How Are Attitudes and Behaviours of Japanese Changing? (Part 3)

By admin / April 6, 2010
By: Megumi Oyanagi
Category: Divorce

Osaka - Saturday, April 3, 2010

In part 3, answer to the question about divorce that went on air in a recent TV programme was introduced, and first discussion on marriage of Japanese people was developed throughout the article. This was because it is impossible to understand those of divorce without understanding how attitudes and behaviours of Japanese people on marriage,.

In this article, how attitudes and behaviours or Japanese people on divorce is discussed.

1. Recap: What was the question asked to Japanese people about divorce and what was their answer?

The question was designed to find out how many of them are divorced, and surprising 34% answered that they are divorced. This result was shocking to MCs and guests of the TV programme as well as the author because Japanese people used to be well known for low divorce rate.

2. How attitudes and behaviours of Japanese people on divorce have been changing?

The shocking survey result attributes to change in attitudes and behaviours of Japanese people on divorce. Such change is in line with the change in how attitudes and behaviours of Japanese people regarding marriage have been changing.

1) Divorce used to be rare and divorce rate used to be extremely low.

Divorce rate was extremely low as 3% or below and people of single parents were mostly because one of their parents died. This was because once married, couples were expected to remain together for the rest of their lives, and divorce was the last options to take. There were a few people who finally decided or were obligated to get divorced otherwise their family would be falling apart anyway.

Typical examples of reasons for getting divorced include domestic violence to the extent that if they don't get separated the victim could be badly hurt or even get killed, and husband not giving family budget to his wife so that she and the children cannot live. In old times, many people live with parents and the new young wife ill-treated from mother-in-law and old women was not unusual. Her husband seldom took care of her. This is in many cases another reason for divorce today but it was rarely in the old days.

2) Divorce rate started to rise in line with westernization in people's life style.

Attitudes and behaviours of Japanese people on divorce started to change when their lifestyle started to westernize and nuclear family became common, and their attitudes and behaviour on marriage and divorce started to change as well. And, according to Voice or America (October 25, 2006), Japan's divorce rate has been soaring in recent years, with 70% of the splits initiated by unhappy wives. The survey result of the divorce rate being 34% was shocking but the author understands that it is the reality today because she does know a few people around her (friends, colleagues at work etc.) who are divorced.

3) What are the possible reasons of divorce?

It is case by case, and timing of divorce seems to have some relationship with reason of divorce.

(1) Extremely early divorce

The earliest timing of divorce is "narita-rikon". This word was coined a few decades ago, which is literally "divorce at Narita International Airport". This means a young couple gets divorced when they come back from their honeymoon, which is often abroad meaning they fly from and return to an International airport such as Narita. Often the reason for the divorce is "he/she was not as I'd expected before marriage".

Unlike the old days, it is not unusual that engagement breaks up before marriage, and in the last 5 years of less, a few happens even on the wedding day, when many guests are invited to the ceremony and party. There has been a TV programme of such a couple, although it is a fiction (but usually reflects social trend). This may be one factor that helped make people think getting separated (this is before marriage so not divorce) is not a big issue as it used to be. Reasons for many of such split are complex.

(2) Divorce upon retirement

Another interesting trend reflecting the society trend is "jukunen-rikon" that started to emerge and spread from around 20 years ago. "Juk,unen-rikon" is literally "divorce of a matured couple", meaning couples getting divorced when the husband retires from work, usually at the age of 60. This kind of divorce is initiated, who has been living up with it until then. She would decide to initiate the divorce upon her husband's retirement because their children have usually become independent and she can have some share of the husband's retirement allowance so she should be able to re-start her life. Such couples often appear in fiction TV programmes.

Such wives had been unhappy for a many years partly because they do not have support from their husbands. Possible reason for this is that they do not have support from their husbands who are often described as workaholic and do not spend time with their family before retirement. Also, as some experts point out, men have been only trained to achieve in the workplace and be loyal to the company, so they do not know how to communicate. For this reason, they lack in experience in making relationships and communicating with others including their family, and normally do not talk about their families. It is from the irony of how such wives really view of their husband that a phrase literally "it's good if your husband is well/healthy but not at home" was created and used in a TV commercial about 20 years ago.

Having said that, many matured couples do stay together after the husband's retirement, as the wish of "live until the couple gets so old as the hair gets white", symbolized by a pair of dolls, (couple of male and female),l often given as present to the new married couple. And more couples after retirement go out together for vacation, shopping and so forth compared to those of old times, whether it is simply because the husband is lonely to be at home, or couples who remain together are more in good terms than the couples of the old days and going out together is their style.

(3) Divorce in other timing

The reasons for couples getting divorces in other times of their married years are case by case. Possible reasons include the ones already mentioned as possible reasons of rare divorces in the old times, and flirting, which is the case of many fiction TV programmes.

3. What are the possible reasons for change in attitudes and behaviours of Japanese people on divorce?

Most reasons are linked with and/or the same as change in their attitudes and behaviours on marriage.

1) Divorce simply used to be unacceptable in the Japanese society but started to be acceptable.

Divorce was simply not acceptable to the Japanese society in old times, but with diversification of marriage etc. it started to be acceptable. Indeed, children with single parent were often ill-treated in the society (school etc.) just after the World War II but now the situation has changed/improved. Also, divorce used to be a negative factor for many businessmen at work such as getting promoted, but it no longer a negative factor. And today, in addition to TV starts, there are some famous and successful people in business and political world who are divorced, including former Prime Minister Mr. Junichi Koizumi.

Whether change in people's attitudes and behaviours thus the society started to accept divorce was first or whether it was because more people started to get divorce was first, it is a question; however, it is a fact that the society now accepts divorce today. It is quite possible that news of TV stars getting married (including sudden marriage) and divorce made Japanese people to view marriage and divorce with more flexibility, regarding divorce as an acceptable option although it is better to be avoided. Then it would change their behaviour about divorce by taking action.

2) More women becoming financially independent facilitated divorce.

With less full-time house wives, women have become more financially independent, and this is another reason for increase in divorce rate. Many women in older generation used to live up with unhappiness and refrained from getting divorced even though they were unhappy simply because they were full-time house wives and they would not be able to make a living if they should get divorced, especially feeding her children (wives usually looked after their children after divorce). But with more working mothers (although less than western countries), hurdle for women to get divorced have decreased.


After all, the overall trend of change in attitude and behaviour of Japanese people on divorce is "westernization", similarly to life plan and marriage.



Attitudes and behaviours of Japanese people on divorce have become western similarly to those of marriage etc, and the society now accepts divorce unlike the old days.



Article Source: How Are Attitudes and Behaviours of Japanese Changing? (Part 3)
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