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'Japanese Wives'
Topic Started: Feb 5 2018, 11:31 AM (223 Views)
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No it's not a dating service. I'm talking about the spouses of men like Ernest Satow (Takeda Kane) and T.B. Glover (Yamamura Tsuru), who were routinely identified as their 'Japanese' wives as if they married other women in Europe, which in this case they didn't but I gather it was quite common as the Japanese unions were not recognised either in Britain or Japan. This then becomes the crux of my question:

I read today that under Tokugowa government marriages with foreigners were not allowed. No problems sp far, 'common law' is bandied about a bit, and Mackay in his biography of Glover speakers of 'temporary wives' in Japan thus legitimising what by the law was apparently illegitimate (we won't go into how Ieyasu naturalised Adams, declaring Adams dead and Miura Anjin was alive etc raising him to rank enough to marry the admittedly non noble Oyuki). All of which seems quite simple, since after the Maiji Restoration the ban on foreign marriages was lifted (1873 to go by memory) and these men didn't begin their relationships until the 1870's (Satow apparently still couldn't because of his consular position, no reason is given for why Glover didn't). But then I read that in 1863 or 1864 Charles Wirgman married and the word used across all the brief biographies of him I've seen in other books is married. The dreaded Wikipedia cites this article rather grandly as the Yamate Historical Archive, which again uses the term married and I gather there is some substantiation therefore in the Archvies in Yokohama.
So, if marriage was illegal between Japanese subjects and foreign subjects (and this would seem to be incontrovertible for a number of reasons) how was Wirgman allowed to marry his wife? Or is this just a turn of phrase or error.


Edited by JoshHistoryland, Feb 5 2018, 11:32 AM.
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Tsushima no kami
Perhaps they had a marriage ceremony even if they could not register their marriage. Such marriages were not uncommon in Japan. In Women of the Mito Domain it says that there were marriages where the woman was of too low in rank to be officially recognized by the domain "akin what would today be called a common-law wife", but a wife, not a concubine.

Even now in Japan, a wedding 結婚式 and marriage registration 婚姻 are different. Reishauer says in the Meiji period marriages often were not registered until "successful," and an old woman told me that until about the early 50's it was normal not to register a marriage until the wife became pregnant. This meant you could divorce simply by separating. Now it is normal to register soon after the wedding, if you have one. She said the reason for the change to registering soon was because the chance of sudden death increased with the increase in auto accidents around that time. But I do know some people now who did not register their marriage for quite some time.

So Wirgman could have been considered to be married by everyone, even if he could not register the marriage, i.e., make it legal.
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Sounds entirely logical, Bethetsu. Should've checked Women of the Mito Domain but I'm sort of concentrating on another thing at the moment. There's allot less written about Wirgman than Satow and Glover, so it's harder to find things out about him, I'm still a little puzzled as to why the former two are usually referred to as marrying common law wives and there's no designation to Wirgman.
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