ _s a day

Questions

1) What do the surveys mentioned in the article show?

2) How do Japanese eating habits differ from other countries, according to Kentetsu Koh?

3) What does Koh suggest more parents do?

Let’s discuss the article

1) Has staying at home changed your eating habits?

2) How do you prepare your meals?

3) How can we get men to help out more around the house?

Reference

多くの家庭にとって家の中で過ごす時間が増えたこの数か月間、メリットを感じた人がいる一方で家族全員の食事を用意する母親の負担の増加が指摘されるようになりました。手作りの食事は素晴らしいものですが、それによって家族の誰かが大きなストレスを抱えてしまってはせっかくの食事も全員で楽しむことができないでしょう。

家族のだれもが心身ともに健やかに過ごせるために“食”をどのように捉え、準備していくべきなのか、朝英語の会に参加し皆さんで話し合ってみましょう。

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