JLPT BC 79 | Giving Birth in Japan

Giving birth in JapanI’m currently on the look out for a good new jDrama to watch. I just finished off Nagareboshi, which I talked about last week, but I want to watch something new now that has a lot of everyday Japanese in it. This can sometimes be more difficult than it sounds.

I recently tried Gakusen, which is supposed to be a great drama. The main issue I have with it is that it is based off a manga so the entire style of the drama is very exaggerated and cartoon-y. I think this would be interesting if that is what you want to study, but if you want to focus on more serious language like what is on the JLPT it is not really the best choice.

First off, it is full of slangy choppy dialog. The characters make short quips to each other that are mumbled and a bit hard to pick up. This makes it difficult for me to practice listening. Also, it seems like they are using a lot of high school slang, which isn’t really useful to me on any level. I don’t do a lot of talking to high schoolers these days (at least in Japanese).

The other problem with the drama is that the characters are completely unrealistic. This is, of course because they are suppose to be caricatures based on the manga. That would make the drama a really interesting TV show to watch, but maybe not the best choice for something to watch if you are studying. Anyway, I’ve stopped watching it for now in favor of something a bit more useful.

Giving Birth in Japan

As you might know, about a month ago, my daughter was born. It was an incredible experience that I will never forget full of highs and boring moments. Everything changes once there is a baby in your life, and I’m starting to understand that whole saying “You’ll understand when you have children of your own.”

But, it was also an interesting opportunity to speak Japanese. I was forced to try to do my best to understand from the nurses what was going on because I couldn’t rely on my wife to translate for me. These types of situations are always the best to learn anything, because it forces you into a do or die moment and you end up learning a lot.

I certainly learned a lot about what all goes into having a baby as well as the specialized vocabulary that goes along with it. One thing about the JLPT is that even though the highest level covers some 18,000+ words, that certainly is not the entire language. There are plenty of extra vocabulary words out there that you still can learn.

Differences from America

Japan has some noticeable differences between how they do things and how America does things. One big noticeable difference is that the hospital stay is a lot longer. In most cases in Japan, the stay at the hospital or clinic is somewhere around a week compared to about a day or two after birth in the States.

This extra time is not just for relaxing though. The nurses taught her how to do all sorts of stuff and to top it all off she got a aromatherapy massage to help her relax. The food was also amazing and she got a nice little private room with a DVD player, electric kettle and the works.

Another big difference is that there wasn’t a month (or more) long birthing or Lamaze class. It was actually just one class where they went over everything with us. It was still pretty entertaining. At the beginning of the class the nurse asked for volunteers who wanted to wear an empathy belly. Of course, no one volunteer so she started strongly suggesting to a few men to wear one, who eventually caved in. Yes, I wussed out. She got me back however when she told me to get up on the delivery table in the delivery room in front of the whole class. That’s the kind of stuff you come to Japan for, the cultural experiences.

Going Back to Mom’s House

Mothers in Japan typically go back to their mom’s house for the first month after having a baby. This is so their mother can take care of them while they are resting and recovering. Also help do things like care for the baby and cook meals. This is of course kind of a bummer for us fathers, but a bit unavoidable.

Recently, a student of one of my friends had a daughter and his wife went back to Hokkaido for 6 months. This, to me, seems a little overboard of course. I can’t imagine going 6 months without seeing my kid. It is difficult enough to only be able to visit on weekends during this first month. Hokkaido isn’t exactly just up the street either, it is a good 2 hour flight from Osaka, which in Japan, is like the other side of the universe.

What about you?

Have you ever had an experience like this? Were you ever in a situation where you were forced to use Japanese? Let me know in the comments.

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Avlor May 9, 2012, 11:39 am

    Congrats on the birth of your child!

    • Mac May 14, 2012, 1:40 pm

      Thanks Avlor! She’s a handful, but amazing to have in our lives. 🙂

  • Azanea May 10, 2012, 9:33 am


    Going to the mother’s place after giving birth is a rampant custom in many Asian countries. I know of some new mums who have stayed for up to a year. The reasoning is that new fathers cannot handle a baby anyway and that the wife gets to relax rather than be the chore-machine she usually is at the in-laws/marital home.

    • Mac May 14, 2012, 2:30 pm

      Yeah, I’ve heard it is pretty common for moms to go back to their hometowns right after they give birth, but I actually have one Japanese friend that took a year off to take care of his two sons and another (western) friend that is quitting his job to be a full time stay-at-home dad, so just goes to show there are no stereotypes.

      Anyway, I’m happy to help out around the house if it means seeing my little girl.:)

  • Larry May 11, 2012, 6:33 am

    Congrats Mac,
    Now you start read really big and important page in the book of Life..
    So best regards and strong health to your wife and daughter!!!!


    • Mac May 14, 2012, 2:56 pm

      Thanks Larry for the comment and the kind wishes. It is definitely an important page. Very rewarding though!

  • Tim May 12, 2012, 6:01 am

    Glad my wife didn’t get it into her head to disappear to her parents’ place after giving birth to either of the two daughters we have had together (the most recent being less than three weeks ago). I think the reason is three-fold: she already had a daughter when we got married, so she was by no means a new mother; she is very westernised, having lived in America for a good stretch of time; and her parents live a stone’s throw from our place anyway.

    The first time is always the most interesting experience. Congratulations to Mac and his wife. Wishing you all lots of rest and good health. Make the most of having such a precious little life around — they don’t stay little forever.

    • Mac May 14, 2012, 2:58 pm

      I’m learning a lot of things firsthand. It is very interesting indeed. I’ve read up on all the books, but I’m still confused about what to do 90% of the time. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  • Jo June 7, 2012, 7:34 am

    “Mother’s”should be spelled “mothers” in the first paragraph under “Going…..”

    Sorry, grammar is a pet peeve.

    • Mac June 8, 2012, 3:08 pm

      Sorry, I corrected it. Thanks!

  • Samantha July 9, 2012, 4:40 pm

    I have a question, if the wife has to return to their mother’s house for a month and if the wife is not from Japan and say her country was not nearby, than what does she do?

    • Mac July 11, 2012, 12:55 am

      Haha, I guess they don’t return to their mother’s house. 🙂 All I know is the first month is very intensive and exhausting. It is best for both husband and wife to take time off from work, but that is modern society for you 🙂

  • NinKenDo July 17, 2014, 12:00 pm

    SIX MONTHS?! That’s absolutely insane. I feel incredibly sorry for that guy. No way I would put up with my wife doing that.

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