"By putting an end to our marriage, we wanted to give ourselves fresh starts and give our lives a sense of renewal," explained a young businessman who, at the forefront of what may be an emerging trend in Japan, planned a divorce ceremony when he and his wife decided to split up.
Divorce rates are on the rise in Japan, and some couples are choosing to celebrate the end of an unhappy marriage with a formal ceremony before friends and family. The concept was pioneered by Tokyo entrepreneur Hiroki Terai, who charges approximately $600 for the ceremony.
The ceremonies are performed in Terai's "divorce mansion" and are intended to offer the same degree of pageantry expected at a wedding ceremony. The ceremony publically ends their relationship in a way that simply filing divorce papers does not.
"I started this ceremony in April last year thinking that there should be a positive way to end a marriage and move on by making a vow to restart their lives in front of loved ones," Terai told Reuters Television.
'My Heart and Soul Felt Renewed' After Divorce Ceremony
For many divorcing couples in both Japan and the U.S., the prospect of an animosity-riddled divorce, with long-term estrangement virtually certain, simply doesn't feel right.
In this young husband's case, for example, he felt responsible for the failure of his marriage. He had spent too much time away from home, despite warnings from his wife, and spent their money in ways that he knew were straining the relationship.
The young Japanese businessman and his divorcing wife held their divorce ceremony in the traditional Asakusa area of Tokyo. The ceremony itself culminated in the smashing of their wedding ring with a ceremonial gavel. The gavel was topped with a frog's head, symbolizing change.
"When we smashed the ring together, I felt like 'oh, this is the end of it, really' and my heart and soul felt renewed," said the now divorced 33 year-old. "Now I feel I can have a new life and start all over again."
His wife of eight years agreed. "The moment I saw the smashed ring, I said to myself, 'Yes! That feels so good!"
Terai Plans to Expand His Divorce Ceremony Services Abroad
Entrepreneur Hiroki Terai, who calls himself a "divorce ceremony planner," told Reuters he had performed about 25 such ceremonies so far, but has received more than 900 inquiries from divorcing couples in Tokyo.
Next month Terai will travel to Korea in order to perform his first divorce ceremony abroad.
"Japanese couples say "I do" -- in divorce ceremonies" (Reuters, Jun 21, 2010)