In Japan, an ‘I don’t’ ceremony
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.