In Ja­pan, an ‘I don’t’ cer­e­mony

The Washington Post Sunday - - E9 - BY TAKASHI KAWA­MURA — Yomi­uri Shim­bun

tokyo — With mar­ried cou­ples choos­ing to go their sep­a­rate ways about ev­ery two min­utes in Ja­pan, divorce cer­e­monies cel­e­brat­ing the end of un­happy unions and demon­strat­ing cou­ples’ de­ter­mi­na­tion to start over are gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity in Tokyo.

About 15 peo­ple in their 20s and 30s at­tended one such cer­e­mony this year, some for­mally clothed and oth­ers bear­ing con­grat­u­la­tory money in en­velopes bear­ing the word “goshugi” (endof-mar­riage cer­e­mony).

Held at a “divorce man­sion” con­verted from a garage in Tokyo’s Asakusa area, the man and woman about to say “I don’t” ar­rived in sep­a­rate rick­shaws.

A 28-year-old woman rep­re­sent­ing the cou­ple’s friends­made a speech at the be­gin­ning of the cer­e­mony. “Hon­estly speak­ing, I’ve had a dif­fi­cult time know­ing what­tosay,” she said. “I’dstill like to be friends with both of you even af­ter the divorce.”

The at­mos­phere solemn, the soon-to-be ex-cou­ple held a ham­mer to­gether as their wed­ding rings were placed in front of them by divorce cer­e­mony pi­o­neer Hiroki Terai. “ The cou­ple’s last co­op­er­a­tive act will­now­take place,” said Terai, 30.

The next moment, the cou­ple brought the ham­mer down and smashed the rings, sig­ni­fy­ing the end of their part­ner­ship. The cer­e­mony con­cluded when the smashed rings were placed in a frog-shaped mon­u­ment. Frogs sym­bol­ize change in Ja­pan.

The­cou­ple­mar­ried­inOc­to­ber 2003 and have a 6-year-old son. How­ever, dif­fer­ent work hours be­came­toomuch­for the34-yearold­man, whoworke­dat­a­com­pany, and his 32-year-old wife, who worked at a pub. The wife found out that her hus­band had an af­fair with an­other woman.

Terai, who used to work at a tem­po­rary staffing agency, started the divorce cer­e­mony ser­vice in April 2009. Its rep­u­ta­tion has spread, and in March he be­gan or­ga­niz­ing divorce cer­e­mony tours in co­op­er­a­tion with a travel agency. Fifty-four cou­ples have par­tic­i­pated so far. Terai said he’s booked un­til the end of Jan­uary.

The cer­e­monies some­times back­fire. “About 10 per­cent of divorce cer­e­mony cou­ples de­cided not to split up after­ward,” Terai said.

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