Japanese Wedding Vernacular: Narita Rikon

We covered the wonders of shotgun weddings and why they’re a good idea for Japanese citizens last week, but what of the “other” sideーdivorce? Well, here’s a really interesting term for you:

Until we get back from the honeymoon



Narita Rikon


Direct translation: Narita Divorce

A translation that (almost) makes sense: Narita Airport Divorce

What on Earth could this mean? Any guesses? Well, I can’t see if you’re raising your hand or not, so I’ll tell you anyway. Basically, it’s a term used for couples that have trouble adjusting to each other’s company on their honeymoons (often abroad), and by the time they return to Japan, they’re ready to sign the divorce papers. Narita airport is the largest airport in Japan, and was for a long time the primary airport people used for international travel.

This is actually a kind of “old” term that hit its peak during Japan’s economic boom, the bubble economy (often estimated to be between the years 1986-1991). Many people experienced financial freedom for the first timeーtechnology (cell phones! CD Walkmen! The VCR!) was blossoming. They worked hard and played hard. Money was easy come, easy goーand in some cases at least, so were relationships.

Here is a semi-relevant music video by Golden Bomber: (While the literal throwing of money is a bit of an exaggeration, the Miami Vice inspired clothes and awful dancing was not. Let’s face it, the 1980s were not an attractive decade anywhere.)

Back on track to Narita Rikon! What caused this sudden change of heart? I found many, but the most common complaints were:


Keep in mind that because of Japan’s economic boom it meant that many people could travel abroad for the first time in their lives, and their expectations (not just regarding their spouse!) were probably quite different from reality.

But it gets better! (Or rather, worse…) Less common causes for complaint (but duly recorded in the media) included:


  • One of the partners calling home to their parents for advice of the first night (No Skype in the ’80s, international calls were expensive!)
  • Bringing adult toys or videos for their first wedding night
  • Spending too much time and money shopping
  • Parents showing up at their hotel room (possibly after that call made to them on the first night)

I know it’s not funny, but I couldn’t help but chuckle at reading some of these rather petty reasons. Oh, it was indeed a different time. There was even an entire drama series with the same name devoted to the phenomenon that ran on Fuji TV in 1997 (quite some time after the economic bubble burst, but apparently still relevant). I haven’t seen it yet, but you can bet I’m going to hunt it down.


Sidenote: YJ and I have traveled abroad twice already, so I think we’re safe on this one. Maybe things will change now we’ve tied the knot? ^^;


Have you heard of this phenomenon before? Does your country have something similar?

Japanese Wedding Vernacular: Jukunen Rikon

Japanese Wedding Vernacular: Konkatsu

Japanese Wedding Vernacular: Dekichatta Kekkon

19 responses to “Japanese Wedding Vernacular: Narita Rikon”

  1. […] majority…right? However, the majority of divorces still occur in the early years of marriage (or even sooner if it’s a Narita rikon!). Jukunen divorces have increased dramatically in recent years, but are still just a small […]

  2. Jocelyn Eikenburg says:

    I can’t believe some people would watch adult videos on their honeymoon! Of course, then again, that makes me think of Good Chinese Wife (that new book by Susan Blumberg-Kason), where just such a thing actually happens.

    Here in China, you are seeing a huge increase in divorces — some for pretty weird reasons, and others for bizarre yet practical issues that relate to living in China (like, for example, some people divorce just so that they can buy another apartment and avoid getting taxed too much, since there was a law that said a couple that owns two apartments would pay more).

    • I’ve been meaning to get a copy of Good Chinese Wifeーthough I’ve got an exam coming up and I’m worried I’ll use it as another procrastination tool. (I already finished “How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit” and very much enjoyed your honeymoon story!) I’ll most likely give Susan Blumberg-Kason’s book to myself for Christmas. ^^

      Oh wow, I’d not heard of that! I have to say I’m not opposed to pragmatism, but it does sort of take away some of the romance. ^^;

  3. I know of one scientist who had a Narita-rikon because he was reading academic journal papers during their honeymoon (i.e., working).

  4. I never heard of anything like this in Taiwan or Canada. However, in Taiwan, one of the main reasons for divorce is the woman not getting along with the mother-in-law (many young married couples live with the groom’s parents)!

    • Oh wow! Of course there’s always stories about “demon” mother-in-laws, but I wonder if the Taiwanese ones are even harder on their daughter-in-laws than elsewhere! Living in the same house and not being able to get out of the situation must be quite tough. :/

      • I am not sure. I actually have a great relationship with my mother-in-law, but I don’t live with her either. But one of my Taiwanese friends recently moved out from the in-laws and now her and her husband have their own house. When I went to visit them, her husband told me my friend calls the house ‘Her freedom.’ I couldn’t help but laugh.

  5. Marta says:

    Hahaha I didn’t know about this before, I don’t think we have anything similar in Spain or in China.
    There was some news about a Chinese guy who filed for divorce because his daughter was very ugly, he thought his wife cheated on him and found out she had plastic surgery which obviously didn’t show on the daughter. Turns out it is a fake news, but still many newspapers report it as a true story!

    • Yeah it’s something I’ve not heard happening lately (except for that crazy Hawaii honeymoon story!) but it was definitely a “thing”. There are other big trends going on now that I’ll be covering later. 🙂
      Oh, I read about that!! It makes more sense that the story is fake… but I guess it’s one of those things that is so crazy that people want to believe it. ^^;
      There’s been a lot of stories out of Japan with “weird” events that turned out to not be true because journalists didn’t check the original source. :/

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