The so-called “vintage year divorce” has been increasing in Japan. According to a government survey, the number of divorce cases among couples after more than 20 years of marriage exceeds 40,000 every year, which is six times higher than 30 years ago.
Veteran actor Shingo Yamashiro, 69, is one of them. Yamashiro, who debuted in 1957 and has long been known as a playboy, appeared in regular TV programs and films until 1999, when he dropped out of sight. That was about the time his wife Hiromi Hanazono, 67, divorced him. Shortly after, he was hospitalized.
A women's magazine reported recently that Yamashiro has been in a nursing home with 24-hour care, which amazes showbiz insiders now.
“I think the divorce hit him hardest," said a friend of Hanazono. "His wife had been patient with his playboy antics for a long time.” Even their daughter, actress Yuka Minami, told a magazine in 2006, “I don't wanna call him (Yamashiro) 'father.' He is a liar, selfish and senseless.”
Yamashiro lived together with his family for a while after the divorce but soon separated. A neighbor says, “I saw him last year walking alone in a restless way and his eyes had that glassy look. He was choosing TV dinners at a supermarket for a long time. I hesitated to speak to him.”
One showbiz insider says Yamashiro directed films in 2003 and 2004. But they were commercially unsuccessful, which made it difficult for him to come back into the showbiz mainstream.
While Yamashiro is now in a difficult situation, Hanazono seems fulfilled. She currently lives in a gorgeous house in Meguro with the daughter. Her friend says, “Yamashiro gave Hanazono and his daughter almost all of his property as part of the settlement. Hanazono looks 50 although she is almost 70. I think she is now enjoying her life.”
Divorce counselor Mio Kayama has some advice for older couples. “Being with a partner for more than 20 years, everybody more or less has some complaints against each other. Without any outlet for stress, wives take 'action'. The majority of husbands underestimate their wives and tend to think they have been 'feeding' them. But husbands must be understanding about their wives all the time through daily communication. They just need to say 'thank you' to them, which is a beginning of such communication.” (Translated by Taro Fujimoto)© Japan Today