What is Ikumen?

March 19, 2020 Juju Kurihara Culture, Lifestyle, Vocabulary Tags: , , , , , , , 2 Comments

When we went to Japan with a 6-month-old baby, people were very surprised every time my partner changed the nappies without any problems. People would say, “Oh, he is Ikumen!” “Huh?” was our reaction. 


Ikumen is a combination of two words, Iku, 育, (child)care and men in English and 男 (otoko) in Japanese. The word was created in 2010 as a promotion to encourage fathers to participate in more childcare at home. This new word is based on Ikemen (イケメン) means good-looking men. 


Of course the promotion wanted to give people the men who participate in the childcare is cool and when the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare started Ikemen Project in 2010.


Ikumen Speech Contest:



Japanese men are not so helpful when it comes to household. My uncle saw my partner changing our son’s nappy and proudly said, “I never changed my son’s nappies and my daughter once. That was enough!” 


You may think it’s an older generation. But my cousin does the same. My friends husband do the same. They come home from work and tap their head. Play with them for 15 mins and then do their stuff like playing games, YouTube that are not collaborative to the house. My friend’s daughter who is now 18 said, she has never played with her dad or had a bath with him when she was smaller. I’m talking about the families where both parents have full-time jobs.


So Ikumen. According to the survey in 2018, 40.2% of men said they do housework and take care of children daily, while 93.3% women do every day. Moreover, 25.4% said they do on weekends and 15.6% said they do it when they feel like. 


The problem starts men doing the housework becomes “a favour”. On Twitter site, mums are talking about their “Ikumen” husbands. 

 – My Ikumen says 'I give my daughter a bath'. I thought giving a bath means ready the hot water, give her a bath, dry her, put cream and put the pyjama on? Don’t call me to finish it all!! (ぷうこ (@g0r0pikamammy))

 – My husband says, 'I’m so Ikumen’ after holding our kid for a second or doing the laundry only when he feels like it. ​ 

 – When a woman takes care of a child, it's normal while a man who give a bit of hand is called Ikumen. (なかのの夫 @nakanonohusband)



In Japan, when a father changes nappies, gives the children a bath, picks up the child when he/she cries or plays with the children in the park, people give his an honour of the title Ikumen. 


@nakanonohusband mentions 9 strange characteristics of Ikumen dads.

 1. They don’t change the nappy when the child poos.

 2. If the baby doesn’t calm down within three minutes, they just give up.

 3. They think taking care of children=play (they take only the fun part)

 4. They don’t sleep the children.

 5. They post how much they take care of their children on SNS.

 6. They carry the baby only when they are outside.

 7. They only do things with the children but don’t do any housework.

 8. They insist that they do enough when their partners point out.

 9. They call themselves Ikumen


There are many dads who don’t want any titles and just share housework because they are a part of the family. They are not helping their wives but sharing the house duties including the childcare. 



Before the word Ikumen, there was a word, Family Service, which means a father does something for the family. It could be playing with children or taking the family to a restaurant. A father would say, “This weekend, I will go on a weekend trip as a family service” instead of saying, “I will go on a weekend trip with my family”. 


Do men consider that involving the family matter is a distraction of work? Do they want to emphasise that they cut the weekends and holidays in order to do things for the family? 


Either way, it sounds to me they are doing it as a favour. Of course earning money for the family is very important but it doesn’t mean they can neglect their children completely, does it? 


According to the survey of International Social Survey Programme in 2012, Japanese men are the worst among 33 countries and they share 18.3% of the housework a week while the top three countries are Sweden (42.7%), Mexico (41.1%) and Iceland (40.1%).   



Now you know why Japan has to sell the image of coolness of men who take care of their own house and children, and give them a title, Ikumen. 



Now with this new coronavirus, the Japanese government is encouraging remote work but in the reality, people are still going to work everyday. Still, there are people who have decided to work from home. I hope this situation makes more men realise what is to be a part of the family. 





Sekisui House: https://www.sekisuihouse.co.jp/ikukyu/

Chosa.itmedia: https://chosa.itmedia.co.jp/categories/society/102435

1ovely: https://1ovely.com/housework/

grape: https://grapee.jp/63259 

yossense: https://yossense.com/service-for-family/ 

Nakonono: https://nakanono.com/ikumen-is-foolish/


  1. Beth Parkhurst 3 years Reply

    Sounds a lot like the U.S., except there’s no movement to make men who do childcare and housework seem cool. Many American husbands think they’re doing their wives a favor when they help with children, cooking, or around the house.

    My partner and I have no children, but he does more of the housework than I do. I do more grocery shopping.I cook more than he does, but when I cook he does the dishes, and vice versa.

    I’m glad to hear that your partner is better than Japanese men about changing nappies.

    • Juju Kurihara 3 years

      It sounds like you and your husband share the housework very well.

      Here in Germany, there are many women complaining that their husbands don’t do anything or women have to tell them what to do everytime it’s needed.

      I think boys need to live alone for a while. Then they probably learn at least some basic things, taking rubbish out, clean bathrooms or wash dishes

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