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Japanese Attitude Towards Divorce | From Batsu To Maru

Japan's Attitude Towards Divorce

Are you someone who wants to understand the Japanese attitude towards divorce? Read further a detailed description of the reasons for divorce in Japan and other details.

Splitting up in Japan? It’s not all doom and gloom! Unravel the changing attitudes towards divorce in Japan. Explore the concept of “batsu” and the hopeful new term “maru,” revealing a shift towards a more accepting view of ending a marriage.

What is the Japanese attitude towards divorce?

Japanese attitude towards divorce hasn’t been great but it’s changing. One gets called a batsu meaning not good or strike one if a spouse decides to get divorced. This is because of the Koseki or Japan’s Family Registry that used to put up a sign of “X” once the spouse that adopts the surname divorces. Divorced once are called batsuichi and twice are called batsuni.

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Very recently, I met a close female friend of mine who is divorced in her mid-20s. She was married to a man she dated since the time of college. 

The reason for their divorce was quite simple, her husband had money which was causing trouble in their married life to the point that they had to part their ways with divorce. 

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 Even though this reason is quite solid, she still believes that she is not “pure” and shouldn’t seek out a new partner. On being asked why, she said that she’s now a Batsu. 

Batsu is a common term used to describe someone who is divorced, roughly translates to “strike one” or one name struck out of the family register”. 

Source Unsplash

The history of divorce in Japan has rather made the entire thing extremely stereotypical. Japanese attitude towards divorce has worsened over the years.

The other day, I went out for lunch with my old colleague who is in her early 40s. We were randomly discussing our lives and discussing what we’ve been doing lately. 

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She started talking about her current second marriage- whether she should continue or not with her cheating husband. Very evidently, she was devastated and broken for it was not her first time her husband had had an affair.

Yet, she wasn’t ready to divorce him because of people who call her “batsu” or someone who has divorced twice. Japanese attitude towards divorce has held back so many people to make the right decision. 

Japanese Attitude Towards Divorce
Source: Unsplash

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While batsu means strike one, Maru means exactly the opposite, it roughly translates to circle.

While I listened to the women above talk about their tragic incidents related to marriage and family- I have a very serious question in my mind.  Why do these women feel guilty about leaving their problematic husbands?

Having lived abroad for 10 years, hopping to countries and experiencing different cultures, seeing how the topic of marriage takes various forms and shapes, I could only conclude that Japanese attitude towards divorce is extremely negative.

Japanese Attitude Towards Divorce

Divorce in Japanese Culture

Divorce in Japanese culture is a complex and evolving issue. Traditionally, divorce was seen as a negative event, and there was a great deal of social stigma attached to it. However, in recent years, attitudes towards divorce have become more relaxed, and the divorce rate in Japan has been steadily increasing.

The process of divorce in Japan can be relatively simple and straightforward, but there are still some cultural factors that can make it difficult. For example, there is still a stigma attached to divorce in Japan, and this can make it difficult for people to get divorced.

Additionally, the Japanese legal system is not always well-equipped to deal with the complex issues that can arise in divorce cases.

Despite these challenges, the divorce rate in Japan has been steadily increasing in recent years. This is likely due to a number of factors, including the changing social and economic landscape of Japan, as well as the increasing availability of information and support for people who are considering divorce.

Divorce in Registry System of Japan: Batsu

Most of the negativism is rooted in the Japanese attitude towards divorce is mostly because of the Koseki or the family registry system. 

Before a good while when the systems were not digital and things were recorded in a handwritten manner, two people who got married had to take either of the one’s surname, thus marrying into the family of their significant other.

Whomever’s surname was adopted as common, their names were written in the official page of the spouse’s family register. However, in case one needed a divorce, the name was crossed with a huge “X” – this symbol is called Batsu by the Japanese people. 

Therefore, if one divorces, they’ll have a cross in their family registry becoming batsuichi meaning one divorce. Divorcing twice would mean two crosses which will be called batsuni.

These terms were more commonly used in the 1900s when a press conference was organised by veteran comedian Sanma Akashiya to divorce with actress Shinobu Otake. 

Source: Unsplash

He came with an “X” painted on this forehead and made jokes on himself by calling him a batsuichi. This was done to make the society realise that Japanese attitude towards divorce is not right. The rules applied the same for divorce in Japan for foreigners until a long time.

Infact, if you get divorce in Japan, there is no alimony. If a spouse is having financial difficulties, the court can use its discretion to award the spouse a greater share of the assets as part of the case’s resolution.

As someone who is familiar with Japanese or has lived in Japan for a while, you know what batsu means right?

It means something that is not good or correct. The same symbols and words are used by teachers when students do not answer correctly in tests.

This symbol is also used if someone finds something as “a no go” or simply not good enough.

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The association of batsu with divorced happened in a similar sense, which means, according to society, divoce= not good and batsu= not good. Hence, Divorce=batsu.

The majority of them have this stigma attached and this is why the Japanese attitude towards divorce isn’t pleasing to hear about. 

Types of Divorce in Japan

Divorce By Agreement (Kyogi Rikon) 

Divorce by agreement (kyogi rikon) is the most common type of divorce in Japan. It is a simple process that can be completed at the local ward office if both spouses agree to the divorce and the terms of the divorce, such as child custody, property division, and alimony.

Here are the steps involved in divorce by agreement in Japan:

  • Both spouses must agree to the divorce and the terms of the divorce.
  • The spouses must prepare a divorce agreement that sets out the terms of the divorce. The divorce agreement should include details of child custody, property division, and alimony.
  • The spouses must both sign and seal the divorce agreement.
  • The spouses must submit the divorce agreement to the local ward office.
  • The local ward office will issue a certificate of divorce.

The divorce agreement is a legally binding document, so it is important that both spouses carefully review it before signing. 

The divorce agreement should be clear and concise, and it should address all of the important issues related to the divorce.

Here are some of the things that should be included in the divorce agreement:

  • The date of the divorce
  • The terms of child custody, such as who will have physical custody of the children and how often the other parent will have visitation rights
  • The terms of property division, such as how the assets and debts will be divided
  • The terms of alimony, if any
  • Any other terms that the spouses agree on

Once the divorce agreement is signed and sealed, it must be submitted to the local ward office. The ward office will then issue a certificate of divorce. The certificate of divorce is a legal document that proves that the divorce has been finalized.

Divorce by agreement is a relatively simple process, but it is important to follow the correct procedures. If you are considering divorce in Japan, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney to make sure that you understand the process and that your interests are protected.

Divorce By Mediation in a Family Court (chotei rikon) 

Divorce by mediation in a family court (chotei rikon) is a process that involves a mediator from the family court who helps the spouses reach an agreement on the terms of the divorce. If the spouses are unable to reach an agreement, the case may go to trial.

Here are the steps involved in divorce by mediation in Japan:

  1. Both spouses must file a petition for mediation with the family court.
  2. The family court will appoint a mediator.
  3. The mediator will meet with the spouses separately and together to discuss the terms of the divorce.
  4. The mediator will try to help the spouses reach an agreement on the terms of the divorce.
  5. If the spouses are able to reach an agreement, the mediator will draft a mediation agreement.
  6. The spouses will review the mediation agreement and sign it if they agree to the terms.
  7. The family court will approve the mediation agreement and issue a certificate of divorce.

If the spouses are unable to reach an agreement, the case may go to trial. In trial, the court will decide the terms of the divorce.

Divorce by mediation is a more complex process than divorce by agreement, but it can be a helpful way to resolve disagreements and reach an agreement on the terms of the divorce.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind about divorce by mediation in Japan:

  • The mediation process is confidential.
  • The mediator is not a judge, and they cannot make decisions for the spouses.
  • The spouses are free to accept or reject the mediation agreement.
  • The family court may require the spouses to attend mediation before they can file for divorce.

If you are considering divorce in Japan, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney to discuss your options. An attorney can help you understand the mediation process and make sure that your interests are protected.

Here are some of the benefits of divorce by mediation in Japan:

  • It can help to resolve disagreements and reach an agreement on the terms of the divorce.
  • It can be a less adversarial process than divorce by litigation.
  • It can be a more cost-effective way to obtain a divorce.

Here are some of the drawbacks of divorce by mediation in Japan:

  • It can be a more time-consuming process than divorce by agreement.
  • The spouses may not be able to reach an agreement, and the case may go to trial.
  • The mediator may not be able to help the spouses reach an agreement on all of the issues related to the divorce.

If you are considering divorce by mediation in Japan, it is important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of the process. You should also consult with an attorney to discuss your options and make sure that you understand the process.

Divorce By Decision Of The Family Court (shimpan rikon) 

Divorce by decision of the family court (shimpan rikon) is a type of divorce that is granted by the family court if the spouses are unable to reach an agreement on the terms of the divorce. The court will decide the terms of the divorce, and the decision is binding on both spouses.

Here are the steps involved in divorce by decision of the family court in Japan:

  1. One spouse must file a petition for divorce with the family court.
  2. The other spouse will be served with the petition for divorce.
  3. The spouses will have an opportunity to attend a hearing at the family court.
  4. The court will consider the evidence presented by both spouses and make a decision on the terms of the divorce.
  5. If the court grants the divorce, it will issue a certificate of divorce.

Divorce by decision of the family court is a more complex process than divorce by agreement or mediation, but it can be a way to resolve disagreements and obtain a divorce if the spouses are unable to reach an agreement on their own.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind about divorce by decision of the family court in Japan:

  • The divorce process can take several months to complete.
  • The terms of the divorce, such as child custody, property division, and alimony, will be decided by the court.
  • There are financial implications to divorce, such as the division of assets and the payment of alimony.
  • Divorce can have an impact on your immigration status, so you should consult with an immigration attorney if you are considering divorce.
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If you are considering divorce in Japan, it is important to understand your legal rights and options. An attorney can help you understand the process and make sure that your interests are protected.

Here are some of the benefits of divorce by decision of the family court in Japan:

  • It can be a way to obtain a divorce if the spouses are unable to reach an agreement on their own.
  • The court will consider all of the relevant factors when making a decision on the terms of the divorce.
  • The decision of the court is final and binding on both spouses.

Here are some of the drawbacks of divorce by decision of the family court in Japan:

  • It can be a more time-consuming and expensive process than divorce by agreement or mediation.
  • The court may not make a decision that is in the best interests of both spouses.
  • The court may not be able to help the spouses reach an agreement on all of the issues related to the divorce.

If you are considering divorce by decision of the family court in Japan, it is important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of the process. You should also consult with an attorney to discuss your options and make sure that you understand the process.

Divorce By Judgment of a District Court (saiban rikon)

Divorce by judgment of a district court (saiban rikon) is a type of divorce that is granted by a district court if the spouses are unable to reach an agreement on the terms of the divorce and one spouse files a lawsuit against the other spouse. The court will decide the terms of the divorce, and the decision is binding on both spouses.

Here are the steps involved in divorce by judgment of a district court in Japan:

  • One spouse must file a lawsuit for divorce with the district court.
  • The other spouse will be served with the lawsuit.
  • The spouses will have an opportunity to attend a hearing at the district court.
  • The court will consider the evidence presented by both spouses and make a decision on the terms of the divorce.
  • If the court grants the divorce, it will issue a judgment of divorce.

Divorce by judgment of a district court is a more complex and expensive process than divorce by agreement, mediation, or decision of the family court. However, it can be a way to obtain a divorce if the spouses are unable to reach an agreement on their own.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind about divorce by judgment of a district court in Japan:

  • The divorce process can take several months to complete.
  • The terms of the divorce, such as child custody, property division, and alimony, will be decided by the court.
  • There are financial implications to divorce, such as the division of assets and the payment of alimony.
  • Divorce can have an impact on your immigration status, so you should consult with an immigration attorney if you are considering divorce.

If you are considering divorce in Japan, it is important to understand your legal rights and options. An attorney can help you understand the process and make sure that your interests are protected.

Here are some of the benefits of divorce by judgment of a district court in Japan:

  • It can be a way to obtain a divorce if the spouses are unable to reach an agreement on their own.
  • The court will consider all of the relevant factors when making a decision on the terms of the divorce.
  • The decision of the court is final and binding on both spouses.

Here are some of the drawbacks of divorce by judgment of a district court in Japan:

  • It can be a more time-consuming and expensive process than divorce by agreement, mediation, or decision of the family court.
  • The court may not make a decision that is in the best interests of both spouses.
  • The court may not be able to help the spouses reach an agreement on all of the issues related to the divorce.

If you are considering divorce by judgment of a district court in Japan, it is important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of the process. You should also consult with an attorney to discuss your options and make sure that you understand the process.

The Shift in Japanese Attitude Towards Divorce

However, in Japan, the situation around divorce is slowly changing. The Japanese attitude towards divorce is shifting and for the better, definitely.

 The divorce rate in Japan was 1.73 per 1,000 people, according to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in the year 2016. In comparison to the pre-war era, the rate has nearly tripled. 

In that year, there were 621,000 marriages and 217,000 divorces, meaning that more than one out of every three marriages ended in divorce. 

Furthermore, according to data collected by the welfare ministry in 2015, one in every four marriages in Japan involved a divorced couple, the highest rate since 1952, the first year for which comparable data is available.

These numbers show that divorce is increasingly taking place and people are advancing. This shows that the Japanese attitude towards divorce has changed and they’ve been less judgemental all this while.

Source: Unsplash

In the light of changing behaviours of Japanese towards divorce, there is a rise in media-driven moves to replace batsu=not good with maru (circle). Maru means a circle and is often used to describe something good or positive.

A company that publishes the widely popular bridal magazine Zexy called Recruit Holdings created and selected the term “maru ni”. It was kind of a buzzword for 2014 to motivate people to find a new soulmate and start a new life.

It had several impacts like pushing the idea forward that just because it didn’t work out the first time doesn’t mean it’s the end. This trend is gradual, though a little slowly, making a palace in modern Japan. 

I hope a decade from now, the idea of divorce will not be embarrassing and the Japanese attitude towards divorce would be as normal as anything else. 

Can a Non-Japanese partner divorce their Japanese partner in Japan?

There are two ways to get a divorce in Japan: through the Family Court or through the ward office.

  • Family Court Divorce
    • This is the more common way to get a divorce in Japan. It is also the more expensive and time-consuming option.
    • To file for a divorce through the Family Court, both spouses must be present at the first hearing. If one spouse is unable to attend, they can send a representative.
    • The Family Court will try to mediate the divorce and reach an agreement between the spouses. If they are unable to reach an agreement, the case will go to trial.
  • Ward Office Divorce
    • This is a simpler and less expensive way to get a divorce in Japan. It is only available if both spouses agree to the divorce and there are no children involved.
    • To file for a divorce through the ward office, both spouses must submit a divorce application form and appear in person at the ward office.
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If a foreign citizen in Japan wants to divorce their Japanese partner, they will need to follow the same procedures as a Japanese citizen. However, there are some additional things to keep in mind:

  • Visa status: If the foreign citizen is on a spouse visa, their visa will be automatically revoked once the divorce is finalized. They will need to apply for a new visa if they want to stay in Japan.
  • Child custody: If there are children involved, the divorce will need to address child custody and visitation arrangements. The Family Court will make these decisions based on the best interests of the children.
  • Property division: The divorce will also need to address the division of property. The Family Court will divide the property fairly, taking into account the contributions of both spouses.

If you are a foreign citizen in Japan and you are considering getting a divorce, it is important to speak to an attorney who specializes in international divorce. They can help you understand your rights and options and ensure that the divorce process is handled smoothly.

Is divorce common in Japanese culture?

Divorce is not as common in Japanese culture as it is in some other countries. The divorce rate in Japan is about 1.73 per 1,000 people, compared to 3.2 per 1,000 people in the United States. However, the divorce rate in Japan has been increasing in recent years.

There are a number of factors that contribute to the low divorce rate in Japan. These include:

  • The traditional Japanese view of marriage: In Japanese culture, marriage is seen as a lifelong commitment. There is a strong social stigma attached to divorce, and many people feel that it is a failure.
  • The economic impact of divorce: Divorce can have a significant financial impact on both spouses, especially if there are children involved. In Japan, women are often the primary caregivers for children, and they may have difficulty finding employment after a divorce.
  • The legal process of divorce: The legal process of divorce in Japan can be complex and time-consuming. This can discourage couples from seeking a divorce, even if their marriage is in trouble.

Despite the social stigma and financial challenges, the divorce rate in Japan is likely to continue to increase in the years to come. This is due to a number of factors, including:

  • The changing social and economic landscape of Japan: Japan is becoming increasingly more urbanized and industrialized. This is leading to changes in traditional family values and norms.
  • The rise of individualism: There is a growing trend towards individualism in Japanese society. This means that people are placing more importance on their own personal happiness and fulfillment, and they are less likely to stay in a marriage that is not making them happy.

Overall, divorce is still not as common in Japanese culture as it is in some other countries. However, the divorce rate is increasing, and it is likely to continue to do so in the years to come.

Is Divorce a stigma in Japan?

divorce is still a stigma in Japan. There is a strong social expectation that people will stay married, even if their relationship is not working. 

Divorce is often seen as a failure, and people who get divorced may be judged or ostracized by their community.

There are a number of reasons why divorce is still stigmatized in Japan. One reason is that Japanese culture places a high value on family and tradition. 

Marriage is seen as a lifelong commitment, and divorce is seen as a betrayal of that commitment.

Another reason why divorce is stigmatized in Japan is that it can have a negative impact on a person’s social and economic status. In Japan, women are often the primary caregivers for children after a divorce. 

This can make it difficult for women to find employment, and it can also make it difficult for them to maintain their social status.

In recent years, there has been some movement to reduce the stigma associated with divorce in Japan. 

However, the stigma is still very strong, and it is likely to take some time for it to completely disappear.

Why does Japan have a low divorce rate?

There are a number of reasons why Japan has a low divorce rate. These include:

  • The traditional Japanese view of marriage: In Japanese culture, marriage is seen as a lifelong commitment. There is a strong social stigma attached to divorce, and many people feel that it is a failure.
  • The economic impact of divorce: Divorce can have a significant financial impact on both spouses, especially if there are children involved. In Japan, women are often the primary caregivers for children, and they may have difficulty finding employment after a divorce.
  • The legal process of divorce: The legal process of divorce in Japan can be complex and time-consuming. This can discourage couples from seeking a divorce, even if their marriage is in trouble.
  • The influence of Confucianism: Confucianism is a major influence on Japanese culture, and it emphasizes the importance of family and social harmony. Divorce is seen as a disruption to family harmony, and it is therefore discouraged.
  • The social pressure to stay married: There is a strong social pressure in Japan to stay married, even if the marriage is not working. This pressure can come from family, friends, and even co-workers.

In recent years, the divorce rate in Japan has been increasing. This is due to a number of factors, including:

  • The changing social and economic landscape of Japan: Japan is becoming increasingly more urbanized and industrialized. This is leading to changes in traditional family values and norms.
  • The rise of individualism: There is a growing trend towards individualism in Japanese society. This means that people are placing more importance on their own personal happiness and fulfillment, and they are less likely to stay in a marriage that is not making them happy.

Despite the increasing divorce rate, Japan still has a relatively low divorce rate compared to other countries. This is due to the strong social and cultural factors that discourage divorce.

Divorce = Not Bad

Next time I see my friends, I am going to emphasise the fact that divorce can me maru than batsu. Some things are done for good reasons, if you believe it’s not right for you, settling shouldn’t be an option. 

It’s important to change the Japanese attitude towards divorce and free their minds with constant judgement for a more modern and advanced country. Growing mentally is equally important.

Also Read: 

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  2. What is Teru Teru Bozu?
  3. Guide to Japanese lucky Charm Omamori
  4. How to Adopt in Japan

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