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Japan retired divorce rate soars

Trader in Japan
Relationship experts say men are paying for putting their jobs first

An unprecedented rise in divorce among Japanese couples married for more than 20 years is being blamed on the so-called "retired husband syndrome".

Many of Japan's workers or "salarymen" spend decades living largely apart from their families, devoted to their jobs.

Some couples are discovering they barely know one another.

Marriage guidance counsellors are warning newly retired couples not to spend extended amounts of time together - recommending day trips over cruises.

The divorce rate in Japan has risen by 26.5% in 10 years, according to the health ministry.

The number of divorces among couples married for 20 years or more hit 42,000 in 2004, double those recorded in 1985.

Divorces among those married for more than 30 years quadrupled during the same period.

More people are expected to retire in Japan in the next five years than at any other time, as the post-WWll "baby boomers" reach retirement age.

'On the rocks'

Relationship experts say that celebratory cruises or long holidays can have a devastating effect on many marriages.

When a man retires at 65 the wife may be thinking 'I still have 20 or 30 more years with this person'

The author of self-help book Why Are Retired Husbands Such a Nuisance? said it is dangerous for a couple to go on overseas trips after the husband retires.

"Disagreements between the spouses often deepen when they spend a lot of time together in a foreign setting.

"Husbands pay the price for placing more importance on their jobs than their wives," author Sayoko Nishida said.

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Tokyo says many wives increasingly resent how little their husbands contribute to home life and are seeking divorce when, after retirement, the men show no sign of changing their habits.

Japanese people also tend to live longer, so when a man retires at 65 the wife may be thinking "I still have 20 or 30 more years with this person", our correspondent says.


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