Japanese attitudes toward marriage, divorce and the family are changing but the American model is an unattractive one, young adults from both countries said at a cultural exchange.
Thirty university students from Japan and 30 from the United States, ranging in age from 17 to 25, compared cultural and social traditions at a gathering that produced strong criticism from both sides of the high U.S. divorce rate.The United States in 1985 had five divorces and 10.2 marriages per 1,000 people. Comparable Japanese figures were 1.39 divorces and 6.2 marriages per 1,000.
"Americans seem so crazy about kids, but when they divorce aren't they forgetting about the children?" said Tadakatsu Tsuruno of Tokyo at the daylong session last week in Washington co-sponsored by Nihon Keizai, a Japanese economic newspaper, and Konica, the photographic and electronics company. The Japanese, from 11 universities, were winners of an essay contest on the two countries' roles in the world. The Americans were engaged in Japanese or other foreign studies at U.S. universities.
University of Maryland student Scott Larson said the high U.S. divorce rate "is a sign of how individualism has gone out of control" in the United States. He called it "individualism with no altruism."
But despite their criticism of U.S. trends, Tsuruno and other Japanese said things also are changing at home.
"The Japanese attitude to marriage is approaching the American way . . . with people thinking more for themselves," Tsuruno noted. "We still have arranged marriages, but 99 percent of my generation will find wives by themselves."