The other day, I came across the results of a survey conducted by the Fujiya Company, maker of the long-selling milk-based taffy called Milky. According to the survey, the most common ways that Japanese women without children call their husband are:
By their name with -kun added, 31%
By a nickname, 29%
By their name without -kun or -san added, 14%
Another 11% call their husbands “o-Tō-san” (father) or “Papa”
The remaining 15% call their husbands in other ways
Once children are born, things change considerably:
The most popular way by far to call one’s husband is “o-Tō-san” (father) or “Papa”, at 50%.
The second most common way is by their name with -kun added, 18%.
Another 9% call their husbands by their given name, but without -kun or -san.14% call their man by a nickname.
And the remaining 9% call him in other ways.
I conducted a quick survey of my own with 16 first-year students between the ages of 18 and 24. The results were as follows:
I have written in the past about the different ways Japanese men refer to their wives. I will try to write about how they call their wives in the coming days and post it later.
Now, how do men call their wives in Japan?
If they haven’t got kids, 46% call their wife by her first name.
19% by her name plus -chan.
Another 19% by her nickname.
6% of “men” call their wife o-kā-san or mama (Ew)
10% in another way.
As we saw earlier, things change when children come into the picture:
39% now call their wife o-kā-san or mama.
22% by her first name alone.
13% by her name plus -chan.
9% by a nickname.
17% in another way.
One reason for the change is that once a child is born, everyone’s role in the family shifts, from wife to mother, from father to grandfather, and so on. People are often called in a way that reflects his/her relationship to the child. This is especially true when the first, or an older, child is a boy. He will be called o-nī-chan or o-nī-san (elder brother), even by his parents. A wife will call her husband o-tō-san or papa, her own parents o-bā-chan (Grandma) and o-jī-chan (Grandpa).
Although we use our first names in our family—my younger son seldom if ever calls his brother o-nī-chan (“big brother”)—my wife now calls her own mother, o-bā-chan.
Cosmetics maker Pola looked into this phenomenon and its unexpected, and perhaps unwanted, consequences.