In many places around the world, a woman is expected to change several aspects about herself – from her hairstyle to her wardrobe – to signify her transition to married life. These are five things a young woman may not be able to do after marriage in Japan.
Furisode are very formal, elaborate, long-sleeved kimono typically worn for Coming of Age Day ceremonies. They can also be worn by young, unmarried women for other social engagements that call for a degree of formality, such as attending weddings and tea ceremonies. Since they signal a woman is both unmarried and of marriageable age, a married woman should never wear furisode.
There is huge social pressure for couples to have children very quickly after marrying. Many believe that this is part of the reason more and more Japanese (especially women) are delaying marriage into their thirties – it’s actually in order to delay parenthood. Only 2% of children in Japan are born out of wedlock, compared to over 40% in America and the UK. In Japan, marriage and children go hand in hand.
Many Japanese are attached to the idea of the traditional family unit. The father works and provides for the family, and his wife cares for him, the home, and the children. Even if her new husband doesn’t ask her to quit her job, a new Japanese wife might find it too difficult to cope with work while doing the lion’s share, if not all, of the cooking, cleaning, and childrearing while at home. But these attitudes are changing as more and more women enter the workforce, and society changes to accommodate them.
For women in patriarchal societies everywhere, holding onto a maiden name or simply tacking on a hyphen is a relatively new phenomenon. But in Japan, this is not even an option. While the law doesn’t require that the woman be the one to change her name, the Civil Code of Japan does require married couples to share the same last name, and so over 95% of married women in Japan choose to take the husband’s surname.
Japanese women are encouraged to tone down their hair and makeup as they become wives and mothers, as well as their sense of style. Most of the time it’s a natural progression, too, since people’s tastes change and develop naturally as they age. This includes traditional kimono and yukata styles as well – the older a woman gets, the more refined and simple her kimono styles become.