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What Japanese women want: a Western husband

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The Japanese government wants women like Taeko Mizuguchi to get married and start doing something about the nation's plunging birthrate. But she's not interested.

At least, not if her prospective husband is Japanese.

A growing number of Japanese women are giving up on their male counterparts, and taking a gamble that looking abroad for love will bring them the qualities in a partner that seem rare at home. Mr. Right, as the hope goes, is often an American or European, a man appreciative of a wife's career and more of a partner in daily tasks.

"They treat you like equals, and they don't hesitate to express mutual feelings of respect - I think Western men are more adept [at such things] than Japanese men," says the 36-year-old Ms. Mizuguchi, who works at a top trading firm. "They don't act like women are maids - I think they view women as individuals."

Underscoring that Japanese women are losing hope with the local boys, dating agencies to help snag a Western husband have sprung up in Tokyo, some with branches in the US and Europe. Such companies rigorously vet their clients, screening for education, family background, occupation, and life goals.

The kind of women who sign up for such services include doctors, lawyers, and other professionals - women who have delayed marriage to concentrate on careers and who aren't keen to give up hard won gains to become a housewife, as many Japanese men expect.

Japanese women have come to consider traditional marriage roles as "disadvantageous in terms of time resources - they have to carry the burden of domestic chores as well as lose their free time," says Chizuko Ueno, a professor of sociology at Tokyo University.

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