Japan: Sensei of post-marital arts

Takehiko Kambayashi
Hisako Yukawa has practiced law since 1957.

A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

FUKUOKA, JAPAN – When Hisako Yukawa decided to write a book, the divorce lawyer wanted to tell her women readers to look on the bright side of marital breakdown.

While a divorce carries a certain stigma in Japan, many women tend to blame themselves, says the author of “Dignity of Divorce.” “They think divorce is an ‘indelible blot’ in their life. But I tell my readers that it is the start of a new happy life.”

During her 52-year career in this city, the largest on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, Ms. Yukawa has helped a total of 8,800 women deal with their divorce cases or marital problems. Many of them, even after going through an unpleasant divorce, started working and gradually came alive, says Yukawa. “I’m happiest when I see them shine with renewed confidence.”

“Their divorce gives them an opportunity to unleash their potential,” says the mother of two. “Many husbands ignore their wife’s potential, while many parents still have low expectations of their daughter. So some divorced women found their potential for the first time in life.”

Yukawa, however, does not mean to recommend a divorce, she adds. “What’s important is to make up one’s mind to get out of an unhappy situation.”

Looking back on her marriage, Yukawa recalls some big fights with her husband, Hiroshi, over house chores and child rearing. “I know he is a strong-willed man and I like that,” she says, adding that he was detained in a Siberian labor camp for 2-1/2 years after World War II.

Yukawa, who became the first woman lawyer in 1957 in Kyushu, a region well known for being male dominant, also tells her readers “to become self-reliant.” “Ms. Yukawa is still very active at work,” says Yukie Yoshimura, the book’s editor. “When an octogenarian tells us, ‘A woman should stand on her feet,’ her words have a sobering effect.”

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