Recently, I was talking to my wife about a friend of ours that is getting married and was shocked to find out that some people in Japan still practice a form of dowry before marriage. Now for those of you that don't know, dowry is when the parents of a bride offer a payment to the groom, as a bargaining chip before marriage (Goody, 2004).
Why Dowry is frowned upon?
In some parts of India, this custom has been liked to violence against women, because it places the value of money on a person as an object, to be sold, like a goat or a cow(arguably because cows are considered sacred in India perhaps less valuable according to these standards) (Rastogi & Therly, 2006). This has led to controversy over this cultural practice in other parts of modern society.
Then and Now
It should be noted that in Japan this is not practiced by everyone. In fact it was most commonly practiced during the Edo Period over 200 years ago (Goody, 2004). This was when arranged marriages were also common. Once Japan entered into the global stage, both of these customs were done away with (Ochiai, 2015).
So if that's the case what was my wife talking about?
What my wife was talking about was a custom referred to as Yuinou (結納). This custom is more related to the person who is moving out of their parents home and not gender. In other words when a person gets married, they usually move out of their house. In Japan, traditionally they would move to the husbands parents house, to take care of them as they got older (Ochiai, 2015). However, both of these customs have changed and very few people pay Yuinou, or move back to their parents house.
Wait I'm confused, I thought you said your wife was talking about Yuinou and your friend getting married?
Yes, you're right I was talking about how shocked I was about this practice. Although it is not as common, it is still practiced, especially by traditional folk living in the countryside of Japan.
So how much did I pay for my wife?
Hey now! I am not that kind of guy! I only paid 32,373,000 yen/$300,000 U.S. ..just kidding! I wasn't expected to follow this custom. In fact even if I was, technically my wife's parents would have to pay my parents, since I'm the one who moved out my house to Japan. They dodged that bullet because I'm a foreigner.
Do you know anyone who practiced this custom?
Funny thing is we actually know a Japanese family that had a similar situation. The husband moved out of his parents home to take care of his wife's aging parents. In this case the wife's parents paid Yuino to the husbands family. The opposite thing happened with my sister in law. Her husband paid 3,237,300 yen/$30,000 U.S. to my in laws, for taking her away to his home, after getting married.
Practiced but not enforced
So if you're shocked like I was, remember it's practiced but not enforced. Also, if you are a foreigner you most likely do not have to participate in this custom. Although in my research I came across a few bloggers that did. There are a lot more traditional Japanese customs that go along with marriage that I will cover in the future. For now thanks for reading :)
Do you know anyone who practiced Yuinou? Feel free to comment and share!
Social Gelo with Angelo
Angelo Ferrer (M.S. Psychology)
Goody, J. (2004). introduction to women, family and inheritance in china and japan. International Journal of Asian Studies, 1(02), 197-199.
Ochiai, E. (2015). Marriage practices and trends. Routledge Handbook of Families in Asia, 123.
Rastogi, M., & Therly, P. (2006). Dowry and its link to violence against women in India feminist psychological perspectives. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 7(1), 66-77.