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Thursday, Jan. 4, 2007

New magazines for fathers put hip spin on child-raising

Staff writer

With actor Johnny Depp on the cover, the message of FQ Japan, a new child-rearing magazine for men, is clear: "Be a cool dad."

News photo
Magazines targeting fathers offer information on education, safety and ways of communicating with their children. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

The magazine offers more than diaper-changing tips. The first issue of FQ Japan, published in December, features celebrity interviews with Depp and pop singer Fumiya Fujii, both talking about their experiences as fathers.

FQ Japan, the Japanese edition of British magazine FQ, is the latest in a string of glossies appearing in the past two years aimed at fathers. Nikkei Kids Plus was first, debuting in October 2005, followed by President Family and Oceans.

Although the magazines target different readerships, with some focusing on those with younger kids and others aimed at fathers of teens, they have certain common themes -- celebrity interviews, education, child safety.

For instance, in its issue next month, President Family will feature 50 toys it claims will make kids smarter. These include cubes with hiragana and remote-controlled robots that kids can build themselves.

The magazines both symbolize and attempt to cash in on the desire of young fathers to take a more active role in parenting, although mothers are still seen as having primary responsibility for raising children in Japan.

Tomohiro Shimizu, editor in chief of FQ Japan, which printed 50,000 copies for its inaugural issue, said that although there are many parenting magazines for women, there aren't many targeting men.

"I myself have raised a child, but many of the (parenting) magazines were for women, which I was hesitant to read," Shimizu said. "I wanted to publish a magazine that dads can feel free to pick up and read."

Shimizu said that although he hopes his magazine provides ideas about how to achieve a balance between work and child-rearing, he doesn't want to make the publication too preachy.

"It's about how to have fun with kids," Shimizu said.

Experts agree that the rising awareness of bullying at schools, classroom disruptions and concerns about the decline in children's academic abilities are prompting fathers to pay more attention to their kids.

But Toshiyuki Shiomi, an education professor at the University of Tokyo, pointed out that many dads in their 30s and 40s don't know how to communicate with their children because they lack role models.

"When they were young, their fathers were corporate warriors who devoted themselves to work, and were away from home a lot," Shiomi said. "They don't have a lot of memories of their fathers actively communicating with them.

"So they are reading magazines to find out how to talk with their children. . . . The magazines are their how-to books."

See related stories:
Women expect to keep working, excel
Foreign permanent residents on rise, filling gaps
Asia beckons for some skilled retirees
Foreign trainees facing chronic abuses
Major workforce disruptions looming over Japan

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