TOKYO (WOMENSENEWS)--A group of Japanese men say they have the
answer to marital bliss.
In September, they gathered in suits and ties outside a busy
train station in Tokyo and chanted their Three Principles of Love:
saying "sorry" without fear, saying "thank you" without hesitation
and saying "I love you" without shame.
The group, which started with a handful of members in 1999,
claims 800 members and expects that its program of seminars
throughout the country this year will boost enrollment
Members of the group, called the National Chauvinistic Husband's
Association, have a goal of making their true feelings known to
their wives, representing a push to change the nation's famously
The association says declarations of the Three Principles are
what women want to hear, and husbands will have better marriages if
they can say these words without wavering.
These formerly old-fashioned husbands are serious about becoming
modern-style spouses and aim to give men a chance to learn how to
communicate better with their families, have a relationship based on
equality and become loving husbands.
Declining Marriage Rates
The National Chauvinistic Husband's Association ranks
each member according to the level of sensitivity in marital
relations he has achieved.
Level 1: Is still in love with his wife after three years
Level 2: Does a good job helping with housework.
Level 3: Has never cheated on his wife--or his wife has
never caught him cheating.
Level 4: Can practice a "ladies first" policy.
Level 5: Can take a walk with his wife while holding
Level 6: Can listen to his wife seriously.
Level 7: Can solve problems between his wife and his mother
in one night.
Level 8: Can say "thank you" without hesitation.
Level 9: Can say "sorry" without fear.
Level 10: Can say "I love you" without
They even hope they'll help curb the nation's declining marriage
rate, fueled not only by an increase in divorce but also by delayed
marriage among women, whose mean age for marrying has increased 2.5
years in the past two decades, according to the Ministry of Internal
Affairs and Communications.
The more educated a Japanese woman, the more likely she will wait
for wedlock; among women aged 25 to 29, 40 percent are single, but
among university graduates of similar ages 54 percent are
"If husbands will not change, the future will be very dark for
Japan, so we are enticing men to join our group and learn to change
their attitudes," says 54-year-old Shuichi Amano, who founded
Japan's National Chauvinistic Husband's Association in 1999 after
his wife threatened to divorce him. "Families will adjust and then
Japan will change in a positive way."
Ito Itamoto, a Tokyo marriage counselor, agrees.
"Japanese women are choosing to marry later, so they can only
have one child, or not marry at all," Itamoto says. "Seventy percent
of divorces are filed by women. It used to be because of domestic
violence or gambling, but these days it is because women realize
their husband's priority is the company they work for and not their
families. The women also say men do not know how to
Amano, a resident of Fukuoka City, Kyuushu Island, says his wife
woke him up to the need save his marriage.
"It happened when I came home late one evening from work and
asked my wife if she thought it was strange that suddenly all the
middle-aged men around me were getting divorced," he said. "My wife
said, 'Well, I think you will be next.'"
'Broke Out in Cold Sweat'
Amano said he was shocked, he broke out in a cold sweat and his
heart "stopped" because he knew his wife was serious. After that
initial jolt, he reflected on his past relationship with his wife
and daughters. He realized as a busy writer and editor for a
publishing company, he was a typical chauvinist and, furthermore, he
took pride in it.
"I realized I had only communicated three things to my wife:
'furo,' 'meshi' and 'neru,' which mean 'bath,' 'dinner' and
'sleep,'" he said. "It is the typical way for a strong husband to
communicate with his family."
Amano began a program of "self-improvement." He washed dishes,
took out the garbage, cleaned the bathtub and paid attention to his
His wife even started smiling at him, which she never did
"I cannot fully forgive him for his past actions, but I'm trying
to accept him little by little," Amano's wife, Keiko Amano, told
The newly reformed Amano passed on what he learned to other men
through the National Chauvinistic Husband's Association, which
started off with a few members in 1999 and expects to grow to 16,000
members throughout Japan this year.
The group provides a place for men to get together regularly
about once a month to talk about difficulties with their wives.
Amano, the group's president, says men don't know how to
communicate well because they don't have experience initiating
relationships and communicating with others, and have only been
trained to achieve in the workplace and to be loyal to the
Oblivious to Wives' Feelings
Amano and his friends say they were guilty of being oblivious to
their wives' feelings and problems developing in their
Amano also witnessed the misery that some middle-age men suffered
when their wives left them.
"They didn't know how to dress, cook or do anything for
themselves," he said.
The group provides 460 tips to help members rise in the
One is to leave a day planner at home so she can see notes
expressing his concern for her. Another is sending her a thank-you
card on her birthday or giving her pocket money before rebuking her.
Other advice includes doing more household chores.
The main activity of the group is to measure how well the members
are getting along with their wives by ranking them in a 10-tier
system. Amano and other senior members rank the new members, who
report on their own progress.
Shochi Oba, a 46-year-old editor, was put at level 3 when he
first joined the group, at a time when his relationship with his
wife and daughter had begun to deteriorate. At the time he said that
his wife should always obey him. Since belonging to the group, he
has reformed and now gets up early in the mornings to see his wife
and daughter and even does the dishes.
Yoshimichi Itahashi, 65, is the only member who has advanced to
level 10. His secret to a blissful marriage, he said, is
understanding his wife's feelings: her loneliness, sadness and
complaints. And he can tell his wife that he loves her without
Catherine Makino is a freelance writer in Tokyo. She has
written for the San Francisco Chronicle, the Japan Times, the Asian
Wall Street Journal and the China Morning Post.