What happens a Japanese wife is called by her name?

October 17, 2014 Juju Kurihara 5 Comments


While ago I wrote an article, How do you say "my wife" in Japanese, which has become one of the most popular articles in iromegane. The article shows you how Japanese married men describe their wives in the public scene. The most common ones are Okusan (奥さん), Kanai (家内), Uchi no yome (うちの嫁) and all refer to a person inside the house. Or Nyoubou (女房) or Kami san (カミさん), which refer to the head woman in the house. 

Now let´s see how married women are called inside the house. If you are married or going to get married to a Japanese guy, listen carefully. Enjoy this romantic moment. Once you have a child, it will be over. Your name will be no longer exist and you will be called as your role name, Okaasan (お母さん) or Mama (ママ). 


I guess it´s common the parents say to their children "your Mum" or "your Dad" in many cultures. But still it´s "yours", however in Japanese this "your" disappears and stay only "Mum" and "Dad" just like the titles inside the office.  Then at some point, it stays between the pair as if that´s their name and start calling each other Okaa-san and Otou-san. 

This had been a mystery for me when I was little because in my friends´ houses, their parents called each other that way. I was too small to understand that they actually had their own name just like I have one. It´s normal that Japanese kids tend not to know their parents´ name. Among school mums, they call each other someone´s mum. For example the mother of Mika would be called Mika Mama. 

According to the survey from a Japanese cosmetic company, POLA, more than 77% of women are called Okaa-san after having a child. So POLA did some experiment, What happens a Japanese wife is called by her name?. They asked the husband to call their wife by her name. The experiment is called "Call her name". 


pola2-680x373 When the woman hears her name, they look a little surprised but within a nanosecond, a shy but a big smile appears in her face.

In the interview, one woman says, "My heart twinged rather than surprised". They must´ve felt like that beginning of love feeling. How wonderful, don´t you think?




Look at her! How happy she looks. Apparently when these women heard her name called, oxytocin, so called love hormone is produced inside the body. And at the same time, stress hormone has reduced. Do you not think this is the best beauty product you can get? 

Your wife is a woman before anything. Being Mum is just a part of it. But to be fair, the husbands who appear in the video look so embarrassed calling the wife by name. After so many years calling her Mum, I understand the difficulty. But this must do good to the men too to feel again that romantic heartbeat. I believe this can change the life of many Japanese couples.

I know this may be surprising for the Westerners who is normal to call their wife by name no matter how many children they have and how old they are. I think that is very romantic. And by watching this experiment, I respect my father who always calls my mum by her name despite of his very traditional old fashioned being. 



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  1. MS 3 years Reply

    Seems the link doesn’t work anymore. New link to the video below:

    • Juju Kurihara 3 years

      Hello MS, 

      Thank you for sharing the new video link.

  2. Rob 8 years Reply

    Reminds me of the absolute inability of my Japanese male friends to call my mother by her first name, “Janet,” despite her demanding that they do so. It simply feels too disrespectful (and they invariably get a bit cross when I suggest that calling their own mom お袋 may itself impart a somewhat disrespectful connotation). They did the Japanese thing and just avoided it (although it is not as easy to avoid pronouns in English as it is in Japanese, which makes Japanese a good language to be using when you don’t know what to call someone). Conversely, my (close) Japanese female friends never seemed to have a problem doing so. I hadn’t really considered that disparity prior to reading your blog post.

  3. Tad Okazaki 8 years Reply

    We have a long tradition of securing Ma, a space, between things.

    Japanese music, painting, flower arrangement, opera, architecture, gardening, poetry, martial arts and etiquette can’t exist without Ma.
    Ma is Japan’s sine qua non.

    Shaking hands, kissing, or hugging deprive a Japanese of the Ma between two people. We want Ma for an important person too.

    My case:
    ” Honey ! ” (a common noun) gives me a Ma where I relax and sense our romance in various ways.
    ” Hanako ! ” (the proper noun) sounds unnecessarily direct, tight. ? ( ~_ ^ )

    (Ref: Takehiko Kenmochi. Japanese “Ma” Culture. 1978 Kodansha, Tokyo)

    • juju.kurihara 8 years

      Thank you for the comment, Okazaki san. 

      Japanese people are sometimes described as lack of expression or lack of emotions just because they don´t expose all their emotions like western way. But if you think about “Ma”, I think it´s a beautiful thing to respect the space of each person. Maybe this Ma is the same concept as “親しき仲にも礼儀あり”.  

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