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The top 10 traits of “domestic” women in Japan, according to Japanese men

Survey respondents see subtle signs of potential for a happy home life in female coworkers’ desks, lunches.

With more Japanese women working than ever before, men are increasingly pitching in with chores around the house. However, it’s still largely the norm that once a couple gets married and has kids, the wife will take on the majority of domestic duties, with many leaving the workforce at least temporarily to be full-time moms.

When coupled with the fact that many marriages in Japan blossom out of office romances, it’s perhaps not so surprising that young men are often looking for clues as to whether or not their female coworkers seem like the domestic type or not. In a recent poll by Japan’s I Research, 200 working men between the ages of 20 and 39 were asked for the three things that tip them off that a woman would be good at running a family household, with three points awarded to their number-one trait, two to their second, and one to their third.

When the points were tallied, the top 10 were:

10. She has neat handwriting. (32 points)
9. She doesn’t like/only has a few brand-name fashion accessories. (35 points)
8. At drinking parties, when the waiter serves a platter of food family-style, she dishes up a portion for everyone. (40 points)
7. She doesn’t wear revealing or flashy clothing. (41 points)
6. She has good table manners and eats neatly. (54 points)

5. Her makeup isn’t heavy. (78 points)
4. She speaks politely. (93 points)
3. She brings a water bottle to work with her. (101 points)
2. She keeps her desk neat and tidy. (103 points)
1. She cooks her own lunch and brings it to work in a bento box. (296 points)

Overall, the results show a strong mental connection between modesty and domesticity. While some of that can be attributed to a traditional taste in docile-mannered women among older-fashioned Japanese men, it could simply reflect a belief that not needing to always put your own desires first goes a long way towards getting along with the people you share a home with. Likewise, should kids enter the picture, having a partner who values manners and etiquette will definitely make it easier to instill a similar sensibility in your children.

Monetary matters also show up several times in the list, with respondents saying a thrifty woman who eschews designer fashion and store-bought food and drinks for less expensive items gels with their image of being domestic. Once again, there are probably two sides at play here. On the one hand, as we talked about above, even today it’s not unusual for women in Japan to stop working after having children, and for men who face the prospect of becoming the family’s sole breadwinner, having a wife with reasonably priced tastes reduces the required amount of bread they have to win.

But on the other hand, even when the husband is the only one in the family with a paying job, in Japan it’s oftentimes the wife who’s in charge of managing the family’s finances, including setting and dolling out her husband’s spending money allowance, taken out of the paycheck that he hands over to her to divide up between necessary expenses and savings deposits. So a woman who shows an aptitude for trimming unnecessary expenditures means that those breadwinner husbands can count on the family’s CFO taking good care of their bottom line.

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