It might sound strange, but in a lot of Japanese households, the use of first names tends to become increasingly rare after the arrival of children and grandchildren. Although plenty of parents in the western world will also refer to each other as “Mommy” or “Daddy” in an effort to help their newborn or toddler pick up the words, or sometimes just to be cute, a man calling his wife “Mama” or “Okaasan” even after their kids have long flown the nest is perfectly common in Japan.
But what happens when a husband suddenly starts calling his wife by her first name, just like when they first started dating or had not long been married? Japanese cosmetics company Pola recently conducted an experiment to find out how simply being called by their first name can affect the health and physical appearance of young women who have over the years come to be known simply as “Mama”.
Promo or not, the effect was surprisingly powerful.
A great deal of attention is paid in Japan to a person’s role or position in a group or society. If Yoshio Suzuki (to choose one of the most common surnames in Japan at random) is one day selected to be the section chief at the engineering company he works for, then from that moment on he will cease to be known as Suzuki-san and referred to solely as Kachou (section chief) outside of more formal settings or when it is necessary for a person to specify which section chief they are talking about.
Similar rules are often applied at home, where women become “Okaasan” or “Mama” and men “Otousan” or “Papa” the moment their firstborn enters the world. This might not seem especially unusual at first, and it should be noted that there are exceptions even in Japan, with plenty of couples still calling each other by their first names even after having kids, but when a dozen female heads turn in perfect unison as a 65-year-old man calls out “Okaasan” (“Mother”) in order to get his wife’s attention in a busy supermarket, or when a store clerk addresses a female patron as “Okusan” (“Wife”) after spying her wedding ring, it becomes clear that the Japanese really do put a lot of stock into a person’s role in society, whatever it may be.
In a recent promotional video, cosmetics maker Pola performed an experiment to see how mothers reacted to suddenly being called by their first name after years of simply being “Mama”. The company asked the husbands of women who reported that they were usually addressed in their home as “Mama” or similar to make a conscious effort to use their wife’s first name when talking to them in order to see how they would respond.
The idea that simply using a woman’s first name could be enough affect her mood might seem strange to those outside Japan, but watch the reactions of these young mothers as their husbands follow Pola’s simple instructions.
▼ Be sure to toggle the English subtitles when playing the video
The video doesn’t go into much detail about how the group studied the changes that occurred following this sudden name-change, and we’re fairly sure that there is at least a little bit of creative licence being employed here since this is after all a commercial of sorts, but this video nevertheless provides us with a fascinating look at this aspect of Japanese culture, and it’s interesting to see how even some of the husbands found it strange to call their wives by anything other than Mama.
Besides, it’s hard not to feel even the tiniest flutter in the pit of your stomach when you see a young mother’s face light up like this simply because her husband called by her first name.
Source/screenshots: YouTube – POLA