Why Is the Divorce Rate so Low in Japan?

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Introduction
Since the World War II, Japan has gained a reputation of having a low divorce rate compared to other countries. Indeed, between 1945 and 1990, the divorce rate of Japan has never been higher than 1.5 per 1000 population. Since the 1990's, the divorce rate of Japan increased, reaching 2.08 in 2005. even if we can consider this a low divorce rate in comparison with the U.S, compared with other industrialized country, it is an average rate. Then, why is Japan's divorce rate considered so low? We will see first why I do not consider Japan's divorce rate low, then the historical reasons of the divorce rate, the actual reasons of the divorce rate and, finally, what to expect in the future.

>> why do I not consider the Japanese divorce rate low?
Since World War II, Japan has been considered a country with really low divorce rate. Indeed, according to the figure 1.2, Japan divorce rate in 1945 was 1.1 per 1000 of population. Since the 1960's, divorce rate in Japan has been growing, with a peak in 2002 when there have been 290,000 divorce. Since then, the divorce rate has decreased. In 2005, there has been 262.000 divorce, and the divorce rate has been 2.08 per 1000 population. Because a U.S.-Japan comparison formed the basis for the majority of divorce studies, the Japanese divorce rate appeared low. However, if Japan had been compared with Southern European countries like Spain, Greece, Portugal or Italy, its divorce rate would not have appeared particularly low. By 2000, the Japanese divorce rate placed the nation somewhere in the middle band of European countries, but still very low in comparison to the United States. Even though the American divorce rate has been declining in recent years, it is still extremely high compared with all European countries as the figure 1.1 clearly shows.

>> historical reasons of the actual level of the divorce rate? Elevated divorce rates in Japan aren't a new phenomenon, indeed in the 19th century, Japanese divorce rates have been exceeded only by those in the 1970's in the United States. In the 19th century and before, it was fairly common for people to try marriage and to divorce if necessary. Remarriage was also normal for women and men. Even spouse testing was accepted inside the society. Only the samurai didn't follow this rule and married once and only. Until the introduction of the Meiji Civil Code of 1898, Japan had some of the highest divorce rates in the world. Under the old peasant marriage system, women were considered a valuable economic resource by families. Young wives were often tested out by the new family in trial marriages and if they did not meet the required standard, they were sent back home. Thus, most divorces occurred in the early stages of marriage. Remarriage rates for both men and women were high, but later marriages were usually stable. Harold Fuess wrote a book about the “forgotten history” of Japan divorce: DIVORCE IN JAPAN: Family, Gender and the State 1600-2000, by Harold Feuss. He explains how in 1898, the civil code and some new laws on family registration led to a sharp decline in divorce rates. One of the aims of the Meiji legislation was to discourage divorce and bring Japan more in line with European marriage and divorce trends. In its drive to modernize the country, the Meiji government managed to impose the anti-divorce values of the former elite Samurai classes on the general population. Samurai customs had previously only been associated with a very small fraction of the population. So successful were the government's efforts that nowadays most Japanese are unaware than their country once had one of the highest divorce rates in the world. The act in itself of codifying family regulation generated some frictions between customs, newly “invented traditions” and western legal practices, that made people believe of divorcing as a way of dishonoring one's family, group, or country. Therefore, between 1898 and 1940, the divorce rates...
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