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  #21  
Old 12-26-2008, 11:33 AM
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This is a very interesting thread, Thanks everyone for your deep expressions. I wish i could believe Kiko was happy. This situation is the same around the world, a woman's emotional heart is fragile and easily broken once given...she has a beautiful family and a priviledged life and hit the golden lottery with a baby boy (born when some women are becoming grandmothers) ....but when the man you love doesn't love or respect you or worse ignores you, arranged marriage or not, it's got to be painful. IMO all of the women in this family suffer from emotional abuse (read: IHA).

American culture changed when women became educated and "wouldn't take it anymore". Many are of the opinion Asian women are some of the most intelligent and educated people in the world....it seems impossible to combine self respect and "giri" but i can only sense it, in a western brain and appreciate the different perspectives in all the posts. in my own experience one of my friends from college is one of (if not) my smartest, most successful friends (BIG TIME lawyer in san francisco). She is Korean and her whole family lives in Korea, she has never married because he HAS to be Korean and she's going to stay single or marry for love (i love her she's got guts) we've had the same circle conversation for so many years, we do it in shorthand now. "dating anybody" "yes" "korean" "no" Okay Dokay she has a fabulous life, travels the world, has facinating men friends but simply never intends to get married, we joke, maybe in the rest home when all the family is dead and she's 85 and needs a man to tell her when to take her meds. i've known her since 1980. believe me it's her choice, even 50 and successful she can't let her parents "lose face" half way across the globe. So i can understand if not agree with the culture pressures, it just seems so sad.

All the little girls seem so subdued and unhappy and i've always wondered why...now i know why..this is all they have to look forward to! (thanks Al Bina) "giri, a woman's duty toward a family: take care of a house, rear children, and preserve face of families (her own family and that of her husband)."
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Old 12-26-2008, 01:19 PM
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Thank you for your opinions, firefight.

I have noticed that, in general, Americans assume that the world's people should act more like Americans. And of course, since we're Americans, we're the ones who are right! Some of my countrymen don't have a very large view of the world, unfortunately.

But in this particular case there seems to be something about the institution that makes the spouses unhappy (I guess the same argument could be made about the "grey men" at Buckingham Palace, where only Sophie - and presumably Tim Lawrence - seems to have survived in the last several decades).
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Old 12-26-2008, 05:39 PM
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Another thing is that I don't think that there's another monarchial system where the Emperor is supposed to be the physical descendant of a goddess, let alone being the high-priest of the state religion. That adds a whole other facet to Japan's monarchy. As hard as the marry-ins to the British Royal Family have found things, there's no divinity associated with the new in-laws!


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But in this particular case there seems to be something about the institution that makes the spouses unhappy (I guess the same argument could be made about the "grey men" at Buckingham Palace, where only Sophie - and presumably Tim Lawrence - seems to have survived in the last several decades).
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Old 12-27-2008, 06:02 AM
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Al bina, you make a good point regarding the diversity of experiences of women - that the ones in Tokyo would probably have more freedom than the ones in the fishing villages. Even in the west, you get huge diversity in the experiences of women - just compare the lives of the sex worker in Harlem and the New York socialite.

The freedom or otherwise of a woman is to a degree influenced by culture but also by things like class and socio-economic background. In Kiko's case, if she is unhappy, I say the Imperial Household is more to blame rather than Japanese culture in general.

Mermaid1962, good point about the divinity. I can't begin to imagine how difficult it is to deal with divine in-laws! God knows the garden-variety mortal ones are bad enough! I wonder though, how strongly this 'divine descent' is still believed in Japan? Do most modern Japanese still consider the Imperial line truly, literally divine? Especially those Japanese who are atheist, Buddhist or Christian, they may not really accept this view. But no doubt the high respect in which the Imperial family is held will make it harder for one to criticise it or to break from it.
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Old 12-27-2008, 09:45 AM
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Japanese people now a days don’t see the Imperial Family as some kind of deity. Generally the Imperial Family is viewed with mild indifference, they have no relevance to the daily life of Japanese but there is no call to remove them as they are part of tradition and tradition is still important. The lack of connection of relevance can be seen in the fact that fewer people now come to do voluntary gardening at the palace. Also at the public appearances for the Emperor’s birthday and New Years Day a large part of the crowd is made up of neo-conservatives ( those who blast their messages from black vans through Japanese cities) and elderly, mainly women.

Japanese women have the same view of marriage and fidelity that western woman have, regardless if they are from Tokyo or some small fishing village. In reality there are few young people in small fishing villages or farming villages, it’s one of the crisises of demographics that the Japanese have to deal with, young people move to the cities and town, the villages are left with the elderly. Fishing and farming areas the women there work on equal terms with their husbands, they are not some poor downtrodden second class citizens. Japanese woman, once married are the ones who run their families. Husbands hand over their entire wage to their wives and their wives give them an allowance, woman pay the bills, make all the family decisions, men go to work, and defer to their wives. In the past it was their mothers ( young married couples lived in the family home) but again the change in society, young couples get their own homes and young wives are no longer terrorized by their powerful mother-in-laws. ( another societal problem though with elderly now living alone or going into nursing homes, before they were all taken care of by their extended family at home)

Divorce is on the rise in Japan, the highest rise is in the 60+ age range. This is because the government has now changed the rules on pensions so divorced women can claim part of their husband’s pensions, in the past they had to remain unhappily married or be destitute, as pensions are paid based on how many years you worked. There’s even a term for it “retirement divorce’ that’s how common it is. Young Japanese don’t stay in a marriage that isn’t working, there is even another term to describe a particularly Japanese phenomenon. The “Narita rikon”, Narita ( the International airport in Tokyo) divorce. This is when a couple who marry having spent very little time together during their courting ( due to long work hours and days) they marry, go on their honeymoon and discover spending 24/7 in each other’s company that they are incompatible so on arrival at Narita they separate. There is no loosing of ‘face’ by divorcing, the same attitude prevails as does in western society, ‘it’s not working’ ‘we’re not happy’ so people divorce.

Women in Japan are also choosing not to marry ( another demographic crisis!) they would much rather have a career, go on multiple overseas holidays, than settle down. Many too leave getting married until their late 30s so they can do other things. There’s no rush to the altar and their expectations are higher, they won’t stay in unhappy marriages. Blue collar Japanese workers ( and rural workers) are finding it difficult to find a Japanese wife, as Japanese women don’t want to marry a factory worker or a labourer or a farmer so these men then look elsewhere in Asia and marry women from the poorer areas of China or the Philippines. That also comes with social problems as these women try to adapt to live in Japan, learn the language and in some cases deal with abuse as not all the marriage are happy. Those in unhappy marriages end up being trapped in Japan, usually with young children and not many skills to help them cope.

Society is changing rapidly in Japan, one cannot make stereotypical statements about what Japanese women will or will not put up with. The reality is that there are not that many differences from western women, it’s just that few westerners have real contact with Japanese society from within so they seem to rely on stereotypes.
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Old 12-27-2008, 03:42 PM
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Regardless of the constitutional changes that took place at the end of WWII (the Emperor no longer being considered Divine, especially), old traditions die very hard. For the people who were living before Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I can't imagine that they could dispense with their ideas "just like that."

The Emperor is still the high-priest of Shinto and intercedes on behalf of his people. He isn't the head layman, as--for example--Queen Elizabeth II is.

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Japanese people now a days don’t see the Imperial Family as some kind of deity.
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Old 12-29-2008, 03:50 PM
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Hmmm... I guess you can't kvetch about the in-laws if they're divine. (That could be irritating.)
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Old 12-30-2008, 11:08 AM
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Originally Posted by firelight View Post
I'm not Japanese but I am Asian and I am constantly surprised by
Westerners who seem to always assume we must be very different compared to themselves! You may be amazed, but we share a lot of the same feelings about things. While Asians may be more generally conservative than their Western counterparts, even the most conservative Asian woman would be heartbroken by a cold, unloving and cheating husband. Truly, our expectations of marriage are very much the same as that of Western women!
Thank you, firelight, for making this quite clear. Of course, we are all influenced by the different ways in which we grow up but then there are, on the other hand, many things we also, as humans, have in common. And I think it very important to always remember that.

I am certain that there is no offense meant by anybody but I always feel unwell when I read something like: “They are such a different culture, they do not feel it as we do.” This sort of argument has served too often in the past to further tyrannical and racist purposes like: “It does not matter if we do this to THEM - although to US it would be horrible - but THEY do not feel it like we do.”

I repeat that I am convinced that nobody here is intending anything like that, to the contrary, everybody here is trying to be understanding and tolerant towards the differences. And, of course, it is important to be aware as iowabelle says:
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Originally Posted by iowabelle View Post
I have noticed that, in general, Americans assume that the world's people should act more like Americans. And of course, since we're Americans, we're the ones who are right! Some of my countrymen don't have a very large view of the world, unfortunately.
The same would go in a certain way for all of the Western world, especially if we hold in mind its colonialistic past...

But IMO there is unfortunately no “safe side” concerning this problem – we have to understand and respect the differences and still be aware that we all bleed when we are being cut, like Shylock says...
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Old 12-31-2008, 08:40 AM
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Women in any hidebound, rigid, patriarchal environment are not likely to find either freedom of expression or continuing marital happiness, unless they are very lucky. They just don't count very much as living, breathing individuals do they? The main thing required of them is know your place and don't rock the boat.
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Old 01-02-2009, 01:53 PM
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Women in any hidebound, rigid, patriarchal environment are not likely to find either freedom of expression or continuing marital happiness, unless they are very lucky. They just don't count very much as living, breathing individuals do they? The main thing required of them is know your place and don't rock the boat.
Welcome, Saashi! You are right, and the trouble is that in any „hidebound, rigid, patriarchal environment“ women are not even allowed to say that they suffer. They have no voice – and that makes it probable that people from outside will say that those women are probably feeling quite well as this is just their culture that, accordingly, has to be respected...
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Old 01-12-2009, 08:17 AM
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Thanks very much for the welcome and the flowers :) .The main thing is to make a noise about it whether it is the done thing or not and if the maltreatment doesn't stop keep making a noise. Of course, that often means walking out at some point too...
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Old 01-27-2009, 03:49 PM
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Or maybe that's not frozen on her face but some kind of dignity for the mother of the future emperor?
She'll be an empress herself, won't she? I mean, her husband, if he outlives his brother, would become emperor before their son would, right?
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Old 01-27-2009, 04:36 PM
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Right. Just because something is "cultural" doesn't make it good.

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Welcome, Saashi! You are right, and the trouble is that in any „hidebound, rigid, patriarchal environment“ women are not even allowed to say that they suffer. They have no voice – and that makes it probable that people from outside will say that those women are probably feeling quite well as this is just their culture that, accordingly, has to be respected...
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Old 01-29-2009, 10:59 AM
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Thanks very much for the welcome and the flowers :) .The main thing is to make a noise about it whether it is the done thing or not and if the maltreatment doesn't stop keep making a noise. Of course, that often means walking out at some point too...
It is usually the destiny of those initiating social changes that they do not get to see the results of their work within their lifetime…

If hundred years ago, in 1909, somebody would have told the Germans that within hundred years women would not only have the right to vote (which they had not in 1909) but that Germany would be a democracy by then and the head of state a woman, this person would have been declared to be as mad as a hatter. Still, this has become true. So much has changed in only 100 years. But, although a short time for such big changes, 100 years is usually more than a human lifetime…

But then, I think it is a comfort to remember Eleanor Roosevelt. I do not remember the exact words but she once said something like: “I would rather lose with a cause that will finally win than win with a cause that will finally lose.”
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Old 01-29-2009, 11:00 AM
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She'll be an empress herself, won't she? I mean, her husband, if he outlives his brother, would become emperor before their son would, right?
You are perfectly right.
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Old 01-29-2009, 12:26 PM
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This is such an interesting thread and it's great to be able to read the views of people from different backgrounds and cultures because it is so true that as humans we all have the same basic needs wherever we are from and whether or not the society we live in is a traditional one or a modern one. There are so many diverse roles that women are in throughout the world and all these roles are worthy of respect and gratitude. If what has been said about Akishino is true then the least he can do is show his wife some respect, gratitude and kindness if nothing else for the fact that she is the mother of his children. Even if he has fallen out of love with her or the marriage has become boring to him, he should still show these feelings and should grown up abit. I hope Kiko is happy because I think she deserves it. I hope the IHA are grateful to her too and will do all they can do to give her support and show a little respect for us too!
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Old 02-03-2009, 01:13 PM
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If hundred years ago, in 1909, somebody would have told the Germans that within hundred years women would not only have the right to vote (which they had not in 1909) but that Germany would be a democracy by then and the head of state a woman, this person would have been declared to be as mad as a hatter. Still, this has become true.
No, it's not. Gesine Schwan probably won't win the elections for Bundes-presidency, so we never had thus far a woman as head of state and won't have in the nearer future. Mrs. Merkel is Chancellor, but this is not our head of state, only the leader of the government (third in rank within the Federal republic after Bundespräsident - president of the Federal Republic of Germany- and Bundestagspräsident - president of the parliament of the Federal Republic.)
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Old 02-04-2009, 01:21 PM
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You are perfectly right, Jo of Palatine. But as most people here in the Japanese section are not from Germany and many not even from Europe I did not want to enter into the complicated details of the German government system. I do not suppose that many people here even know of the existence of the German Bundespräsident (Horst Köhler) but they might have seen the chancellor, Angela Merkel, on TV, together with Bush, Sarkozy/Chirac, Blair/Brown etc., at the G8-meetings, for example.

As you will know (but probably nobody who is not German) the German head of state, the Bundespräsident, has as much or as little political power as the English queen has (and certainly less glamour) although he has formally the highest status. But the real power position is the chancellor and there we have a woman at present.
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Old 02-04-2009, 04:58 PM
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Would Angela Merkel's role be similar to that of a Prime Minister then?

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You are perfectly right, Jo of Palatine. But as most people here in the Japanese section are not from Germany and many not even from Europe I did not want to enter into the complicated details of the German government system. I do not suppose that many people here even know of the existence of the German Bundespräsident (Horst Köhler) but they might have seen the chancellor, Angela Merkel, on TV, together with Bush, Sarkozy/Chirac, Blair/Brown etc., at the G8-meetings, for example.
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Old 02-04-2009, 06:44 PM
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One thing I wish to add to this discussion is the growing acceptance of divorce in general society around the world (steps toward this continue to happen even in some of the most oppressive societies in terms of gender). Unless there are some lurking actual royals in this discussion, I believe most of us have grown up during a time of liberated, educated, progressive ideas/expectations/beliefs about women, equality, and marriage roles/responsibilities.

Even with the current Windsors (who are operating at a 30% success rate) and The Princes of Asturias, it seems that among royalty there is more of a stigma than in the general population. And even if Asian, specifically Japanese, society is more Western in this regard, this thread specifically addresses the Japanese imperial family. I am not completely familiar with all of the past few generations, but AFAIK there haven't been any divorces amongst the couples in the royal family. I know that the "keepers" of the imperial household probably have an extremely bad outlook on divorce, but what about the royal family themselves?

After Diana and Charles, anyone marrying into a royal family (even a non-ruling one) is stupid if they are naive enough to think that life can be great but it can also be very repressive and frustrating in royalty. In the imperial family, the experience of the current Empress and the current Crown Princess (at least what we have been able to learn) it has been more like a prison in many ways.

Regarding Kiko, maybe she initally felt less pressure being wife of the second son. And as time has gone by and the "magic" has worn off, perhaps she has felt unfulfilled and if the observations in this thread are right, unloved. But I invite this group to consider what choice does she really have?

Assume that she was so despondent as to actually consider and go through with a divorce. Just like any other royal family, her children are in the line of succession (I know, I know...but the gender discussion is another thread). There is no way that she would be able to have very much connection to them. And I just don't see the IHA providing living quarters for her within the compound like was done for Diana in Great Britain.

Aside from all of that, what prospects would she have for a romantic life? Realistically, who would want to get involved with someone with that kind of baggage...mother of a future emperor, ex-wife of an imperial prince?

All of these observations could be completely wrong and she could be extremely happy and fulfilled. But if they are correct and she has decided to just "grin and bear it" and put on the show, maybe she did so because the alternative, at least from her perspective, might seem equally or even more bleak than an inattentive, possibly philandering husband.

Just wanted to throw that out. Let's continue to chew on this for a while.

Thanks!
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