Going Out With A Bang: Couples End Marriages With Divorce CeremoniesS

Couples in Japan are pioneering a new trend in parties: the Divorce Ceremony. Sounds... fun?

According to Reuters, divorce rates are on the rise in Japan, as are the rather awkward-sounding ceremonies. The divorce ceremony first came into being about a year ago, as the brainchild of Hiroki Terai, a former salesman who created an undercover "divorce mansion" (whatever that means) in Tokyo. Since opening the mansion, Terai has helped about 25 couples celebrate their breakup, though he claims he has received more than 900 inquiries (maybe the rest of the 825 potential customers were scared off by the $600 price tag).

Divorce ceremonies typically begin with friends and family traveling together in a procession to the mansion. Though some choose to dress up (one woman even wore her wedding gown), most divorce ceremonies are somewhat less formal. The unhappy couple marks the end of their marriage by bringing a frog's head gavel down on their rings. After they've banged the circlets, most parties head to a local restaurant, where the former bride and groom sit at separate tables and entertain their guests.

Though I'm usually a fan of pretty much any event that involves free food, the divorce ceremonies don't really sounds like very much fun. One attendee describes the atmosphere as "anxious." More importantly, one has to wonder why this is becoming a trend. Must we mark every private decision with a public occasion? Is something like this really all that helpful? Well, yes, says Roland Kelts, a cultural expert and lecturer at the University of Tokyo, who argues that divorce ceremonies provide a way of coping with shifting gender roles. Reports the Telegraph:

"Today's Japanese women are well-educated and worldly," he says. "They watch Sex and the City and wonder why their husbands are not more dynamic.

"And their husbands, having lost the security of lifetime employment and its perks, are wondering why their wives are so impatient. No wonder divorce has risen to a third of Japanese marriages."

We must have missed the part on Sex and the City where Charlotte and Trey smashed that giant diamond and ate Scottish food with Bunny.

And in related news, lawmakers in India are considering a law that would make it easier for couples to get divorced based on "incompatibility" or the "irretrievable breakdown" of the marriage. Though divorce is on the rise in India, it is still a long, difficult process (without even the hope of a divorce party at the end). Under current laws, divorce is almost impossible to obtain if you can't prove abuse, adultery, or have mutual consent. The proposed bill would also speed up the process, which tends to take years ("wedlock turns to deadlock," said one poetic lawyer). However, divorce isn't so easily accepted in India. Unlike the 25+ Japanese couples who participated in divorce ceremonies, most Indian adults aren't ready to celebrate their splits - or even say the word "divorce." According to V.K. Bajaj, chief executive of polling company Today's Chanakya, "some people don't want to abandon the traditions and love of family that we are famous for around the world. A simple divorce may be too simple." Why not try complicating matters with an awkward party?

Japanese Couples Say I Do - In Divorce Ceremonies [Reuters]
Tokyo Sees Rise In "Divorce Ceremonies" [Telegraph]
In Marriage-Centric India, Shortening The Path To Divorce [Washington Post]

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