In the 1980s, Japan witnessed a phenomenon known as “Narita divorce,” where young couples, feeling incompatible during their honeymoon, decided to part ways upon returning to Japan at Narita Airport. Similarly, in the era of the pandemic, there is the “virus divorce”: the remote work situation caused by the pandemic, similar to a honeymoon, binds couples together day and night at home, leading to significant crises erupting from trivial matters and resulting in a sharp increase in divorces.
Therefore, before the intervention of breakup experts, Japan has a short-term rental business that emerged in the post-pandemic era, promoting reconciliation instead of separation.
The “virus divorce” is a global issue, but living conditions in Japan are relatively narrow and restrictive compared to Europe and America, making it a catalyst for conflicts. As a result, a short-term rental company named “Kasoku” sensed a business opportunity and released over 500 fully furnished rooms with Wi-Fi, providing a calm space for those who cannot stand being constantly with their partners and want to seriously consider the future of their marriage.
It is said that this idea originated from the real experience of the chairman of Kasoku, who went through a breakup with his live-in girlfriend. As a result, this short-term rental business, born to salvage marriages, even includes a complimentary 30-minute marriage counseling service. On the day this service launched, Kasoku received over 100 consultation calls, including married women who only occasionally need some personal space and victims of intolerable domestic violence.
However, whether it is breakup experts or short-term rental apartments, they are merely means of avoidance when an intimate relationship is in crisis. In comparison, the reconciliation methods used by medieval bishops were more direct and hardcore.
In Romania, there is a church called Bîrţan, where people in the town who have marriage problems have been following the advice of the bishop for 300 years. They come here for a 6-week retreat called the “marriage prison.” The “prison” is very simple, with low ceilings, thick walls, and minimal facilities, consisting only of a bed, a table, and tableware, with only one set of each. The purpose is for couples to understand and share the true essence of their relationship. According to the current priest, Father Sighler, in the 300 years, only one couple who left this place still went through with the divorce, and even today, there are couples requesting to enter the “prison.”
Although this method of reconciliation may seem to lack the atmosphere of democratic freedom, the priest’s explanation seems to touch upon the core issue of the repeated failures in contemporary intimate relationships: in modern families, people allocate less and less time to each other, people are more selfish than their ancestors, and they suffer from greater loneliness. Therefore, people must communicate more to discover what truly connects them and what is genuinely important.