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Lovesick Japan

Sex * Marriage * Romance * Law

Mark D. West

Publication Year: 2011

In Lovesick Japan, Mark D. West explores an official vision of love, sex, and marriage in contemporary Japan. A comprehensive body of evidence-2,700 court opinions-describes a society characterized by a presupposed absence of physical and emotional intimacy, affection, and personal connections. In compelling, poignant, and sometimes horrifying court cases, West finds that Japanese judges frequently opine on whether a person is in love, what other emotions a person is feeling, and whether those emotions are appropriate for the situation.

Sometimes judges' views about love, sex, and marriage emerge from their presentation of the facts of cases. Among the recurring elements are abortions forced by men, compensated dating, late-life divorces, termination fees to end affairs, sexless couples, Valentine's Day heartbreak, "soapland" bath-brothels, and home-wrecking hostesses.

Sometimes the judges' analysis, decisions, and commentary are as revealing as the facts. Sex in the cases is a choice among private "normal" sex, which is male-dominated, conservative, dispassionate, or nonexistent; commercial sex, which caters to every fetish but is said to lead to rape, murder, and general social depravity; and a hybrid of the two, which commodifies private sexual relationships. Marriage is contractual; judges express the ideal of love in marriage and proclaim its importance, but virtually no one in the court cases achieves it. Love usually appears as a tragic, overwhelming emotion associated with jealousy, suffering, heartache, and death.

Published by: Cornell University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-4


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pp. v-6

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pp. vii-viii

I can thank other people more publicly. For helpful conversations and comments on the manuscript, I thank Yuri Fukazawa, John Haley, Don Herzog, Atsushi Kinami, David Leheny (my spectacular referee), Y. A. Lin, Alison MacKeen, Kevin McVeigh, Curtis Milhaupt...

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Explanatory Notes

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pp. ix-12

To protect the privacy of the litigants, courts often use pseudonyms or generic labels like “plaintiff ” and “defendant” instead of party names. Unless otherwise stated, if the court or case reporter uses the real name of a party, I use it. If not, to keep the players straight and to preserve some...

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pp. 1-12

In 1999, a man was prosecuted for committing “obscene acts” with two girls, eight and eleven years old.1 The Shizuoka District Court judge in the case based his written description of the facts in part on the statement of Haruko, the eleven-year-old:...

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1. Judging

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pp. 13-27

Japanese judges and U.S. judges have little in common. Judges in the United States function in an unorganized hodgepodge of federal, state, and local systems; New York State alone has judges in more than 1,250 town and village courts. Some judges are elected, some are appointed, and most...

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2. Love

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pp. 28-67

Love abounds in Japan. Japan’s popular prime-time soap operas are often about love and obstacles to obtaining it. The music and film industries thrive on love songs and romantic comedies. Stores sell out of cakes and candy on Christmas Eve, Valentine’s Day, and White Day, days said to...

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3. Coupling

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pp. 68-104

How do people in Japan reach the tragic state of love? How do they meet, and how do they enter into marriage or other long-term relationships? And what happens to the seemingly unsustainable love as presented by the courts as the years go by?...

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4. Private Sex

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pp. 105-144

Hitoshi and Hanako began their arranged marriage in September 1987; it was the second marriage for each. They divorced nine months later. Hitoshi filed suit against Hanako and her mother. According to the court’s recitation of Hitoshi’s complaint:...

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5. Commodified Sex

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pp. 145-175

A delivery health (deriheru) service is a legal business in which women are dispatched to meet men in their homes or hotels for any sexual activity except intercourse. The following 2002 case involved one of those establishments. The defendant shop owner told his store manager, who was...

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6. Divorce

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pp. 176-208

In immediate postwar Japan, fewer than one out of ten marriages ended in divorce. Divorce gradually became both more accepted and more common.1 In the 2000s, four out of ten Japanese marriages end in divorce, a figure neither unusually high nor unusually low among developed countries.2...

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pp. 209-219

In April 1992, Mitsutaka moved home to work in a university hospital, and his relationship with Yuriko and their daughter Matsue improved. Yuriko wanted to move to a house, and they did so. Yuriko became pregnant again, and the couple had a son in February 1993—eleven months...


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pp. 221-252


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pp. 253-259

E-ISBN-13: 9780801461026
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801449475

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1