Tuesday, December 25, 2007
The Don't Divorce Me Club

In the corner of a small Japanese restaurant, a dozen dark-suited businessmen gathered at a large table. Smoke hovered over the dinner and beer disappeared as quickly as it was poured. At first glance, it looked like a typical Friday night post-work scene played out all over Tokyo’s taverns. But then your eye stops on a poster-sized sign propped up next to one of the middle-aged men. It reads:

Three Golden Rules of Love:

* Thank you (say it without hesitation)

* I am sorry (say it without fear)

* I love you (say it without embarrassment)

All the men at the table stood up. Equally spaced out and still wearing their stiff black suits, they chanted in unison: "I can’t win! I won’t win! I don’t want to win!" The chant was followed by a deep bow, a straightening of the backs, big smiles and a burst of applause. The meeting of the "National Chauvinistic Husbands Association" was under way.

If you're confused at this point, don't fret. The group is called the National Chauvinistic Husbands Association because it's a club for bossy husbands who need help (a little lost in translation effect here.)

So the title is appropriate for this group of men. In an abrupt about face from traditional Japanese relationships, the men are learning how to give their wives more respect.

More poster signs surrounded the men at this meeting:

Three Golden Rules of Renewing Family:

* Let's Listen

* Let's Write

* Let's Talk

Three Golden Rules for Extramarital Affairs:

* I don't do it

* I am not doing it

* I am not even thinking about it

And there's even a system of ranking your husbandry in the club:

Rank 1: Love your wife after three years of marriage

Rank 2: Help with the household work

Rank 3: No extramarital affairs or at least she doesn't know about it

Rank 4: Ladies first

Rank 5: Hold hands with your wife in public

Rank 6: Listen to what your wife has to say carefully and seriously

Rank 7: Solve issues between your wife and your mother

Rank 8: Say thank you without hesitation

Rank 9: Say I'm sorry without fear

Rank 10: Say I love you without embarrassment

The meeting was jovial and there was laughter at times. But the undercurrent was serious and taken to heart by the 4,700 members of this club in Japan. They're all acutely aware of a new law in Japan this year that entitles a wife filing for divorce to claim half her husband’s company pension.

That change led to a spike in divorces in the country, as some Japanese women, tired of their long-absent salarymen, decided they’re better off on their own. These men say they don't want to be alone so they'll change for their wives.

As the men talked in their support-group-setting, you quickly became aware of how rare it is to see men, especially businessmen, so emotionally intimate. One man confessed his typical Japanese workday (spanning 16 hours at times) was making his wife angry.

The group leader warned he’s on the highway to divorce and he needs to put his wife before work. Another man said he's too Japanese and can't seem to put his wife first. The group leader warned he's too old-fashioned. Another man, married 22 years, shared the fear that he'll be alone in old age because his wife complains about his snoring. Heads around the table nodded up and down in sympathy.

I couldn't help but ask: "As an American, it seems so easy to hold hands or say 'I love you.' What’s so hard about your rules or rankings?"

The group leader looked at me and said what's hard about the seemingly simple rules is following them fully and changing your behavior. He said it's easy saying it or doing it, but changing who you are and really believing it is quite another. He also pointed out to me that the divorce rate in America is over 50 percent. In Japan, the rate is still below 10 percent. Maybe, he suggested, some of the ways the Japanese approach love and marriage isn't so strange after all.

After the meeting, we followed a young man named Yohei Takayama home. He'd just been promoted to "Rank 4." He admitted that "Rank 5," holding hands with his wife in public, was not going to be natural or easy. He and his wife have been married for two years. His wife said he’s been a member of the club for a year and a half and it has changed their relationship dramatically.

Namely, she said, he helps more around the house, listens to her more, and understands she also has a career that exhausts her. What they’re growing into, she said, is a partnership. They went grocery shopping, and I noticed he carried the bags and helped her decide what to buy. As they left the store to go home, he took her hand in his. It didn't look like the most natural thing in the world for him, but he was trying. His wife smiled as they walked home.

You can watch my report here.

-- From CNN Correspondent Kyung Lah in Tokyo
In a nation where joint custody doesn't exist and visitation rights are rare, the Ex Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi who has a son he's never met is no exception.

It's the Japanese general understanding that if they divorce, the noncustodial parent won't be able to see the kid again for ever ...

golden rules are good to read nice post...
They need to open a chapter in the United States to help remind American married men basic understood, reasonable and respectful golden rules! Good for these men
In America, This would be over-kill in the wrong direction. Women need to learn to submit to their husbands, and husbands need to learn to Love their wives more as described in Ephesians 5 verse 22. As Christ is the head of man, so is Man the head of woman. Perhaps joint custody should be enacted in Japan as well, as this is not fair for either parent to be separated from their children- Or do you want to encourage extra-marital affairs for people who are not happy but want to see their kids? I have been married over 10 years, and this has worked for us. This will only come about if both are submitted to Jesus Christ.
Rick Longhi
This CNN story typifies the arrogance of American media. Japan, with a 10% divorce rate, is questioned by a reporter from a country with a 50% divorce rate. Americans are the most self-absorbed, rudest people on the planet and yet they nose around every else except in their own backyards...

This story actually highlights some men who are trying to make a difference. They have my support. CNN is the National Enquirer of the reporting world.
The claim made in this article that Japan's current divorce rate is less than 10% is way off. That may have been true 30 or 40 years ago, but currently the rate is 27% which is higher than many European countries such as France, Holland, and Italy. The following link provides more statistical details on international divorce rates:

This article is about men recognizing that they need to respect and appreciate their spouses. I too think chapters should be opened around the world. I know my husband loves me but I also know he doesn't respect me or women in general. He in fact has a real deep routed hatred of women. Where this comes from I don't know, but his comments about women in jest or otherwise show daily how little respect he does have for women. I truly believe following the rules noted in this article would help him, and then in turn greatly improve our relationship, as I would eventually feel not only loved but respected.
Women dont need to submit to stupid men...sorry!
I think it is a wonderful idea. Every man knows those 10 things but it is whether he decides to do them or not.
I am a Filipina married to a Japanese national for 13 years and I had gotten used to him not remembering special occasions like my birthday and our wedding anniversary. He has this "I-don't-care-attitude". I hope he'll learn of this club and join one . That would be a breather. I'm planning to divorce him when all of our kids are grown-up and it will be only a couple of years from now. I don't want to spend the rest of my life with him alone if he's not going to change for the better.
I definitely think that we need a support system like that in the US for both men and women. Where both parners can learn to be more understanding and considerate of each others needs and feelings. I think we all can use a little help in the relationship department, doesn't matter where we live or come from.
I think Rick needs to take an American history class and specifically read the part about civil rights where he might learn that women have fought long and hard for their rights in this country and perhaps he should move to a country in the Middle East where women can't drive yet or even show their face in public.
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