Japanese Wedding Vernacular: Dekichatta Kekkon
YJ and I are tying the knot this week (at least on paper—the ceremony will come later) and so it’s quite natural that my brain is turning its thoughts to marriage and weddings and such. <-Note that I’m not thinking about it, my brain is doing something entirely involuntary. Can’t be helped. ^^;
While I’ve never been gaga over wedding dreams (I much preferred imagining being married than focusing on just one day), I suppose I shall have to at least buck up some motivation ahead of our ceremony. (Ceremonies? All undecided. YJ and I such enthusiastic planners!) In any case, I like to see any new venture as a learning experience, and I thought I’d share some interesting wedding lingo that I’ve picked up while living in Japan. And to start us off:
Direct translation: “Got pregnant marriage”.
Translation that makes sense: “Shotgun wedding”.
(Short form: デキコン / Dekikon)
This is something that is surprisingly common in Japan. Although the term “shotgun wedding” is often considered synonymous with teen pregnancies or college students, in Japan young age isn’t as much of a factorーconversely, it’s often those in their late twenties and thirties that seem to get hitched when the girlfriend falls pregnant. It surprised me at first because in Sweden having a baby doesn’t necessary presume a couple will get married—ever. There are specific words for longterm partners: sambo (if you live with them) and saerbo (if you live apart). It’s kind of the more “adult” and “serious relationship” version of boyfriend/girlfriend. It’s also not gender specific, which means same sex partners don’t have to out themselves in front of people they don’t want to… without using the term “partner”. Personally I find the latter word awkward and impersonal when applied to personal relationships, but that’s just me.
So why do many Japanese couples choose to get married when they’re expecting? For many, it’s purely for practical reasons. The Japanese healthcare and taxation systems are extremely generous to conventional families—if you’re married with kids, you get some sweet tax breaks.
More importantly, it simplifies the process for recording child’s birth in the family register, or koseki. The koseki is a family record of births, deaths, marriages and includes members of the whole family, not just the individual. Most importantly it certifies Japanese citizenship and acts as a birth certificate as well. While it may seem practical to have all that information in one place, it can also be troublesome for some non-conventional families.
Children are usually registered under the father’s koseki, so for unwed mothers , divorcees, or those with “illegitimate children” it can become a point of discrimination when applying for preschools or being active in PTA (Parent Teacher Association) groups. This is because the information included in the koseki is very detailed, and until 2008 almost anyone was able to obtain this informationーeven if they were not related to the family/person in question. School personnel, parents with children in the same class, the next door neighbor were all able to find out ifーfor example, an unwed mother was lying to save face when she said the father of the child had died, or they divorced soon after the child was born. Nosy parkers would be able to veto a child’s application to a certain preschool, or discriminate against them in other ways. The system change in 2008 put severe restrictions on who can apply to see a particular koseki to avoid situations like this.
(Side note: there’s a special section in the koseki for “illegitimate children”, i.e., children out of wedlock. Even if the man has a child through an extramarital affair, the child can be legally registered as his. According to a friend of mine who used to work at a legal office, this particular section could be very troublesome when it came to inheritance issues.)
Regarding family planning issues (because I suspect this will come up), while it’s fine to note that Japanese women don’t tend to use the Pillーwhich by the way, is only 91% effective in reality (as opposed to the 99% reported in clinical trials where women are paid to take them regimentally)ーpredominantly due to the fact that the Pill is still relatively new to Japan, not to mention that since it’s a prescription-based medicine and thus illegal to advertise it. However, this doesn’t mean that family planning isn’t at the forefront of their mindsーcondoms count for 80% of the contraceptive market in Japan. (And are more effective in preventing STDs! Woohoo! Keep safe and have fun!)
In short, the reason many couples decide to tie the knot “just because” they’re having a child is often, at large, for practical and financial reasons.
For more reading on koseki and dekichatta kekkon, check out these links:
Also, since I’m sure there are inquiring minds: YJ and I are not planning a dekichatta kekkon. (｡≖ิ‿≖ิ)