▶ Many people marry for love today. They first become boyfriend and girlfriend. Then, if things go well for some time, they might get engaged and then get married.
▶ In the past, people in Japan often thought marriage was between two families. Maybe this is why arranged marriage was very common. Many couples still ask for their parents’ permission before they get married.
▶ The average age of the first marriage is around thirty for both men and women. There are also many married couples who met in high school, in university or through a friend. Workplace marriages are also common.
Average Age of Marriage
In 2012, the average age to get married for the first time was 30.8 for men and 29.2 for women. Up until the early 70’s, the average age for women was under 25, but it has been rising ever since, as more women are pursuing higher education and professional careers. Today, both men and women are getting married at a wider range of ages. With this tendency to marry late, the increasing rate of unmarried people, especially women, can be considered a social problem. About 60% of Japanese women between the ages of 25 and 29 aren’t married.
94% of marriages in Japan today are love marriages. The other 6% are arranged ones, a statistic which has decreased since the war. Though they are becoming less popular, arranged marriages still benefit some people who don’t have many opportunities to meet members of the opposite sex. In fact, the divorce rate among couples who got married by arrangement is lower than that for those who married for love. The procedure for an arranged marriage begins when a person called a “go-between” introduces a prospective couple by means of their pictures and résumés. When both of them agree to meet, the go-between arranges their first meeting, at which they are usually accompanied by their parents. The couple meet over a period of time and eventually make a decision to marry or not. Today, computers are also providing people with places to meet instead of using go-betweens. An increasing number of married couples first met in Internet chat rooms.
According to a newspaper survey, the average cost of a marriage in 2012 was about 3.48 million yen including a ceremony, a reception, a honeymoon and durable goods. Foreigners may be surprised to hear how much money Japanese spend to rent kimonos and dresses for a wedding ceremony and a reception which can be relatively short. Some elaborate wedding kimonos cost around 200,000 yen to rent, about 10% of the price of a kimono.
Shinto and Christian Weddings
Since the Meiji era when Crown Prince Yoshihito (later Emperor Taisho) got married in a Shinto shrine, weddings started to be predominantly conducted in Shinto shrines. Until then, most weddings had been held in the bridegroom’s house. Today, less than 13% of wedding ceremonies are done in Shinto style and 70% of people choose to marry in Christian churches. Some allow non-Christians to marry in their buildings which suits many young people who find weddings in Christian churches romantic.
In 2012, the annual divorce rate in Japan per 1,000 middle-aged people was two per year, about half that of the U.S. Though this is lower than in most other industrialized countries, it is rapidly increasing as more women are becoming financially independent. The annual divorce rate in 1970 was 0.93. In recent years, the divorce rate among older couples has risen because many women who lead most of their lives without their busy husbands at home find it difficult to have him there all the time after his retirement. There is a common saying in Japan, “A husband who is healthy and always absent is ideal.” The average number of years divorced couples had been married was 10.1.
Women at Work
There were about 29.35 million women working or looking for work in 2010. This means that about 50% of all women over the age of 16 are potential members of the workforce. The number of women working has nearly doubled in the last 20 years.
Social Status of Women
Though women make up 42% of the Japanese workforce, women in managerial positions are few. According to a 2011 government survey, 5.1% of department managers, 8.1% of section managers, and 15.3% of sub-section chiefs are women. As for parliament members, there are 39 women in the House of Representatives out of a total of 480 and 39 in the House of Councilors out of a total of 242. The average wage for women in 2007 was only 70% of that for men.
Laws for Women’s Rights
The Equal Employment Opportunity Law was enacted in 1986 and revised in 1999. The revised law prohibits employers from discriminating against men or women concerning employment opportunities and promotion. Although the law orders employers to give equal employment opportunities it doesn’t determine how many men and women they must hire.