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Few democratic countries have lower rates of female political representation than Japan, making it an excellent place to seek clues for female underrepresentation. We were surprised to find, based on three experimental surveys, that Japanese voters do not harbor particularly negative attitudes toward female politicians. The problem instead appears to be that women are reluctant to run for office because of socially mandated family roles. An implication of our study is that gender equality in political representation will likely founder in countries with electoral systems that require around-the-clock constituency service and legislative work, at least until citizens no longer have gendered expectations about time-consuming family obligations.