International Symposium on Japanese Studies in Global Contexts

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International Divorce in Japan: The Experiences of Women from the Former Soviet Union Married to Japanese Men

Viktoriya Kim, Osaka University

The number of “international marriages” (kokusai kekkon) between a Japanese national and a foreigner (non-Japanese) has been continuously decreasing since 2006 (from 44,701 in 2006 to 21,488 in 2013). The number of international divorces, however, has been relatively constant with no recorded year showing less than 15,000 divorces between 2003 and 2013, and peaking at 19,404 in 2009 (Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, 2015).

This presentation aims to discuss international marriage and divorce issues of women from the former Soviet Union countries (hereafter FSU) and Japanese men. Starting from the early 1990s, there was a noted increase in marriages between citizens of the FSU (primarily Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan) and Japanese nationals, from 198 couples in 1995 (Population Census, 1995) to an estimated 5,000 as of 2014 (Ministry of Justice, 2014); most of which are between a woman from the FSU and a Japanese man. This presentation is based on the data collected by the presenter in urban areas of Japan from 2006 to 2012 by questionnaire surveys, interviews, and participant observation. The participants of the study were 48 women from the FSU and 20 Japanese men. Furthermore, the presenter has continued observing 30 of the 48 couples regularly since 2012 up to the present.

The data reveals that of the 48 female participants, 11 divorced during the period of 2006 to 2014, while another three were considering marriage dissolution at that time. Considering this finding, this presentation will analyze macro-level factors, such as legal, social, and cultural, as well as micro-level factors, i.e. individual interaction, that led to divorce in the aforementioned international marriages. Also issues women face in the process of integration into Japanese society during their marriage and after divorce, as well as the necessity of policies that will help to empower and support these women after divorce will be addressed.

Short Biography

Viktoriya Kim is an assistant professor of sociology at the Graduate School of Human Sciences, Osaka University since 2012. Viktoriya earned a Ph.D. from the Graduate School of Human Sciences, Osaka University and held a position of research assistant at the Afrasian Research Centre, Ryukoku University, Japan before joining Osaka University. Viktoriya’s research interests are international marriage and divorce, global migration, sociology of migration, and international education.