Lovesick Japan

Lovesick Japan: Sex * Marriage * Romance * Law

Mark D. West
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7591/j.ctt7zk4s
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Lovesick Japan
    Book Description:

    In Lovesick Japan, Mark D. West explores an official vision of love, sex, and marriage in contemporary Japan. A comprehensive body of evidence-2,700 court opinions-describes a society characterized by a presupposed absence of physical and emotional intimacy, affection, and personal connections. In compelling, poignant, and sometimes horrifying court cases, West finds that Japanese judges frequently opine on whether a person is in love, what other emotions a person is feeling, and whether those emotions are appropriate for the situation.

    Sometimes judges' views about love, sex, and marriage emerge from their presentation of the facts of cases. Among the recurring elements are abortions forced by men, compensated dating, late-life divorces, termination fees to end affairs, sexless couples, Valentine's Day heartbreak, "soapland" bath-brothels, and home-wrecking hostesses.

    Sometimes the judges' analysis, decisions, and commentary are as revealing as the facts. Sex in the cases is a choice among private "normal" sex, which is male-dominated, conservative, dispassionate, or nonexistent; commercial sex, which caters to every fetish but is said to lead to rape, murder, and general social depravity; and a hybrid of the two, which commodifies private sexual relationships. Marriage is contractual; judges express the ideal of love in marriage and proclaim its importance, but virtually no one in the court cases achieves it. Love usually appears as a tragic, overwhelming emotion associated with jealousy, suffering, heartache, and death.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6102-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Explanatory Notes
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    In 1999, a man was prosecuted for committing “obscene acts” with two girls, eight and eleven years old.¹ The Shizuoka District Court judge in the case based his written description of the facts in part on the statement of Haruko, the eleven-year-old:

    The defendant delivered newspapers in the neighborhood where Haruko lived. He would give snacks to Haruko and her elementary school friends and talk about games with them. He would get close to the girls and touch their backs, or he would touch their breasts and claim that his hand had slipped. These things caused him to be known...

  6. 1 Judging
    (pp. 13-27)

    Japanese judges and U.S. judges have little in common. Judges in the United States function in an unorganized hodgepodge of federal, state, and local systems; New York State alone has judges in more than 1,250 town and village courts. Some judges are elected, some are appointed, and most are former lawyers or practitioners. U.S. judges receive wildly disparate educations depending on which of the approximately two hundred U.S. law schools they attended. Some went to elite schools; some went to night school—and some judges in local courts never even finished high school.¹

    The Japanese judiciary is much more homogeneous....

  7. 2 Love
    (pp. 28-67)

    Love abounds in Japan. Japan’s popular prime-time soap operas are often about love and obstacles to obtaining it. The music and film industries thrive on love songs and romantic comedies. Stores sell out of cakes and candy on Christmas Eve, Valentine’s Day, and White Day, days said to be the most romantic of the year. Bookstores are full of modern romance novels, classic Japanese love stories, and shelves of books that teach how to find true love. Cell-phone novels with titles like Eternal Dream and Deep Love, written by and for young women, are one of the latest manifestations of...

  8. 3 Coupling
    (pp. 68-104)

    How do people in Japan reach the tragic state of love? How do they meet, and how do they enter into marriage or other long-term relationships? And what happens to the seemingly unsustainable love as presented by the courts as the years go by?

    In this chapter, I first examine how matches are made Japan. The methods for choosing companions are often awkward and dangerous, and, at least in the vision set forth by courts, many people making those choices seem to disregard love, intimacy, and emotional compatibility in favor of more calculated matching criteria.

    I then turn to marriage...

  9. 4 Private Sex
    (pp. 105-144)

    Hitoshi and Hanako began their arranged marriage in September 1987; it was the second marriage for each. They divorced nine months later. Hitoshi filed suit against Hanako and her mother. According to the court’s recitation of Hitoshi’s complaint:

    From the time of their honeymoon until their separation, Hitoshi and Hanako did not have sex even once. When Hitoshi would ask, Hanako would refuse, saying that she was tired or on her period. Her refusal reached such a level in mid-September 1987 that she raised her voice, saying, “No!,” “I hate that!” and “If we have to do that, I’ll break...

  10. 5 Commodified Sex
    (pp. 145-175)

    A delivery health (deriheru) service is a legal business in which women are dispatched to meet men in their homes or hotels for any sexual activity except intercourse. The following 2002 case involved one of those establishments. The defendant shop owner told his store manager, who was in charge of hiring, that he wanted his workers to be over eighteen, to be drug-free, and to abstain from vaginal intercourse with clients. The defendant and the manager never asked prospective employees for proof of age. When Hideko applied for the job, she volunteered that she was only sixteen. The manager, who...

  11. 6 Divorce
    (pp. 176-208)

    In immediate postwar Japan, fewer than one out of ten marriages ended in divorce. Divorce gradually became both more accepted and more common.¹ In the 2000s, four out of ten Japanese marriages end in divorce, a figure neither unusually high nor unusually low among developed countries.² As we see in this chapter, many judges seem to long for the golden days when couples stayed together—despite a clear absence of the emotional connection that judges use to define marriage in other contexts.

    Before exploring judicial views, consider some evidence of spousal views on one particular question of divorce: why? The...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 209-220)

    Mitsutaka, a doctor, had a series of affairs with nurses. His wife, Yuriko, a nurse’s assistant and part-time hostess, became angry. They fought, and he killed her and their children. Guilty.

    But there’s much more. The Yokohama District Court tells the story, picking up after the couple began living together in 1990, as follows:

    In January 1991, Mitsutaka learned that Yuriko was pregnant. Because he had no desire to marry her, he had her have an abortion. However, soon thereafter Yuriko became pregnant again. This time, she strongly desired to have the baby. Mitsutaka told Yuriko that he would not...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 221-252)
  14. Index
    (pp. 253-260)