See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Japan: I now pronounce you friend and friend

For those who take note of social categories a new one has been created: that of ‘marriage mates’.
The tomo-fuhfu (where literally tomo means ‘mates or friends’ and fuhfu ‘married couple’) is the new term coined by writer Megumi Ushikubo to indicate those couples who have grown apart from each other and have in common only a marriage in name, sometimes with children, but nothing more. The married ‘friends’ may not see each other for an extended period of time, don't spend time together and certainly don't have sex.

This new category first appeared in Ushikubo's latest book Tada Tomo-fuhfu no Riaru (The reality of the ‘just marriage mates’), where, basing her observations on interviews with dozens of Japanese couples, she investigates the marriage condition of those who decided to get married for convenience to someone who is more like a friend than a soul mate or a lover. The book also recounts the collective experience of many husbands and wives who ended up being simply ‘married friends’ because their love vanished or perhaps had never really existed.

By Mr Hayata. CC license

A blogger commented on some findings in the book and said she lent it to her husband.

読んでいて、ドキっとしたのは・・、
出産後、3年以内に夫への愛情がなくなる
う゛う゛・・。
育児中、夫が役に立たないと思うことがある、
むむむ・・。
夫がこども返りをする。
あ゛あ゛ぁ〜・・。
3年以内といわずに3ヶ月ですでにそんな兆しがあるんだから、笑ってもいられないけど。

I was startled when I read that …
“Within three years after a baby is born, love for the husband vanishes” booo.
“During child-rearing some [women] begin to think that the husband is useless” mmm.
“The husband tends to behave like a child” awww.
Some times it is not even three years but rather three months when those symptoms start to emerge. There is certainly nothing to laugh in that.

In recent years, many like Ushikubo (who is also the author of a book on ladylike men [en]) have tried to give names to social trends that have mushroomed in the Japanese society: heterosexual men less interested in the opposite sex have been categorized as “herbivore” [en] and expressions such as “marriage hunting” [en] has entered the daily vocabulary.
Tomo-fuhfu seems to be another convention that only time will decide whether it's just something that sells books and brings consulting companies customers or is actually a sign of a transformation in the deeper levels of society.

According to yomo this new conception of the married life is something that belongs to the newer generation, where equal opportunities are taken for granted and one's own space and time is a must.

婚姻関係のある夫婦であるのは間違いないのですが、冷蔵庫の中身は夫と妻で所有権が別。すなわち食料品に名前が貼ってあります。
同じ地域に住んでいても住居は別だったりします。いわゆる週末婚という奴で、休みの日はどちらかの部屋で過ごしたりしてるみたいです。
理由は、趣味の邪魔をされたくないとか、お互いの自由を束縛したくないとか諸々です。
ただ、仲が悪いかと言えば決してそうでは無く、どちらかと言えば仲の良い夫婦だったりする訳です。
これはどうも、男女間の考え方の変化に基づいた非常に合理的な考えなのではと書いてありました。

There is no doubt that they are a married couple but husband and wife have ownership rights on different parts of what's inside the refrigerator. In other words they have their name on the food.
Even if they live in the same area, they may live in different houses. This is what is called the ‘weekend marriage’ where on holiday or free days, one of them may go to spend some time at the partner's place.
Reasons may be that they don't want to be disturbed in their activities or they both don't want to have their freedom restricted and so on.
But it cannot be said that their relationship is bad or poor, it would be more accurate to say that they are spouses who need their own space to get along with each other.
I read that this is an absolutely logical mentality that is based on a man-woman relationship that has transformed.
By Naoya Fuji. CC License

By Naoya Fuji. CC License

Discussions on married friends or marriage mates often raise comment on surveys on the sex life of the Japanese married couples and the low birth rate of the country. A blog, for instance, reports [ja] that one third of the married couples do not have sex, while another quotes [ja] a survey by condom maker Durex which says that in 2008, Japan was the least sexually active country in a 26 country ranking.
Although it seems quite difficult to have precise statistics on the matter, ayikes said that a lack of sexual drive is one of the characteristics of the tomo-fuhfu.

これ、どんな夫婦かっていうと
・一人の時間をお互い大切にする夫婦
・夫婦でいつでもどこでも一緒とかありえない
・帰省はそれぞれの実家にばらばらに帰る
(子供がいても)
・週末婚、通い婚、別居は多いに歓迎
・夫が草食系イクメン率が高い
(イクメンとは育児に積極的な男性のこと、らしい)
・夜の営みとかそんな生々しいことは子作り目的以外はしません
・当然夫婦共働き
・同居の場合は夫領域と妻領域が分けられている

To explain what kind of couple this may be:

    ・both value time spent on their own
    ・they do not envisage something like ‘together always and everywhere’
    ・when they visit their hometown, even if they have kids, they go to their respective hometowns
    ・a weekend ‘marriage’ or a commuting ‘marriage’ with separate houses is welcome
    ・in many cases the husband is a ‘herbivoreikumen (where ikumen means that he is proactive in child-rearing)
    ・night affairs and intimate physical contact happen only when procreation is intended
    ・obviously they both work
    ・if they live together, the husband's territory and the wife's territory are neatly divided

Even if a couple fitting one or more of the criteria above may be considered ‘cold’, the blogger continues, such interpretation of the marriage relationship is a response to specific social needs.

ただ結婚は日本において、社会的に非常に便利&有利な要素だ結婚してるだけで信用度があがり社会的な立場も保障される(世間では結婚してれば正常という判断が一般的に下される)
世間の目も違うし、両親をはじめとする、家族や親戚、友人、会社の上司・同僚、どうでもいいご近所さんから
「結婚しないの?」「なんで結婚しないの?」「できないの?」等のどうでもいいことを聞かれることはなくなり、また、そんなアホなことを理由に気を使われることもなくなる。
だけど、そんなことのためだけに結婚なんかしたくない、って思うからこそタダ友夫婦がベストという結論に至る

In Japan such an arrangement is an extremely convenient and helpful response to social requirements.
Because you are married, you are more trusted and a particular social role is granted for, if you are married, you are judged as normal in public opinion.
People view you differently and you won't be asked repetitive questions such as; “are you married?, why don't you get married?, can't you?” by parents but also by family, relatives, friends, company's superiors and colleagues, unknown neighbors and for such a marginal thing you won't need to feel awkward anymore.
For those who don't want to get married, the best solution is simply becoming ‘marriage mates’.

「○○じゃなければいけない」という縛りがただ友夫婦には圧倒的に少ない。
ずっと「君だけが好き」なんて呪詛は不要だって友達だし
養ったり奉仕したりする必要はないだって友達だし
夫がこうあるべきで妻がこうあるべきで・・・なんていう古典的ルールはないだって友達だし
同じ立ち位置で気兼ねなく相談したり話をしたりできるだって友達だし
お互いの趣味を尊重しつつ、時間に都合がつけば一緒に遊んだりもできるだって友達だし
家の雑事は当番製だって友達だし
怪我や病気になればお互い様、看病するし、されるしだって友達だし
どうですかね?悪いことないでしょ?

Marriage mates rarely have restrictions such as ‘it must be that Mr. X or Miss X”.
And vows like ‘I will love you forever’ are not needed, because they are friends.
There is no need to financially support or serve the other, because they are friends.
A husband should be like this, a wife should be like that … such old, typical rules don't apply any longer, because they are friends.
They can have an equal position in the relationship, consult one another and talk, because they're friends.
They will both value their personal lifestyle and if time allows it they will have fun together, because they're friends.
They'll take turns for the domestic chores, because they're friends.
If one of them is injured or sick the other will take care or be taken care of, because they're friends.
So what do you think? It's not all that bad, is it?

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices
* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site