by Ewa Nowogorski
Japan, like many other cultures, has a long history of favoring sons over daughters. Even in modern days this holds true. In America, the situation is quite different, in which individuals have a preferred gender they’d wish their child to be.
In Japan, I have seen that a lot of the time, first time parents always hope for sons. Sons are needed to pass down the family name in the family registration, or koseki. If a son is born, and a family only has daughters, the lineage will technically continue, but that family name will basically die on paper, since women usually change their family name to their husband’s and get adopted to the husband’s family.
There is a trend I have noticed by observing and talking to many people. First, families generally wish to have at least one child in order to pass down their family name. And they generally hope that their first child will be a boy. If the first born happens to be a boy, that family will usually stop at that one child and not have any more if they are not financially secure, or if they just don’t want to go through the whole process of child raising again. Next, if the first born happens to be a girl, that family will more likely than not try to have a second child, hoping for a son. Most Japanese people who manage to have children have either 1 child or 2 children, explaining the 1.4 birth rate. If both the first and second child are girls, the family will probably give up at that point, probably upset. But if they do manage to have a son, then they will be very happy and shower that son with a lot of love, playing favorites.
Sons usually receive more attention than daughters, and are forgiven for a lot more things. Girls are taught from a young age to clean up after themselves and behave elegantly, while boys are pretty much let loose to do whatever they please. Sons also always receive more New Year’s money and better presents during birthdays and holidays. A lot of Japanese women with brothers have told me that their family always placed higher value on their brothers.
Even historically, families that were extremely poor always sold off their daughters to servitude, but never their sons. Sons were revered and loved. We can still see the influence of historical ideals carry on today.