Foreign Student (hereinafter FS): The adulterous affairs of celebrities or members of Parliament often appear in the news. How do the Japanese view adultery? Teacher (hereinafter T): There was a news story about a female TV personality with a clean image – who had appeared in many TV commercials – having an affair with a vocalist in a band. Although the weekly magazine that reported on this affair printed 20% more copies than usual, all of these sold out. So you might say that Japanese people are concerned about adultery among the famous. In 2014 the news that France’s President Hollande was secretly meeting with an actress, despite already having a partner, caused quite a stir, even in Japan. A survey by a French company revealed that 77% of French people felt that this was a private matter that just happened to concern the president. The Japanese were surprised by the tolerance of the French. In Japan, adultery is not punishable by law, but famous people are socially disgraced when their affairs are given widespread coverage in the media. In 1989 it was leaked to the media that an ex-geisha had been the lover of Japan’s Prime Minister UNO Sosuke. It created a big fuss and he had to resign from his post as prime minister only two months after assuming office. FS: Wasn’t there also the adultery case of the member of the House of Representatives who had declared that he would set an example by taking paternity leave despite the fact that in Japan it’s not common for men to take childcare leave? T: It was widely reported in the media that he committed adultery just before his wife – also a member of the House of Representatives – was about to deliver their baby and, as a result, he had to resign. FS: Is adultery punishable conventionally by law anywhere in the world? T: In some Islamic countries stoning is still practiced as a punishment and in some Asian countries adulterers are punished as criminals. In Japan about 1,000 years ago, husbands and wives did not live together, and it was common for a husband to make visits to his wife’s house. t is said that relations between men and women were more relaxed. In the 18th century, it was made legal for men to punish their wives and the person their wives had committed adultery with. Later, adultery became a serious crime, with men being put into jail after being paraded through the city streets and women being sentenced to death. F: How are things nowadays? T: When the TV drama “Kinyoubi no Tsumatachi e” (To Wives on Fridays) was broadcast in 1983, because of its popularity, the term “furin” (adultery) became widespread. In 1997 “Shitsurakuen” (Paradise Lost), a novel written by WATANABE Junichi that explored the theme of adultery, became a bestseller and was selected for the grand prize of the New Expressions and Buzzwords Competition. In 2014 the TV drama “Hirugao” (Day Face), starring UETO Aya, caused quite a stir. FS: What comments do people who have committed adultery make to the public? T: In the past an actor remarked that “adultery is part of our culture,” and a president of a film company commented that, “I did not make an actress my lover. I only made my lover an actress.” Now that the Internet is so well developed, famous people who’ve had affairs have to take the only partially serious condemnation of the general public and adopt a pose of deep regret.
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