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:
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:
- One partner forgetting his/her passport and/or to apply for required visa
- One (or both) partner(s) not being able to speak the language of their honeymoon destination
- One partner causing the couple to be late to board the plane
- Losing the couple’s luggage
- Drinking too much (<-actually this particular case happened quite recently. The husband got inebriated and started a fight on the plane. He was then incarcerated in Hawaii for the whole honeymoon period, and sentenced to 3 months in prison later. Poor wife! If they divorced, it’s not technically a Narita Rikon, because they flew out of Osaka International Airport. ^^;)
- Seeing the husband/wife’s true nature for the first time
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?