Marriages in Meiji Japan
I’ve been spending a little too much time researching and got worried that I may have to change things with the whole romance subplot in my book.
The first issue I encountered dealt with who could marry whom. Ryuji and Naomi aren’t related at all, but I thought could be considered “related by affinity” because Ryuji was a ward of the family and seen as a member of the family (not as a son, but more of a nephew). I had to figure out what collateral relations within the third degree meant in the law at that time and it took a great deal of Googling to find out what it meant 😛 Thankfully, it should be ok, because if anything, society may view them as distant, distant cousins (even though they aren’t blood related).
But then I realized I ought to look deeper into the actual marriage customs and realized that arranged marriage was the norm at this time in Japan. Marriages were often set up through omiai and by a nakodo, or a matchmaker, who knew the two candidates and their families. There would be a selection process, an introduction between the candidates and the families, and perhaps a few other meetings for the prospective bride and groom to assess one another (of course all under supervision). Social status and lineage were among some of the important things to consider. If the families didn’t feel that a marriage would be auspicious, they would part ways and the process would begin again.
A non arranged marriage was very uncommon which of course is going to pose problems for my two characters (since they aren’t arranged to be married). Of course I can work this into the plot somehow (and already have in my earlier chapters, though I’m thinking I’ll need to give it a bit more focus) and it will definitely make things a little more interesting, especially when we have the uber traditional Japanese mindset of Ryuji and the Victorian mindset of Naomi.
Even though the Victorian era was also a time when emotion was supposed to be kept in check, I’m thinking arranged marriages would be something that Naomi would view with a little aversion (not nearly as we would today of course, but more than the average Japanese woman would at that time). So there’s the conflict there of her viewing a marriage as one that should be built on love, while Ryuji’s view is more of the traditional “what’s good for the family and what the head of the family wants” point of view.
So of course there’s the inner turmoil of Ryuji who finds himself attracted to Naomi but realizes he cannot act upon it because it would be shameful and go against that of the family (not to mention, Naomi’s father). He doesn’t want things to turn out the way it did for Naomi’s parents, which was obviously against societal expectations on both sides (an American woman and a Japanese man together? Simply unheard of and considered disgraceful at this time). It’s going to be interesting how it turns out, since I’m still uncertain what the result for them will be at the end.
For one brief moment, I thought that maybe I’d have them in an arranged marriage from the beginning, but then I thought it wasn’t all that original enough for me (I’ve seen plenty of storylines with the whole arranged marriage thing starting out badly and then the couple grows to love each other…) not to mention I couldn’t figure out how to fit it in with the storyline without completely changing the entire book( and adding the entire miai process) So I nixed that idea pretty quickly 😛
Sigh. It seems like this keeps getting more and more complicated as I go along! 😛