More senior partners uncoupling


The phenomenon of "jukunen rikon," divorces by couples age 50 or over, who have lived together for 25 years or more, has been showing marked growth since the start of the new century.

Nikkan Gendai (Feb 21) warns middle-aged men that the consequences of ignoring what they have treated up to now as "minor grumbles" from their wives may result in much-feared "dokkyo-shi" (a solitary death).

It was last autumn when 62-year-old Mr A, a retired resident of Tokyo's Nerima Ward, was abruptly told by his 60-year-old spouse, "I want to live by myself." That was the opening shot in a drawn-out process that led to the couple's impending divorce.

They had wed while he was still in college. After graduation he joined a trading firm that specialized in machinery, and the couple was blessed with two children and three grandchildren.

Upon retiring two years earlier, he used his retirement bonus from the company to pay off the balance of the home mortgage. In addition to about 200,000 yen a month in social security, his wife also earns income from her work at a beauty salon, so the two were financially comfortable.

And in his mind at least, he felt happy and satisfied with their married life. They hardly ever engaged in a heated quarrel.

His wife looked and acted her age, which is to say she was not the type to seek out the company of a younger man.

So then what was it that spurred her to ask for a divorce? Mr A is clueless.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, divorces peaked in 2002, and have been declining gradually since then. However, the number of breakups is still significant -- about 250,000 couples in 2010, out of 670,000 marriages. But looking at divorces broken down by age, one can see that divorces by couples age 50 and over have doubled over the previous 10 years.

"I suppose the main reason why silver divorces are on the increase is that people are living longer," says human rights attorney Asae Shiina, author of "Rikon, Saikon to Kodomo" (Divorce, Remarriage and Children) and numerous other titles. "Women's sense of independence increases and they want to enjoy freedom without being tied down to one man. Perhaps they desire to place greater importance on how they spend their remaining years."

Each month, Shiina's own law office has been swamped with divorce consultations. About 90% of these requests are initiated by wives, whose complaints run the gamut of everything from the husband's marital infidelity and illegitimate offspring to daily occurrences of domestic violence, disagreements over property inheritance and not being able to put up with the husband's progressive senility.

In Japan, about 90% of divorces are concluded through negotiated settlements (in accordance with Article 763 of the Civil Code), but more complicated cases may progress to court-sposored mediation, arbitration and in worst cases, divorce by court decision. In the case of the latter, about two years are required to obtain a ruling.

"In one case I undertook, it took 10 years to get a ruling," attorney Shiina recalls. "Among silver divorces, I handled one where the husband was 85 and the wife was 86."

Among cases that wind up in court, efforts at arbitration had usually failed because of the disputing sides' refusal to come to an agreement on financial matters -- such as the size of alimony award or disputes about dividing up property.

© Japan Today

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

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when the old man retires, he still acts like he is the boss and keeps ordering the wife around just like the old days. Can't even pick up the remote, just stitting around the house the whole day, making request and so on that drives the old lady crazy...of course, the wife used to live by herself when the old man is out and she goes on shopping, sipping coffee, chatting endlessly to her hearts content with other bachans then the old man retires and she realize she is married and has to live with the old man....divorce is the easiest way out to get the money and stay free

9 ( +13 / -6 )

Very sad...Till death do you part, for better, or for worse. What God has joined together, let no man take apart...Keep your vow's, and honor your god.

-24 ( +7 / -31 )

I thought the law was changed a few years ago so the wife could get some (half?) of the husband's pension money if they got divorced, unlike previously where she got nothing and so was dependent on him until one of them died. That plus the fact that it is an even more extreme change in life situation compared to other countries when the husband retires in Japan and the husband and wife actually have to be with each other, and it's no surprise these "retirement divorces" are on the rise.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Very sad...Till death do you part, for better, or for worse. What God has joined together, let no man take apart...Keep your vow's, and honor your god.

Um ... yea T-Mack, except that Japan is not a Christian country. God and vows and marriage don't exist in the same sentence here.

18 ( +22 / -4 )

Mr A is clueless.

Says it all really.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

Good for those who are in abusive non loving relationships. Good that people split before they get too old and are just caregivers. Sometimes it is better to be alone and not have anyone bothering you and you are forced to get out and be social and be kind to others or you will die alone and angry.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Congrats, T-Mack... Irony, and no one notices.

But seriously. It is a bit sad that the japanese take such a long time to learn, no matter what subject. But in this case, better late than never.

-10 ( +2 / -12 )

This article should run alongside one about young people's aspirations for marrige, or the thinly veiled government promotion of "pop out a babby for Japan" campaign - just for balance, of course...

3 ( +6 / -2 )

MoonrakerMar. 03, 2013 - 09:24AM JST

Mr A is clueless.

Says it all really.


3 ( +5 / -2 )

I know a retired man who was able to dissuade his wife from leaving him by paying her a salary. So in exchange for household chores and cooking, she gets a monthly stipend (plus free room and board, medical coverage, etc.) It was an offer she couldn't refuse.

6 ( +5 / -0 )

Very sad...Till death do you part, for better, or for worse. What God has joined together, let no man take apart...Keep your vow's, and honor your god.

Once again western influenced Judeo-Christian ethics raise their nasty head. For the overwhelming majority, Japanese marriages are civil unions, contracts with benefits.

Oh and please take your own advice if you seek to "honor your God" type it in correctly.

-4 ( +7 / -11 )

This is a side effect of post industrialization. When countries get wealthier and wealthier, there's less "need" to stay married, at least from an economic standpoint. People only get and stay married because they want to. As soon as they feel single life will be easier, and no more of an economic burden, it's sayonara.

Which kinds of kills the whole idea of "romance." Throughout history, couples only get together and stay together, because, all things considered, it was the best financial choice.

Similarly in the states, as there's less social stigma, as well as plenty of welfare support, you see more and more single mothers.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

I feel sorry for the men though, who have often been perfectly supportive hardworking partners even though there may not be love anymore (certainly not usually Alex). Men are usually unchanging all their lives while the women go through many changes, hobbies shifting, friends who get divorced so they want to too, all kinds of crap. The men can be old buffoons but it doesn't mean they should be put through that kind of upheaval just because they're socially awkward after a life of working till 10 pm in the kaisha.

3 ( +8 / -6 )

Hmmm, what I think from what I see or hear from my own friends who've divorced is that firstly I feel that the wife completely spoiles their husbands. They never tell their husbands that they're feeling bad or catching a cold or getting a migraine or whatever. The wives continue to do whatever chores they have at home. Even when it comes to disciplining their children, it's usually the mother's responsibilities to do so, to go to school, to meet up with the teachers, to discuss they're future. The husband is never included and is completely seen as a stranger. So obviously as the years go by, they grow indifferent to each other going in their own ways, having they're own hobbies and likes , watching different tv programs, etc...this is not what a typical couple do. You have to reach out to your husbands, it's good to say " hey im tired could you please wash the dishes tonight for me?", etc...make them know that you are a human being, make them know when you have good days and bad days, communicate, argue, agree or not, point is you do things together..the golden rule is give and take..not just take and take..I am married to the same man for 35 years coming this year and we are so frightened to know that life is too short for us to be able to do so much together, even if it's just a walk to the park, movies in the weekend, dinner in the nearest family restaurant, do yoga together, gardening..theres just so much and the years are coming too soon and we feel life will be taken away from us soon! The longer you stay, the more you fix your marriage to try to make it work, the happier it will be when one reaches the end of time...not to forget grandkids coming along the way!

8 ( +13 / -5 )

This isnt too hard to figure out, people get married then husbands & wives typically live about 80% apart even tho they are under the same roof, work-life balance, FORGET ABOUT IT!

This goes on for decades, slowly but surely drifting apart, but the guys rarely take any divorce laws have changed given women more rights & low & behold more divorces.

This is ALL a symptom of living a typical J-lifestyle, one I would NEVER want or do, I see far far too many who have done next to nothing with their lives & people/couples compete to see is the most miserable, most hard done by, only a few rare birds have the smarts to try to have a better life & if they do.........their neighbours will hate them for it, welcome to Japan.

Do like me, let the haters venom roll off your back like water off a duck, people have only themselves to blame for the crappy lives they lead, at least the smart ones split at some point & try to make things a little better, good for them!

1 ( +6 / -4 )

I think many of these women have just been spoiled. Sure, there are cases of infidelity or physical/psychological abuse. Fine, leave the jerk. But these women who leave just because he has retired after working his butt of for 35 years and is 'in the way', how selfish can you get? You had your freedom and afternoon lunches with friends for years. Time to try and make things work and take care of your husband. Marilita. You have a great attitude.

7 ( +10 / -2 )

The nature of the beast.

So many marriages were a marriage of convenience, or some societal ideal, they didn't spend the time supporting each other, loving each other, just a workman's relationship. Get the kids out the door, get dinner on the table.

If that's your situation, divorce maybe better.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

look on the bright side........celebrate the freedom. No more allowance, no more lame excuses to sneak to places like the neighborhood soapland.

What not to like.............

-6 ( +0 / -5 )

Funny I feel just like the Japanese women, completely taken for granted.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Overall, this is probably a good thing. I'm married because it made it easier for my partner to get a visa when we came to Japan, otherwise we wouldn't have bothered after living together for 8 years beforehand. The cost and length of time needed to get a divorce and get on with living your later years happily outside an unhappy marriage is ridiculous. Many of my friends in the UK are married with kids or living unmarried with their partners with kids and I can't see that the former's relationships are more stable or less likely to break up. For some the religious aspect is important, but as an atheist it's meaningless for me and for most Japanese who generally say something along the lines of 'it's the done thing' when asked about the reasons for getting married. Maybe it's time to move on from something which often makes people feel trapped where they don't want to be and allow people to find happiness.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I think it's just normal. People change of lifestyle at certain steps of life, and often at retirement. It's great if both in a couple have the same projects, but that's not always. If your partner wants to become a farmer and raise goats in the mountain while you dream of a quiet life under the sun on a beach, that would be difficult to find an arrangement.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

We are coming up on 10 years this year. When we are on 35 years I wanna be just like Marilita!

This is actually an increasing phenomenon in the west too - silver divorces and the highest growth of STDs is in the baby-boomers.

I cant possibly comment on this not being at this stage of life myself, but I am pretty sure for the moment I have picked the right guy for me to spend the rest of my life with because every time he walks through the door my heart still skips a beat.

3 ( +8 / -4 )

Good on you Chibachick!!!!after 35 years when my hubby comes home after a grueling day of work I get that heartbeat ticking as well!!! Remember always fix it, it will get repaired, believe me. You will not get anything doing it the silent way even if you have to raise your voice to the too of your lungs to be heard!!

3 ( +5 / -2 )

As far as which is worse living life as J-man or J-woman.............I am glad I am neither, but very glad my wife is! If that makes sense.

Any way as I said above if you life the typical J-life you'll end up with typical J-problems & just see way too many living together but living apart in the mind, pretty sad. JUST DONT DO THAT & you have a better shot at LIFE!

And that includes prior to getting old, life is too short to do otherwise, wish more here in Japan realized that but thats another problem in & of itself

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Good advice Marilita, thank you! He hasnt had the best role models over the years - his parents never argue because they never speak! Both are utterly miserable and one is "otherwise engaged". In the early days of our marriage he couldnt handle the slightest argument or disagreement but as time has gone on he has learned it is healthy and actually beneficial and is matching me insult for insult in the heat of the moment these days.

We break, we scream, we time-out, we rejoin, we discuss, we fix and then we move on. And I find marriage is a bit like a bone - every time you break it, it heals just that little bit stronger. 

Any way as I said above if you life the typical J-life you'll end up with typical J-problems & just see way too many living together but living apart in the mind, pretty sad. JUST DONT DO THAT & you have a better shot at LIFE!

Absolutely wise words GW, and my husband said something similar just a few days ago. He also said if he had never married me, he would have toed the company line, been a good salaryman, and never have even considered doing the completely crazy thing we are about to do (leave Japan and start a whole new life in a country thats neither mine nor his!) but he said he has learned that sometimes, after securing the nets, its ok to just shut your eyes and jump! Love this man. Just hope I can catch him without him flattening me if the nets break and it all goes t1t5 up!!!

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Wow heading to a country where its new to both, go for it!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

At least this time its in English! (going to the US!)

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Up yours religion and bible thumpers :D This is why I married in a city hall and kept religion out of it. No moral dilemmas ending it :)

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Actually I think it is often because one of the partners or both don't want to face the existential challenge of change for the better. While the husband is at work, the requirements of the company provide the excuse to avoid issues. After the husband retires that excuse doesn't exist any more. Getting divorced is the easier option because then you don't have to change very much.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Just goes to show that the majority of marriages were based on convenience rather than love and mutual respect. That's what happens when you "do like the Suzuki's do" instead of following your true heart!

Last night on one of the variety shows (you know they have a segment like "Give me a truth!" Sorry, I can't remember the show's name), they were talking about divorce, etc. and one floosey admitted that she accepted her marriage proposal ON THEIR FIRST DATE! "I couldn't think of a reason not to marry him." she said...i.e. instead of thinking of a reason or reasons TO marry him!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I hope my wife doesn't feel the same. We have been together for 12 wonderful years. She is my best friend and I wouldn't no what to do without here. But everyone has their right to change and make their own decisions. I think a major problem is that Japanese couples have be programmed to have the hard working husband and the economically demanding wife with all the 1960's gender roles wrapped in, but this is out dated and doesn't work with modern society. Couples that last are those who are equals and are incredibly lucky enough to grow and change in a way that compliments their partners growth and change. Fear of a god's wrath seems both a juvenile and an ill considered reason to stay with someone.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

T-MackMAR. 03, 2013 - 07:54AM JST Very sad...Till death do you part, for better, or for worse. What God has joined together, let no man take apart...Keep your vow's, and honor your god.

T-Mack has minus 15 thumbs down. shows you what kind of society we live in right now. for those who disagreed i have one question for you: "why the hell do you get married in the first place?"

1 ( +3 / -2 )

...What God has joined together, let no man take apart...

in this case... "let no woman take apart."! ^_^

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Marilita Fabie-FujisawaMAR. 03, 2013 - 01:38PM JST Hmmm, what I think from what I see or hear from my own friends who've divorced is that firstly I feel that the wife completely spoiles their husbands.

did you speak to and have both sides of the story, or are you complimenting the manure on one side of the fence?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Chibachick!! I'm so happy for you, can I even imagine going to a place thatbyounbith haven't lived? You'll be like teenagers again and discovering new things at the same time and with all the new struggles, all the more that will bring o you closer as you both have no one to run to but yourselves! Remember, you both aree creating history here that you will look back someday in more amazement!

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Funny I feel just like the Japanese women, completely taken for granted.

Time to divorce Japan then and leave. Your chances of success with her were slim from the get go.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

A lot of men are pathetic lonely creatures that need a "mommy".. I know american guys that marry w/o even being able to speak to their Japanese spouse and some don't sleep together even after the first week.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

It's just another sign of the break down of Japanese society. With the loss of multigeneration family in favor of the nuclear family, this is the probable result. It used to be that the wife of the first son will take over the home duties and the mother was more or less left to do less and less. But in a nuclear family, the workload will not change increasing the likely hood of feel put on or when can I retire by the wife. There is also the change in society that the son no longer feel responsible for the parents. Also, since Japanese women seems to be an oppressed part of society with the emphasis on marriage as a family matter and not a individual matter, once the duty is complete, why continue. So is Japan more asian or western today? Chinese expectations still seems to be that the child will take care of the parent in old age. There isn't such a direct expectation in the west.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Till death do us part.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

From Corinthians:

10To the married people I give instructions, yet not I but the Lord, that a wife should not depart from her husband;11but if she should actually depart, let her remain unmarried or else make up again with her husband; and a husband should not leave his wife.

Love is long‐suffering and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up,5does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury.6It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Avigator.....I experienced all of the above!

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

People are stiffnecked, stubborn, and very easily upset. I have been with my wife for 26 years, I have loved her and protected her, and will stand by her side as long as she will have me. I have walked in the fear of God, and I fear no man or beast. I pray for all those, who do not know true love. Peace to all, for God is Love.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Hate to tell ya this, but while not believing in your god, I've managed to stay married for 28+ years to my best friend.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Don't mind me, just my first comment!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Loki520, You have kept the first commandent of your creator, Now be best friend's with God, and know Paradise eternal. Everybody want's to go to heaven, but nobody want's to die. Friend's stay together with the wife of your youth.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

This site isn't for missionary work. Time and a place for everything. This is neither time nor place. If people wanted to learn about God they'd go to a church or preacher for guidance.

As for my personal opinion, I'd say that too many people get married for the wrong reasons and most of those reasons are due to individuals selfishness or not knowing yourself first. One of the first steps to having a good marriage is knowing what kind of person you are and whether or not you would be a good person for the one you want to be with. Not if they'll be a good person for you. As for my personal beliefs, well that is for me to think about...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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