Today I taught one of my students the phrase, "could you do me a favor?" At the end of the lesson, she said, "could you do me a favor and send me (the scripts for the CD content from last week's lesson)?" I had meant to send her the scripts last week after he lesson and in fact, had forgotten to send them once before. I apologized to her and said that I usually receive a phone call from my husband every Saturday shortly after her lesson and once I start talking on the phone, the idea of sending the scripts flies out of my head.
My student was understanding of this, of course, but she was also a bit puzzled. She asked me if today was my husband's day off and I told her he was working and called me during his lunch from 1:00-2:00. She then asked if he called me everyday from work and I told her he did. Her response to this was, "why?"
I'm pretty sure that a western person would not ask me why my husband took the time to call me every day from work. I told my student it was because he wanted to talk to me and he loved me. Her response to this was "Japanese men never do that. I envy you."
Based on similar responses from women at my former office, I'm pretty sure her statement about Japanese men in this regard is, by and large, true. Back when I was working full-time and my husband worked on a temporary basis and was a househusband the rest of the year, he used to make special trips to my office once or twice a week to have lunch with me. On occasion, he'd even meet me and go home on the subway ride with me even though the trip wasn't incredibly long. My female coworkers were unfailingly impressed with his voluntary show of devotion. One of them even asked me if I was asking him to do these things for me.
I am worldly enough to know my husband is unusually attentive even for a western husband but I also know that most Japanese husbands almost never call their wives just to chat or see how their day is going or visit them for lunch at their offices. One of the reasons for this is that it would likely seem untoward for them to visit them at their offices. Another is that most Japanese men are the main breadwinners and work a lot of overtime and wouldn't have the time to do so. However, with cell phones in nearly every hand, calling ones spouse to have a little chat at lunch every day is certainly within their grasp but it's simply not a usual part of the normal behavior in Japan for husbands to seek out interaction with their wives on a regular basis in this way.
One of my other students recently told me that her perfect future mate would be a foreign husband because she felt foreign men were more aware of women's needs and treated them better. She said that she felt Japanese men were selfish and put themselves first all of the time. While I've never been in a relationship with a Japanese man, I can say that my experiences teaching them do reveal a great deal of self-centeredness. While the women I teach have conversations with me in a give and take fashion, men rarely, if ever, ask anything at all either in terms of my disposition, personal news, or opinions on a given topic. Mind you, I'm not complaining about this as a teacher but it does show that they are not very other-directed compared to Japanese women.
I'm not certain that Japanese women aren't idealizing western men to some (or a great) extent but I'm pretty sure they're not demonizing Japanese men to a great extent. Based on my experiences, I'm sure that I could never have married a Japanese man and been happy. Beyond the inevitable cross-cultural personality and communication issues, there's the fact that anyone raised in a culture which puts men first and foremost can't help but end up feeling that he's at the top of the heap.