There has been a cascade of media reports about the dysfunctional Japanese family. The alarming incidence of domestic violence, child abuse, suicide, delinquency and divorce challenges widespread assumptions about traditional customs and stagnating stable family life in Japan. Until the nineties, Japan was a country associated with a low divorce record. However, there has been a rising trend in occurrences of divorce in Japan after World War II.
Some blame the rising rates of the divorce record rates in Japan on radical revisions of family law during the America Occupation. The most commonly cited reasons for Japanese divorce in the nineties were an extramarital affair, neglect of family, financial/economic problems, incompatibility, sexual problems, alcoholism, physical abuse and problems with in-laws. Some of the major social currents in the divorce record equation were the changing concepts of marriage, a reluctance to have children, changing family structures, the emergence of more diverse family models, increased educational opportunities for women, enhanced female economic status, better career opportunities for women and positive media images of divorce.
As a result, divorces in Japan have become the new darlings of the Japanese media. Prime-time dramas, morning talk-shows, and magazines depict the daily lives of these divorcing couples. The party involved is called the batsu-ichi or people with one strike against them, or, in more common terms, the divorced. Japanese divorced people, particularly women, have long been stigmatized in Japan, where self-sacrifice and family stability are cherished values. In the past, bored housewives remained bored while philandering husbands philandered with impunity. The preservation of security for the traditional family-unit taking precedence over everything is being replaced by the concept of individuality. Now, young Japanese are increasingly choosing satisfaction in life over the demands of tradition, and more women are financially independent. Over the past decade, growing numbers of highly educated and successful professional women have challenged that assumption by turning their backs on unhappy marriages and braving the taboo of a divorce certificate.
As a result, the rising rate of dysfunctional Japanese family life has resulted in an unprecedented high divorce record. Japanese Divorces have more than doubled, from just over 95,000 in 1970 to 206,955 in 1996, according to health ministry statistics. One in three Japanese marriages now ends in divorce. Perhaps the long-standing double standard of granting divorced men respectability but branded divorced women as damaged goods are finally eroding. The majority of Japanese divorce proceedings now are initiated by women, and the divorce record statistics suggest that Japanese women are becoming more cautious about marriage in general. Arranged marriages have become less common as young people make their own choices.
Despite the fact that Japan is part of the Western World, Japan still follows a very xenophobic masculine society. Under the Japanese Civil Code, divorced parents are required to pay child support, but there is no organized system here to track down and secure payments from delinquent parents. The US is blessed with the abundance of freedom taken for granted. The internet is a powerful tool to keep track of delinquent parents. With divorce certificates, women are able to use the internet to find their exes who fail to pay support. Perhaps with the rise of the independent women in Japan, these options would seem common sense to divorcing couples.
Meanwhile, the news media are propagating the divorced person's new image. This type of promotion will only enhance the idea of the benefits of divorces, hence an expected rise in the divorce record in Japan.