Why You Shouldn’t Marry a Japanese Woman

This is the Tree Test: Look at the picture above, and if it’s not immediately obvious why you shouldn’t marry a Japanese woman, then you shouldn’t marry a Japanese woman.

The moment Erick With-a-K saw it, he proclaimed, “That’s the most Japanese thing ever.”

“Close enough,” I said, “you pass.”

Don’t worry if this makes no sense. We’ll come back to it later, until it makes even less.

Domestic Violence in Japan

But my buddy Erick’s not the guy whose Japanese wife punched him in the stomach while he was sleeping on the couch. That’s Dave.

Nor is Erick the guy whose Japanese wife held an 8-inch chef’s knife to his throat and threatened to murder him. That’s James. And he’s not the guy who had a fight with his Japanese wife at a restaurant, after which she drove away with his cell phone and wallet, leaving him and their five year-old daughter stranded, with no way of paying the bill or getting home. That’s Jonathan. And no, Erick’s not the guy whose wife forged his signature, sold their house in New Zealand without his knowledge, then took all the money and flew back to Japan. That’s Eric Without-a-K. I know it’s confusing. Erick’s simply the diabetic who pushed a kitchen table between him and his Japanese wife as she tried to stab him with his own hypodermic needle.

“That much insulin could kill me,” he pleaded.

“Then die,” she replied.

You gotta at least respect a woman who’s clear about her goals.

Marriage in the West Versus Marriage in Japan

While we’re on the topic of goals, might as well consider why people get married in the first place. For Westerners, “love” is an oft-cited reason. For guys, feel free to throw in “sex” and “I have no clue.”

For Japanese women, reasons are more likely to be “financial stability,” “to have children, plus financial stability,” and “to get my parents off my back, and also financial stability.” For Japanese guys, naturally include “because she’s pregnant” and “no clue.”

For Love or Money

I’m not kidding about the role of finance in Japanese marriage. The average person in Japan is, by American standards, butt poor. That’s an economic measure; I googled it. They work long hours for minimal wages, live with their parents or in tiny apartments, and probably have one nice thing—a decent bicycle, a Nintendo Switch, a bed—but that’s it. Almost nobody has anything like an IRA or stock investments, which is one reason you often see people working well into their 70’s.

So if Westerners view marriage as a vague and complicated mix of partnership, intimacy, love, child rearing, and shared interests, Japanese people see it more as a retirement plan. Arranged marriages are still alive and well here. How could you marry someone you don’t even know? Because it doesn’t matter who they are, so long as when they die, you get the loot. As in savings and life insurance, which you can bet you’ll be signed up for. It’s not uncommon to meet married Japanese couples who don’t even live together. Not a problem. Sexless marriage? Yeah, that works. Spouse who resides in a different prefecture? Excellent.

This isn’t to say that Japanese people don’t want love and romance. They do. The greeting card companies, wedding industry, and De Beer’s corporation are hard at work in Japan too. But love and sex aren’t the foundation of the union, perhaps because you can always get those outside. Temporary romance and companionship are sufficiently available at host and hostess clubs. Locking down someone to pay the rent, well, that’s a bit harder.

What’s Wrong with Japanese Women

Don’t misread this as misogynistic or negative towards Japanese women. I love Japanese women, as often as they let me. There’s nothing “wrong” with them. The cultural expectations are simply different. I’m also well aware this presents only the male perspective, and no doubt there are two sides to every story. I’m simply describing what I’ve often seen and been told, and I’d be happy to hear from married women in Japan too. Super happy, in fact. Gimme a call and we’ll go out for drinks. Just kidding. No, seriously.

The common thread among every single married man I know in this country boils down to one word: Work. You’re going to work. A lot. That’s the cultural expectation. Work at the office until the last train, or come home early and do the vacuuming, cooking, and laundry. Hand over your paycheck so she can manage the finances while you clean the bathtub. Go out to dinner? Have you lost your mind? We have to toil and save for the future—now get back to scrubbing that toilet, you worthless turd. If you think marriage in Japan means getting a passive, subservient girl who’s going to cater to your needs, brother, you got off at the wrong airport. Japanese women are routinely described as controlling, pouty, demanding, selfish, vindictive, manipulative…by Japanese women themselves.

Is Every Japanese Marriage Doomed to Fail?

Now, I’m not saying every Japanese marriage turns out terribly; just all the ones I know about, in a decade and a half of living in this country. So yeah, I guess that is what I’m saying. Because you hear the same stories over and over. My wife takes all my salary. She never lets me hang out with my buddies. We haven’t had sex since our child was born. I’m stuck taking care of her parents. We got a divorce and now I have to pay child support. It’s literally a minefield. Okay, not literally. But still, a minefield.

Of course, one could argue the Japanese concept of marriage is at least pragmatic, and in that, has some advantages over the rose-colored Western version. And it’s not as though marriage in other counties doesn’t routinely end in disaster either. In Japan, the solution seems to be for Japanese men to mostly avoid their wives by working late into the evening or going out drinking after work, and only heading home after everyone’s asleep. It’s understood that marriage is a contract. There’s no problem in that. Just check the details—okay, so I’m giving you all my money and we’ll never have sex, got it—before you stamp your red seal on that paper.

The Tree Test

But back to the tree. Take a good look, because this is what Japanese people consider a reasonable solution to a non-existent problem. Namely, that trees have leaves. And if a leaf were to fall on the ground, well, then what? There’d be a leaf. On the ground. I’m sure you can now grasp the horror of the situation. And then if more fell, holy shit, what then? There’d be leaves everywhere! That’s just not natural. And what if it rained? and wind scattered them? and . . . fuck me, might as well just throw my body in front of the shinkansen already.

Now, the normal solution would be to simply cut off all the limbs, until Mr. Tree is reduced to a hilarious stick cactus, like his buddies around the nation. But for this one tree, we’ve devised a special plan—a glorious welded cone of tubular steel and shining mesh rising from a ring of decorative bricks, to prevent him from doing his dirty business. Of course, we’ll have a 75 year-old guy come and empty the leaves every day. He’ll be glad just to get out of the house, so problem solved. Now only fifty billion more trees to go. Better get busy.

Why You Shouldn’t Marry a Japanese Woman

For a Japanese person, the Tree Test is obvious. It’s unthinkable to have leaves on the ground, so one must do everything in one’s power to prevent such a grave situation. Only it doesn’t stop with trees. It’s everything in Japan. Marry a Japanese woman and get ready to launder the sheets and towels four times a week. Go grocery shopping every day. Then if you’re finished with that, you can sweep the balcony. Then whack the futon with a stick. How many days has it been since you washed the windows? And have you seen the inside of the fridge? Your shared one-bedroom apartment is a never-ending wonderland of problems just waiting for a husband to solve them.

Finding the Right Japanese Woman to Marry

Western men may think they want to marry a Japanese woman, when what they’re really attracted to is a woman who looks Japanese, even seems Japanese, but without the overbearing cultural baggage. There’s Japanese, and then there’s Japanese, and it pays to know the difference. Your odds of a successful union improve if your fiancé has studied abroad, speaks English, or has watched every episode of Sex and the City. That’s where the Tree Test comes in. Show that picture to your new love interest, and if she says, “What’s with the dog cone for trees?” you’re on the right track. Alternately, if she starts Japansplaining about how “we Japanese value harmony” or some such bullshit, you need to back slowly away.

Overall, the odds aren’t in your favor and you probably shouldn’t marry a Japanese woman. Or at least marry her then quickly move to your own apartment on a different island. But I get it—nobody wants to be old and alone. Except folks who are old and married. Still, like all men, I too can’t resist those big, beautiful headlights, regardless of the likelihood of winding up splattered on the windshield. So don’t listen to me, because despite knowing all I know and having seen all I’ve seen, someday I’ll probably do the same damn thing, and marry a Japanese woman. Again.

143 Replies to “Why You Shouldn’t Marry a Japanese Woman”

    1. do you think its possible to live in japan a long time and remain uncynical without being wilfully oblivious? (Ive lived here a long time and have noticed, i think, an arc to your posts which begs the above question)

      1. Mmm yeah, there are plenty of people who are unwillingly oblivious, so sure, there’s that. Of course, that works for things other than Japan too. I mean, ignorance is … well, it goes a long way. I believe that’s a saying.

    1. Hello Joe Palermo! I have your book on Kindle and I have really enjoyed reading about your experiences with Japan in the 1980s.

      Despite the sad international marriage experiences that Ken Seeroi has written about in this post there are many others like you who have had long healthy marriages.

      1. Any marriage can be bad; 50% fail in the U.S. I was married to a Mexican lady for 51 years and it did not fail. Lack of communication is the cause of a failed marriage.

    2. Seriously I have had JPLT N2 for like 5 years, but I’m getting HSK5 as well. Is Japanese married life happy or unhappy?

  1. “Japansplaining” is that in the dictionary? It should be.

    Get back on the bike sensei Seroy, just try a different bike. There’s lots of seriously beautiful bikes in Japan. Some of them electric even. Not all of them will crash you into the wall. Newer, more sensible models. As we say in Australia “she’ll be right mate” eventually.

  2. Have been married alive to my Japanese wife for 13 long hard years.
    Hit me with a coat hanger.
    Threw my air Jordans out of the living room window….we live on the sixth floor.
    Cut the wires to my speakers when I was taking a bath and couldn’t here the music well , simply said ‘ oi, get in here and turn up the music , then get back in the kitchen. ‘ I can’t see anything wrong with such a request.
    She has the sex drive of mother theresa…… Nun.

    But…. She hadn’t gained a single kilo , allows me to ride motorcycles, go snowboarding and indulge in all my other hobbies so I can’t grumble. If I did, she would probably throw my 50s blue note vinyl collection in the trash….so mum’s the word…

    1. “She has the sex drive of mother theresa…… Nun.”

      Are you being serious?
      For me “no sex” or “very rarely” sex would be enough of a reason to leave that woman.

        1. Standard it may be, but you don’t have to accept the standard for yourself, right. As I wrote I would absolutely not accept it.
          So I would be curious if he was serious and if so, how he copes with this state of marriage.

          1. Agreed. Although what to do about it? If you want sex to be a component of your marriage, the lack of it may be a tough problem to solve.

            The larger question is why sex is so unpopular in Japan. A great number of people, both married and single, have little to no interest in it. Forbes magazine reports that “A Quarter Of Japanese Adults Under 40 Are Virgins.” On top of that, there are a whole lot of people who’ve tried sex, decided it wasn’t worth the trouble, and then given it up entirely. I gotta say that living here, yeah, that kind of makes sense.

            1. As to the “why” … I think the main reason is the mindset. Sex is something “dirty” that has to be done in “secret” for most Japanese. Talking about it is generally not OK.
              With this mindset I think far too many couples never seriously try to talk about their sex-life. (Even in far more liberal Germany these people exist.) And if you don’t talk about it, it will be difficult to make and keep sex fun – generally for the woman. And if the woman doesn’t have fun sex becomes a bother for her which then leads to both having less and worse sex.
              Add to this the very common expectation that married couples don’t have sex …
              I mean every sex guide says the same, but communication really is key!
              For my wife’s sister this was also what brought their marriage back from the sexless abyss …

              Sometimes you also hear things like “work hours too long” or “thin walls” etc. but I think these are only minor contributing factors. The mindset is more important.

              1. I agree about the mindset, although from what I’ve seen, sex isn’t regarded as “dirty.” It’s more that the entire culture is set up to be vanilla, boring, a volume knob set to 1. In Japan, we’re not allowed to get to excited about anything. Don’t show anger, happiness, sadness, passion…it’s Planet Vulcan. It’s a strict, even severe, culture. Hard to be sexy in that environment.

                1. Unlike men, girls are not primarily driven by instinct, it takes some conscious effort for them to get in the mood. The more relaxed their attitude towards sex, the easier it is for them. Western girls have a different upbringing. For most of them, sex is the first dance with your crush, your first kiss, fondling each other in their bf’s car, having a sleepover when the parents are gone and so on. It’s associated with highly positive memories and emotions.
                  For most japanese girls, it’s different. First dance, first kiss, first time in the backseat of a car doesn’t happen there. For them, sex is what that old geezer looks at in that smeary little manga, when that guy touchd her butt in the crowded subway, why men stare at her, how her classmate was able to afford that louis-vuitton purse.
                  They in turn become pretty uptight and a lot of them secretly despise men.

                  1. Unfortunately, that aligns with what I’ve seen.

                    It also generalizes to things other than sex. Japanese folks have a penchant for taking activities that should be fun and turning them into work, with great seriousness and attention to detail. Barbecues, picnics, and flower viewing take on the air of military exercises. Then the last step is for everyone to slap a smile on their face and pretend to be having a good time.

                    1. Japanese people don’t have sex for the same reason they once flew airplanes into warships: the entire nation has essentially been on a cultural suicide mission since 1939. The demographic results speak for themselves- the collapsing birthrate means that there’ll be seven robots , a weeb tourist and an old woman populating the country within a century.

                    2. “the entire nation has essentially been on a cultural suicide mission since 1939.”

                      That’s an interesting take, with quite a bit of truth to it. Although we could perhaps apply that more broadly, and say much of the world has been bent on self-destruction, through carbon emissions, pollution, deforestation, over-fishing, war, Reddit…

                      Suicide methods differ by nation, but Japan’s not the only place hastening its demise.

                      And I’d amend your list to read seven robots, a weeb tourist, one old woman, and three guys from Bangladesh.

    2. Why tf would you be with such a woman? She ruins your stuff but cos she indulges in your hobbies and lets you ride your motorcycle, you deal with it? The first sign of craziness, I would’ve left her ass.

  3. “My wife takes all my salary.”
    “She never lets me hang out with my buddies.”
    “We haven’t had sex since our child was born.”
    “I’m stuck taking care of her parents.”
    “We got a divorce and now I have to pay child support.”

    None of the above. (We had a sex time-out during her pregnancies, but that’s entirely individual and not unknown in Europe either.) Happily married to my Japanese wife since 2011.
    Guess I got very lucky 🙂 Gonna show her the tree too.

    1. Oh, side note:
      A few years after my wife and me married her twin sister also married (a Japanese guy).
      A few months later that sister complained about their sex life.
      My wife did some counseling and things purportedly got quite a bit better.
      … making the world a better place 🙂

      And yet another tangent: I have heard MANY tales from Japanese women saying they never had an orgasm with a man, or “sex isn’t fun” etc.
      I think that’s really a shame …
      (Well, as a saving grace, one female friend told me she enjoyed it with her Japanese boyfriend quite a lot, so.)

      1. When I quickly glanced over your comment, what I picked up was “my wife and me married her twin sister.” I was like, Hot damn, now that’s my kind of marriage! Gotta say I was a bit disappointed when I re-read it.

        But back on topic, the first time I heard a Japanese woman say “I don’t like sex,” I was shocked. It didn’t even make any sense to me. Now, having heard it several more times from other ladies, well, I can’t say I entirely understand it, but I agree it’s definitely a thing here.

          1. Yeah, I could see that. That image of Japanese men probably factors into the whole “sexless Japan” equation.

  4. “Nor is Erick the guy whose Japanese wife held an 8-inch chef’s knife to his throat and threatened to murder him. That’s James.”

    I have heard those stories, too.
    I know of a guy, who after a few years of marriage noticed that his wife was a Souka Gakkai worshipper and gave all their money to the sect, so he divorced her.
    The above story is an illustration of what I think is one big reason that more intercultural marriages fail than non-intercultural marriages.
    Because, think about it: This guy didn’t notice for years (!) what his wife was up to. Add to this the information that he was an engineer-expat and didn’t speak decent Japanese. I don’t know much about his wife, but I am sure that communication between the two of them was … compromised. They probably used some mangled version of English.
    I have been shocked quite a few times already by people marrying despite not even having a mutually understood third language.
    And I am convinced to have a happy and lasting marriage this is a prerequisite. You NEED to be able to share your innermost thoughts and opinions and feelings. Your marriage partner is not some random guy on the street or coworker, right ….

    Anyway, what I am trying to say is that for the marriage to work you really need to people who are willing and ABLE to understand each other. I think both aspects can be very challenging in intercultural relationships and especially if Japanese people are involved.

  5. I once saw an older woman sweeping the sidewalk in autumn attack trees with her broom, taking down leaves that hadn’t fallen yet. She didn’t want to wait for them to fall naturally, they had to go NOW. Was always sad when limbs were chopped off trees on streets before they had a chance to change to autumn colors, leaving them pitiful amputees. Beautiful old cherry trees in my neighborhood were all cut down one by one. But Japanese people love nature, okay.

    It’s my opinion that a lot of men get married because they don’t have a clue. My Japanese husband had a Japanese wife before me and it was a bait and switch. Didn’t even last a year. Before marriage she cleaned, cooked, took care of him, made herself indispensable. After marriage, nope.

    Now he has car buddies he goes on trips with and they’re amazed that I’ll wake up early to make him breakfast and give him a thermos of coffee and pack a lunch. None of those guys’ wives do that. Hilarious that the American wife, supposedly horrible and selfish, is the only one who does it.

    People really need to know who they marry.

    1. There’s a good book called Dogs & Demons which discusses (in part) how Japanese people don’t “love nature” – they’re terrified of it. With good reason, given the earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, blizzards, heatwaves and such.

      1. Thanks for the recommendation.

        Yeah, take external factors like heat, cold, and mosquitoes, cross them with the Japanese penchant for a cleanliness bordering on sterility, and you wind up with a simple picnic involving several square meters of plastic. You can’t just sit on the grass; you need a massive, blue plastic sheet. Japanese folks aren’t crazy about dirt, dust, and germs, which nature is brimming with.

  6. It’s stories like these that make me damn glad I married a foreigner in Japan. Nothing but horror stories when foreign men marry Japanese women.

  7. I think that the difference in Japan is that a lot of women intentionally put on a false facade before they get married and turn it off afterwards. That’s normal practice and socially normal.

    Brilliant article that reflects so many of my friends’ and colleagues’ experiences!

    1. I had to comment on this bc I completely agree, plus I have 2 good stories.

      Marriage isn’t so different in the USA, at least with the stories of two cousins ​​of mine who were involved in uncomfortable situations.

      The first one discovered her wife having an affair with another guy in a house that he inherited. He also knew (through my nephew) that her wife hit his son bc she was tired of taking care of the boy. That lady went crazy before marriage.
      Now he pays monthly alimony to her with car and the inherited house included, what an idiot.

      The second one showed off on SNS his perfect realtionship. Some relatives discovered her wife in a bar having an affair with another guy AND the second kid probably isn’t from my cousin. He is giving money to cover the expenses for her. other idiot.

      Now with the japanese girls I have encountered that they are cynical about it. They don’t cover the intention or try to be comprehensive when they get what they want, they inmediately change like when you hold your breath so long and inmediately start inhalating. that is the feeling in Japan, like you literally now through their experssions what was the real intention. (False people) Ken has tons of stories about this tatemae.

      But in conclusion I don’t like marraige at all
      It’s just a fckd up contract for men that girls look so desperately to get it’s like a japanese 19 y/o girl desperately looking for old dudes to exchange money for loveless, depressive sex.

      Welcome to japan!

      1. Thanks for the interesting comment. For sure, there are a number of challenges in marrying anyone, particularly a Japanese person: that desires, needs, and future dreams typically differ between men and women; that Japanese and Western values are vastly different; and the fact that people continuously change but marriage is presented as a fixed ideal rather than as an agreement amenable to frequent revision.

        By the way, while I agree that traditional marriage is “a fckd up contract,” the number of “Japanese 19 y/o girls desperately looking for old dudes to exchange money for loveless, depressive sex” is entirely zero. That would be a misreading of the situation here.

  8. Not trying to detract from your point and most definitely not trying to Japansplain anyone, but that net isn’t for leaves. This is a Ginko tree (cue ominous music). We all have the internet, so I’ll save you the science lesson, but in the autumn some of these trees produce an abundance of small yellow “fruit” which smells like what I’m guessing a vulture’s vomit would smell like. Or if that’s difficult for you to imagine, just picture your least favorite smell and then pretend someone threw up on that, and that will get you about 80% there. This “fruit” smells even more lethal when it’s squished, by say from someone stepping on it or a car tire rolling over it and will not only leave your shoe or tire smelling like death, but would be a nightmare to clean off of an asphalt surface. If that’s not bad enough, if this parking lot is attached to some sort of establishment like a store, which I think it’s safe to assume that it is, there’d be a high probability that people would be tracking all that fun inside with them, as they walk from the parking lot into said store. I can’t claim to know why this tree exists in the middle of a parking lot, but I do know that for a lot of people with a Shinto background, chopping this nuisance down would not be an option. As ridiculous as it looks, this net funnel seems like it would do a decent job of keeping the vomit berries corralled in the dirt circle, waiting intact to be removed without running the risk of becoming stuck to shoes, tires, etc. and tracked all over.

    You might be wondering why anyone in their right mind would plant a tree with vomit berries (again I’ll save you the science lesson) but not all of these trees bear fruit, and the stunning foliage of these trees in autumn is probably worth the gamble to some people. Or maybe some people just don’t do their due diligence before choosing what they bring into their parking lots (or lives for that matter).

    I also asked my wife (who is Japanese) what she thought the net was for and she laughed and said that it was either for preventing kids from climbing the tree or to keep them safe while climbing the tree – she wouldn’t commit either way . I told her what I believed it was for and we both liked her reason for the tree net better. We’ve been happily married for 16 years, so there are people like me out there too.

    1. I love roasted ginko nuts (銀杏); they’re actually one of my favorite foods. So maybe I need to be the guy who picks them up everyday. Or maybe that’s the point; maybe it’s an over-engineered solution for harvesting the delicious berries.

      I’ve certainly come across plenty of ginko trees in Japan, so I’m not sure how this one got singled out. I’m having trouble buying the shinto argument. I’ve seen shinto priests show up at new construction sites, chant a few words, wave their magic wands around, and then it’s sayonara nature and hello Ikea with a 2,000-car parking lot. Japanese folks have no problem bulldozing massive swaths of land for shopping malls and housing projects, so it’s hard to imagine anybody’s saying Oh shit, there’s a tiny ginko tree, better find a different spot for our new CostCo.

      Either way though, thanks for helping to unravel The Mystery of the Cone. It’s more interesting now that you’ve pointed out it’s a ginko tree. Not sure the cone makes more sense, or less, but it’s an interesting twist.

  9. This post both solves a few mysteries but creates another more dramatic one. Now I know why the Japanese marriage rates have gone down (since 1960s) along with the declining birth rate. I would assume young Japanese men have become ‘hip’ to the less then ideal conditions that await them once they have signed on the dotted line and run to the exit instead. On a side note it’s nice to know that Japanese women are just as psychotic and neurotic as women here in the USA. I can breath a sigh of relief knowing that the women whom I’ve dated previously here in the States that have threatened me with sharp objects (or a loaded weapon) had nothing to do with me being a jerk. Well , maybe a little but not to the point of a homicide anyway.
    The big ‘reveal’ is our mysterious Seeroisan being previously married (to a Japanese women no less). Holy crap! That’s some earth shattering sh*t right there that overshadows Will Smith slapping some comedian over a bruised ego. I’m guessing this is the last we Rule of 7 minions will hear about this as Kens life is as secretive as the Dead Sea Scrolls. We have more odds of discovering Jimmy Hoffas body then any more personal details from Seeroisan. Can’t say I blame him, some things are best left unsaid and we wouldn’t want to open any old wounds. But damn, that is a shocker.

      1. “I’ll probably do the same damn thing and marry a Japanese woman. Again.”

        Well, of course when you say “again” people are going to think it means you’ve been married to a Japanese woman.

  10. “I’ll probably do the same damn thing, and marry a Japanese woman. Again.”

    We are paying attention, Ken. There are plenty of us, your readers, out there who enjoys you sharing your witty insights and (mis)adventures with us and cares about your well-being. I am terribly sorry the marriage didn’t work out for you. As you pointed out, for whatever reason, the odds for a happy marriage is not all that great nowadays.

    Until I saw this article, I thought, “as lazy as he is, it is unlike Ken to not post for 4 months! I hope he is doing alright.”

    1. I know I went above and beyond my normal level of laziness. What can I say, I’m an overachiever. But thanks much for your concern—that means a lot to me.

      I’m actually doing pretty fine. It’s just that I spent a fair amount of time and energy interviewing for jobs over the past few months, writing resumes and essays in Japanese, and it took a bit out of me.

      And then there’s The Covid, of course. It looks like many folks in other countries have largely decided the pandemic is over and returned to some semblance of normal life, while here in risk-adverse Japan we’re mostly still hunkered down. So that’s kind of put the kibosh on Ken’s Exciting Adventures. But the sakura are blooming and warm spring air is in the, uh, air, so let’s see how the rest of the year shapes up.

  11. Thanks for the article. Having read it I concur that it’s probably not a good idea. Thus I have 2 questions:

    1) Why do expats en-masse still get involved into this dubious affair especially knowing all bad precedents? How was it said, the insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome 🙂 In my mind marriage should be a mutually beneficial partnership, which is clearly not the case here from what I read.

    2) If one for some reason ended up married, why tolerate all the abuse instead of manning up and assuming the dominant role? I’m not talking about violence (although if being threatened with a knife I’d probably forget about chivalry and pick up that baseball bat) but at least taking control of finances. In my mind the one who earns the money manages it (unless they give it to a professional wealth manager), so don’t understand how men willingly give away their money and then beg for allowance. It’s like giving away your balls lol.

    1. Wow, great questions, thank you. I agree with you 100%.

      Let’s try to shed light on the issue by examining two related questions:

      1) Why on earth would anyone get married anywhere? Just on odds alone, it’s utterly mad. Here, let’s flip a coin, and if it comes up heads, you shoot me in the skull, right? So that’s a fun game.

      But it gets worse, because even if you stay married, your odds of being happy aren’t great. Lots of miserable but still-married people out there. Then, if you stay in Japan, you’ll probably marry a Japanese person, simply because the overwhelming majority of people are some variety of Japanese. That’s a person from a completely different world that you almost certainly don’t understand and possibly can’t even communicate well with her friends and family.

      Bottom line is, people do a lot of stupid stuff. Ever heard of the lottery? People play that, when the odds of being struck by a meteor are higher.

      2) Why on earth would you move to Japan at all? You’re almost certain to be discriminated against and treated as a second-class citizen. (Unless you live in Japan without actually living in Japan, by aligning yourself with a foreign-leaning company or school and hanging out with a lot of folks who speak English.) You’ll likely never understand the Japanese version of a Simpson’s joke, or be able to read much (or any) of what arrives in your mailbox. How will you save for retirement? Go to the dentist by yourself? Will you be part of the community, or even have any friends? People move to Japan all the time, and for a Westerner, it’s a pretty terrible idea.

      Enter the Japanese woman, who solves many of those problems. And you’re going to lay down the law? Stand up to her? Hell, you don’t even know what’s going on around you. You can’t even rent an apartment by yourself. The car mechanic overcharges you. The credit card company denies you. Police detain you. The company you work for fires you. Maybe you move in with her and your in-laws. Living in Japan can be a gradual process of losing control of the basic things any adult can do. Essentially, you have no standing in society and you lack fundamental skills, such as the ability to speak and read.

      But maybe you marry her and move overseas, not necessarily in that order. But you see what you did, right? You turned the tables, although now you’re responsible for her. You’ve got to take care of someone who’s not able to function entirely by herself in a foreign country. Think that’ll create any stress in the relationship? On top of that, you tell her that the way she expected marriage to be, the way everybody she knew understood it to be, is now going to be different. Now you’re in control. If your goal is to have an unhappy marriage, that’s a great start.

      Anyway, your questions are good, and I’m not trying to pretend I have the answers. If there were simple solutions, there’d be a whole lot less divorce in Japan, and in the world.

      1. Thanks for the answer, Ken! Quite a deep topic and I guess the whole system is against you and your happy expat bubble bursts once you try submerging a bit more into the local life. Reminds me of an old joke:

        A man dies and the God has trouble figuring out whether he goes to heaven or hell so he gives him a day to visit both and decide for himself. The man goes to heaven first and sees endless green meadows with angels playing the harps. Everything is nice but boring. Then he goes to hell and sees a crazy party with lots of booze, naked girls, demons playing hard rock. He’s pumped and shouts “I want to stay here in hell!” The moment he says it two demons grab him and throw into a hot pan and start poking him with pikes. The man shouts: “What’s going on? It was so much fun when I visited before?!” And the devil chuckles: “Don’t you dare to confuse tourism with immigration!” 🙂

        I guess for the likes of me who’s used to being in control, tourism is the only option 🙂

        1. 100% agree with the bitter part. Women are women all over the world and so are men. And so are expectations. I’m (from the EU) married to a Japanese lady for more than a decade and I only have to say “Japanese” since that’s your blog theme there. I cannot complain. Love is not a western thing at all if you look one step deeper. It happens or not or partially…., lol. Ofc, expectations from women to men and vice versa are different. If you haven’t found someone to meet yours then you have to move on. Whatever nationality.

      2. If you never go to Japan and just talk to Japanese people online (twitcast, vrchat, skype channel) you can use popup dictionaries, google autocomplete (not google translate its actually better than google translate but google translate helps to), voice recognition on other people, copy/paste prepared topics. You can also secretly record overly mean people…

  12. The article we’ve been waiting for! Good one, Ken.

    One thing I am wondering about is if it’s really that Japanese women are so difficult, or if our experiences with them don’t have the required base group against which to test.

    Meaning, I spent my whole adult life in Japan, and would always get annoyed by the bureaucracy and other annoyances involved with getting through life. I would always say “why do the Japanese make things so difficult? Why can’t they just be normal like in the US?”. Well, let me tell you, the US is full of bureaucracy and annoyances too. Looking back, I was being an unfair jerk to Japan. I sometimes wish I could go back and apologize to people like the cable company customer service lady I was a complete dick to because I thought it was insane that I’d have to actually mail back my entire modem to the cable company after I moved and cancelled my service. Well, guess what? You have to mail it back to the cable company here in the US too. Who knew? I was just a broke kid when I showed up in Japan. I thought that once you had a job in the US, everything was super easy.

    My point is that I assume that relationships with women have their challenges in any country. Maybe we’re being a bit unfair singling out Japanese women. One fun fact is that I found it much easier to date Western and non-Japanese Asian women in Japan (ended up marrying a Chinese). Much less of the me against the entire history and culture of Japan aspect. Maybe try to get a Japanese woman to go with you to a third country to address that particular issue. I dunno…

    1. I get what you’re saying, and you’re right that a lot of the bureaucracy and daily annoyances exist everywhere, albeit sometimes in other forms. When you first get to Japan, it’s easy to assume that these are just “Japanese things.”

      The question is, to what extent is it true that “women are women all over the world and so are men,” as mf put it above. My friends in the States have asked similar things: “Don’t all people have the same basic wants? For example, don’t all people want love?”

      I’ve thought about this a lot over the years, and come to the conclusion that, actually, no, Japanese people and Western people value very different things. The cultures are built around principles that are entirely different, and at times opposite.

      (I know I’m painting with a broad brush here, and values and behaviors exist along a spectrum. Nonetheless, I believe the cultures are far more disparate than is typically acknowledged.)

      We all have a hierarchy of values, like the mechanic’s adage: “Fast, cheap, correct. Pick any two.” It’s probably a good idea to find a life partner whose hierarchy is similar to your own.

      Now, I’ve lived with seven different women in my life, four of whom were Japanese, and three of whom were Western. The Japanese women were—I don’t want to say obsessed, but—obsessed with grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, cleaning, and saving money. The Western women were much more relaxed, not laser-focused on household chores, enjoyed going out, meeting friends, and pursuing hobbies.

      (I think it’s important to note here that “Japanese” and “Western” aren’t racial categories, but reflective of value systems. Just because a person looks “Japanese” or was born in Japan doesn’t mean they can’t adopt “Western” values and behaviors. And vice-versa, etc.)

      Bottom line here is that you really need to understand what your own values are, as well as those of your partner, because you’re gonna be spending a lot of time either cooking and washing up, or just hanging out and ordering pizzas.

      1. All good points. When you say that “The Japanese women were—I don’t want to say obsessed, but—obsessed with grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, cleaning, and saving money”, that got me thinking to an observation that’s been made before (not sure if I thought of this or heard about it.) The observation being that Japanese people are generally very role oriented. That applies to wives as well. While Japanese women are fantastic when they’re playing the role of the loving girlfriend, as wives they’re a bit of a drag while playing the role of bento preparer and house cleaner. Being a loving companion to go rock climbing with is not in the role description of a Japanese wife. In Japanese culture, they’re being good wives by focusing on their role. Non-Japanese men who think their wonderful J girlfriends will not change with their changed role are in for a very rude surprise indeed. Along the same lines, non-Japanese men who are not fulfilling their role as salary hander-over and pushed to the brink over-worker prove a major annoyance to their Japanese wives when they try to usurp her role by doing very non-Japanese husband things like spending time with their kids, teaching their kids English and otherwise being involved with child rearing. This is a major cause of conflict, I think.

        On a somewhat different topic, having been in relationships with Japanese, American and Chinese women, here is my take on their respective personality types:

        Japanese women: Outward image – Helpless, pretty and naive creatures who need a man to provide for them. Reality – Stone cold killers who will crush you to bend you to their will.

        Western women: Outward image – Don’t need a man. Can make it on their own. Strong. Powerful. Independent. Reality – Looking for their Prince Charming to sweep them off their feet and provide for them and protect them from the world.

        Chinese women: What you see is pretty much what you get.

        1. That all sounds spot on.

          One thing that probably needs more consideration is the definition of “Japanese.” I’ve met many persons in the U.S. who self-identify as Japanese, despite having been born and raised in America. Even people from Japan tend to become less “Japanese” in thoughts and actions after living abroad for a period of time. That’s natural, of course. You almost have to sync up with the culture you live in just to survive.

          So when people say “I have a Japanese wife,” I have to wonder how Japanese she is. Along with how much of Japanese lifestyle they live, and what language is spoken at home.

          1. “The Japanese women were—I don’t want to say obsessed, but—obsessed with grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, cleaning, and saving money.”

            None of the above apply to my wife. So much so, that this is a point of conflict between us. I want her to do more household chores and be more careful of money spending. (since she is working only part time)
            … but maybe this is also a reason why we have been working out so well, for so long 🙂

            1. Let me ask a few clarifying questions, if I may. I believe you said you don’t live in Japan…is that right? If so, how long has your wife lived overseas? Do you speak Japanese at home? And would you say you live a Japanese lifestyle (tiny apartment, don’t speak to your neighbors, make no noise, shoes off, showers before bed, eating with chopsticks, wash plastic before you throw it in the trash, hanging out the laundry, etc.)?

              1. To make it short:
                5 years now.
                Yes, 99% of the time.
                Absolutely not. (One of the big reasons why we moved to Germany was to flee tiny apartments etc.)

                … now the suspense is killing me!

                1. Thanks for the concise answers.

                  Based on some of the responses to this article, my new working theory is that the chance of a happy marriage increases when the whole thing is simply less Japanese (including spouse and environment). The Japanese tendency to obsess over minutia, coupled with a cramped living space seems likely to put stress on even the best of couples.

                  Of course, Germans don’t have a reputation for being the most laid-back of peoples, so I don’t know how that factors into the whole equation. If indeed one could craft an equation to capture all the variables involved in marriage.

                  1. MY JSIL was married to a Euro American of German ancestry, but that didn’t last. They even had a 2nd child to improve their relationship, but alas. They met, married and divorced in Japan.
                    I’m a Brit with mostly Irish, but also Scots, English and German ancestry. For J-Wife and I, so far, so good. We met in Japan, but married and live in the UK.

                    1. Getting married and living abroad seems like the winning ticket.

                      I found your self-description as “a Brit with mostly Irish, but also Scots, English and German ancestry” amusing. Lots of Europeans and Americans (including myself) would probably say something similar. But in Japan, you don’t often hear “I have Yayoi ancestry, but also Taiwanese and Russian roots.” People are reluctant to acknowledge any background beyond “Japanese” unless their appearance is visibly “half,” and then they have to spend the rest of their lives explaining the way they look.

                  2. Do all Japanese people care about minutia or is that a Kanto thing, like aren’t the Chinese/Korean/half-Filipino Japanese of Kyuushuu maybe different? 他には日本のことそんなに合わないなら、どうして他のところに行かない?

  13. school,. we just learned factual history.. Yes your comment “Japanese people and Western people value very different things. The cultures are built around principles that are entirely different, and at times opposite.” is correct for 2 reasons that I understand. Firstly Japan’s inter-personal relation are built on peaceful co-existence (harmony) and we as a collective whole. That usually means my needs come after the collectives whole. But in the “west” the cultural development of the “me generation” means that me as an individual comes first and I am not concerned about everybody else. (sorry a bit longwinded). And the second reason is that history of at least 4000 years has had an ingrained impact in Japan, while in the “west” for example if we think USA we think 250 or so significant years. Sorry a bit long winded and not really incisive an explanation.

    1. I would phrase the general individual vs. collective society differently.
      From my experience, in Japan, there is a strong component of hierarchy involved. People “higher” than you in a given hierarchy (generally seniority in company settings or just plain older) are owed not only respect, but deference. In turn these higher ups are responsible for their “subordinates” including taking responsibility for their mistakes.
      In the west, or at least in German society, people generally see each other as “the same”. Meaning that generally your behavior won’t change just because someone is “higher up” or “lower” in the given hierarchy. More plainly, you will speak to your boss in pretty much the same way as you speak to your friends.
      In this model of societal interaction everyone owes everyone basic respect as a fellow human being, but no more than that.

      The above is obviously not a case of black and white but includes grey zones. Not every Japanese “higher” in the hierarchy will insist on deference. In fact if the difference is small there will often be cordial relations. And the same in Germany, a new graduate in some larger company will probably be quite deferent to some big shot boss if he or she meets this boss by chance.

  14. Hello Ken Seeroi,

    In the cases mentioned in your post:

    What type of Japanese nationals are the foreign individuals tending to marry? What kind of demographics are we looking at here?

    And, as for the married foreign nationals that you know: do you think there is a any difference in the success rate of international marriages between those who have acquired Japanese language fluency and have taken a keen interest in Japanese cultural, to those who know only a smattering or those who for whatever reason do not put in the time and rely on their native language?

    1. Let me address the second question first, as I think you may be on to something.

      All of the foreign nationals I know who have gotten married in Japan have had good, even exceptional, Japanese language skills. They also have considerable understanding of the culture and live fairly Japanese lifestyles. Residing in Japan, they adapt to the Japanese way of doing things, and it seems to work out…terribly.

      In part, I believe this is because they’re too nice. Japanese men are known for being cold and distant, and after work they’re likely to hide out in bars to avoid going home. On the other hand, “foreign” men have a reputation for being kind and considerate. Unfortunately, this seems to result in them being bossed around and dominated by their wives, even to the point of abuse.

      The folks you referenced who have “long healthy marriages,” well, they all seem to live overseas. I suspect many of the wives have adjusted to foreign cultures. It’s common for Japanese persons who have lived overseas to have trouble re-assimilating into Japan if they return, as they’re not used to being constrained by Japanese culture. I’d venture to say that most of these wives are no longer as “Japanese” as they once were.

      As for the demographics of Japanese women marrying foreign men, nothing stands out. They’re mostly late 20’s to late 30s, and employed as office workers, teachers, or similar mid-level positions. They tend to live in small apartments or with their parents, which is typical here. They’ve usually studied a bit of English and probably have an interest in foreign culture, and are perhaps hoping to leave Japan. But again, that’s not unusual.

      1. Ken-sensei, Well, absolutely cracking observations. I concur. I met J-Babe 40 years ago. We’ve been married for 31 years and live outside Japan. We visit JIL’s in Japan every few years. When back in Japan J-Babe occasionally has a personality transplant and suddenly sounds like a North Korean newscaster, (or my now deceased JFIL). No domestic, no alcohol involved. It’s just like someone suddenly flipped a switch that I didn’t know even existed. One time we were crossing a city street. Other J-people were looking. All I could think was WTF! I had to follow at a respectable distance until JSIL took positive action. These incidents are rare, but I dread the next one!

        1. Wow, 31 years of marriage (but 40 years of relationship) and you still call her babe I would say that is pretty successful! My wife and I have only been married for about 19 years. we met in the states about 6 years before we got married and I followed her back to Japan. And, much like you, at first I noticed she was a very different person in Japan but she has relaxed a lot more now. I used to think that when you go home you can be yourself, but maybe it is the opposite for some Japanese nationals. Outside of Japan, they do not feel all of the social expectations to conform.

      2. Thank you Ken Seeroi for the well throughout out reply.
        Your observations actually make a lot of sense. I would say you should write a book, but you already have.

  15. If all JW came from the same mould as my J-babe then I think the correct title of this article should have been “Why you should marry a JW”. But then of course, not every man is as lucky as me. I can tolerate her rare burst of North Korean Newscaster Impersonation, but I couldn’t live without her. I can’t wait to visit my JIL’s again. Japanese food is so addictive, and I need to feed my addiction.

    1. Hmmm, I’d venture to say a better title might be “Why you should marry a foreign man and live overseas.”

  16. Can I just say though if you marry a gaijin shark you met in a Roppongi pub, you came to the mecca of crazy girls in Japan

  17. I am a little slow (20 days slow!) but I just now noticed that this article was posted on April 1st! So, maybe this somewhat sarcastic or better yet witty article is really an April’s fools day post?

      1. Well, one thing I do know is that Ken Seeroi’s Kindle E-reader recommendations are seriously no joking matter! I got myself a Kindle Paperwhite and it has been one of my best purchases. Actually, I rarely buy things I don’t like for some reason, but the Kindle is something I am really into. Can’t wait to see what the future kindle models will offer.

        1. Yeah, once in a while you come across something that just works, and for me, the kindle has been one of those things. It’s been a game-changer for reading Japanese. Glad you’re enjoying yours.

          1. Thank you for promoting the Kindle devices on your website/blog and tempting me to get one for myself. Also, I am happy you listened to all the people nagging you to publish a book. Even though I had read some of the stories on your blog, it is a very different experience reading your stories in book format. Don’t ask me why? This, is simply some irrational feeling I do not have the words to adequately explain! Anyway, I am glad you issued your book in both Kindle format and as well as in paperback.

  18. When I lived in Okinawa back in 2012, I had a friend/coworker who was married to a local woman (for like 3 years by that point).

    Well, he woke up one morning with the majority of his clothes scattered around the apartment, shredded with scissors because the night before his friends (myself and a few others) went to a strip club and invited him and he DIDN’T go.

    She did that purely on her speculation that he wanted to go, which duh, he did, but again, he didn’t actually go.

    A year later he contemplated having a kid with her to make the relationship better, but thankfully we talked him out of that one and they eventually divorced. She was pyscho.

    1. As far as having a child goes, I’ve heard that reasoning more than once. Troubles with your marriage? Maybe having a kid will improve matters. I mean, I guess… Kind of like if you’re in debt, you could just fly to Vegas and bet it all on black. Might work.

      1. Literally never seen “a kid will save our relationship” work. I have met people from over 60 countries and it usually becomes a topic one way or another and literally 0. NEVER seen a single example make it last longer than 10 years.
        So sad.

  19. “Back away slowly” too funny.
    How about the Australian guy I met in Kyushu, his wife moved out a week after they married, when he asked why she didn’t tell him before the wedding that maybe getting married wasn’t for her, she replied that she’d told her parents that one day she would get married,…so that was that promise honored and as a bonus she got a new fridge and washing machine.
    Thanks again, great piece.

    1. Those are great appliances, so you can hardly blame her. It’s like a game show here. Though she should’ve held out for the car.

  20. The reality gave me some nausea. Don’t know if I’ll be sleeping well tonight.
    Been dating 5 years. Always meet at my place i.e. no rules
    She got a new place recently…
    Made me change out of my outside clothes before sitting on the futon, asked me to wipe down her table after dinner, got angry because I wouldn’t use her tiny shower..

    1. Those all sound like ordinary, reasonable requests for people living in Japan. Japanese folks, and particularly women, are kind of fussy, at least in contrast to laid-back Americans. Of course I’m generalizing, but yeah, they are.

      Nothing wrong with that; just don’t live together. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-pybk6XIls

  21. It’s good to be back here.

    Interesting analysis on the Japanese wives I know many friends/folks who literally would give all their money to marry a jp girl and now I see the complete picture or reality.

    However I can tell you the general flaws on a latino wife and the most common thing is cheating, girls having affairs, overwhelming, bossy and uff more and more, focused mostly on the intensity of a relationship, obviously no girl is perfect but if you want a latino girl you will see some of these things

    1. Ah yeah, problems the world over, thanks for the reminder. It sure looks like a lot of life’s stress could be avoided by not getting married.

      Oh, and have your friends give me all their money and I guarantee I’ll find them a Japanese woman to marry.

  22. “However I can tell you the general flaws on a latino wife and the most common thing is cheating, girls having affairs,”

    That’s no rare thing in Japan either I hear. Or in Germany. Or probably anywhere in the world. But please keep in mind, that it takes two to tango.
    So if “many girls” cheat … then so do many guys 🙂

  23. I have been living in north african, west european countries and in Japan recently. At the end people are similar in their essence.
    Having a partner with an international and stable Family background usually helps a lot already, being a foreigner.
    A solid 3 years pre due diligence before marriage should help reducing surprises.
    Sorry for the robotic aproach. Had a couple of negative experiences forced me to use my brain before acting.

  24. Excellent article. This resonates so much with me. I think I got off relatively lightly with my Japanese (now ex) wife. We tried living in London a few years. Rather than any violence, I got the cold-shoulder utterly. It was pretty bizarre – Even trying to discuss what was up was met with blank stares and an obvious simmering of hatred within her.

    Very occasionally in the last year of us together she would explode and come up with all kinds of quite bizarre random things that she was unhappy with. “I wanted a dog” (she knew where I live doesn’t allow dogs), “You don’t know how to clean the dishes properly” (Probably true but not the crime of the century). Sure, I know this is not limited to Japanese women, or women; but these were quite surreal things, often contradictory and very barrel-scrape-y. Other than that it was mostly an awkward silence in the home (no kids) and I felt uncomfortable every evening coming home from work.

    I deliberately let my beard grow near the end, in defiance. She hated facial hair and insisted before that that I wet-shaved every day (twice a day if I expected sex in the evening) and frankly it was getting on my, and my face and neck skin’s, tits. That was the complete end of the sex part of our marriage.

    A lot of soul searching and I realised the situation wasn’t going to change and I’d rather it just ended (with the ensuing heartbreak on my part, but fuck it). The next time she threatened me with divorce (these came at least every 6 months because I had somehow forced her to leave her beloved life in Japan as well as the surreal reasons from above) I called her bluff and said I thought that it was a good idea. It then took her a year for her to finally move out. She stayed in the UK in some shared house until her spouse visa ran out and then went back go Japan. I was 99% ghosted. She only contacted me from Japan with the no-contest divorce papers once two years had past.

    1. “You don’t know how to clean the dishes properly.” Heh, how many times have I heard that.

      We love Japan because it’s neat and orderly. But that doesn’t stop at the home entrance. If anything, it intensifies, so everything has to be spick and span at all times, done just so according to unwritten rules. (With notable exceptions for high school and university students, particularly males.) And that tornado of cleanliness and organization isn’t going to be happily borne by the wife alone; you’ll be swept up in the vortex as well.

      It’s really a matter of how you want to spend your time. I’ve known Japanese women who said cooking and cleaning was their hobby. Hey, everybody wants a partner who shares their interests. Thanks, but I’d rather just order a pizza, and free up time for something I find more worthwhile.

    2. Holy crap I’ve never been in Japan but I have lots of stories of talking to Japanese people online and seeing them sometimes explode in anger at random things, make me feel unwelcome in a million different ways, and I wonder where do people get all the stories of Japanese being nice from O_o…

      I remember I told a Japanese women I was learning Chinese as well as Japanese and she started saying bad things about Chinese and that they were sub-human. Earlier on she kept harping on how Japan is filled with matomo ja nai people for among other things dying their hair… I was like not all Chinese are bad, thats not a matomo thing to say in America and boy did she go nuts. She blocked me and saved the video as evidence that her feelings being hurt meant she could ban me from twitcast, and she had listeners one of who said “wow you got mad” but then they all started saying my thinking that all Chinese aren’t bad is insane. She still has the video up so I can give you a link if you want.

      1. I could probably live without the drama of that video, thanks.

        Those stories likely exist because Japanese folks are generally reserved and outwardly polite, particularly towards customers and strangers. There’s also a lot of nutty portrayals of Japanese and Asian people in popular media, from Charlie Chan to Kill Bill. Visitors come expecting to see everybody bowing and speaking like Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid, and all too often Japanese folks play that up. On the flip side, Japanese people have a lot of crazy ideas about what “foreigners” are like too.

        With limited communication skills, this culture is terrible at resolving conflict, so it’s avoided at all costs. (It’s a circular problem: avoid conflict-> don’t learn how to deal with conflict-> suck at dealing with conflict-> avoid conflict.)

        In terms of niceness, Japan’s really not exceptional. People range from nice to not-so-nice, and everything in between.

  25. I am super late to this party but there is an unspoken truth that is going unacknowledged here: Japanese husbands have fewer (no?) qualms about going to prostitutes so they are not especially bothered about the lack of marital sex. They also don’t particularly GAF about what their wife thinks about them because they married out of convenience and social pressure, not love. Westerner husbands generally feel it is morally wrong for a married man to visit prostitutes and also actually want their wives to like them because they thought they were in love when they got married. So the lack of sex after children and/or 10 years of marriage hits them that much harder leading to conflict and divorce.

    1. You’re right on the money.

      Prostitution in Japan is a massive and well-organized industry. Although many couples marry for love, the fact that prostitution is so pervasive is bound to have an influence on marital relations. Men know they can get sex inexpensively, any time of the day or night. Women understand that sex is something of value and can be used as a bargaining chip if it suits them. There is some morality in play, but nowhere near the Western level of Sin once and repent or go to hell.

  26. Back in the day I was friends with 2 Japanese couples. Neither Couple A or Couple B knew each other. Couple A told me that on their honeymoon they visited Amsterdam, where he had sex with a prostitute, with his wife’s blessing. Same for Couple B, just substitute Bangkok for Amsterdam. Perhaps it was an SOP for newly weds back in the 80’s?

    1. Nothing has changed to the present day. There’s an attitude of, “If you want to do it, go ahead.” I’ve been told the same myself, more than once. But it can come at a cost to the relationship.

  27. Interesting post as always, as well as the discussion that follows it. My coworker from a previous job I had in the US was (maybe still is, God help him) in a long-term relationship with a Japanese woman. By long-term, I’m talking 15+ years. They met and lived together in the US for the majority of that time. Understandably, he wanted to marry her and start a family after being together for so long, but she kept dodging the matter. Very beautiful and talented woman, but all she cared about was her career as a pianist. She would cook for him here and there, but otherwise, she only cared about practicing and teaching the piano. Her parents even supported her decision to delay marriage because of her career.

    Their sex life was almost non-existent. Anytime he asked to have sex with her, she would get into bed nearly fully clothed (in her “battle armor,” as my coworker used to jokingly describe the situation).

    Interestingly enough, when they were going to college together, she would have sex with him in one of the library study rooms at midnight during finals week. Go figure. I guess she spent all of her repressed sex drive at that point and never recovered it.

    I thought his story was an anomaly. Guess I was wrong.

  28. I just discovered your blog and I absolutely love it! I found myself laughing at much of what you said, since my fiance is Japanese and the demanding, controlling and pouty surfaced VERY quickly into our relationship. I’ve seen it firsthand. But look at me. I’m stupid. I’m still getting married. We’re both past the age to have children, both divorced, so that bullet isn’t in the chamber. However, I foresee working until I drop. haha

    Thanks for the warning, mate.

    1. Glad you found my site, and thanks much for the props.

      Well, if you’re both divorced, you definitely know what the deal is. Still, I’d like to offer a few words. Not because I know better than you, but simply because I’m concerned as a fellow human being. So before you pour that gasoline over your head and set yourself ablaze, I feel compelled to mention what to me seems obvious.

      My take on marriage is that a lot of issues arise from the way we set it up. Living together, okay, right there, that’s a problem. I mean, I love the idea of paying half the rent, but then we have to agree on cooking, housework, and how we spend our time, so right away I’m sensing heaps of potential conflict. Being concerned with the other party’s finances…ooo, that’s not gonna be good. And sex, how we do it, how often, and with whom…can we agree on that, long term? I’d give that a strong maybe.

      Now, I’m not against marriage per se, but if I were signing a contract for something else—like a job, or financing a car—I’d certainly want the terms spelled out and mutually agreed upon beforehand. You want to set yourself up for success, or at least to avoid disaster. And bear in mind, this is a contract forever. Foreeeeeveeer…

      “I foresee working until I drop. haha.” I’m laughing with you, if only out of fear.

      1. Hi, with a Japanese girl for 12 years we have 2 boys, 9 and 5 and live in Australia. Word of advice DONT have a kid with a Japanese girl, the sex will stop, they will take your soul and spit it out in front of you. Sure they cook and clean (don’t work) but they don’t love you.
        If you are stupid enough to have a kid to one make sure you live in Japan where you can fuck other girls without retribution. Living in a western country they can screw you over financially (believe me mine has told me that) and can steal your kids back to Japan (told that too)
        I was warned many times by western guys married to Japanese while living in Japan, but didn’t believe it, Don’t be a sucker like me who doesn’t want to go home after work and is a shell of his former self.

        You have been warned

        1. You’re calling a grown woman a “girl” and admitting a girl has completely conquered you, a man, outsmarted and weakened you to the point you’re a shell of your former self and helpless, like an old cicada shell, and can’t manage to have sex with everybody without retribution.


          1. Educated Americans are so fucking annoying, girl, women, shelia, dudette, chick, all the the same meaning for a dumb ass Aussie such as myself.
            Yeh ten years in an unhappy relationship where you are basically held to ransom in fear of losing your kids FOREVER has turned me into a cicada shell.
            Yes 10 years and probably had sex maybe fifty times has made me want to fuck other ‘girls’ That is also after asking my ‘chick’ three times over the years to come with me to relationship counseling, one was even a Japanese ‘dudette’ but of course the answer was no.
            I have had opportunity here to fuck some ‘shelias’ on the side but am not that dumb to risk it in a country where I will be the bad guy and get screwed over. That is why Japanese guys fuck around so much because it is accepted, not that I think it is good but men need sex.
            So Theresa I hope your educated American ass is giving your Japanese husband enough lovin.

            1. But … why do you think I’m educated? That’s weird. I was a ballet dancer, not an academic.

              My husband says “Men are bastards, women are idiots” and I think that’s right when men want to hump everybody and women want to have babies and use men as ATMs. The solution is to marry someone you know, know they want the same things. Not someone you have a fantasy about.

              1. “The solution is to marry someone you know, know they want the same things. Not someone you have a fantasy about.”

                I heartily agree. And because marriage is a legal contract, I’d really love to see those “wants” spelled out in contractual terms. People enter into the union with vague notions of what they hope it will be like, in regards to caring for one another, sex, children, fidelity, money, living arrangements, etc. And then when things go south, well, what does the contract stipulate, and what penalties were agreed upon?

                Marriage would make a lot more sense if both parties’ expectations were defined in writing beforehand. But nobody’s going to have that hard conversation until it all unravels years later. Because love.

          2. Dunno if I read the tone of the comment correctly but that sounds very terrible to like it when other people take advantage of others. Even worse is the people who pretend that everything is going alright because they might be seen as less if they tell the truth.

        2. That sounds terribly and unfortunately familiar. I hope you can find a way to work through that situation.

    1. I thought Japanese women find raising children very stressful and the birth rate very low. Don’t know about the “Men love women” thing either.

      1. I understood the comment to mean “Men want women” and “Women want babies.” Generally speaking, that seems pretty accurate.

        Of course, how things turn out after you’ve attained your desire is another matter …

  29. Donn F. Draeger wrote back in the 70’s that any “westerner” considering training in a Koryu should accept being Japanized, (or words to that effect).
    Marrying a Japanese National could be considered the same sort of venture.
    Just remember to drink beer at the start of dinner, wine or sake later.

    1. I completely agree, both about the booze and marrying a Japanese person.

      Of course, “Japanized”—though I love the hilarity of the word—sounds pretty pejorative. “Well-versed in Japanese culture” might be more palatable.

      That being said, the accuracy of the statement really hinges on how “Japanese” one’s spouse is. In my experience, many folks who appear “Japanese” turn out to be a lot less “Japanese” once you get to know them. But then, people mistake me for an “American” too, so there’s that as well.

      1. Japanized is pejorative?

        Is Americanized pejorative too? If not, why not? Is it because you think less of Japanese people than American people?

        Or, you think other people think less of Japanese people than American people?

        1. Thanks for the questions.

          I certainly don’t think less of Japanese people than Americans. Given that this is the country I’ve chosen to live in, it’s safe to say I’ve voted with my feet.

          When I read “Japanized,” I’m hearing stress on the first part of the word: “Jap-anized,” and I believe most would agree that “Jap” is pejorative. So “Jap-anized” comes across, to me, as “becoming a Jap,” which is decidedly not good.

          Now, if we were to pronounce it “Japan-ized,” that sounds a lot better. Actually, I’d probably vote for “Japan-asized.” But at this point the whole discussion is getting kind of silly.

  30. man i just want to comment and say that this post was a very cathartic read

    (married and divorced here in tokyo last year, total nightmare situation, will never marry again etc.)

      1. Indeed, we need more new articles. Otherwise rumours would swirl about Ken getting married to a Japanese woman (again), being bound up on ropes and held at knife point.

  31. 50% of marriages fail in the US qnd 25-30% fail in Japan.

    Do you unhappy marriages that would be better off with a divorce? Then the divorce rate should be higher than it is.

    Divorce is a solution to a problem. There are failed marriages which do not end in divorce.

    Ideally, you’d have statistics which show that every marriage is currently happy and fulfilling. Then you see stats about Japan like these:

    “Only 29.2% of couples sleep in the same bed. Of these couples, 47.9% are in their 20s and 14.8% in their 60s. 30.9% sleep in separate rooms while 39.1% sleep in the same room on separate beds.”
    “19.1% never say “thank you” and 65.6% never kiss their partners. Only 24.3% of wives say they kiss their husbands everyday.”

    1. Thanks for the comment. Are those actual statistics? If so, I’d love to see the source.

      You’re right that divorce is a solution, although that’s like chemotherapy is to cancer. Instead, I’d say an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of alimony.

    1. Heh, my thoughts exactly—why didn’t someone tell me that 20 years ago? I don’t know, perhaps that’s why I wrote this up, as a cautionary tale for the next generation.

  32. I think, as someone that has been married for 24 years (to a Japanese female), that marriage is something that requires commitment to keeping it fresh on both parties, and that the longer it goes, the harder it gets as there are so many events in life that change you as a person so if you can’t find a way to both grow, hopefully in the same direction you grow apart.

    1. Well said. Although not exactly a message of sunshine and hope. I really had to laugh when I read, “the longer [marriage] goes, the harder it gets.” Something about the simple truth of those words struck me as really funny.

  33. Well Seeroi,
    I have achieved one of my goals in life, to make you laugh.
    Honestly I didn’t mean for it to be negative. I just meant that shit happens, parents die, careers change, heck, in my case I ended up getting cancer, that sort of stuff changes balance in relationships and you got to find your way through it. I am not the same person I was when we got married 24 years ago, but I have been fortunate to have a partner that was able to change and adapt, and I look forward to many more years of marriage.

    I also failed in one other thing. I think I told you I was looking at selling my business in 2021, so I had lots of offers, but for various reasons we (my wife and I run it together) decided not to sell, I then signed another 3 years lease and then 2 weeks after that we went into lockdown and when that finished none of our staff wanted to come back to work in the office. So we finally got someone to take over our lease late last year, we are 100% remote and now that things are slowly getting better with COVID we are looking to head back to Japan now that the border is open. I can stay there up to 3 months so as long as we can find someone to look after our cat I would love to spend some time in Japan again. Now I just need to sort out what I want to do.

    It will make my wife happy as she wants to stop working now, but if she can spend months in Japan, I reckon she’ll get her fill.

    She can get anything Japanese that she wants in Australia but the two things she can’t have are catching up easily with family and friends, and decent Japanese food. Sure, there are plenty of Japanese restaurants here but the selection of ingredients is so much better in Japan, and with the Yen the way that is is, it will be dirt cheap. Must suck for you trying to go back to the US as it would be that much more expensive

    1. Wow, your marriage is a real success story. I’m glad to hear that. My own parents were married, mostly happily, until my father passed away. So it’s certainly possible if, as you say, both parties are willing to change and adapt. I wonder if that’s no longer the case for younger generations? I feel like we’re living in a very different world now. I blame the internet.

      I don’t go back to the U.S. too often, but when I do, I’m mostly just visiting family. The weak yen only affects me if we go out for dinner and drinks. Of course, we go out for dinner and drinks every night, so now that you mention it, yeah, it actually does suck. But good for you. Bring them Yankee dollars over here and prop up our economy.

  34. This is quite funny! I’ve lived with my partner for 8 years and married for 6 years.

    When I met her, I told her I wanted to spend my life in Japan. She said, “that’s great, but you may change your mind”.

    After opening my eyes to everything she didn’t like about her country, I very much agreed with her.

    Don’t get me wrong. We still love Japan and travel there often. We just don’t want to get old and raise our son there.

    And as in all marriages, we have difficult moments. Especially with the cultural differences and the misunderstanding because of the language. But we always talk through it. And we learn and grow together. I definitely became a better person, thanks to her.

    What about an article called “Why you should marry a Japanese woman?” 😉

    1. That sounds like a reasonable suggestion. I like it.

      Okay, help me out—what are the reasons one should marry a Japanese woman? Or anyone, actually, for that matter.

      1. Seeroi,
        For every mate of mine that is happily married, there is one that is unhappily married. Then there are the guys that hated there wives so much they got divorced, then there are the guys that got divorced and hate that so much they are looking to get back into a relationship.
        Trying to put types, nationality etc into that already crazy mix is damn hard.

        For me, I’m still wondering when Japan is going to do anything meaningful towards its immigration policy. What is your view on that, will it ever happen?

        1. OK, pet complaint, people who write “there” instead of “their” like that idiot who left a comment above this.

        2. Hmmm, you know, I’m not actually familiar with Japanese immigration policies, other than the fact that I’ve got a couple of friends who’ve been here almost 20 years apiece, and they’re both still being issued 1-year visas.

          Are you thinking of any policies in particular?

          1. So I grew up in NZ and I remember going to Japan in the early 90’s when it was still kind of a pumping economy and there were lots of people going there to “make their fortune”.
            Now, about 30 years later, it seems that the economy has stagnated, that wages have gone back in real terms over the past 30 years, and the young are now expected to shoulder a lot more of the economic cost of the elderly via a higher share of taxes.
            Meanwhile I have spent 26 years in Australia which has really benefited from a lot of immigration and had seen a lot of economic benefits from that, including a population increase in the working age population (tax payers).

            I have recently me a lot of young Japanese that are in Australia and they are doing what me and others did 30 years ago in that they are coming to Australia (and presumably other counties) to benefit themselves and make money as they can make more in Australia than they could in Japan.

            We have Kishida coming out saying that it is the now or never moment for Japan and they need to work out how to change the structure of society as they are on the verge of not being able to support social services.

            However, I think that Japan only seems attractive to immigrants from poorer S.E. Asian countries so it would appear that they have missed their chance for immigration.

            What is your view on this? I can’t really see Japan accepting a great surge of immigration but I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

            1. Well, for starters, I agree with everything you said. Wages in Japan have remained flat for a really long time. You could work for years and never get a raise. Since I’ve been here, the consumption tax has risen from 6% to 10% and the cost of goods has climbed steadily. On top of that, recent inflation has sent prices skyrocketing. In my local supermarket, a small bag of granola with dried fruit went from 700 yen to over 900. No more cereal for Seeroi. I’m back on the hearty-bowls-of-steam diet.

              Most Japanese folks live lives that might generously be called “frugal.” From a U.S. perspective, “impoverished” would be a more accurate description. Every time I see an American on TV talking about minimalism, I’m like Oh, Eff You—get rid of 100% of your stuff, including your nice clothes, laptop computer, and cappuccino maker, move into the closet at your mom’s house with your wife and two kids, sell your SUV for a rickety one-speed bike, and then we’ll talk.

              As for immigration, you’re again right on the mark. The vast majority of immigrants are from developing countries. Many people from wealthier nations come for a year or two, get their fix of exotic “Asian culture,” then rightfully peace out back home. Unless one has a privileged job or university situation, it makes little economic sense to stay in Japan long-term.

              Still, I feel like Japanese folks are getting used to immigrants, and in a big hurry. I mean, how could they not? These days, “foreigners” are everywhere—stocking shelves at the vegetable stand, working registers at Family Mart, cooking Japanese food in restaurants, delivering Uber Eats. Even I’m getting a lot fewer comments about my chopstick skills. Wow, such progress.

              Now, that’s not to say Japan doesn’t have a lot going for it—there’s plenty of good things here. Socialism rocks. But when it comes to money, most immigrants (myself included) are living a pretty sparse existence.

              As for the future, literally every single Japanese person I know is worried about it. But hey, maybe Boston Robotics and ChatGPT will bail us out. Come on, Atlas robot.

          2. I year visa? Luxury! Back in the early 80’s a guy in the office was only given 6 month visas, even after working in Japan for 10 years! He was astounded when I was given a 1 year visa after only 2 years! My tip would be to always wear a jacket and tie to the immigration office.

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