In Japan, there's the salary you get from your company. And if you are a married man, there's the salary you get from your wife. It's called "okozukai" (お小遣い), which is sometimes translated as "pocket money". Think of it as a husband salary. That's what it is.
Traditionally, Japanese women control a family's finances. Even if the wife works, she still is supposed to manage the household's money. As The Japan Times pointed out, in around half of Japanese households, the wife controls all the finances. (Note that the number is down from previous years in what could be a generational shift.) And in 30 per cent of marriages, both the husband and wife control the finances together. And in only 20 per cent of households do the husbands control the finances.
Japanese law does not allow joint or family accounts (only individual accounts!); so when it's said that the wife controls the money, that's exactly what it means.
Often, when married men in Japan befriend other married men, a common question might be how much one gets for okozukai. Every year, the Japanese media even reports on the average monthly pocket money Japanese husbands get from their spouses.
"I met my wife, who is eight years older than I am, while working at a diner as a student," 35 year-old Shinya Horikawa, who works at a video game company, recently told ZakZak. "After we got married, there was a complete change. Now, of course, my salary and everything in the house is controlled (by my wife)."
According to ZakZak, the average okozukai last year was 39,600 (US$396). That includes the husband's cell phone bill, which in Japan is usually a little over a hundred bucks. It also includes other things, such as eating out and booze or cigarettes for those who drink and smoke. What's more, if you are into video games, music, or books, well, that comes from your husband salary, too. Want a new game? Use your allowance. Want a haircut? Well, take it out of your pocket money. Need new clothes? Use your okozukai. By managing money like this, families are, on average, able to save the equivalent of over $US200,000.
It's not strange for Japanese celebrities to say on TV they only get a couple hundred bucks' worth of allowance from their wives.
Of course, some people get much lower allowances. The previously mentioned Horikawa complained to ZakZak about his monthly 90-dollar allotment, adding, "As hard as things get, I just cannot stop smoking. And though I work for a game developer, all the games I'm able to afford are free smartphone games..."
Wives, who are managing the money, also usually get an allowance, which they use to go out with friends or go shopping for themselves. The average is 22,600 yen ($226); women with children get, on average, a lower allowance, while women without children get significantly more. For example, according to Livedoor Home, married women in their twenties without children reported an average allowance of 47,351 yen ($473). Certainly, young married men without children typically have a higher okozukai than those with them.
Many Japanese wives don't just have their okozukai. Some also have "secret savings" called "hesokuri" (臍繰り), which can be literally translated as "belly-button money". According to The New York Times, a poll revealed that 55 per cent of married women keep a secret stash of cash that their husbands, who perhaps don't check the household finances, are totally unaware of. This isn't new, and it's not necessarily selfish: There's a famous story of a Chiyo, the wife of 16th century samurai Kazutoyo Yamanouchi, who saved up her hesokuri to buy her husband a magnificent horse, which ultimately helped earn him fame in battle.
In the West, there are those husbands who certainly turn all the household finances over to their wives. Heck, Willie Nelson said he does. This isn't a Japan-only thing, either, by any stretch. However, it does show how much power Japanese women ultimately do have in the country. Let's be clear, there are certainly glass ceilings and inequality, fraught with structural problems, such as insufficient daycare for working women. But one of the ways women have long ultimately wielded power in Japan is through controlling the country's purse strings.
Culture Smash is a regular dose of things topical, interesting and sometimes even awesome -- game related and beyond.
To contact the author of this post, write to bashcraftATkotaku.com or find him on Twitter @Brian_Ashcraft.
Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.