Japanese men shout the oft-unsaid: 'I love you'
The Japan Aisaika ("Devoted Husbands") Organization wants men to view marriage as a relationship, not a status.
Dozens of men stood side by side in a cabbage patch in Tsumagoi, 90 miles northwest of the capital. It was "Shout Your Love From the Middle of a Cabbage Patch" Day, and participants on the balmy day last fall went down the row yelling, "I love you!" or "Thank you!," trying earnestly to say the words to their wives – some for the first time. Most of their spouses stood in the field, watching. Some were in tears.Skip to next paragraph
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These couples were participating in an event created by Kiyotaka Yamana, founder of the Japan Aisaika ("Devoted Husband") Organization. His goal is to help improve Japan's troubled approach to marriage – often regarded more as a status than as a relationship – by teaching men to appreciate their wives and express their feelings.
In Japan, expressing love and appreciation is uncommon, especially among men. Even Valentine's Day is a time for women to give men gifts. In the majority of marriages, husbands are the breadwinners; wives, the homemakers. But that doesn't sit well in a rapidly changing Japan: The number of divorces rose 73 percent from 1985 to 2002, to reach 289,836, according to government reports. Though the number has slowly decreased since then, in-home separations remain common in a country that has few marriage counselors.
"If I said to my wife, 'I love you,' she would think I'm crazy," says Hiroto, who has been married for 20 years and asked that his last name not be used.
Yamama set up the JAO in 2004 to create opportunities for men like Hiroto to show wives their appreciation. He established its headquarters in Tsumagoi, where he and his friends spend weekends, because its name means "missing one's wife." Today the group has 150 members.
For many participants, shouting "I love you" in a cabbage patch was an important first step.
Many local villagers showed up for the affair. They'd been skeptical when it began in 2006, but became such enthusiasts that, last year, they offered to help plan it. Local officials had backed the event because the financially strapped village needed tourists and media attention. Many even agreed to participate, at Yamana's urging.
Like most of his colleagues, policymaker Motoyoshi Hashizume says he rarely expressed his love to his wife, Tomoko, in their 21 years of marriage. But since the 2006 shout-out, he continues, "I more often call her by name and appreciate what my wife has been doing."
Jan. 31: 'Beloved Wives Day'