1972: Why Did Japan’s Marriage Rates Peak That Year?

  • Marriage rates in Japan are not great, having declined from 1973 to the mid 80s before seeing an increase that paled in comparison to the numbers seen in the 60s and early 70s. Fast-forward to 2021, and marriage rates in Japan continue to be sluggish for multiple reasons, including how the Japanese working culture and the country’s many gender norms make some women have to make the decision of either prioritizing their career or getting married. There are still many companies and individuals in management positions who regard female employees as high-risk because of the outdated belief that they will not stick with the company for many years because one day they could get married and decide to become housewives, or because they could have a baby and decide to focus on parenting. Additionally, women who got divorced and then tried to return to the workforce after having spent years as homemakers found it incredibly difficult to find jobs in companies, so even though divorce rates have been experiencing a decrease after they peaked in 2002, younger women also understood the risks of leaving their companies.

    However, the marriage situation was not always as dim, and in 1972, the number of marriages peaked at 1,099,948. So what exactly happened in the early 70s that saw marriage numbers increase to numbers not seen since the end of World War II?

    Just like the baby boom that occurred at the end of World War II, it’s easy to understand why people would get married after the conclusion of one of the darkest periods in modern history, but the same reasoning cannot be applied to what occurred in the early 70s.

    One of the most important things that contributed to this sudden increase iis that arranged marriages started to fall out of favor; and while the having the freedom to choose whom to marry contributed to the decline of marriage rates, that same newfound freedom encouraged people in the early 70s to marry those they actually wanted to spend the rest of their lives (at least at the moment they made the decision).

    However, another thing that is often attributed to having encouraged people to marry happens to be a song.

    The song in question is Takuro Yoshida’s “Let’s Get Married”. This folk song, which became a huge hit after its release in 1972, celebrated a new era in Japan. The lyrics mention men with long hair and the influence of the hippie culture, things that went against what Japan had traditionally deemed acceptable in men and women.

    Upon its release, the song also faced criticism because of being a folk song that was not protetesting anything, which at that time was considered to be a definition of what constituted a folk song. However, the song proved to be a massive success and to this date, many Japanese graphs showing marriage rates tend to make a note about the song when mentioning the peak that happened in 1972 since it’s widely believed that the song’s popularity had an important role to play that year.

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