Money and the Power of Japanese House Wives

by Etsuko Ueda

Cultural traditions and customs are often reflected in the language. The women's role in a culture is no exception. Japanese culture and customs in most part are still a mystery to the outside world, despite the worldwide popularity of its subcultures such as anime, comics, and video games. One of the most misunderstood is the women's power in the Japanese society. Here are some examples of the words that demonstrate the tradition that is deep enough to be reflected in the language.
Kitchen situation (台所事情 daidokoro-jijoh): euphemism for financial situation. In this case, kitchen signifies where the spending takes place.
Related terminology:
Lady of the kitchen (御台所 midaidokoro): It was a title of sort given to the wife of reigning Shogun or equivalent, and it suggests her role in the control of spending. "An army marches on its stomach" as they say, and the "kitchen" was and is very important to any military leader.
Wife role (女房役 nyohboh-yaku): In a Japanese organization, you usually find someone filling "Wife role". It is not an official designation, but everyone seems to know who that it. To play wife role in an organization means to take care of internal affairs, especially money matters. On the other hand, coordinators (幹事 kanji) are appointed often on a project basis. Some dictionaries translate this "Wife role" as "right-hand-man", however, it does not capture its role in money matters.
Here is a book title that captures the central meaning of "Wife Role". 女房役の心得 松下幸之助流お金の「教科書」by 川上 徹也 [Instructions for Wife Role: Matsushita Kohnosuke Style of Money "Textbook"] by Tatsuya Kawakami, an ex-Vice President of Panasonic. (Matsushita Kohnosuke was the legendary founder and the longtime president of Panasonic.)
All these Japanese terms indicate the traditional role of Japanese house wives, not known to the outside world. Until I came to the US, I did not know girls aren't supposed to be good at math, which is unthinkable in Japan where women take care of family money. You might have heard of Mrs. Watanabe (a name given to mean Japanese investors), and this well kept secret about Japanese house wive's role is the reason why it is not Mr. Watanabe.
This tradition is also reflected in the common practice of handing down family business through daughters rather than sons. Daughters are better trusted to manage family money and business, and she can choose a man well suited for the business as her husband. 

This is also the reason Japanese women are not clamoring to break the glass ceilings: She may not work to earn money outside her home, but the money her husband earns is practically hers because she is the one who controls the purse string.

One more thing. Guess why the Japanese women hold the world record of the longest life expectancy? I will give you a hint. Not by being subjugated to men.