The Japanese “love nudge”

by on April 29, 2014 at 1:55 pm in Law, Political Science | Permalink

Generally, Japanese culture tends to handle emotional expression a little less directly than in English-speaking countries, especially where romance is concerned. In particular, couples in Japan aren’t nearly as likely to regularly say “I love you” as their Western counterparts are or be seen smooching in public.

In certain situations, though, these roles get flipped. For example, while most Westerners would feel awkward making the explicit statement, “Please be my boyfriend/girlfriend,” in Japan that exact phrase, tsukiatte kudasai, is a pretty common romantic milestone, and something that many actually expect their partner to say in order to explicitly recognize the nature of the relationship.

Now, couples can even have their affection officially recognized, as lovers in Japan can submit government documents certifying their love for each other.

While the national government still shows no interest in tracking who’s got the hots for who,the town of Nagareyama in Chiba Prefecture is currently accepting submissions of koitodoke, or “love declaration forms.”

There is more here, including photos of the forms (not dramatic), and for the pointer I thank Samir Varma.

li April 29, 2014 at 2:08 pm

go steady
be exclusive
these are uncommon in Western culture?? says who?

prior_approval April 29, 2014 at 2:13 pm

The puritv ball participants, of course.

‘A purity ball is a formal dance event attended by fathers and their daughters which promotes virginity until marriage for teenage girls. Typically, daughters who attend a purity ball make a virginity pledge to remain sexually abstinent until marriage. Fathers who attend a purity ball make a promise to protect their young daughters’ “purity of mind, body, and soul.”[1] Proponents of these events contend that they encourage close and deeply affectionate relationships between fathers and daughters, thereby avoiding the premarital sexual activity that allegedly results when young women seek love through relationships with young men.’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purity_ball

Thor April 29, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Is that nudge as in the elbow the missus gives me, or nudge as in the Cass Sunstein sense of a higher power (the state) “improving” me bit by bit?

(Please don’t tell me these amount to the same thing!)

Willitts April 29, 2014 at 3:43 pm

I’ve been trying to figure out the same thing. He appears to be arguing that the mere presence of government validation of romantic relationships nudges people into making such proclamations in a society that generally lacks social norms that do the same.

While government intervention in these private matters might be rather rare or non-existent in the West, we certainly have enough non-government demonstrations of commitment such as engagement and promise rings, other gifts, “going steady”, meeting the parents, social network statuses, and the ever-popular use of “my boy/girl friend” in conversation.

There is simply no role for government intervention in the absence of a market failure.

Martin Keegan April 30, 2014 at 5:32 am

“While government intervention in these private matters might be rather rare or non-existent in the West,”

if Ireland and the UK count as the west, there’s a constant threat of the government trying to get state recognition of cohabiting couples. This might already be on the statute book in the Republic

Ray Lopez April 29, 2014 at 2:26 pm

This is common in southeast Asia as well. Thai girls, even prostitutes, feel uncomfortable showing affection in public. They even don’t like to be seen with their clothes off in private actually. But holding hands in public is much more common in the Philippines than in Thailand. BTW my gf is less than half my age here in the Philippines. I met her family and had some fun in their shack, with her kin folks sleeping in the next room (with walls that don’t go up to the ceiling), and that was quite an experience in willpower. But nobody batted an eye the next day and the only lecture I got was from an old fashioned but nice woman who told me in her day there was never cohabitation before marriage; maybe that was a good thing too? Also of legal interest: Philippine + foreigner marriages are not recognized by the USA, UK embassies. It’s just a worthless piece of paper in their eyes. This is because in these third world countries fraud is rife and such documents can be forged.

Neil April 29, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Thanks for sharing.

Just another MR Commentor April 29, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Oh there must be more to that story, come on now you gotta fill us in

Michael April 29, 2014 at 5:33 pm

Oh look, Ray Lopez is talking about his young Filipino girlfriend. Who would’ve expected it?

Mark Thorson April 29, 2014 at 10:10 pm

Did he mention she’s less than half his age?

Ray Lopez April 30, 2014 at 12:36 am

hahaha, you focus on just the one aspect of the three points I made, the sex. Shows your state of mind… ;-) She’s in the next room now, watching Grey’s Anatomy on DVD. She likes Facebook too, lol she could/should be my daughter.

Thor April 30, 2014 at 3:40 am

There is so much wrong with this post, but whatever else it does, it certainly shows Ray L’s state of mind too…

Roy April 29, 2014 at 2:30 pm

More reserved people like formal things like this because they function as a template. Having a formal procedure to follow can be very liberating.

anon April 29, 2014 at 6:09 pm

I notice that those involved in ballroom dance fit this mold. Many people I have met who are involved in formal dance are reserved people who would otherwise feel uncomfortable dancing spontaneously at a club.

David Wright April 29, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Ugh, please don’t let this be a portent of the future in the West.

I had held out some hope that the gay marriage debates in the US would serve at a catalyst for getting government out of the marriage business here. In discussions about this possibility, I was regularly amazed by the number of people who were not so much opposed to my suggestion as simply unable to wrap their heads around it. Them: “Wait, you want to ban marriage?” Me: “No, people can have whatever ceremonies they want and enter into whatever arrangements they want regarding wills, medical power of attorney, joint property, etc. The government just wouldn’t be involved beyond enforcing those contracts.” Them: “?!” I found my best example in such situations was to point out that people manage to have friendships and boyfriends and girlfriends without the state certifying such arrangements. Now it appears that some people that there needs to be state certification of those arrangements, too.

Mark Thorson April 29, 2014 at 10:10 pm

Hmmm . . . try this out first in Utah. Might gain traction from there.

Adrian Ratnapala April 30, 2014 at 3:50 am

Government is involved in enforcing commercial contracts. Why not also enforce the more serious kinds of romantic contracts? Even if you want to only enforce commercial agreements, what about all the property and labour at stake in a marriage?

Martin Keegan April 30, 2014 at 5:34 am

Why don’t you just voluntarily go to jail, so the government can stop you breaking any laws, too?

Doug April 29, 2014 at 6:11 pm

This brings up my idea for a government policy to bring up sagging birth rates in the developed world: No one’s allowed to own a dog or cat until they have at least one child.

Mark Thorson April 29, 2014 at 10:08 pm

That would only accomplish a massive reduction in the dog and cat populations.

Doug April 29, 2014 at 10:46 pm

Sure, but given the massive potential problems of sub-replacement birth rates, a high reduction in pets might be worth a slight increase in birth rates.

In some sense puppies can be thought of as parasites. They’re designed to look like human babies and hijack our neural circuitry designed to care for the young. Their existence as a species is reliant on the evolutionarily detrimental exploitation of humans.

Marian Kechlibar April 30, 2014 at 3:39 am

Have you ever been to the Balkans? Have you seen the gazillions of stray dogs in the city streets there? This is how it would end.

The public would never stand for mass culling thereof.

Winston Smith April 29, 2014 at 10:37 pm

Blog post on tofugu.com about tsukiatte kudasai. If nothing else search down the page to “lame ways men confess their love to women”. Example: He suddenly showed me his pay slip. (26 year old woman) or, He gave me his resume and explained what kind of person he is and that he was thinking about marrying me. This happened a long time ago though. (40-year-old female)

Winston Smith April 29, 2014 at 10:38 pm
Adrian Ratnapala April 30, 2014 at 3:43 am

I don’t know about Japan, but in Australia the Courts recognise many de-facto marriages. It would not suprise me if one day people had to fill out a form in return. This is the wheel of time going around and around.

Nathan W April 30, 2014 at 12:42 pm

I wonder what they would do if someone started filling out the forms for everyone, lol :)

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