Spotting a bigamist no easy task

Capt. Spaulding (Groucho Marx): [to Mrs. Rittenhouse and Mrs. Whitehead] “Let’s get married.”

Mrs. Whitehead: “All of us?”

Capt. Spaulding: “All of us.”

Mrs. Whitehead: “Why, that’s bigamy.”

Capt. Spaulding: “Yes, and it’s big of me too.”

From “Animal Crackers” (1930)

Stories about bigamy in Japan are few and far between, so when we caught the headline “Juukon otoko, kou minuke” (Here’s how to spot a bigamist”) in Nikkan Gendai (Oct. 31), we paused for a look-see.

While the full details of the story were not provided, it seems a man in Yamanashi Prefecture set fire to the hall where his wedding reception was to take place. Apparently he was already spoken for. But he was unable to break off from either his wife or his newly betrothed, and by the time the wedding date rolled around, his sole solution to the predicament was to set the venue ablaze.

“While actual bigamy is uncommon, many women are cheated by married men who claim to be single,” writer Masumi Kurata tells the newspaper. After all, the custom of wearing a wedding ring is not widespread in Japan, and whether he’s a Cassanova type or just an ordinary fellow, you can never tell if he’s married or single.

“Sometimes a woman will just assume, ‘I can’t see such an unrefined bloke with no money as having a wife,’ and believe whatever he tells her,” Kurata continues. “In some cases she might even live with him under the same roof or introduce him to her parents.”

For “Miss Y,” a 26-year-old female office worker, it all began at a party, where she met a trading firm employee twelve years her senior. She admits she found it a bit odd that a 38-year-old man was still unwed, but he said, “I’ve been holding off all these years waiting for you to come along,” and she fell into his trap.

He was not especially good-looking but an excellent conversationalist. As his work required him to travel abroad for several days a week, she could not contact him, but when he returned to Japan he would stay at her apartment. On days when he was on the road he’d send her mushy e-mails.

Eventually her suspicions began to harden. When he traveled, his phone was usually turned off. And he was often slow in responding to her e-mails. When she voiced suspicions that he might be seeing another woman, he reacted angrily, saying, “What, can’t you trust me?”

About a year after the relationship began, she was under the hair dryer in a beauty salon when she spotted his photo in a women’s magazine together with his “wife,” and broke down in tears.

“It’s harder to spot these kind of married men because increasingly they don’t fit into an easily discerned lifestyle pattern,” says the aforementioned Kurata. “If they won’t let you call them at home, or introduce you to their parents or siblings, then you should regard them as suspect. And women need to watch out for men who often appear to become haphazardly ‘busy.’ A lot of them will use the excuse of being busy at their work as a pretext for avoiding you.” (Mieko Shimizu)

Source: “Juukon otoko, kou minuke,” Nikkan Gendai (Oct. 31, page 9)

Note: Brief extracts from Japanese vernacular media in the public domain that appear here were translated and summarized under the principle of “fair use.” Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy of the translations. However, we are not responsible for the veracity of their contents. The activities of individuals described herein should not be construed as “typical” behavior of Japanese people nor reflect the intention to portray the country in a negative manner. Our sole aim is to provide examples of various types of reading matter enjoyed by Japanese.

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