March 14: International Marriage Day

It may be inappropriate to move on to non-earthquake topics, but it just so happens that I just now discovered that today is International Marriage Day in Japan.

I was reading about Philipp Franz von Siebold, the German physician who traveled extensively across Japan for eight years from the time of his arrival in 1823, playing a key role in teaching Europe about Japan upon his return. The wikipedia article also contains this section:

Since mixed marriages were forbidden, von Siebold “lived together” with his Japanese partner Kusumoto Taki (楠本滝). In 1827 Kusumoto Taki gave birth to their daughter, Oine. Von Siebold used to call his wife “Otakusa” and named a Hydrangea after her.

That made me wonder—if mixed marriages were forbidden during the Edo Period, when was the restriction lifted? It took very little research to see that this came on 14 March 1873 (Meiji 6), from which time marriages to foreigners were permitted—a copy of the issued order being shown below. Consequently, 14 March—today—is International Marriage Day (although it’s not widely recognized, and probably no better known than 15 March being Shoes Anniversary Day).

The first recorded international marriage took place on 27 January 1874 between Mr. Juro Miura and Ms. Crausentz Gertamier (accurate Roman alphabet spelling unknown) after they met while Miura’s studied in Germany. They were married at a church in Tsukiji in Tokyo.

Importantly, government approval was required for Japanese women to marry foreigners, and they lost their Japanese citizenship (bungen) upon marrying a foreigner. Similarly, foreign women acquired Japanese citizenship upon marrying a Japanese man. In the 1870s, Japan was still in the process of developing its legal system and the concept of citizenship and citizen were not yet clear. This was put into law by the Meiji Constitution and Citizenship Law that were both enacted in 1899, but the system remained essentially unchanged until 1916, when Japanese women only lost their Japanese citizenship if they acquired foreign citizenship.

Filipino Freethinkers hit Internet meme culture

Readers may remember that during my most recent trip to the Philippines I quite randomly made friends with many of the core members of the Filipino Freethinkers, a new advocacy group working for freedom from religious pressure in society and blogged in detail about our initial meeting. On Saturday some members of the group picketed the Philippines Catholic Bishop Conference to protest the Church’s opposition to a proposed reproductive health (i.e. birth control) bill that is being supported by the new president Benigno Aquino, and a photograph of them was printed in the Philippine Inquirer, and then picked up by Boingboing. Why you ask? Just take a look at the photo in question, as well as the installment of the geek webcomic xkcd referenced in the sign held by Red Tani, one of the founders of Filipino Freethinkers. The comic’s caption is “Wikipedian Protester.”

The part of the article about the protesters is as follows:

A group of pro-RH (Reproductive Health) advocates trooped to the CBCP office in Intramuros, Manila, to condemn the Church for interfering in government-mandated initiatives for reproductive health.

Rhoda Avila of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines told Figura her group was urging the Church to stop spreading “lies” about birth control and allow the government to do its work in providing Filipinos an affordable and accessible reproductive health program.

A slight tension occurred during the 15-minute dialogue while Figura was explaining that the Church was not interfering but “merely issuing guidelines.”

“Based on what? On your non-sexual experience?” protester Marlon Lacsamana snapped.


I’ve mentioned the problem of the Philippine government’s previous disinterest in birth control before on this blog, and hope that they have the backbone to resist the Church’s archaic stance on sexuality and birth control.

The official Filipino Freethinkers website is at www.filipinofreethinkers.org.

Andrew Sullivan Kabuki alert

As you may infer from the title, the latest pundit to engage in this appropriate and worn-out cliche is Andrew Sullivan, a writer whom I generally like but does punch out copy with such rapidity that a certain amount of cliche becomes, perhaps, inevitable.

In a recent post (fairly) criticizing Senator Harry Reid for spineless political triangulation and misdirection over the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Sullivan said:

If I lived in Arizona Nevada and had the vote, even though Sharron Angle is beyond nuts, I’d vote for her. Better nuts than this disgusting, cynical, partisan Washington kabuki dance, when people’s lives and dignity are at stake.

“Kabuki dance” is an old stand-by (Kabuki is of course a genre of drama, not a dance) and “Washington kabuki” with or without “dance” is also tried-and true, but Sullivan does stick more adjectives on the front than most. However, what he misses is the irony of insulting Harry Reid for his anti-gay political positions by calling him a performer in kabuki, a dramatic form in which transvestism is not just institutionalized, but considered a high art, and which for centuries had been strongly associated with homosexual prostitution.

I will reproduce the first paragraph of the relevant Wikipedia article here, followed by a very interesting video featuring Onnagata actor Bando Tamasaburo, which includes an interview and some actual kabuki footage. I recommend watching it twice, the second time imagining the part is being played by Harry Reid, and considering what that would mean for Andrew Sullivan’s clumsy metaphor.

Onnagata or oyama (Japanese: 女形・女方, “woman-role”), are male actors who impersonate women in Japanese kabuki theatre. The modern all-male kabuki was originally known as yarō kabuki (man kabuki) to distinguish it from earlier forms. In the early 17th century, shortly after the emergence of the genre, many kabuki theaters had an all-female cast (onna kabuki), with women playing men’s roles as necessary. Wakashū kabuki (adolescent-boy kabuki), with a cast composed entirely of attractive young men playing both male and female roles, and frequently dealing in erotic themes, originated circa 1612.[1](p90)

Things which Japan does not monopolize, despite conventional wisdom to the contrary

  1. Upskirt photography: Police in upstate New York recently ran a sting operation to catch an upskirt photographer in a clothing store, which led to the unsuspecting victim suing the store.
     
  2. Expensive airports that nobody goes to: “Local officials were so confident that tourists would flock to this beautiful, mountainous county in southwestern China that they made the terminal big enough to accommodate 220,000 passengers annually, and built a runway capable of handling a 140-seat Boeing 737. But only a few charters and budget carriers have established service here. A grand total of 151 people flew in and out of Libo last year.
     
  3. Whaling: See this piece in The Economist, then Wikipedia for the breakdown.
     

Did I miss anything?

The Google zeitgeist on Japanese marriage

There are some interesting posts floating around the blogs about what Google’s “auto-suggest” feature auto-suggests regarding love and marriage, summarized in this post which indicates that women overwhelmingly want to be loved, while men overwhelmingly want to get kinky.

I just read these today, but the near-future Mrs. Jones was telling me this weekend about a similar phenomenon she had heard of with the Japanese auto-suggest feature, so I decided to try it myself.

Here are the top suggestions for “wife” (妻):

  1. wife hysteria
  2. wife birthday gift ranking
  3. wife birthday gift
  4. wife shochu
  5. what to call wife
  6. wife gift
  7. wife honorifics
  8. wife depressed
  9. wife gift ranking
  10. wife not registered (i.e., the Japanese equivalent of common law marriage)

And here are the top suggestions for “husband” (夫):

  1. hate husband (most hits by a long shot)
  2. average husband allowance
  3. husband violent language
  4. dead husband procedures
  5. what to call husband
  6. husband depressed
  7. husband unemployed
  8. husband allowance
  9. husband space
  10. dead husband pension