- Title: JAPAN: Japanese hope to flush away their problems at the Divorce temple
- Date: 26th February 2010
- Summary: DIRECTOR TAKAGI AND VISITORS IN FRONT OF REPLICA OF TEMPLE CIVIL OFFICE (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) 73-YEAR-OLD MASAO KOBAYASHI, OTA CITY MUNICIPAL OFFICER SAYING: "Usually men express the desire to sever their ties with their wives. But I don't have that particular desire. On the contrary if my wife would break off with me, I'd be in trouble!" EXTERIOR OF MANTOKUJI TEMPLE BUDDHA STATUE IN THE TEMPLE VISITORS IN THE TEMPLE TEMPLE GATE
- Embargoed: 13th March 2010 12:00
- Location: Japan
- Country: Japan
- Topics: Light / Amusing / Unusual / Quirky
- Reuters ID: LVAT4F093JYXQMFTR0Y80P8IQAQ
- Story Text: Tired of an unsatisfying relationship, the sluggish economy or just your own bad habits? Why not just flush it all down the toilet? At least that is what one temple in Japan is proposing its visitors do in order to rid themselves of bad karma.
Dubbed a "divorce temple", the Mantokuji temple in the central Gumma prefecture originally functioned as asylum for the women who wanted to cut marital ties with their husbands.
But as modern divorce laws and family courts have made the temple's original function obsolete, it now survives on as a museum to the history of divorce with vestigial religious side in helping people break away from any ill fortune, or even re-unite with a better destiny -- in the latrines.
Visitors are given two options, the white squat toilet for the 'enkiri', or cutting ties, or the black one for the 'enmusubi', tightening ties.
"I severed the bounds with obesity!" said 69-year-old, tea ceremony instructor Shizue Kurokawa, after having flushed her "enkiri" tag in the white latrine. "I'm getting fat and it's not healthy. From now on I'd like to loose weight, be in fine form and take care of my health."
According to the temple officials a majority of visitors still come here with the purpose of breaking up with their partners, but most do so very discretely. Those willing to appear on camera had less private wishes.
"I work for a business company and things are not going well. What's more, deflation is a problem everywhere in Japan, "said 74-year-old Kiyo Suzuki, an employee at a steel production company. "So my prayer is that things may recover for all of us."
Up until the 19th century the Mantokuji was one of only two women-only convents serving as a refuge for the wives who wanted to break off with their husbands. Women in those days had no legal rights to ask for a divorce, though all a man had to do was to write a three and a half line letter saying "I thereby divorce thee" to make the breakup official.
Thus convent officials would act as go-between in order to persuade the husband to issue their wife the legal documents.
"In the past the Mantokuji was a divorce temple. There are only two in Japan and in the whole world," explained the temple museum director Tadashi Takagi.
"Originally it provided the possibility to break off with bad relationships. Women used to come here to have legal protection and divorce from their improper husbands. So the idea today is that people get rid of the bad things in their life and become happy", he said.
Takagi said in Japan spirits and gods are believed to inhabit practically everything, and the latrines are no different.
Furthermore among the million gods in the Japanese pantheon, the deity of the toilet (kawaya no kami) was considered as important as the others since it was believed to heal illnesses and favour a good childbirth, Takagi, who first installed the latrines said.
However accidents did, in the past happen, Takagi admitted.
"When this museum was realized, at first, there were people who took it for a real loo and actually used it. But since we have put a sign indicating that the toilets are for praying, almost nobody makes that mistake anymore," he added.
Among the people who visited the museum , some men said they preferred to stay away from the toilets, just in case their partner decides to use the occasion to get rid of them.
"Usually men express the desire to sever their ties with their wives. But I don't have that particular desire," said 73-year-old Ota City municipal officer Masao Kobayashi. "On the contrary, if my wife would break off with me, I'd be in trouble!"
Despite its quirky rite, the Mantokuji sanctuary continue to stand as a testimony to women rights in Japan, as it was for a long time one of the few places that granted women the possibility to divorce in an era when they had no rights.
The run-away wives were granted automatic protection from the law if they could flee to safety through the temple's main gate, the so called Gate of Asylum.
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