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.