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Friday, April 27, 2001


Learning to measure up to the feminine mystique

We all know how hard it is to be a woman (thank you, Tammy Wynette), and we've caught on that this is extra hard in Japan. According to the girls out here, womanhood is not a natural state but more in the nature of a profession that must be planned, managed, worked at incessantly. Onna-do (The Way of Woman) is long and arduous. And contrary to what our mothers taught us, it's not enough to be seiketsu (clean), sawayaka (refreshing) and ki ga kiku (alert to the needs of others). One must be all these things and still have that most important of onna-do factors: kokando (likability), measured on a percentage scale of 1 to 100.

The kokando scale was first started in women's magazines (namely An An) that delighted in holding surveys showing which female media figures were most "liked" by the female public. A porn star, for example, could afford to have zero kokando, but people like joshi ana (newscasters), joyu (actresses), undosenshu (athletes), baradoru (variety show idols) needed to be way, way up there in order to retain their popularity.

Kokando points depend on being pretty but not overly so, sexy but not in an obvious way, smart but not to excess, nice without being coy. In other words, a woman could be attractive but never a threat. Kokando is a very thin line to walk.

When a Fuji TV newscaster quit her job to marry a just-divorced kabuki actor with two kids, her kokando plummeted faster than Nasdaq points after the fall of Yahoo! Scarcely a year later, she was divorced, had her own radio show and was suddenly back on the kokando survey charts. The lesson to be learned from this is that a satisfied, joyous woman is never very likable. Perhaps other women take this as a sign of lacking in ki ga kiku.

Men in the media are measured by an entirely different standard. They, too, must be sawayaka and even yasashii (kind and gentle), but the dominating genre in terms of male appeal to women, is dakaretai-do (degree of wanting to be made love to). It's a good thing my grandmother is no longer around because she's capable of walking into the office of whoever came up with this term and chasing him around with a bamboo stick.

The key to this tortured, roundabout term is in its total passiveness. Lack of straightforwardness. And it's not even the equivalent of sekushii (sexy) since "sexy" is considered a totally different standard. A high dakaretai-do, however, is currently the hallmark of male attraction and crops up in naughty conversations everywhere, from company restrooms during the day to inner-circle gatherings at the izakaya (Japanese-style pubs) at night.

And in case you're all agog to hear what kind of guy is up there in the charts, they are pretty much the usual suspects: Takuya Kimura (though news of his marriage and subsequent fatherhood has taken him down a bit), Masaharu Fukuyama, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung.

Admittedly, things could be harder for the men, as explained by Tetsu, 29, who, like everyone else, is addicted to kokando/dakaretai-do surveys. He moans that it's all hugely fukohei (unfair) since women are expected to just lower the volume on their attractiveness and be likable, whereas men are expected to perform a sugoku fukuzatsuna waza (a very complicated feat) just for some credit and approval. What he's hoping for is a male category called "isshokenmei-do (degree of making a real effort)" to replace everything else. Then he can finally look for a woman with 100 percent kokando and theirs will be a match made in Media Survey Heaven.

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