Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Japan and marriage culture:

In 1975, Japan was a society that had the old on wishful thinking. I could almost feel the nostalgia of the past when my senior Japanese sensei ( teacher ) explained the root emotion of the greeting word " ohayo ". And the young daunted by the future. Many university students had no marriage thoughts. Too expensive and too troublesome was the general view. I was then in my early 20s and my open carefree character mystified them. My marital status and views on love and union amazed them. A group from Waseda University wanted me to come to speak to their friends on the subject of marriage. I accepted but later declined to their confused disbelief. What happened was that in between I came home for a break to meet my home family and my new born. And suddenly I realised what I took for granted ( the family support ) was not available in Japan's changing social  environment. Young couples there would be hard pressed to raise a family on their own. And I do not believe in marriage without children. I was, therefore,  unable to follow up on my commitment to speak on marriage. My friends were shocked more so probably because I did not explain. They would not have understood even if I had tried to explain.

Decades later I heard that the Japanese Government got worried with declining birth rate and was trying to improve baby care facilities to encourage young people to marry and have children. I guess it was too late and hopelessly too little. My biggest disappointment in Japan was that professional work ethic did not encourage married family life. Working husbands arrived home too late and too exhausted. And the corporate culture of generations working for the same corporation was under attack. Japanese multi- corporations were expanding into foreign lands especially America and employment culture was changing. Thus the Japanese youth could no longer rely on assured family line jobs  nor could they rely on family member support. Thus in 1975, social evolution was forcing the dream of marriage and children into a desert mirage for majority of Japanese younger generation.

And now I read that even the marriages that had taken place under that circumstances are now facing a different break up scenario. This scenario is known as sotsukon. It is a culture of living in separation for married people. A kind of preserving for oneself the social dignity of marriage without the responsibility attached with marriage and family. Most women spouses are opting for such an arrangement after their children have grown up and their elderly husbands old and dependent.

The health statistic of the world suggest that women tend to live longer than men. This means as years go by, men are physically worn out faster and women enjoy better health. So in case of Japanese women sotsukon is a woman smart new culture. A way of getting rid of the retired elderly husbands who are a burden in home life. I think most men marry younger women and so the world over they end up looking after the women when they are able and in prime health. Then in retirement and at senior age, men become dependent on the service of their younger spouses. And under sotsukon kind of culture, married men may gradually be confronted with similar life style as that of old buffaloes in the African Savannas to fend for themselves in groups of sterile males. So men everywhere enjoy your prime life and then die before retirement. That way you will die before being declared surplus in your own home.

Japanese are unique people. They travel in groups, eating culture is also that of sharing and home living culture intimate. Home partitions consists of paper walls and group naked bath is common. And yet they cherish the culture of harakiri  and kamikaze which is an individual undertaking. . And now this sotsukon.

Good luck Japanese men ! And watch out other husbands the world over including Bhutan. Do not take my warning seriously until it happens.

1 comment:

  1. You have summarized the marriage scene in Hapan quite well but for a foreigner like me who has lived there for more than 20 yrs it's not really that bad. Divorce is not very easy and people live as "Kamen Fufu" ( masked couples). Population is declining due to low birth rate but the government is making new laws at work place so children can spend more time with their parents. On another note why is Bhutan's population never increasing although we are one of the busiest people when it comes to night life. Just my thoughts. I enjoy reading your blogs.