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Japan: Religion and culture today

"Japan: Religion and culture today" Continued...

Issue: "Troops hunt for weapons," June 14, 2003

These weddings are so popular that many hotels have built fake chapels with crosses. One company buys furnishings from old Anglican churches and ships them to Japan. Fathers pay royally to walk their daughters down the aisle, with music that often includes "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," in Japanese, adding to the sense of adventure. Actors with clerical collars preside at some of the weddings, but some ministers also perform them, receiving $100-200 for an hour's work. (Some defend the practice by saying that this is an opportunity to teach a bit of Christianity; conscientious ones insist on some premarital counseling that also provides opportunities for evangelism.)

Missionaries report that while the Japanese divorce rate is still low by American standards, estrangement within marriage is common, with couples often leading separate lives. Jokes about infidelity are common. When husbands are transferred by their companies, families often stay behind, with children's schooling (Japan's traditional group ethic means that children who move to a new school are never completely accepted there) and home ownership as the common reasons offered. The husbands then live alone, an uncomfortable existence called tanshin-funin. Some left-behind wives assume their husbands will take mistresses. It's hard to miss the "love motels" that have spread throughout Japan and are reportedly prosperous even as many restaurants and retail stores have gone under during the past decade of recession. The main customers at some motels, though, are married couples seeking privacy from cramped family quarters.

Japan's divorce rate is still much lower than that of the United States, and other indications of social problems, such as crime, also work in Japan's favor. Some observers see an upswing of paternal involvement with their children. But many young Japanese, seeing the loveless relationships of their parents, are finding the prospect of marriage and family unattractive. Premarital sex and adultery are widespread. Late marriage, financial constraints, cramped housing, and a general dislike for the burdens of parenthood have pushed the birthrate down to its lowest level ever.

Pundits write of the emptiness of affluence. Missionaries note deep spiritual needs. But government officials who look at the numbers worry that, at current birth and death rates, Japan's current population of 127 million will decline to 101 million in the year 2050.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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