Uwaki: The Not-So-Romantic Art of Cheating

By Marina Yoshimura


[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n Japanese, cheating on someone romantically— mostly alluding to casual affairs— is called uwaki (浮気). In English that translates to “floating feelings.” But the symbols for a synonym of uwaki meaning “adultery,” furin (不倫), connote something perhaps more serious: “a lack of ethics.” As furin’s symbols suggest, cheating is not a noble cause. In Japan, a country that places great value on company loyalty— people actually die from this— the question remains: where does the loyalty lie in love?
Cheating prevails in Japan despite its controversy. In fact, 38% of surveyed respondents said they have cheated on their boyfriend, although the criteria depend on how they define cheating. According to a Yale study, Japanese society as a whole disapproves of it (and in fact idealizes family constructs, as shown, for example, in Sazae-san, a television series that depicts a family’s ordinary life) however, some individuals offer conflicting points of views. One celebrity, Junichi Ishida, was notoriously as quoted in The Japan Times, saying ‘“You don’t hesitate to denigrate adultery, yet the bitter sadness and sweetness of secret love are themes in works of great literature and art,” and added that “They have long been a source of the highest culture.”’ The media criticized him because they interpreted his statement as justifying adultery. The misogyny became apparent in a scandal between a female television personality and a male singer; Becky faced intense public scrutiny for having an affair with a married man. The media blamed Becky without giving the same scrutiny to the singer, Ewon Kawatani, who reportedly had many more affairs while married after the scrutiny. No matter how wealthy or educated, love isn’t fun with people of cheap character; it’s disgusting. But of course, they wouldn’t think so, because they’re, oh, so successful. Nothing could hurt them, right? Such a notion prevails among not just celebrities, but also among those who cheat.

Cheating may be a product of society’s underlying issues. The problem could be marriages, culture, or business. Marriages in Japan may not be the healthiest: If given a choice, 60% of these couples would turn down their marriage if given the option again. Business culture also plays a role in the glorification of cheating: having a mistress can be considered a status of sorts, a business transaction that society accepts as shouganai, or “c’est la vie.”

Ultimately, cheating isn’t about us. Cheating implies that our partners—of all sexes— don’t matter. It’s about leaving behind a society that values integrity. In Why England Slept, a rebuttal of Winston Churchill’s book, President John F. Kennedy wrote, “A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.” (Mind you, rumors of President Kennedy engaging in adultery are also prevalent.) But the point is that, ideas do live on. Cheating hurts. Cheating is a breach of trust. Cheating is a loss of dignity. Think of the last time you asked someone for help. When was the last time you called customer service? Why did you ask? Was it because you believed this person could give you what you wanted? Trust is integral to the social fabric.

Cheating is wrong. It is prevalent, and some of us try to justify it, most of us hate it. It may be a symptom of other issues that society or individuals need to address. Although previous generations may have justified it, we can set precedents for generations to come. Next time someone tries to cheat on you, or cheat on someone with you, bruise their ego. Spill a drink. Or simply say no. No matter the social pressure, cheating is a choice, and so is integrity. It’s about our values. Love requires discipline, but the discipline makes love beautiful. Let’s stop cheating on one another. It hurts, and hurt breeds hate. Plato may have justified it, but that doesn’t mean we should.


Marina Yoshimura was a visiting student from Japan. She is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Quill Times, a student publication, and is a student at Waseda University in Japan. You can contact her at myoshimura@akane.waseda.jp