Do Japanese Women Make Better Wives?

That was the question posed by Jet Magazine in 1953. Many know that the most tenacious form of legal segregation in the United States (US), the banning of interracial marriage, was not fully lifted until the last anti-miscegenation laws were struck down in 1967 by the Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia. At that time, inter-racial marriage meant marriages between blacks and whites.

Changes in racial attitudes in the US over the last 30 years clearly played a major role in the mushrooming of inter-racial marriages, which were illegal in most states at the end of the 19th century. As recently as 1945, the legislature of California which, next to Hawaii, has become the country’s multi-racial state passed a law that banned marriage between whites and Negroes, mulattos, Mongolians (which included Chinese and Japanese), and Malays.

US Servicemen and Japanese Women

After World War II, however, the law began to change as U.S. servicemen married Japanese women, and as the civil rights movement began challenging anti-miscegenation laws in the courts. In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all such laws were unconstitutional, although it took Alabama until 2000 to repeal its ban. The number of inter-racial marriages in the US increased more than ten-fold between 1970 and 2000, according to a new report which concludes that US attitudes towards inter-racial dating and marriage have undergone a “sea change” over the past generation. That translated into an increase from roughly 300,000 inter-racial couples in 1970 to 1.5 million in 1990 to more than three million in 2000.

In addition, inter-racial marriage means more bi- or even multi-racial children. Of the 281 million people enumerated in the 2000 US Census, more than 2.4 percent, or seven million people, reported “multiple race.”

Owing in part to increased immigration and higher education levels, the percentage of inter-racial couples grew from under one percent in 2000 to more than five percent of the estimated 57 million couples recorded in the 2000 Census. Inter-marriage rates, according to the census report tend to increase with education for most groups. Nine percent of blacks who have graduated from college, for example, intermarry, compared with five percent who have less than a high-school education.

Inter-racial Marriage Trends in America

In the United States, there is a notable disparity in the rates of exogamy by Asian males and females:

  • 25% of Asian/white marriages involve an Asian male and white female
  • 15% Asian/black marriages involve an Asian male and a black female.
  • 0.6% of married black women and 8.4% of married black men have a non-black spouse.
  • 6.6% of married black men, and 2.8% of married black women, have a white spouse.
  • Only 0.1% of married black women are married to an Asian man, representing the least represented marital combination.

Men want “downward” partners while women want “upward” partners

In Japan, there are two prominent features about Japanese international marriages:The majority of partners are from neighboring countries including Korea, China and Philippines. This is due to geographical and historical relations. The reason Brazil is outstanding in numbers is that many Japanese-Brazilians are working in Japan.

Foreign wife and Japanese husband partnerships make up the majority of mixed marriages at 80 percent. In the case of foreign husbands, excluding neighboring countries, American husbands are most common. This may be due to the good Japan-US relations after the war and the fact that there are many American military bases in Japan.

The tendency of international marriages is that, in not only Japan but also internationally, men want downward partners while women want upward partners. This means men want women whose educational background, income and height are less than theirs. Women are just the opposite. In Japan in the late 80’s, the jargon “San-ko” (three heights) became popular. This jargon refers to the educational background, income and height of men. It was a marriage condition for many Japanese women.

Statistics prove that men with low incomes and women with high incomes are highly likely to be unmarried. However, Japanese men with low incomes are still rich for those who live in developing countries and the situation will meet their conditions. Among foreigners, Japanese women generally want to marry Western men.

Government polls conducted to find out why women have put off marriage until well after 25 years of age – known as a woman’s ” ‘best before’ date” – show that economic independence is key to the change. As most Japanese women have their own income, marriage is no longer a financial necessity and women want to find companionship in a husband.

Marriage Trends in Japan

The number of marriages per year exceeded one million in the early 1970s; the marriage rate at that time averaged above 10.0 (per 1,000 population), highlighting signs of a marriage boom. In 2006, there were 740,000 marriages, and the marriage rate was 5.8 (per 1,000 population).

In 2006, the mean ages of first marriage were 30.0 for men and 28.2 for women, getting 1.7 years and 2.6 years older, respectively, in the past twenty years. The declining marriage rate and the older marrying age in recent years are considered two factors behind the downtrend in the live birth rate.

The divorce rate among international couples?

According to statistics from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, divorces have shown an upward trend since the 1960s, hitting a peak of 290,000 in 2002.  In 2003, while the divorce rate among Japanese couples was 38 percent, for international couples, it was 42 percent, a little higher. In the case of foreign husbands, 39 percent and in the case of foreign wives, 43 percent.

Since then, the number of divorces and the divorce rate both has declined for four years straight. In 2006, the number of divorces totaled 257,000, and the divorce rate was 2.04 (per 1,000 population). The divorce-to-marriage ratio for relationships between Japanese women and foreign men was nearly 39 percent in 2006. For the entire nation, it was 41 percent.

As previously mentioned in an earlier Black Tokyo post: “In Japan, there is a 21.1-percent likelihood that a man who marries a Japanese national will do the following: create at least one child with his spouse (85.2 percent probability), then divorce within the first 20 years of marriage (31 percent), and subsequently lose custody of any children (80 percent).

Do Japanese women want a Western husband?

Well this is where Japanese men have come up short. There is “a wide gap in men’s and women’s attitudes and expectations toward marriage” vis-à-vis traditional gender roles, says Sumiko Iwao, professor of social psychology at Musashi Institute of Technology in Yokohama. For instance, coming home later than your Japanese husband is a no-no.

In 2003, Japanese women marrying American or British men outnumbered Japanese men marrying American or British women by 8 to 1. The total proportion of Japanese marrying foreigners each year has crept up from around 3.5 percent in 1995 to just over 5 percent. Japanese men are actually more than three times as likely as the women to take a foreign spouse, but this is mostly rural men marrying less well-off Chinese and Filipino women. “Such cases are elderly farmers not popular among young Japanese women,” says Yuriko Hashimoto, a local government employee in the remote northern prefecture of Iwate.

Mixed marriages in Japan (2003)*

Japanese men marry:

  • Chinese 10,242
  • Filipinos 7,794
  • Koreans 2,235
  • Americans 156
  • British 65

Japanese women marry:

  • Koreans 5,318
  • Americans 1,529
  • Chinese 890
  • British 334
  • Filipinos 117
So the question stands: “Do Japanese women make better wives?” Don’t ask me, I’m minding my own business!

*Sources: Various (2003 Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare; 2000 US Census, other)

  • zurui zurui says:

    in “my” experience, i have met women that speak negative about their significant other in their presence if the man does not have a good grasp of the japanese language. if the guy has a pretty good understanding of the language and his relationship, this was not the norm!

    btw, any woman (of any nationality) can trash talk –for example, i have heard american women talkin’ ’bout, “my man ain’t ….” and what not. i personally believe that unhappiness in a relationship will bring about the same banter, just in a different language.