J-pop diva Kumi Koda recently announced her engagement to Kenji03 of the rock band Back-On, and revealed that the pair had met earlier in the year when they collaborated on a song. She didn’t mention that Kenji03 had previously dated Koda’s sister, TV baka (silly) personality Misono, but that qualifying bit of intelligence wasn’t what concerned her management. While telling the press that the couple would register their union at the end of December, Koda’s spokesperson added that the singer was not pregnant.
It seemed an odd point to make, but as it turns out rumors were already circulating that Koda was with child. She and Kenji03 hadn’t been together that long, and these days so-called dekichatta kekkon — marriages precipitated by unplanned pregnancies — are as common among show-biz folk as botox treatments. Then, a couple of days later, Koda wrote on her blog that she was, indeed, several weeks along. The reason she didn’t report the happy news sooner was because her doctor said “not to break it just yet, since I was not in my stable period of pregnancy.”
Koda said she had been “gifted with a new life,” thus preempting in coverage of her announcement the word “dekichatta,” which usually connotes a mistake. Some English-language reporters translate the term as the colloquial “shotgun wedding,” which, with its image of a hayseed father shoving a reluctant bridegroom into a church, is way off. Dekichatta-kon (as it is commonly shortened to) more likely conjures up the image of a young woman informing her boyfriend she’s pregnant and then him shrugging and saying they might as well get married, which isn’t a very romantic image. Koda’s use of the word sazukari (gift) carries with it the notion of divine serendipity, thus removing sex — not to mention responsibility — from the equation. Other alternative euphemisms include omedeta-kon (auspicious union) and the made-up phrases favored by the wedding industry, “double happy” and “angel wedding.”
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry estimates that one out of four brides these days are pregnant when they marry, but if you pay any attention to the show-biz press you’d probably think the proportion is even higher among celebrities, not all of whom are young. One of the more prominent “oops” unions of last fall was between Kazuki Otake, the bespectacled 44-year-old half of the comedy duo Summers, and Fuji TV announcer Hitomi Nakamura, though no one knew Nakamura was actually five months along until the end of their wedding reception in November, when the lights in the banquet room dimmed and the sound of a baby’s heartbeat was played over the PA. It was the couple’s way of informing their guests of the impending addition. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
In other quarters, eyes were rolling. Though people with a sense of moral rectitude are scandalized by the libertine attitudes implied by the dekichatta epidemic in the geinō (show business) world, everyone else may wonder how much sex education these people have had. Plug “dekichatta” and “geinōjin” into Google and you get dozens of names of quite famous people who were wed in the past year or so: actor Eita (27) and J-pop star Kaela Kimura (25); pinup idol Aki Hoshino (34) and a 21-year-old jockey; model Rosa Kato and soccer star Daisuke Matsui.
Actress Ryoko Hirosue (30) embarked on her second dekichatta marriage in October 2010, two years after dissolving her first, which lasted five years. According to the website Post7, in both instances Hirosue’s management was furious, not just because the unexpected pregnancies forced her to cancel contracted acting jobs, but also because they cultivated a negative public image.
Or so it believed. As it turns out, no one seems to care. Hirosue still gets work, even from NHK, which in the past was notoriously jittery about actors who gave off a whiff of scandal. If dekichatta marriages have become acceptable for show-business people, it’s probably due to Nozomi Tsuji and Taiyo Sugiura, who entered into one four years ago when Tsuji, formerly of the girl idol group Morning Musume, was only 19. Sugiura, an actor known for his work in the “Ultraman” superhero series, was 26.
At the time, the weeklies and tabloids sneered, but since then the pair have become the ideal of the young celebrity parent-couple thanks to the astute PR planning of their respective talent agencies. Sugiura has been named best father of the year in various surveys, while Tsuji has come to epitomize the current trend for girlishly cute mothers. She even started her own children’s clothing line, a precedent picked up by Saeko Darvish, who parlayed her own dekichatta-kon to ace pitcher Yu Darvish (when they were both 20) into a career as a TV personality and then started her own line of kids’ fashion.
That Saeko is now divorced from the future Major Leaguer and Tsuji has rented an apartment by herself is a bigger test of tolerance. According to a Sankei Shimbun survey, 54 percent of the public are “against” dekichatta unions, though they also say it’s preferable to abortion and helps alleviate shōshika (the declining birth rate). No one seems to have analyzed the effect celebrity dekichatta marriages have on people in general, but 80 percent of teen weddings involve a pregnant bride, and, even more significant, 80 percent of those unions end in divorce.
The website Dekikon.com (which uses the URL baby-marriage.com) carried out its own survey among 99 dekichatta couples who were married in the last five years. Fifty-five were still married and 44 were not. Since the website promotes wedding planning, the survey sounds counterproductive, and then you read a bit further: 46 of the couples who are still together had wedding ceremonies, and of those who didn’t only nine remain married. Conclusion? Spending money on a ceremony-reception is as central to a couple’s long-term commitment as neglecting to use birth control is to getting to “I do.”