Japan and its decreasing divorce rates

Japanese society is portrayed as classless or one with a class structure in which very tiny elite groups and underclasses bracket an enormous number of middle-class people.

However, there are significant social differences among rural and urban residents, including family composition, educational attainment, and labor force participation. Within the urban population, social differentiation exists between the white-collar, salaried “new middle class,” blue-collar industrial workers, and the self-employed petty entrepreneurial classes of shopkeepers and artisans.

Marriage and Family Life

Marriage is generally based on mutual attraction between individuals i.e. a “love marriage”. Some people still rely on arranged marriage in which a go-between negotiated a match in a process that might give parental opinions more weight than those of the prospective bride and groom.

Looking at the history of the Japanese family over the last century or so, Japan is one of the few countries that’s gone through industrialization and had the rate of divorce drop.

In traditional Japanese families, families would send back a bride or an adopted son-in-law if they didn’t feel that the marriage was working or that the person wasn’t able to contribute to the household. Today that traditional family system is transformed into the contemporary nuclear family as more and more marriages are based on free choice because of which the divorce rate went down a great deal. In most countries going through urbanization and industrialization, it’s quite the opposite.

Weddings are almost always held in hotels or wedding halls, with a lavish banquet for several dozen guests. The ceremonies blend elements from Shintō marriage rituals and stylized adaptations of Christian weddings. Weddings are elaborately staged, and the bride and groom typically go through several changes of costume.

Most urban families consist of parents and their children while slightly extended families have an elderly parent living with a married couple and their children.

The family in Japan is called “kazoku” in Japanese. The Japanese family is based on the line of descent and adoption. Ancestors and offspring are linked together by an idea of family genealogy, or keizu, which does not mean relationships based on mere blood inheritance and succession, but rather a bond of relationship inherent in the maintenance and continuance of the family as an institution.

The most usual living arrangement in Japan today is the nuclear family—more than 60 percent of the households are of this type, and the number has increased steadily throughout this century. Another 16 percent are single-person households.

Just over 20 percent of households are extended, most of which are in rural areas. This type of household, known traditionally as the ie, is thought today to have been typical of living arrangements in Japan until well into this century, although in reality there was always considerable regional and class variation in connection with household composition. The ie usually was composed of a three-generation household of grandparents, parents, and children. 

Inheritance

The primary imperative of the family as a social institution was to survive across the generations. In traditional agrarian life, land was almost never divided, because to do so might imperil the next generation’s ability to survive. So in most cases, inheritance was by a single child, usually the eldest son. In the case of an extremely prosperous family, they might be able to establish other children in newly independent family lines, which would remain forever subservient to the original line.

The particular social custom called “adopted sons-in-law” was there so that a family that had daughters, but no sons, might adopt a young man and have him marry their daughter, and when the adoption and marriage was completed, he would take on the family name of his wife’s family, and for all intents and purposes would be considered the heir to that family. So it’s not inheritance through the female, but still inheritance through the male, but the male’s role is created socially through the process of adoption.

Kinship

Various kinds of fictive kinship modeled on patterns of adoption and relationships between family branches have been used to sustain other kinds of social relationships. Patron-client relationships sometimes are referred to as parent-child ties, and may involve elaborate formal rituals of bonding. Traditional artistic life is structured around master-apprentice relationships that involve adoption and the establishment of lineages.

The kinship system before World War II was based on upper-class family patterns established during the late Tokugawa period. Later the government put in place legal norms and standards that defined an ideal family structure. It established clear rules about membership, inheritance patterns, and the authority of the household head over assets and marriages. This legal structure was radically altered after World War II, by reducing patriarchal authority, increasing the legal rights of women, and requiring that estates be shared among children and widows.

Patterns of traditional kinship still shape the social conventions of family life.

The traditional family system was organized around a multigenerational household with a single central authority: the male household head. Inheritance of a family’s estate and succession to a family’s occupation, social position, and obligations devolved to a single child. In terms of social participation, the household was considered as a single unit rather than the sum of its members.

The kinship system is bilateral, and includes relatives connected to both husband and wife. Cognates and affines are addressed by the same terms but horizontal ties are usually stressed over vertical ties. 

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Sri Lanka and its Sinhalese culture

Sinhalese societies in Sri Lanka are constructed on several hierarchies which include the party-political, religious (Buddhist and deity worship), caste, bureaucratic-administrative, professional (educational, medical) and the military.

Family

The most important social unit is the nuclear family which includes husband, wife, and unmarried children. Relatives of both wife and husband form an important social network that supports the nuclear family and encompasses the majority of its important social relations.

In Sri Lanka, individual households are identified by cooking practices, so that, even within a larger house, a wife will cook for her husband and children independently from others who may live within the structure, perhaps sharing the same kitchen.

Although women have a great deal of power within a family, ultimate authority belongs to the oldest male member of a household, whether that is the father, husband, brother, or son.

While overall there is a preference for sons, Sri Lankans express a preference that their first child be a girl, who they believe will help care for and be a disciplining influence on younger siblings.

Marriage: The institution

Marriages in Sri Lanka are monogamous although unions between one man and more than one woman (polygyny) are neither illegal nor unknown. On the other hand, unions involving one woman and more than one man (polyandry) are also legal and possible.

Although some castes their emphasis on in-group marriage e.g. Karava caste, some arranged marriages also take place between men and women from different castes.

Choosing a marriage partner is a very intricate affair and is often based on astrological readings of horoscopes, compatibility checks, wealth and status considerations, personalities of the two people involved, and parental control over dowry and other assets that may pass on to the children.  Hence the decisions on children’s marriage are often determined by factors other than the love exhibited between the man and woman to each other.

Wedding Ceremony

  • The groom and his relatives assemble on the right of the Poruwa and the bride’s family gathers at the left.
  • The bride and groom enter the Poruwa leading with the right foot first.
  • They greet each other with palms held together in the traditional manner.
  • The ceremony officiant then presents betel leaves to the couple which they accept and hand back to him to be placed on the Poruwa.
  • The bride’s father places the right hand of the bride on that of the groom as a symbolic gesture of handing over the bride to the groom.
  • The groom’s brother hands over a tray with seven sheaves of betel leaves with a coin placed in each.
  • The groom holds the tray while the bride takes one leaf at a time and drops it on the Poruwa. The groom then repeats this process.
  • The groom’s brother hands a gold necklace to the groom who in turn places it on the bride’s neck.
  • The maternal uncle enters the Poruwa and ties the small fingers of the bride and groom with a single gold thread (to symbolize unity) and then pours water over the fingers.
  • Six girls will then bless the marriage with a traditional chant (Jayamangala Gatha).
  • The groom presents to his bride a white cloth which in turn is presented to the bride’s mother. This is an expression of the groom’s gratitude to his mother-in-law.
  • The bride’s mother will then present a plate of milk rice specially cooked for the occasion to the bride who feeds a piece to the groom The groom then feeds the bride.
  • As the newly married couple steps down from the Poruwa, the groom’s family member breaks a fresh coconut in two.

Kinship

The kinship systems of Sri Lanka indicates that the most acceptable person for a young man to marry is the daughter of his father’s sister. The most suitable partner for a young woman is the son of her mother’s brother and parallel cousins (the son of the father’s brother or the daughter of the mother’s sister) tend to be improper marriage partners.

There is a close and special relationship between children and their aunts or uncles, who may become their fathers- or mothers-in-law. Special kinship terminology exists in both Tamil and Sinhalese for relatives in preferred or prohibited marriage categories.

In many villages, people spend their entire childhood with a clear knowledge of their future marriage plans and in close proximity to their future spouses. The system of cross-cousin marriage is ideally suited to maintaining the closed ritual purity of an extended kinship group and retaining control over property within a small circle of relatives.

Kinship is acquired through two means i.e. birth and marriage.  One is again born into a given sibling and extended kin group.  Marriage allows new interconnections with hitherto unrelated families even though some marriages take place between already related families also.

The largest kin group is the “microcaste” (called “our caste people” in Tamil), a section of a larger caste category within which people recognize common descent and a shared status. The microcaste is often distributed among several hamlets or wards in adjoining villages.

In sharp contrast to south Indian Tamil culture, descent is fully bilateral, save in the eastern coastal regions, where matrilineal descent is common.

Ethiopian Culture

Author's Note: 
This is to understand how Ethipian culture has evolved over time, how the natives live in their society, celebrate their culture and aspire towards a better knit family

The name “Ethiopia” is derived from the Greek ethio which means “burned” and pia: meaning “face”: the land of burned-faced peoples.

Ethiopia was home to some of the earliest hominid populations and possibly the region where Homo erectus evolved and expanded out of Africa to populate Eurasia 1.8 million years ago. The traditional theory states that immigrants from the Arabian peninsula settled in northern Ethiopia, bringing with them their language, proto-Ethiopian (or Sabean), which has also been discovered on the eastern side of the Red Sea.

Society and its Stratification

There are four major social groups.

At the top are high-ranking lineages, followed by low-ranking lineages. Caste groups constitute the third social stratum. Slaves and the descendants of slaves are the lowest social group. This four-tier system is traditional; the contemporary social organization is dynamic, especially in urban areas.

Symbols of social stratification in rural areas include the amount of grain and cattle a person possesses. Apart from health, the amount of education, the neighborhood in which one lives, number of automobiles and the job one holds are also symbols status.

Marriage

Arranged marriages are the norm, although it is becoming much less common now in urban areas. The presentation of a dowry from the male’s family to the female’s family is commonly observed which may include livestock, money, or other socially valued items.

The proposal usually involves elders, who travel from the groom’s house to the parents of the bride to ask for the marriage, who then decide when and where the ceremony takes place. For the wedding, both the families prepare food and drink brewing wine and beer and cooking food.

Family

Family structure is much larger than the typical nuclear unit. The oldest male is usually the head of the household and is in charge of decision making. Men, usually having the primary income, control the family economically and distribute money. Women are in charge of domestic life and have significantly more contact with the children. The father is seen as an authority figure. Children are socially required to care for their parents, and so there are often three to four generations in a household.

However, with the advent of urban living this pattern is changing and children often choose to live far from their families and thus have a much harder time supporting them.

Kinship

Descent is traced through both the mother’s and father’s families, but the male line is more valued than the female. It is customary for a child to take the father’s first name as his or her last name.

In rural areas, villages are often composed of kin groups that offer support during difficult times. The kin group in which one participates tends to be in the male line. Elders are respected, especially men, and are regarded as the source of a lineage. In general, an elder or groups of elders are responsible for settling disputes within a kin group or clan.