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Comparatively speaking, Japanese homes are undeniably small. So much so that many traditional furnishings are designed to help maximize the efficiency of what little space there is. Futons that can be stuffed into a closet when not in use, tables that fold up in a snap, and cushions for sitting on the floor all provide the flexibility to quickly and easily convert a living room into a bedroom.

So with space at such a premium, why do so many Japanese married couples choose to sleep in separate rooms?

In many ways, the lifestyles of a husband and wife in Japan are less integrated than in other countries. Regular overtime is a matter of course in white-collar jobs, and when the window for what time you’ll get off is “somewhere between 5 and 7,” coordinating schedules for dinner, or spending time together in general, with your spouse can be tricky. Things only become more difficult when both husband and wife work, as is becoming increasingly common in Japan.

Human resource decisions also tend to be unilateral, with large corporations often transferring established employees to branches on the other side of the country for a few years with little reason other than a desire to shake things up. Often, a transferred husband will move to his new post by himself and live alone, especially if the couple has children who have just passed the grueling entrance exams for a new school.

▼Should you be forced into such a living arrangement, we recommend trying to time it so you’re away from your kids while they’re going through colic.

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These can at least be explained by economic and educational pressures, however. More puzzling is the information in a book written by Hideki Kobayashi, a graduate professor of engineering at Chiba University. In his work, titled Living in a Place – Family Life as Explained by Territorialism, Kobayashi states that a large portion of Japan’s married couples sleep in separate parts of the home.

According to Kobayashi’s studies, 26 percent of married couples living in Tokyo-area condominiums sleep in separate rooms. Kobayashi also claims that four out of ten married couples over 60 don’t share a bed, and that 53 percent of spouses whose children have moved out prefer to sleep solo.

Kobayashi’s first theory as to why this is happening is rooted in child rearing practices. In Japan, it’s customary for new mothers and their babies to sleep in the same bed. Naturally, as the child grows older, he or she begins to sleep apart from the mother, and this natural progression creates an acceptance of sleeping alone which carries over into old age, the professor asserts.

Mothers cuddling their babies as they sleep is hardly unique to Japanese culture, however. At this point, Kobayashi seems to be 0 for 1 in explaining psychology, which isn’t entirely shocking for an engineering expert.

Please, lie down on the couch, and tell me about your problems.

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Kobayashi’s second hypothesis is more compelling. Like most wealthy nations, Japan has seen its divorce rate rise over the last few decades, and it now stands at around 35 percent. In particular, divorces among couples who have been married for a long period of time are increasing, with the number of spouses choosing to dissolve their union after more than 25 years together doubling in the past 10 years.

Nevertheless, divorce is still less common in Japan than in many other nations. Kobayashi feels that many couples, not wanting to legally end their marriage, settle into a sort of de-facto “in-house divorce,” during which they continue to live under the same roof. With both sides recognizing the lack of an emotional bond or desire for shared intimacy, these spouses feel that having their own rooms to sleep in is the most civil way to handle the situation.

This seems like a more plausible explanation, and on one hand, we can understand the rationale between not wanting to spend all night lying next to a person whom you don’t feel any romantic affection for. On the other hand, we can’t help but feel these “in-house divorces” still leave far too many issues unresolved to make for a truly pleasant living arrangement.

▼ For instance, if they’re not married in their hearts, is the husband still expected to put the seat down?

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Source: Yahoo! Japan News
Top image: Rakuten
Insert images: Karacure, Mazda Rotary Net, Blogspot