Japanese - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage in Japan until the Meiji period had been characterized as an institution that benefited the community; during the Meiji period it was transformed into one that perpetuated and enriched the extended household (ie) ; and, in postwar years, it has again been transformed—this time into an arrangement between individuals or two nuclear families. Today marriage in Japan can be either an "arranged" union or a "love" match. In theory an arranged marriage is the result of formal negotiations involving a mediator who is not a family member, culminating in a meeting between the respective families, including the prospective bride and groom. This is usually followed, if all goes well, by further meetings of the young couple and ends in an elaborate and expensive civic wedding ceremony. In the case of a love marriage, which is the preference of the majority today, individuals freely establish a relationship and then approach their respective families. In response to surveys about marriage customs, most Japanese state that they underwent some combination of an arranged and love marriage, in which the young couple was given a good deal of freedom but an official mediator may have been involved nevertheless. These two arrangements are understood today not as moral oppositions but simply as different strategies for obtaining a partner. Less than 3 percent of Japanese remain unmarried; however, the age of marriage is increasing for both men and women: early or mid-thirties for men and late twenties for women are not unusual today. The divorce rate is one-quarter that of the United States.

Domestic Unit. The nuclear family is the usual domestic unit, but elderly and infirm parents often live with their children or else in close proximity to them. Many Japanese men spend extended periods of time away from home on business, either elsewhere in Japan or abroad; hence the domestic unit often is reduced today to a single-parent family for months or even years at a time, during which period the father returns rather infrequently.

Inheritance. Freedom to dispose of one's assets at will has been a central legal principle in Japan since the implementation of the Civil Code at the end of World War II. Inheritance without a will (statutory inheritance) is overwhelmingly the case today. In addition to financial assets, when necessary, someone is named to inherit the family genealogy, the equipment used in funerals, and the family grave. The order of inheritance is first to the children and the spouse; if there are no children, then the lineal ascendants and spouse; if there are no lineal ascendants, then the siblings and the spouse; if there are no siblings, then the spouse; if there is no spouse, procedures to prove the nonexistence of an heir are initiated, in which case the property may go to a common-law wife, an adopted child, or other suitable party. An individual may disinherit heirs by means of a request to the family court.

Socialization. The mother is recognized as the primary agent of socialization during early childhood. The correct training of a child in appropriate discipline, language use, and manners is known as shitsuke. It is generally assumed that infants are naturally compliant, and gentle and calm behavior is positively reinforced. Small children are rarely left on their own; they also are not usually punished but instead are taught good behavior when they are in a cooperative mood. Most children today go to preschool from about the age of 3, where, in addition to learning basic skills in drawing, reading, writing, and mathematics, emphasis is on cooperative play and learning how to function effectively in groups. More than 94 percent of children complete nine years of compulsory education and continue on to high school; 38 percent of boys and 37 percent of girls receive advanced education beyond high school.


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