There's really no overestimating the importance of the mother to the Japanese family unit. While this is no doubt true of every country, I've met more mothers on a one-on-one basis here in Japan than I have anywhere else so I 've come to appreciate the unrelenting work they do to keep their households running smoothly. They're usually the ones with all the hands-on duty, whether they're shufu (homemakers/housewives) or kaishain (company employees). It's up in the morning to make breakfast and bento (lunchboxes) for everyone, then work and more work, maybe a quick English lesson, a trip to the supermarket and dinner for kids and husbands-- if any of them get home in time.
Discipline, finances, planning trips, taking charge of their children's educations. These are the things left in their care. I doubt many (if any) of the positive aspects of Japanese society would exist without Japanese mothers. And do they complain?
Well, yeah, constantly.
Occasionally, Japanese mothers even go into space to operate robotic arms and inspect space shuttle heat-shielding tiles for damage. Aerospace engineer Yamazaki Naoko is just the second Japanese woman to travel into space and here's hoping she has a safe, productive journey. The Mainichi Daily News says this about her:
Her role will be one that affects the success or failure of the entire mission.
That's true in space or here in Japan, whether the mission is delivering supplies to the International Space Station or producing functioning, contributing adults who are a benefit to their communities. What an amazing person. What amazing people I've met and taught and talked to since I've been here. The Japanese mother. I stand in awe and open admiration.