Japan braced for divorce epidemic as 'salarymen' hang up their suits

It should be a cause for national celebration. The baby boomers who made up the first wave of Japan's corporate samurai will begin hanging up their dark blue suits next year, and retiring en masse to the suburbs, easing company payrolls and injecting billions in "grey" yen into the economy. The looming retirement of about 6.8 million male baby boomers is something to make everyone happy.

Everyone, it seems, except their wives, many of whom are dreading the prospect of living in close quarters with virtual strangers. "I wanted him to keep working but I've accepted now he's going to come home," says Hatae Ishizaki, whose 59-year-old architect husband is due to punch his last card in April next year. "I'm just going to spend more time out of the house. I'd divorce him, but it's too much trouble at my age."

Not every woman is opting to stick it out. Some media commentators are warning of a deluge of divorces after 2007, once the reality of life with former "salarymen" who have nurtured their careers much more carefully than their marriages begins to sink in.

Japan has some of the longest hours of unpaid overtime in the world. Salarymen generally spend more time in the company of male work colleagues than with their families. In their scarce hours out of the office, husbands are poor home-makers - a recent survey found that men in Japan did just four hours housework a week, far fewer than their counterparts elsewhere. Among the cruel spousal monickers for wrung-out, retired husbands with minimal life skills are nure ochiba (wet leaves) and sodai gomi (big rubbish). "It's like having another child around the house," says Mrs Ishizaki.

Such domestic friction is one factor behind Japan's growing divorce rate, which has climbed steadily for almost two decades, despite a recent decline in break-ups among long-term married couples. The statistical blip has led some to speculate that divorces may have peaked, but the journalist Nobuko Ishino has a darker explanation - many wives are simply biding their time.

Next year, a change in the law will mean that workers' pensions can be split between spouses. Ms Ishino, who has written a series of articles on Japan's baby boomers, is one of several commentators predicting that thousands of unhappy women are secretly planning to ditch their husbands once they have financial independence.

"Men should prepare themselves for a shock," she told a recent conference. "Women's dissatisfaction lies at the bottom of their mind like magma. Husbands don't understand they are despised and disliked by their wives."

One of Japan's top-selling weekly magazines, Shukan Bunshun, recently peered inside hundreds of baby-boomer households and was shocked to find that many middle-aged women were practising their farewell speeches.

"To my husband: Don't suddenly get friendly with me after all these years of leaving me alone now that you have retired from your company. It's too late now!" said one 55-year-old woman who contributed to the magazine's survey.

Professor Shigeru Kashima of Kyoritsu Women's University is one of several academics in the magazine who offers advice to men. Professor Kashima advises retired baby boomers to "move their wives to the centre of attention" and "compliment them on their physical attributes". If that doesn't work, get used to single life, he warns.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Angel Di Maria is shown the red card
tech
Sport
Roger Federer after his win over Tomas Berdych
sport
Life and Style
News in briefs: big pants in 'Bridget Jones's Diary'
fashionBig knickers are back
Sport
James Milner is set to sign for Liverpool this week despite rival interest from Arsenal
sportReds baulk at Benteke £32.5m release clause
News
The controversial Motor Neurone Disease Association poster, featuring sufferer Michael Smith, has drawn a series of angry complaints
newsThis one has been criticised for its 'threatening tone'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: European Sales Director - Aerospace Cable & Wire

£100000 - £125000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a top tier supplier to the...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Project Manager

£17100 - £22900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an intermediate help de...

Recruitment Genius: CNC Turner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This long established manufactu...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral