Divorce: Japanese Style

An entrepreneur in Japan is flogging divorce “ceremonies” as a precursor to the final steps involved in terminating a marriage. Tokyo businessman Hiroki Terai has opened a “divorce mansion” where couples and their families celebrate their decision to divorce in the same manner they solemnized their nuptials.

The couple arrive at the mansion in separate rickshaws. An integral part of the ceremony is the smashing of the wedding rings where the couple join hands around a hammer and together crush the rings, followed by a formal bow to each other and their guests.

So what’s the point of all this? Well, apparently this symbolizes each spouse’s decision to move forward with their lives and to make a public declaration of their mutual desire to divorce. Would this fly in the west? Not a chance!

Even where divorces are amicable, separated spouses rarely wish to share any breathing space with their estranged partners. In fact, the notion of an “amicable” divorce is a misnomer. In my experience the only divorces that are amicable are ones where one of the partners is prepared to concede every request made by the other spouse.

Meanwhile, back in Japan, couples are lining up to pay $600.00 Cdn to say “I Do” to divorce.

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2 thoughts on “Divorce: Japanese Style

  1. China had a period of time when divorce was as easy as sitting down with your partner and eating pears. During this ceremony, the couple would discuss and decide what to do with the children, assets, living quarters etc. And that was that!

    History explains why this is so and here is a nutshell:

    There was a long-standing “divorce law” in force in China from Tang Dynasty (618-907), to when the law was abolished in 1930. Under this law, there were three ways to dissolve a marriage:

    1. “No-fault divorce” based on incompatibility (but the husband had to write the divorce note).
    2. State-pronounced on the application of a spouse if the other spouse has behaved badly.
    3. Husband unilaterally declares a divorce, which was “legal” if it was based on one of seven defined reasons: wife lacks filial piety towards her parents-in-law ; wife fails to bear a son; wife is lewd; wife is jealous; wife has a vile disease; wife is gossipy; wife is a theif.

    Another aspect of this law was that a divorce under number 3 could not be exercised if the wife had nowhere else to go; she had mourned an in-law for three years; or if the husband was poor when they married, and now is rich. (thanks, wikipedia!)

    With the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949, came a Marriage Law which provided for equal opportunity divorces. The People’s Republic promulgated a Marriage Law in 1950 that was updated in 1981. People remained reluctant to divorce until the Reform Era (1976 – 1989) when divorces gradually increased. The 1981 Marriage Law states (at para. 24): “Divorce shall be granted if husband and wife both desire it. Both parties shall apply to the marriage registration office for divorce. The marriage registration office, after clearly establishing that divorce is desired by both parties and that appropriate arrangements have been made for the care of any children and the disposition of property, shall issue the divorce certificates without delay.”

    Yet “family law” as we know it did not exist (and still has not been well-developed). Couples seeking divorce in the People’s Republic of China pretty much had to agree on how to settle matters between them. Interestingly, they turned to an old Chinese custom. Traditionally, married couples should never eat pears together because the word for pear (li, 梨), sounds the same as the word for “separate” in Chinese (li, 离). Though It is still a strong custom to bring fruits to a wedding, you may never ever ever bring a pear! So, by willingly sitting down and eating the pear, the divorcing couple were accepting that they would separate. Seems classy, economical…and delicious!

    Divorce rates are now rocketing in China as well as battles over assets, access etc. The days of the simple pear ceremony may well be at an end.

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