By Carole Goldsmith Copyright © 2005 – 2010 All Rights Reserved
Written May 2005
With the rate of marriages down and the divorce rate rising in Japan, some Japanese women are deciding that is may be better to buy a designer bag than become Mr. Susuki’s wife. For some Japanese ladies, is the life of being married to a salary man who devotes all his time to his company, coming to an end?
The National Institute of Population and Social Security, Ministry of Health and Welfare (Jinko tokei shiryoshu - demographic statistics, 1999) revealed, that the Japanese marriage rate was 6.3 per 1000 population in 1998. The divorce rate in the same year was 1.94 per 1000 population (Source Facts and Figures of Japan , 2000 Edition, Foreign Press Centre Japan (FPCJ). In more recent times the 2006 Facts and Figures of Japan, FPCJ publication showed that in 2005 the marriage rate dropped to 5.7 per 1000 population and divorce rate rose to 2.08 per 1000 persons. (FPCJ source United Nations, Demographic yearbook 2003, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, (Jinko tokei shiryoshu - demographic statistics, 2005)
Japanese single female friends of mine in their late 20s or early 30s living in Japan and Australia, tell me that there is pressure on them from friends and family to marry. They are also being encouraged to marry Japanese men. These women are independent confident professional and university educated women. Some have non Japanese partners whom they love, and they are happy to live in de-facto relationships and do not want the legal bind of marriage. One of my friends, a high school teacher, is around 35 years now. She is very happily living a single life sharing a house with her Uncle. She told me a few years ago, that she did not want to marry Susuki San, be his wife and lose her identity as a professional woman. She would never see him because he would live a life devoted to the company, plus she would have to do all the shopping, cooking and housework.
As a busy professional woman, she believed that the household duties should be shared when the two people are working. She had experienced this with an American boyfriend she lived with for a year. She also said that if she ever did marry, she would marry a Western man for a life of equal opportunity. Sharing of duties of course will depend on the male and the country which he comes from.
Another Japanese friend once told me that she would she would rather have a designer bag or a pet than be a Japanese man’s wife and slave. Others choose the good life and convenience of living with their parents and they share the household costs and duties. They also spend long hours in their busy jobs and are expected to stay back at work like their male colleagues. I do have a few Japanese married friends with modern views who share all the house hold duties as they are both working. A Japanese girlfriend went home to Japan for Christmas and for a sister’s engagement The pressure was on for her to get married as she is hitting 30 but she loves her single life in Australia. She prefers to keep her relationships to dating and not living with the person, as that would take away the independence that she loves.
When another Japanese friend finished her University Degree in Australia, her family back home wanted her to settle down into a job for life and get married, all of this in Japan. She feels this pressure on her constantly but she wants to do all sorts of casual jobs in Australia and have some fun before the dreaded settling down happens. Japanese women are changing and an increasing number are opting for single life and independence. Yes, there are still elaborate weddings in Japan that cost a fortune, that many women do want to experience. I saw the hotels decked out for weddings when I was last in Japan in June last year.
With the changes on laws on pensions in Japan, so that women now get half of their spouse’s pension when they divorce, the divorce rate is expected to rise in the future. Older women may want to experience a life of freedom and independence that some of their younger counterparts are doing now. Then the poor Japanese husband may have independence that they may not like that as much as the ladies. Worse still they may become homeless and that is a sad occurrence that happens already now... that is another story.........