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For Good or Bad

Japanese magazine titles are substantial, numbering over 3500 *1. Among them, a new type of magazines are known to be a big hit. They are family magazines, targeting parents in their 30s and 40s and their children in preschools (i.e., kindergartens and daycare centers alike) and
elementary schools:Nikkei Kids PLUS (pilot 1st edition, 2005/3/15 -),AERA with kids (Vol.1 2006/3/15 -) and PRESIDENT Family (Vo1.1 *2 2005/11/17-). The websites are Japanese only.

Unlike previous parenting magazines, these magazines target not only mothers but also fathers who are accustomed to read mass-circulated titles such as PRESIDENT ( business magazine for managers), Nikkei published periodicals, and general weekly magazine AERA (similar to magazines such as Newsweek, so to speak).

Albeit differences in editorial stances, the covered articles in three magazines are similar, ranging from children's education (school choice, entrance exams, introduction to various occupations), discipline (daily habits, food education at home), children's safety issues, excursion and play ideas including recommendations for children?fs books and movies, to celebrity interviews on their parenthood or childhood in retrospect.

As a mother of four-year-old son who is an advocate for father's involvement in children's lives, I first welcomed the inauguration of these magazines. In fact, browsing through, many articles provide parents with informative, practical and fun tips to enjoy parenting, and to have better understanding of today's children's environment.

Concurrently, I have ambivalent feelings. For one, a magazine filled with in things to do as parents is a bit too much for me. It is as if I were reading a manual on the right way to play with my child, go though day-to-day, and consider topics which ensure children's assuring future. Secondly, I get the impression that these magazines ended up reiterating the traditional image of gender roles by designating fathers as managers (important decision making, setting the long term goals for children, playing with kids during their off-time) while mothers remaining as administrators (dealing with daily chores of children) at home. Finally, the magazines remind me of the current discourse of so-called "kakusha shakai (a society with disparity)" and "kachigumi vs. makegumi (winner team vs. loser team)" in Japan. Though I am not certain if the readers consider themselves as winners of a dichotomizing society, it is obvious that the magazine primarily target those families with relatively high disposable income, who can afford to invest money, time and/or energy in their children. Further, the featured articles certainly exacerbate the parents'sentiments not to let their child to become a loser.

The inauguration and popularity of these magazines have various implications for everyone, including policy makers, educators, and most importantly, parents and children who read as well as who do not read the magazines. As for me, the magazines can be of great use to grasp the modalities of Japanese children and their surroundings, but I will read them only to the point that I do not need to feel anxiety to strive for being a perfect parent to secure my son's future as a winner of the society.

*1The number of Japanese magazine titles is excerpted from "Japanese Publishing Industry" in the JETRO Japan Economic Monthly July 2005. Retrieved on May 1, 2006 from the World Wide Web:

*2 Note that the back issues of the pilot 1st edition of Nikkei Kids Plus and the first edition of PRESIDENT Family are all sold out, according to the editorials of each magazine.
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