My wife, daughter and I often watch a certain cartoon called Chibi Marukochan on TV Japan every Sunday afternoon. It’s a classic, family-friendly show that vaguely reminds me of Charlie Brown and the Peanuts Gang. Anyhow, in one episode, the main character Maruko is reading about being lady-like in Japanese culture, and tries to imitate this during this episode. She dresses in pink kimono, talks very polite and feminine, and acts very restrained.
But what’s this all about?
There is an cultural image in Japanese culture called yamato nadeshiko (大和撫子). It is a flower, pictured above, called nadeshiko (Dianthus superbus) which is very pink and delicate. This image also refers to women in Japanese culture that are very lady-like. I found a good example of this on a wedding-blog in Japanese. In the first photo, you can see the girl wearing a pink kimono and looking very traditional and delicate. This is a Yamato Nadeshiko type of girl in Japanese culture. They are revered for their femininity, refinement and for their restraint.
I found another site that summarizes it well. Such women are chaste and devoted, defers to her husband (though directs him subtly where needed), and is strong at home with chores and duties, but seems soft and delicate in public. This is the traditional ideal for women in Japan. This is also explored in an article by the Japan Times too.
If you think about it though, it strongly resembles the ideal woman in the Victorian-era of Britian too.
The only difference is the fashion, really. The same kinds of expectations existed, and were revered by male society.
Anyhow, in the Chibi Marukochan episode, Maruko really surprises her friends by acting so “Nadeshiko” since she’s only a little girl. Her friends want to play games, but she initially refuses because it’s not lady-like. Later, she finally gives in because she wants to play too, and being Yamato Nadeshiko is kind of impractical.
Everyone wants a partner in life who’s chaste and devoted to them, so that’s not unusual. But when that ideal gets elevated to the point that it’s no longer realistic or practical, then it can become a burden on others. In the old days, women could be thrown out of the house if their husbands felt they weren’t being faithful. The Buddhist in me thinks that rather than expecting others to be held to a high-standard, better to focus on one’s own conduct first.
Besides I like strong, modern girls anyway. I married one. ;-p
Update: I totally forgot to mention the national Japanese women’s soccer team with the same name. They’re very popular in Japan and well respected, especially after their championship victory. 🙂 Thanks to reader “Stephen” for reminding me. 🙂
P.S. Double-post today. I have stuff coming up that forced a schedule change.