By Chris Hogg
BBC Tokyo Correspondent
Men share marriage concerns in the
Japanese men are learning to be better husbands amid
speculation that a new law allowing wives to keep half of their
partner's pensions if they divorce will spark a rash of marital
It is a cold Saturday evening and I am standing in the rain in
Tokyo's entertainment district.
Glamorous girls in thigh high boots strut past with barely a
backwards glance at the men who cannot take their eyes off them.
This is not what I have come to see though.
Instead, I climb the steep stairs to the top floor of a small
Izakaya or Japanese pub.
Here, a group of 10 men have gathered, to drink, to smoke, to eat
and, most importantly, to learn how to save their marriages.
This is the Tokyo chapter of what might best be described as the
'National Chauvinistic Husbands Association'.
Its founder Shuichi Amano made the long journey up from the
southern island of Kyushu for tonight's meeting.
He is a large self-confident man who sits, as befits his status,
at the centre of the long table. This is a man comfortable with
being the centre of attention.
They begin with a declaration of their three basic rules for
They chant in unison. Say thank you without hesitation. Say sorry
without fear. Say I love you without being ashamed.
Women are anxious to keep their
People sitting at nearby tables go quiet but then the women give
them a round of applause.
The chants begin again. The three basic rules for not winning. We
do not win. We cannot win. We do not want to win.
In the battle of the sexes these men are waving a white flag. But
are they wimps? The man in charge, Mr Amano, does not think so.
He started the group eight years ago after finding out that three
or four of his friends had been told by their wives that they wanted
When he mentioned this to his wife she told him he might be next.
He was shocked.
"I started doing the household chores right away" he told me.
This was a new experience for both of them.
At first, his wife was suspicious.
"What have you done wrong?" she said.
But then gradually their relationship improved. He started to
share his techniques with other people. Word spread and today he
says he has more than 1,200 members across Japan.
Mr Amano says he has created a network where for the first time
men can share their problems and advise each other how to solve
Women can always find a couple of friends to talk to when things
are going wrong, he says. But men, Japanese men especially, find it
harder to share their emotional concerns.
Listening to him talk was 28-year-old Yohei Takayama. He has been
married just six months, but he told me he had joined the group
because he was worried already that his wife might try to divorce
Why were Japanese men such bad husbands I asked him.
"It's the way of the Samurai" he replied without a smirk or a
Traditionally he said, men went out to work, the women stayed at
home and kept house. Even today, for many, that is still true.
That is a pretty fair description of a lot of Japanese marriages,
particularly among the older generations.
But now Yohei like the others gathered around the table is
employing some of Mr Amano's techniques in a bid to save his
He tries to win smileage - one point for every time he makes his
wife smile, by doing a good deed, or even cracking a joke with her.
Japan's work culture puts a strain on
Mr Amano believes if you can build up a smileage total of around
forty a month you will have enough credit for coming home drunk once
a fortnight, for example.
Towards the end of the evening certificates were presented. The
association has 10 levels of attainment, and much like in Sumo
wrestling very few reach the highest levels.
The criteria for the different ranks were written out on cards
displayed at the end of the table.
To be recognised at the lowest rank you have to love your wife
after three years of marriage and help with the household chores.
Mr Amano himself has only reached the fifth level, which you
attain when you can hold hands with your wife in public.
The highest or tenth level is reserved for those members who can
say I love you without embarrassment. It is an accolade many strive
for but so far only a tiny proportion of the members has achieved.
It would be easy to poke fun at their earnest efforts to learn
behaviour that many others find natural. But the men who had
gathered here to learn from their guru seemed as thirsty for his
wisdom as they were for the beers.
By nine o'clock though it was time to pack up and go home.
When you are out drinking, and learning how to treat your wife
well, it does not do to keep her up waiting.
From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Saturday, 31
March, 2007 at 1200 BST on BBC Radio 4. Please check the programme
schedules for World Service transmission times.