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Japan looks set to follow other nations with a coronavirus-induced rise in divorces

22 Comments
By Kirsty Kawano

Even before Prime Minister Abe declared the initial Covid-19 state of emergency in early April, #コロナ離婚 (#coronarikon), meaning “corona divorce,” was appearing in social media here as people used it to express their frustration toward spouses they were having to spend more time with as the use of teleworking increased.

Now, as Tokyoites pass one month of being urged to stay home–and with the rest of the nation at the most only nine days behind – for many of those people, that frustration has turned into a resolution to separate from partners whose values–the current circumstances have shown them–are incompatible with their own.

Together 24/7

It’s a stressful time. Along with the fear of contracting the illness, our movements are restricted and there is no knowing how long those limits will be kept in place. Many people have lost jobs and income, and much more fear the same will happen to them.

Kids are home all day every day. While we keep our distance from the rest of society, we are stuck together with our families 24/7. In this pressure-cooker environment, it’s easy to get angry and dissatisfied with those closest to us. 

The first nation to deal with the new coronavirus, and the first to enforce a lockdown was China. Divorce filings surged when confinement ended there. Couples filing for divorce in Shanghai had to wait for up to a month for an appointment they would normally have received within a week. 

As lockdowns started in other countries, it was predicted that the same would happen worldwide, and that looks to be coming true. Lawyers in various countries say they are receiving many phone calls from couples seeking divorce as soon as lockdowns are lifted. 

One-sided workload

One of the main reasons why wives–and it is predominantly women–are rearing for divorce is the unhelpfulness of their partners. This is particularly true for couples with young children.

Under the corona-rikon hashtag, “meneki wo ageru” (meaning “boost immunity”) tweeted about her husband: “You get up, eat lunch, spend a little time with the kids and then go back to bed. If you’re going to stay up at night watching YouTube, at least be up when the kids get up and go to bed.

Even in households without children, wives who have taken on the housework to allow their husbands to devote themselves to their jobs are finding that when they become the busiest worker in the house, that same consideration is not given to them.

Under the Twitter name “please listen to the stupid things my defective husband does,” one woman writes, “My husband is vacationing under the name of ‘teleworking’ while I continue to go out to work six days a week. When I get home, dinner’s not made and he’s been drinking and is now asleep.

As in other countries, domestic violence is increasing during the stay-at-home period. A Tokyo-based support organization for victims and perpetrators of domestic violence, A+, has told NHK that inquiries have increased since March. Many cases have sighted money worries as spurring violence, as well as the stress of working at home–usually at the dining table–surrounded by family, especially noisy children. 

No time to oneself

In a more particularly Japanese conundrum, a 26-year-old woman tells the Lip Pop website for women about the stress she is feeling now that her husband works from home. 

“Until now, the time when my husband was out was a time that I had to myself, and I could eat or vacuum whenever I liked. He doesn’t help and the stress has built up and I’ve started thinking about divorce. The biggest burden is having to pay attention to another person’s needs even when I am at home.”

As well as the stress of having no time alone, this woman’s troubles seem to reflect the traditional role of Japanese wives as catering to their husbands’ every need. It’s the leading reason for women to choose sotsukon, or graduation from marriage.

Click here to read more.

© Savvy Tokyo

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

22 Comments
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I can understand the culture of separation of life between husband and wife here, with the hubby at work and the wife at home. However, I was taught that the foundation of marriage is a unit, based on love and respect. That said, Yes, it can get sometimes nerve wracking bout not having "me time," or times for togetherness and lone time. What I learned from this, raising 3 kids is that this time only comes once, and kids remember this, in good and bad times. As a teacher from many years ago, I would hear students say about their fathers, "Oh, he's just a salary-man," or "I don't know. I don't see him much." Those and others like them really got to me as a father, and made me re-evaluate my values as a husband and a father, among other roles. So, I try to do what I can, not only homeschooling, but teaching and learning about family values with my family. I help my Japanese born wife around the house and my girls. I try to put the "they come first" in my head.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Sounds like they all married the wrong person or simply weren't ready for marriage.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Different cultures, different norms. I think that over here, more men help with house chores than in Japan. I was raised to help out however I could. That said, my wife and I agreed to a separation of responsibilities that worked for us. I worked 10 or more hours a day, and slept when I got home. That allowed my wife to stay home and raise the kids. It does not mean that I ignored her and the kids, or never helped out, but my primary job was to make sure that she didn't have to go to work, although she enjoys working outside the house.

Once the kids got older, my wife went back to work, as she saw fit, at part-time jobs that she wanted to do. I have always asked her not to do what she didn't want to do. "Happy wife, happy life," as the saying goes.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

There are a lot of Asians over here in California, and I grew up around some of them. It seems to me that every single male Asian-American that I have known helped out around the home, so I am surprised that the same may not be the case in Japan.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

It seems to me that every single male Asian-American that I have known helped out around the home, so I am surprised that the same may not be the case in Japan.

Two things at play here:

1) Not all Asians are the same

2) The type of Asians (and indeed, anyone) to leave their country to never return, aren't the same type of people who stay to never leave.

That's a general point.

On a more specific point, Japanese boys and men do not generally do much around the homes. With so many housewives, and a culture with the idea that the mother's job is to see that the child has all their needs provided for as soon as they need them, helping around the house is not a skill developed much by Japanese males.

I always tell my overseas friends who are taking on homestay students to request female homestayers from Japan.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Nonsense. It's far too early to see any sort of demographic trend, other than an increase in the number of deaths not attributed to CV-19.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

You get up, eat lunch, spend a little time with the kids and then go back to bed. If you’re going to stay up at night watching YouTube, at least be up when the kids get up and go to bed.

“*please listen to the stupid things my defective husband does,” one woman writes, “My husband is vacationing under the name of ‘teleworking’ while I continue to go out to work six days a week. When I get home, dinner’s not made and he’s been drinking and is now asleep.*”

This is hysterical! I have lived in Japan too long and still I never recall any wife saying something nice about her husband. Men in Japan are treated even worse than in the west.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It doesn't matter what I do around the house, because It will quickly become my responsibility and the wife will no longer count it towards helping her. It's an endless cycle.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Just the other day I saw the wife going out the door so I asked where she was going. Thought I could make a request for something at the supermarket. She instead got pissed off and said not to ask her where she was going, as if I was somehow holding her hostage. She was still angry about it that night.

Then the next day, I'm putting on my shoes and the wife asks where I'm going. I took a page from her book and said not to ask me. Of course she was fuming about this and came back with some insult.

Oh, the hypocrisy!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

@therougou, doesn't sound good. Consider your life options. Situation will not improve so if you don't have kids press the eject button.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

@Reckless

We do have kids. Then again, I don't think we'd have such problems if there were no kids. I just don't think she is made out for having them.

Btw, she left today for an undisclosed place and amount of time, so I have to take care of our 2 kids while teleworking. But of course I'll get no thank you for that.

There are talks of moving to the states though, with her staying in Japan for some of the time (I'm thinking she really means most of the time but who cares). This is my best hope.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

@therogue, your situation is cookie cutter. I have been having the same conversation to move to the states the last 15 years and realize it is not a negotiation but a cruel joke to keep me motivated and pay for everything.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Some peeps don't realize how good they had it until it's too late....that is after the divorce. One of life's hard lessons..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The biggest burden is having to pay attention to another person’s needs even when I am at home.

I really hope she doesn't have kids...

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Many people are really not in the right relationship.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@Reckless

This is hysterical! I have lived in Japan too long and still I never recall any wife saying something nice about her husband. Men in Japan are treated even worse than in the west.

While I don't necessarily fit your demographic (I'm American)... my Japanese husband is a wonderful man. Helps without prompting, spends as much time as he possibly can with his daughter and is affectionate and gentle with both her and myself. Not all Japanese men are the same and not all women treat their husbands poorly.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Wait, do people actually believe these clickbait articles are true?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

*Even in households without children, wives who have taken on the housework to allow their husbands to devote themselves to their jobs are finding that when they become the busiest worker in the house, that same consideration is not given to them.*

I don,t think its as one sided as that....housewives without kids have quite often ' taken on housework' not to ' allow their husbands to devote themselves to their grinding jobs because they love their hubby so much they self sacrifice their own careers but because its much easier to have an ATM husband who only comes home to sleep and provides for a carefree life of joshikai lunches, English lessons and yoga & fitness club activities. This is generalizing of course but there are many such cases especially in the big cities as we all know.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

My American female friend married to a Japanese husband also regularly says nice things about him. The cultural difference in how one speaks about one's husband in public was quite striking to me when I first came to Japan. I really feel sorry for some of my Japanese male colleagues who have been doing tanshin funin for over ten years living in a dormitory in Tokyo.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Corona V has been a blessing for me in my personal life.

I have shut my business, but I have re evaluated my 12 hour work days with a renewed knowledge of who is important to me, what I love, and ehat I should do to be happy.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Most of these people divorcing will regret it after this China virus passes us. If everyone can just hang in there for a couple more months, life can go back to the norm. Stay home wives can go back to spending 30% of their time doing housework and 70% with their friends. Husbands can go back to their stressful 14 hour work days (includes mandatory drinking with clients)

As for the working wives, I truly feel sorry for you if you have married one of those loser husbands that do nothing to help around the house. Perhaps this is your chance to break free.

But I will say this, divorce should never be taken lightly when there are children involved. You should work hard to try to understand each other and work things out as divorce is not good for any child. (Of course if there is violence involve, get out now).

I have been teleworking for two months now. My work load has been cut about 50% (Yo Abe, I could really use my financial assistance you promised?) and I am using that extra time to help around the house, enjoy lunch and dinner with my wife and even staying in shape by jogging and in house workouts. Not once have we fought. I can respect her schedule and she respects mine. As a matter a fact, we've learn new things about each other. It's like turning the clock back to before we were married. People, it is not that difficult if you truly love each other.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Now might be a good time for wife-swapping during the lockdown. Spice up life for a few months and everyone is happy.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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