The Japanese view the family as a source of stability and strength and believe that an individual cannot reach his or her full potential in the outside world without the support of the family. The decline in the birth rate since the Second World War has resulted in smaller families. However, elderly relatives may live with their children, as Japanese tradition requires children to take care of their parents in their old age. 

The Japanese believe that once a couple has a child, their identities as parents are more important than their identities as husband and wife. After the birth of their first child, Japanese couples may stop calling each other by their first names, and address each other as Otoosan or Okaasan, meaning Father and Mother.

 Japanese children have traditionally been taught that being part of a group is more important than individuality and that poor behaviour in public will reflect badly on the family and society in general. They are taught to obey authority. They must also learn the complicated rules of formal behaviour that characterize Japanese society. These rules are based on traditions of honour, loyalty and the importance of saving face. Although the influence of Western culture is beginning to erode these ideas, they are still strong in many parts of Japan.

  Did you know?
Bathing in Japan is different from bathing in North America. In Japan, it is customary to wash before getting into the bathtub. The tub is for soaking and relaxing, not for washing. The water stays clean so that another family member can soak in the same water afterwards.
Thirty years ago, most young people were married by the age of 25. Today, men and women may wait a few more years to get married. Most couples meet at work or university. A system known as miai (arranged meeting) helps with introductions. Before marriage, many men and women continue to live at home with their parents, largely because of a shortage of affordable housing.

 Although many Japanese people live in modern apartments and houses, some still live in traditional houses. These houses are set back from the street. The entrance to the house leads through a gate into a garden and then through a sliding door into an area where family members and guests take off their outdoor shoes. The interior of the house is divided up by sliding screens made of wood and rice paper, which can be moved to adjust the room size. People sleep on futons, thick cotton mats placed on the floor. In the morning they are folded up and put away to save space. 

About three-quarters of Japanese families live in urban areas, where housing is extremely expensive. Some people have to wait years for accommodation they can afford. Many families move to the suburbs to find affordable housing. However, they must endure daily commutes of one or two hours each way to reach work.