Divorces typically don't bring out the best in most of us, and fantasies of inflicting bodily harm on a former significant other aren't entirely uncommon. The Japanese, however, are taking a more Zen-like approach to divorce these days. Well, sort of.
In Tokyo, unhappily married men and women are inviting their nearest and dearest to the Divorce Mansion
, where couples can join hands for the last time and grip a cheeky frog mallet -- the amphibians, like the one shown here, symbolize "change" in Japanese culture -- to smash their wedding bands to bits.
On average, over 250,000 couples go their separate ways each year in Japan. Last March, one of those unlucky betrothed happened to be an old college buddy of Hiroki Terai. When the friend remarked to Terai that there should be an official get-together to mark the death of a marriage, not just the birth, Terai agreed to organize a "divorce ceremony" for the friend and even acted as the officiant. But what started as a favor to a friend has turned into a full-time gig for him: A year after he held that first fateful event, Terai's waiting list now tops 500!
Today, the doyen of divorce offers half-day packages that run 3,000 yen per person (about $33). To keep things as lighthearted as possible, Terai arranges for the former bride and groom to arrive at the ceremony in separate rickshaws, and once the wedding bands have been ceremoniously flattened, the newly single man and woman are directed to drop them into the mouth of a festive pink frog statue. Of course, there's also the classic call for a speech or two -- preferably from a fellow divorcee with authentic insight to offer -- and salutations like "rikon omedeto gozaimasu
" ("congrats on the divorce").
The wink-wink elements aside, Terai's divorce soirees are designed to help the divorcing duo create closure, or in some cases, convince them to stick it out after all. When one couple looking to call it quits missed the mark with the mallet three times, they took it as a sign to keep their deal sealed.