Why do Japanese women wear watches on the inside of their wrist?
A certain number of Japanese women wear their wrist watches on the inside of the wrist. Have you ever questioned this gesture? They do it because of historical and lifestyle reasons. This article is going to explain the background of how this gesture was created, factor by factor. Referring to many anime characters, it also examines their natures and ways of wearing their wrist watches. You would deeply understand the reason why Japanese women wear their wristwatches on the inside of the wrist when you have finished reading this article.
1. The ratio of Japanese women wearing their wrist watches on the inside of their wrist.
1.1. The result of the survey
First of all, I would like to show you the result of the survey on women wearing their wrist watches on the inside of their wrist.
･Women’s ways of wearing a wristwatch. Which do you prefer?
I asked both women who wear their wristwatches, and men who have noticed the women’s gestures. According to the result, wearing watches on the inside of the wrist was more popular than wearing a wristwatch the plain way of a ratio of 6-4.
Questionnaire results (Japanese Article)
With the effectiveness of being able to easily check the face of their clock with minimal effort and it is very feminine gestures are the reasons why it’s so popular.
･Dials on the inside or the outside?
Since I asked a younger age group than the above survey and people who really wear wrist watches, the practical outside way was more popular than the inside way.
Questionnaire results (Japanese Article)
These results tell us that there are people who use their watches the normal and practical way but many of them have informed me that their grandmother would put her watch on the inside of the wrists. It is because that the inside way has an old-fashioned image, and the number of ladies with wristwatches with bigger dials, are increasing.
1.2. The reasons why they like the inside way
･They can check the dials by just bending their wrist a little bit
･The outside way looks manly and they do not like it.
･The gesture is feminine and lovely
･It protects the dials from getting scratches
It was normal for Japanese women to wear their wristwatches on the inside of the wrist in the past. Because of the fact that men only wore wrist watches on the outside of the wrist, the gesture of bending their wrists and checking the dials was ladylike. If women wear their wrist watches on the inside of the wrist, they do not have to pop their elbows. The inside way has a ladylike, neat and clean image, and gives the image of “Japanese women”. Therefore, many Japanese men like gesture.
1.3. The reason why they do not like the inside way
･The inside way emphasizes feminine image too much
･It looks hideous except when they check the dials.
･The button of the watch might hit wrists when they bent their wrists
･The inside way has an old-fashioned image
The gap between men and women is getting smaller in modern Japanese society. Therefore, the number of women who do not like feminine behaviors is increasing. Even though their grandmother and mother have taught them to wear their wrist watches on the inside of the wrist, many of them started wearing their wrist watches on the outside of the wrist because other people do that. Also, the designs of the wrist watches have changed. In the past, the wrist watches for women were more like accessories, and the dials were smaller and did not make wrists hurt when they were on the inside of the wrist. However, the wrist watches became as big as the ones for men, and it is getting harder to wear them on the inside of the wrist.
2. The historical background of women wearing their wrist watches on the inside of the wrist.
While you were reading the result so far, have you questioned why the gesture of wearing wrist watches on the inside of wrist is considered as feminine? To begin with, I would like to explain the historical background of Japanese wrist watches.
2.1. The price of wrist watches
Japanese first wristwatch called “LAUREL” was launched from SEIKO in 1913. It cost 30 yen (300,000 yen at current price). Starting salary for a college graduate was 40 yen at that time, so LAUREL was pretty expensive. Therefore, wearing wrist watches on the inside of the wrist was a popular way because it prevented wrist watches from getting scratches. Although wristwatches were expensive, they came into wide use because of the buoyant economy and fashion boom.
Next, I would like to explain the Japanese lifestyle in 1920 when wrist watches started gaining popularity. Japan had a healthy economy after exporting munitions for World WarⅠ. The girls’ fashion trend called “モガ” (MoGa, Modern Girl) was popular and the idea that “western women are free”, was imported with wrist watches. However, many Japanese women still wore kimonos at that time, and women’s gestures and the way of thinking did not dramatically change compared to pre World WarⅠ. Animations below are helpful for you to understand the historical background around 1920.
“Haikara-San: Here Comes Miss Modern”
It was rare for women to rebel against men at that time. However, its heroine does tomboyish behavior a lot to show her resistance to the arranged marriage with the chosen fiancee.
She is the main character of this show and loves Japanese custom, culture, and kimonos very much. However, another heroine prefers Western things and ideas. Many conflicts between them are often described.
“Taishō Baseball Girls”
“Women does not need an academic career.” “Women should stay home as housewives.” The woman was often told. Yet, she saw her fiance focused on baseball. To prove them wrong, she tries to defeat him in baseball and break the old-fashioned way of thinking.
As you can see in those three animations, both clothes and ideas were half-Japanese, half-Western in around 1920. And young women rapidly tried to break old-fashioned way of thinking at that time.
2.3. Fashion (Kimonos)
At that time, Japanese women lived their lives wearing Japanese traditional clothes called “kimono”. It is difficult to wear kimono and move around at the same time. Ladies kimonos have holes called “身八つ口” (みやつぐち, miyatuguchi) under the front armpit area. This hole is usually hidden by the obi, and cannot be seen, but it is a useful hole to enable mothers to breastfeed a baby without losing the shape of their kimono.
The length of “身八つ口” (みやつぐち, miyatuguchi) is about 13-15 cm, underwears can be seen through the hall if women raise their arms or open their armpits. Therefore, those behaviors are considered as a lack of elegance. Taking those facts into consideration, the idea that Japanese women are graceful and quiet was created. Limited gestures make elegant impressions.
Did you notice that women do not have to open their armpit and raise their arms if they wear their wrist watches on the inside? Consequently, Japanese women started wearing their wristwatch on the inside in around 1920.
2.4. Sense of values
Wristwatches became common at that time, yet the time was announced by sounds. Therefore, the point of having wrist watches was not practical, but for decorative reasons. Due to the reason, wearing expensive wristwatches on the outside of the wrist and showing them, are considered as an opposite of femininity. It is because women’s status in Japanese society was still lower than men at that time. And, this method of wearing wristwatches handed over to children from their grandmothers and mothers.
3. The reason why women who wear their wrist watches on the inside of the wrist, are decreasing.
As I mentioned in the survey, the number of women who wear their wrist watches on the inside of the wrist is decreasing. In this section, I would like to examine the background of how the way of wearing wristwatches taught by their grandmothers, is fading away.
3.1. The change in lifestyle
Clothes for women have changed kimonos to western dresses, and needless to say, “身八つ口” (みやつぐち, miyatuguchi) had disappeared. Therefore, women do not cause a problem for raising their arms anymore. Also, the social progress of women has been promoted and society started to dislike the gap between men and women.
3.2. The size of dials
In the past, ladies wrist watches were more like bracelets than actual watches. However, wrist watches with big dials are popular nowadays, and it could hurt wrist if one wears it on the inside of the wrist,
3.3. Doing computer work
Most jobs nowadays are PC related. If women wear their wrist watches on the inside of the wrist, the watches became an obstacle when they touch the keyboard.
3.4. The image of being old-fashioned
The number of grandchildren generation who think the inside way is old-fashioned, increased because they have been seeing their grandmothers wearing their wrist watches on the inside of the wrist. It is evidence that the image of “femininity” Japanese people have is changing now. Also, the value of being elegant and clean was cherished in the past, but it became relatively smaller for young women who no longer have to wear kimonos.
Consequently, the lifestyle is changing, and the number of women who wear their wrist watches on the inside of the wrist is decreasing as well.
4. The nature of the characters who wear their wrist watches on the inside of the wrist.
Japanese female characters who wear their wrist watches on the inside of the wrist in animations are not a rare case. I would like to examine the factors of why they do it.
4.1. Suzumiya Haruka (Kimi ga Nozomu Eien) 2003
She is shy and likes picture books and fairy tales, and wears her wrist watches on the inside of her wrist. Her behaviors are very ladylike and, the gesture of checking the dial is graceful. It can be said that she is the heroine that Japanese people would deem ideal.
4.2. Nori Sakurada (Rozen Maiden) 2004
Instead of her parents are on an overseas assignment, she is taking care of her younger brother and Rozen Maiden. Although she is only a high school student, she is a very feminine character, who uses perfect women language and does housework. It is quite reasonable for her to wear her wristwatch on the inside of the wrist.
4.3. Nayuki Minase (Kanon) 2006
She is a laid-back and easygoing character and good at cooking. Also, she likes cats and makes a very ladylike impression. Therefore, it is natural for her to wear her wristwatch on the inside of the wrist.
4.4. C.C. (Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion) 2006
Her arrogance catches attentions a lot, yet you are able to see her femininity sometime in her small actions and the fact that she likes dolls. Therefore, her wristwatch that she wears on the inside of the wrist is the only item to show her femininity all the time.
4.5. Saki Kijima (Hayate the Combat Butler) 2007
She is very clumsy and wears glasses. Her hobby is wearing maid costumes, and she has a sense of femininity. It is natural for her to wear her wristwatch on the inside of her wrist.
4.6. Tomoyo Sakagami (Clannad) 2007
She is a high achiever and good at sports as well. However, she is mentally immature and used to fight a lot. Her bad behaviors are caused by her bad parent’s relationship. She has good foot technique, and there are many scenes that she kicks people. Yet, you can see that she actually is ladylike from the points of being good at cooking and wearing her wristwatch on the inside of the wrist.
4.7. Miyo Takano (When They Cry: Kai) 2007
Even though she has a sad past, she took over the studies from her former teacher with conviction. She became a powerful figure who does anything for purposes. On the other hand, she prefers lovely clothes and also wears her wristwatch on the inside of the wrist. You can see femininity in her coldness, and it can be said that the gap is her tough charm.
4.8. Mikuru Asahina (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya) 2009
She is an idol in her school and her preference and gestures are quite lovely. It can be said that she has an ideal image that the Japanese would like. Of course, she wears her wristwatch on the inside of the wrist, and her gesture of checking the dial is cute. It is not an exaggeration to say she is a Japanese female character made by the Japanese for the Japanese.
4.9. Saki Morimi (Eden of the East) 2009
Her parents passed away due to a car accident, and her sister and her husband have been taking care of her since then. Because of this reason, she is modest. She is good at making POP and wears her wristwatch on the inside of the wrist. You can see her ladylike character from these facts.
4.10. Nazuna (Hidamari Sketch × Hoshimittsu) 2010
As her name suggests “なずな” (Nazuna is a type of flower), she is fragile and timid. She put importance on her feminine taste of clothes. She wears her wristwatch on the inside of the wrist, and you can see that she is ladylike both appearance-wise and personality-wise.
4.11. Yuri Nakamura (Angel Beats!) 2010
She usually lives her life fighting with guns and wears her wristwatch on the inside of the wrist in her school days in the dead world. Her femininity is described at the end of the animation, but you can see it from the beginning if you look at her way of wearing her wristwatch on the inside of the wrist. Of course, she might have been wearing her wristwatch on the inside of the wrist, thinking the inside way is better when she shoots. (As you know, snipers wear their wrist watches on the inside of the wrist, even men.)
4.12. Haruka Morishima (Amagami SS) 2010
As you can see from the fact that she is admired by all boys in school, she is an absolutely attractive high school girl. It is natural for her to wear her wristwatch on the inside of the wrist.
4.13. Ritsuko Akizuki (The Idolmaster) 2011
She is both idol and manager at the same time. Generally, women who are good at working are described less femininity, yet she gifted with both skills and beauty. You can see the character’s personality from one gesture of wearing a wristwatch.
4.14. Noname: Female Manager? (The Idolmaster) 2011
Her shape facial expression tells that she is a punctual working woman. Seeing only her appearance and job performance, you might think she is manly, but her gesture of wearing her wristwatch on the inside of the wrist, show you that she also has a ladylike aspect.
4.15. Haruka Amami (The Idolmaster) 2011
She is an orthodox high school student and works as a female idol. It is understandable for her to wear her wristwatch on the inside of the wrist. I would like you to reconfirm her charm of doing ladylike gestures.
4.16. Naruko Anjou (Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day) 2011
Although her appearance becomes flashy after getting in high school, she used to be shy. Therefore, she wears her wristwatch on the inside of the wrist. It is hard to see, but one gesture like this can express her femininity.
4.17. Miho Noyama (A Channel) 2011
To the opposite of her modest appearance and way of thinking, she is independent. On the top that, her hobby is watching wrestling matches, and she is able to do wrestling moves. Although the character has a wild side, she wears her wristwatch on the inside of the wrist. Therefore, the gesture expresses that she does not forget femininity.
4.18. Yui Funami (YuruYuri) 2011
It is hard to imagine from her cold character and her strongly manly way of speaking, she actually has a caring aspect to her. Consequently, she has a motherly position to those around her even though she is in “ごらく部” (Goraku-bu, amusement club). It is natural of her to wear her wristwatch on the inside of the wrist.
4.19. Kazusa Touma (White Album2) 2013
She is a girl who is a typical Japanese delinquent, and her personality is lazy and violent. However, she is a genius in playing the piano, and her mother is a professional pianist. Because of this, she has a very feminine aspect and wears her wristwatch on the inside of the wrist. Although she appears to be fierce, you can see her ladylike nature in the gesture.
4.20. Kotori Minami (Love Live!) 2013
She is a mild-mannered and soft, yet independent woman who has a strong will. She is an honor-roll student, and her gestures are ladylike. She wears her wristwatch on the inside of the wrist.
4.21. Asuna/Asuna Yuuki (Sword Art Online II) 2014
She has two names of “閃光 (せんこう, the flash)”. She is good at cooking and a single-minded person. It is natural for the ladylike character like her to wear her wristwatch on the inside of her wrist. It is easy to forget about is while fighting though.
4.22. Death Gun (Sword Art Online II) 2014
He is a sniper and carries a gun, expecting to have close combat. His carefulness stands out. As your country’s snipers wear their wrist watches on the inside of the wrist, he wears his wristwatch on the inside of the wrist, too.
4.23. Sinon (Sword Art Online II) 2014
She is so hardworking that she started to play this game to overcome the fear of guns. She also has a cool aspect, and it can be said that her inside way of wearing her wrist watch is for shooting. If the gesture is for showing her feminine side, it might be a different aspect of her.
4.24. Yozuru Kagenui (Monogatari (series): Possess Story) 2014
Yogen is stylish and fashionable. Her way of walking is very ladylike. On the other hand, she is very strong and excels at fighting. It is a bit strange for a woman like her to wear her wristwatch on the inside. If you see the gesture as an expression of femininity, you might think it is her new charm.
4.25. Shinobu Oshino/Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade (Monogatari (series): Possess Story) 2014
Although her appearance is a little girl, she speaks as if she were old. Actually, it is age-appropriateness because she is about 600 years old. She prefers girlish fashion and wears clothes with ribbons and frills. Oshino Shinobu wears her wristwatch on the inside of the wrist, and it shows you her femininity. It is interesting to think that she sensitively felt the trend of current fashion when she came to Japan.
4.26. Yae Kugayama (Girlish Number) 2016
Since her appearance is ladylike, it is natural for her to wear her wristwatch on the inside of the wrist. However, her personality is unscrupulous and evil-minded. When she gets drunk and be unfiltered, she often makes extreme statements. It can be said that her character is not so good. Wearing her wristwatch on the inside of wrist might be her strategy to pretend to behave elegantly.
4.27. Hitagi Senjougahara (Monogatari (series): Calendar Story) 2016
Hitagi’s appearance is elegant as if she were a well-bred young lady. However, she is hungry for love and acts lovestruck to her boyfriend. Even though she has a gap like this and has a malicious tongue, she is very ladylike. Therefore, her gesture of wearing her wristwatch on the inside is very fitted with her personality.
4.28. Yua Nakajima (Hinako Note) 2017
She is very unyielding and aggressive but becomes meek in front of someone who she admires. As you can see that from this her trait, she is sincere and kind at heart. Also, you are able to see her femininity from the preference of her hair accessories and way of wearing her wristwatch on the inside of the wrist.
4.29. Noname: Background female character (Masamune-kun’s Revenge) 2017
Worrying the time to get together, she is wearing her wristwatch on the inside of the wrist. Judging from her appearance, her choice of clothes are very casual but ladylike. Since she is checking the dial, keeping her upper arms to the body, her personality might be very feminine.
4.30. Ryouko Sonoda (Tsuki ga Kirei) 2017
As a teacher, she prefers ladylike clothes, not flashy ones. Being a teacher, she is always looked at by their students, and become an example of a manner of living. She seems to be an aggressive female teacher, but her ladylike gesture of wearing her wristwatch on the inside of wrist makes the attractive charm. Japanese men are susceptible to the gap like this.
4.31. Tamiko Shiraishi (A Place Further Than The Universe) 2018
She is both mother and manager of her daughter who is a celebrity. She makes the impression of a career woman more than being feminine. However, you can see that she cherishes femininity from her gesture of wearing her wristwatch on the inside.
4.32. Llenn/Karen Kohiruimaki (Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online) 2018
You can see that she has a feminine personality from her complex of being tall. Her enjoyment after seeing an avatar “Ren” for the first time, tells you that she likes lovely things so much. Therefore, it is natural for her to wear her wristwatch on the inside.
Now you know the reasons why Japanese women wear their wrist watches on the inside of the wrist. The gesture that Japanese people feel femininity, has both historical and cultural reasoning. Of course, there is no rule or way of wearing wrist watches. Makers and distributors recommend the outside way to customers because the outside way makes it easy for them to check the dials.
Just like many Japanese women got rid of the old-fashioned sense of values when the Japanese made wristwatches that were launched in the country at the time. Japanese women might stop wearing their wristwatch on the inside of the wrist in the future. However, please pay attention to the wristwatch in those scenes where someone is wearing their wristwatch on the inside of their wrists. Even if their behaviors are manly, you might find a feminine aspect in them.