Good Wife, Wise Mother

Japan 2011 – 2016

JAPAN IS FACING many challenges when it comes to gender equality. After WWI, economic growth and rapid industrialisation generated a new occupation among middle class men: the white-collar workers. The men earned enough for their wives to stay at home. In this way, the Meiji ideology from the late 1800s and pre-war Japan, Ry Sai Kenbo (Good Wife, Wise Mother), was maintained by the well-educated housewives taking care of the home and raising the children. This laid the foundations for a strongly gender-segregated labour market.

This ideology continues to generate a gender segregation of the labour force in the Japanese society. Although more Japanese women start working, creating new role models for the future, it is still very challenging to combine work with family life. Many women still quit  their jobs after they marry and have children. In 2018 Japan ranked 110 out of 149 countries on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap score. However, with the elder boom, declining birth rate and today’s restrictive immigration policy, Japan will soon need more manpower. Here the women can play a key role.

WHEN I TRAVELLED to Japan in 2011, 2012 and 2016, I was excited to hear what the women were going to say about work and gender equality. I wondered how they viewed their freedom in a gender perspective. How did they look upon the future? I met strong, progressive women who welcomed change. Women in the midst of a period of transition where the stagnant, traditional gender roles are being put to the test.

One in five women in Tokyo has reported sexual harassment in the workplace. A survey from 2000 states that 48,7% of women have been sexually harassed either on the street or in a train in rush hour. As a solution to the problem women-only rail cars were introduced in Tokyo and other major cities.
Junko Kondo (38) works as a secretary at a construction company in Kyoto. She is not married yet, and lives with her parents. Though she would like to have children, she thinks it will be too late for her to have them now. There have been drastic changes in the marriage rate, as well as a declining fertility. The dropping rate in fertility could be related to the to the increasing proportion of unmarried women in their 20’s and 30’s. Many of these so- called Sogo Shoku, or career women, live with their parents, spending their considerable income on consumption and travel.
Yorie (75) has been living on the island Miyajima with her husband, Konishi (75), for the past fifty years. They run a small souvenir shop down the street from their house. The older generation, especially in decentralized and smaller places tend to be more traditional when it comes to gender roles. The original meaning of the word for wife or “my wife”, Okusan, in Japanese refers to someone who stays at the back of the house, someone hidden.

Mai Yano

Mai Yano (21) lives at home in Kobe with her mother, Chie (48) and sister, Yuki (22). It’s rare to move out before marriage in Japan, unless you move due to career decisions. Her father, Masaaki (50) lives and works in the real estate business in Tokyo and spends most of his time there. One weekend a month his job pays for his ticket home to see his family.

 

Mai helps out a little bit in the house, but her mother tends to most of the house work.

 

Mai tells her mother about her new boyfriend. “But don’t tell dad yet”, she begs.

 

Mai (21) is studying for a major in economics at the Kwansai Gakuin university an hour commute from her house. She has already obtained a high ranking job in a German pharmaceutical company. Her wish is to combine a family life with a fruitful career. One of her demands when she applying for jobs was good arrangements for maternity leave.

 

Mai and Ken on a date in Sannomiya, Kobe.

 

Mai (21) has officially been dating Ken Yoshida (22) for about a week. He attends a different university, and they both have part time jobs, so it’s hard to find time to meet. A lot of the dating time is spent on the phone or on Skype. Though it’s rare to show affection in public, the new couple can’t help themselves giving each other a good night kiss outside Mai’s apartment block.

 

Mai Yano (25) is marrying Ken Yoshida (27). One of the staff at the Shinto shrine in Kobe explains the ceremony. Her mother, Chie (53), her sister Yuki (27) and her brother in law Kosuke (27) are preparing. According to the patriarchal Ie-system a couple has to decide upon one sir name after marriage. I most cases the husband’s family name is used in the Koseki, the family register.

 

After the ceremony the families pose together for the first time. The phrase ryosai kenbo (good wife, wise mother) refers to the traditional Japanese ideal women who tends to the home, cooking and fostering of children. She makes sure the hard working husband has a comfortable workweek. The old phrase is still relevant today as many women put great pride in being a good wife and a wise mother.

 

Mai and Ken at home in their new apartment in Kobe. Moving out has been hard for Mai, doing all the house shores, cooking and performing her best at work. Ken is helping out more and more.

 

Manami “Mana” Sawa

Manami “Mana” Sawa (28) is a choreographer and dance instructor. She is running the dance company “Tokyo Party Time”, instructing, choreographing, as well as managing thirty female go-go-dancers.

 

At the club XEX Nihonbashi the girls from the dance company prepare to go on stage. To remember the night Manami makes sure the girls pose for a picture. They like to refer to themselves as go go dancers or show girls that preform “sexy dance”.

 

In addition to managing her dance company, Mana loves working as a dancer in the clubs. Mana’s husband, who is also Japanese, has no problems with her profession, and comes along to watch from time to time.

 

In daytime Manami teaches hip-hop dance to children and other dance forms at community houses around Tokyo.

 

Manami

 

Manami and one of her employees on their way to work.

 

Before going to work at tonight’s Noir-party at the club XEX Nihonbashi, Manami is stopping by a friend’s restaurant.

 

Manami (32) has divorced her husband and is now living by herself north-east in Tokyo. She is still running the dance company Tokyo Party Time, but she doesn’t perform as frequently any longer.

 

Manami has an English boyfriend living in London. She met him at a club where she was preforming. He has been back to Tokyo several times the last year, and she has visited him in London. Manami dreams about staring a family either in Tokyo or most preferably in London, and says she could run her dance company from there. Even though they talk every day, the wait is long between every time they see each other. There have been a drastic decrease in the marriage rate, as well as a declining fertility in Japan the last decades. The dropping rate in fertility could be related to the to the increasing proportion of unmarried women in their 20’s and 30’s.

 

Kanako Satosaki

Kanako Satosaki (35) put Yuki (3) and Mizuki (3 months) first at all times. The translation company she works at has introduced maternity leave for women. Many women choose to leave their jobs when they get married and have children and 60% leave their job permanently after having their first child.

 

Family expedition to Tokyo Sea Life Park. Shin (35), Kanako’s husband travels a lot for work and works long hours at the office every day. It’s common to go out drinking with colleges after, and in many cases it is expected of you. Even tough Shin rarely see his children during the work week, he does his best to make up for it in the weekends.

 

As part of her more alternative child rearing, in the Japanese sense, Kanako partakes in an outdoor kinder garden run by the parents in Yoyogi park three times a week.

 

On way home from kinder garden in Yoyogi park.

 

 

In April 2013 Kanako lost her permanent employment. She wanted to spend more time with her children, and her company was no longer committed to grant for her permission. She was now one of the many less privileged part time working women in Japan.

 

Family expedition to Tokyo Sea Life Park.

 

After their last move Yuki (8) has to walk 45 minutes by herself to school. Mizuki’s (4) private, parent run kindergarten is luckily not par from the house.

 

The past six months Kanako Satozaki (39) has started working again after several years being mostly mother and house wife. On a normal day she usually gets up at 4 am in the morning to make breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next day, before she brings Mizuki to the kindergarten and commute to work. Her husband, Shin (39) now works in the sports industry, and after starting his own company the past year he has had even less time with the family. This Sunday is no exception. Yuki (8) does her homework and Mizuki (4) is drawing a long and passionate letter to her mother in the fading daylight.

 

Kanano, Yuki and Mizuki on their way to the local park, passed the crayon house and a little further.

 

Pregnant women is a relatively rare sight in the streets of Tokyo with a birth rate at 1,09 children per women in 2012.

 

It might seem like a silent compromise is made in Japan, a consensus to how society is structured. But a growing population of elderly, and declining birth rates indicates that Japan is in great need of manpower.

 

 

 

Westwards

Work in progress

The Vikings are trending, in TV-series, in tourism, in commercials, in popular culture in general. The Vikings represents both Scandinavian and European memories, history, art and heritage.
In what way is the Norse heritage influencing Norwegian and Scandinavian cultural identity? How does the Neo-Nazis and White supremacists use of Viking symbolism and esthetics affect Scandinavians view on themselves? Can the Vikings migration patterns and reasons for searching for new land tell us about humans inherent and justified search for a better life? The summer og 2017 I went on a voyage that followed the Viking routes from Eiriksfjord in Greenland via Labrador to Newfoundland in Canada, to start off the first chapter of the story that will explore these questions and more.

“Eirik made his home at Brattahlid (meaning steep-slope) in Eiriksfjord. It is said by learned men that twenty-five ships sailed from Broadfjord and Borgfjord in Iceland during the summer that Eric settled in Greenland. But only fourteen of these ever reached Greenland, for some were driven back, and others were wrecked.” – from Iceland’s book of settlement.
Eirik the Red left Iceland for Greenland convincing the people to go with him, telling them it was fertile and green.

“They fitted out the ship and sailed away. The first country they found was the one that Bjarni had seen last. Here they sailed to shore and dropped anchor, put out a boat and went on land. They saw no grass, the mountain tops were covered with glaciers, and from sea to mountain the country was like one slab of rock.” – The Greenland Saga
Two short sagas deal with the legendary discovery of America by Vikings – the Saga of the Greenlanders (Grœnlendinga saga) and the Saga of Eirik the Red (Eiríks saga rauða).

“After two days’ sail they sighted another shore and landed on an island to the north of the mainland. It was a fine, bright day, and as they looked around, they discovered dew on the grass. It so happened that they picked up some of the dew in their hands and tasted of it, and it seemed to them that they had never tasted anything so sweet.” – From the Greenland Saga.

Sunstones, perhaps a type of Iceland spar, are thought to have been used by the Vikings to navigate across the North Atlantic. By holding it up the stone could be used to locate the sun in overcast and even snowy sky.
A round reflection of the sun on the evening sky in the North Atlantic sea going west.

DARC is a group of experienced and enthusiastic historic interpreters that seeks to authentically Re-create the Viking Age. They have their time period focused on 800 – 1000 AD and their characterizations are primarily Norse, but can include Saxon, Celt, Britain, – peoples in regular contact with the Norse. Pathway. L’Anse aux Meadows, Canada.

In Norse Mythology Midgardsormen, or The World Serpent will come out of the ocean and poison the sky at Ragnarok or “The Doom of the Gods”. The protector of mankind, Thor will kill the world serpent and then he’ll die having been poisoned by the serpent’s venom. After Ragnarok the flooded world will emerge fertile with two human survivors to repopulate the land. Ragnarok takes place after three freezing winters with no summers in between.
Climate change also played a part in the history of the Greenlandic Vikings. The Little Ice Age may have been the reason for the vanishing of the Viking settlements in the north vest.

 

Everyday Muslim

Work in progress

What is it like to be a young Muslim in Norway today?

Many young Muslims with immigrant background struggle to find their role and identity, both in the Norwegian society and in Muslim communities. A negative focus on Islam in the media over several years has led to minority youth feeling stigmatized and that they are regarded as suspicious. What do young Muslims think about their faith and their place in Norwegian society?

The winter three years ago I was attacked on the street by three men. They spoke badly to me about the fact that I was visibly Muslim and struck me in the back of my head. I was shocked and felt completely paralyzed. After some time had passed, I felt that it was too much for me to handle and it was one of the reasons I chose to take off the hijab for a period of time. If it had happened today, I would never have taken it off, because I’ve got a better idea of what the hijab means to me now. I think there are some things you need to learn. Not that I feel I got anything good out of what happened, but it made me feel stronger. They did not get their will because I believe more strongly now, and I’m prouder wearing my hijab now than before.

 

I would like people to see me as a young Muslim boy who is very understanding, who has respect for other people regardless of their religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation. I’m a person who is very open and tolerant.
I am very interested in radicalization, to know why some people choose that path. I think the reasons are very much related to loneliness and misinterpretation and the feeling of being banned by society, exclusion, extermination and the feeling of not belonging.

 

I was in Spain a month ago and was going to take the plane home. I asked my brother how I should pray on the journey, because it’s done a bit differently. Then he said to me that you can pray like this or that, but you should take care of whoever is sitting next to you. I wouldn’t want to scare anyone, especially when we’re in a plane. If they see me pray they can assume I’m a Muslim and that I want to bomb the plane.
It is very sad that ISIS creates so much fear. They say they are Muslims, but I do not know what they are. They have come to the conclusion that it is allowed to kill, but it is not allowed in Islam. In Islam, it is said that if you kill a person it’s like killing all humanity.

 

My motivation for being a good Muslim is an inner motivation, not an outer one. I do not quite know why I cannot pray. Obviously, my parents remind me of it. They say you do not pray for us, you pray for yourself. I have the prayer apps, although there have been some technical issues with them.
I think I’m a bit weak in the way I practice. Of course, I only eat halal and try my best. For example, in MacDonalds or Burger King, I cannot eat it because I do not know how they have slaughtered and cooked the meat, so I’ll just get the fish burger every time. The practice of my faith can be seen in the small things.

 

Why should it bother you that I have chosen to wear a hijab? Why is a woman suppressed if she chooses to wear more? I think we all should be more inclusive. Everyone has prejudices, but one must break them down and try to have an open mind. A lot of people have misunderstood that there is only one type of Muslim, it’s not. You must ask a Muslim, if you know one, what they personally perceive as true to them as an individual.

The Norwegian Roma

At the Jansen familys home at Helsfyr in Oslo. A meal between meetings in the Roma Pentecostal Church.
At the Jansen familys home at Helsfyr in Oslo.
A meal between meetings in the Roma Pentecostal Church.

Norway 2009 – present
Most Norwegian Roma families live marginalized from the rest of the Norwegian society. This is partly due to their fear of loosing their culture, language and traditions. The Roma’s are commonly and openly discriminated in Norway as in Europe. A high rate of illiteracy keeps most of the population living on social welfare.
The Norwegian Roma are one of five national minorities. Originally descending from Rajasthan in India 1000 years ago, we find the first trace of the Roma in Norway around 1880. In 1934 a group of 68 Roma were refused re-entrance to Norway, despite the fact that many held Norwegian passports. Only twelve survived World War II. The Norwegian Roma population are descendants of the twelve.
Today, the vast majority is resident in Oslo during winter. In summertime they travel and live on campsites around Scandinavia and Europe. The majority of camping sites in Norway refuse them admission. Car parks on industrial sites are often used as a supplement.

An important aspect of the Roma culture is their value for family relations. They maintain strong ties with their larger extended families. A meal between meetings in the Roma Pentecostal Church. The Jansen family’s home, Oslo, Norway.
An important aspect of the Roma culture is their value for family relations. They maintain strong ties with their larger extended families.
A meal between meetings in the Roma Pentecostal Church.
The Jansen family’s home, Oslo, Norway.
A meeting in the Roma Pentecostal Church. As a result of the lack of a church hall, Godlia community house was rented for the occasion.
A meeting in the Roma Pentecostal Church. As a result of the lack of a church hall, Godlia community house was rented for the occasion.
A meeting in the Roma Pentecostal Church. Collection of the offerings.
A meeting in the Roma Pentecostal Church. Collection of the offerings.
As the Roma people often adopt the religion from the areas where they live, the Norwegian Roma joined the Pentecostal Church somewhat 30 years ago. Prayer of blessing during the service at the Roma Pentecostal Church. Oslo Norway.
As the Roma people often adopt the religion from the areas where they live, the Norwegian Roma joined the Pentecostal Church somewhat 30 years ago. Prayer of blessing during the service at the Roma Pentecostal Church.
Oslo Norway.
A meeting in the Roma Pentecostal Church. Holy communion.
A meeting in the Roma Pentecostal Church. Holy communion.
The majority of camping sites refuse the Roma admission. Therefore they are dependent on individuals who can offer them places where they can meet. Car parks on industrial sites are often used. Campsite, Porsgrunn, Norway.
The majority of camping sites refuse the Roma admission. Therefore they are dependent on individuals who can offer them places where they can meet. Car parks on industrial sites are often used.
Campsite, Porsgrunn, Norway.
During the summer months the Roma people are travelling and the children are taught at home. Most of the adults are illiterate and are unable to help their children with their homework. Campsite, Porsgrunn, Norway.
During the summer months the Roma people are travelling and the children are taught at home. Most of the adults are illiterate and are unable to help their children with their homework.
Campsite, Porsgrunn, Norway.
Campsite, Porsgrunn, Norway.
Campsite, Porsgrunn, Norway.

Campsite, Porsgrunn, Norway.
Campsite, Porsgrunn, Norway.
Early morning in the caravan.
Early morning in the caravan.
Campsite, Porsgrunn, Norway.
Campsite, Porsgrunn, Norway.
One of the nine Jansen brothers received a new kidney, donated by his daughter. It was natural that the whole of the extended family were there as support.
One of the nine Jansen brothers received a new kidney, donated by his daughter. It was natural that the whole of the extended family were there as support.
One of the grandchildren playing doctor and patient while waiting at the hospital.
One of the grandchildren playing doctor and patient while waiting at the hospital.
One of the nine Jansen brothers received a new kidney, donated by his daughter. It was natural that the whole of the extended family were there as support.
One of the nine Jansen brothers received a new kidney, donated by his daughter. It was natural that the whole of the extended family were there as support.
Roma wedding, Skedsmo, Norway.
Roma wedding, Skedsmo, Norway.
The girls are allowed to attend school till they reach puberty. After this they have to help out at home and learn how to be a good wife according to Roma tradition. This is reproducing the illiteracy as well as the gab between the Norwegian society and the Roma community. Roma wedding, Skedsmo, Norway.
The girls are allowed to attend school till they reach puberty. After this they have to help out at home and learn how to be a good wife according to Roma tradition. This is reproducing the illiteracy as well as the gab between the Norwegian society and the Roma community.
Roma wedding, Skedsmo, Norway.
Roma wedding, Skedsmo, Norway.
Roma wedding, Skedsmo, Norway.
Roma wedding, Skedsmo, Norway.
Roma wedding, Skedsmo, Norway.
Roma wedding, Skedsmo, Norway.
Roma wedding, Skedsmo, Norway.
Roma wedding, Skedsmo, Norway.
Roma wedding, Skedsmo, Norway.
Five year old hands at a wedding party. From a young age the girls are dressed up as women, with make up, fake nails and bleached hair. Roma wedding, Skedsmo, Norway.
Five year old hands at a wedding party. From a young age the girls are dressed up as women, with make up, fake nails and bleached hair.
Roma wedding, Skedsmo, Norway.
Weddings are considered to be very important occasions, where the Roma’s generosity, hospitality and zest for life unfold. The Roma establish new bonds between families through marriages, making travelling an important social arena. Roma wedding, Skedsmo, Norway.
Weddings are considered to be very important occasions, where the Roma’s generosity, hospitality and zest for life unfold. The Roma establish new bonds between families through marriages, making travelling an important social arena.
Roma wedding, Skedsmo, Norway.
Roma wedding, Skedsmo, Norway.
Roma wedding, Skedsmo, Norway.

Family Matters

Breakfast

Oslo 2005 – present
Family is the first and the last thing you have. It’s there when you’re born and when you die. It’s doubtlessly there in between too. You choose your friends, but not your family. You love them, and they love you, no matter how different you may be.

My birthday party
Waffles, coffee and dog show
Uncle gardening
Cutting Dads combover, without success
Cousins, trampoline and pirate ship
She’ll never come back
We live in house nr. 45
My cousins’ wart
Watching television

 

Decode Barcode

Oslo’s historic harbor is changing before our eyes. The former industrial complex, with its ships, cranes, and storehouses has been replaced by new apartments, culture centers and office buildings. For a decade, Barcode has contributed to a ‘facelift’ of the East End. Whether one likes such ‘facelifts’ or not, the new row of buildings has become one of Oslo’s most important landmarks.

ASJ_DECODE_BARCODE01 “Everyone” has an opinion about Barcode, and “everyone” has expectations as to what the new district in Bjørvika will become. To whom does it supposedly belong – is it just for white collar and upper class people, or should it rather belong to us all? The public has expressed a certain skepticism to the project. One fears a scenario where wealthy corporations from Aker Brygge expand eastward to take over the whole area. However, when the Sørenga Seawater Pool opened last summer, it attracted visitors from all layers of society. On a hot summer day, the pool worked as a diverse public area in an otherwise homogeneous and exclusive neighborhood.

ASJ_DECODE_BARCODE02 The project takes the pulse of Barcode, while Bjørvika continues to build its new character. I have explored the architecture and, more importantly, the people using the buildings. The project has been developed in cooperation with the Swedish-Norwegian publisher Arvinius+Orfeus. It has been published in the book Barcode – Instant City, which was released in September 2016.

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Circus Zorba

Circus Zorba is the smallest circus in Norway. From early April till late October the tiny, original circus travels the long country, from the far north to the south.  The show runs in a different place almost every day, and everyone has to help.
Circus Zorba is the smallest circus in Norway. From early April till late October the tiny, original circus travels the long country, from the far north to the south. The show runs in a different place almost every day, and everyone has to help.

Norway 2007
For twenty two years Cirkus Zorba has been on the road as the smallest circus in Norway. They have a new show on a new place almost every day in the season from April to October. Exotic animals are not for Zorba, their show includes more traditional Norwegian animals as goats, cats, dogs, ponies and Lala the lama.

 

Several times a week Jana-Bianca Kerkhoff (37) has to brush her twelve dogs. It's the king poodle Joys turn today.
Several times a week Jana-Bianca Kerkhoff (37) has to brush her twelve dogs. It’s the king poodle Joys turn today.

05

Jana-Bianca Kerkhoff (37) sells neon toys that glow in the dark!
Jana-Bianca Kerkhoff (37) sells neon toys that glow in the dark!
The small town Rindal was the worst place the circus visited this spring, with a passing hurricane and 30 centimetres snow.
The small town Rindal was the worst place the circus visited this spring, with a passing hurricane and 30 centimetres snow.

08

At Våggåmo the audience is stunned by the pirates acrobatics.
At Våggåmo the audience is stunned by the pirates acrobatics.

10

With Katalin, the doll, Jozco Szilagyi (41) runs to his trailer to change.
With Katalin, the doll, Jozco Szilagyi (41) runs to his trailer to change.
A big part of the season mother, Mico and sister, Ronja are at home in Frei, while Thor Gujord and his youngest daughter Katja travel alone with the circus. Without mom the meals mostly consist of microwave food eaten on cardboard plates.
A big part of the season mother, Mico and sister, Ronja are at home in Frei, while Thor Gujord and his youngest daughter Katja travel alone with the circus. Without mom the meals mostly consist of microwave food eaten on cardboard plates.
Everyone has to help when the big circus tent is packed for the night. The workers, the artists, the orchestra, and the circus director himself have to work together get the circus on the road on to the next place, every single day.
Everyone has to help when the big circus tent is packed for the night. The workers, the artists, the orchestra, and the circus director himself have to work together get the circus on the road on to the next place, every single day.