At the moment, I am finishing a book manuscript entitled “Divorce and the Romance of Independence in Contemporary Japan.”

In contemporary Japan, much public and media attention is focused on a divorce rate now above thirty-three percent. This rising divorce rate reflects social change not only because more families are outside the normative mainstream but also because it reveals what many Japanese believe to be a striking reversal of gendered norms. Until recently most divorces were initiated by men and resisted by women, but now, popular discourse holds, it is the women who are divorcing decrepit and dependent men to find freedom and fulfillment. This book filters these discussions through public and private conversations about what divorce means, and how people negotiate the gaps between lives they want and lives that are possible. The book, based on fieldwork with men and women, posits that although divorce can seem to be freeing people from restrictive social norms, contemporary divorces are justified through ethics of self-responsibility that leave many conflicted, lonely, and searching for new romantic attachment. Considering divorce and what people do to avoid it, the book traces contemporary Japanese debates about the possibilities for freedom within intimacy and the attractiveness of independence by contextualizing them within demographic, economic, and social shifts.