Japan's ikumen discourse: macro and micro perspectives on modern fatherhood

Kosuke Mizukoshi, Florian Kohlbacher, Christoph Schimkowsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Ikumen is a buzzword that describes fathers who are actively involved in childrearing. This article focuses on the process in which the term ikumen and its meaning are diffused and investigates how soon-to-be fathers, themselves potential ikumen, view the ikumen discourse. Our endeavor is to grasp the transformation of father roles and the wider family in contemporary Japan through the public and individual engagement with the term ikumen. In this article, we combine macro and micro approaches to analyze ikumen as a discourse circulating in Japanese society and study the way in which the subjects of the discourse – soon-to-be fathers – view the ikumen discourse and interact with it. Utilizing an analysis of newspaper articles, we inquire into the process in which the concept ikumen became popular in Japan and the images that are affiliated with it. Through interviews, we then investigate how soon-to-be fathers as potential ikumen themselves perceive the term. Our results show the way in which an ikumen discourse emerged in Japan in opposition to the term kazoku sabisu, which since the 1970s describes the activities fathers engage in for the satisfaction of their families and fulfillment of social expectations. However, while the term is very popular in the media, the young families we interviewed see ikumen more skeptically. They both resist the popular discourse and adapt it into their construction of paternal identities through a differentiation between a strong versus a weak ikumen image.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-232
Number of pages21
JournalJapan Forum
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2016


  • discourse
  • fatherhood
  • gender roles
  • identity
  • ikumen
  • kazoku sabisu


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