SENIOR MOMENTS: Baishaku Kekkon

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By PHIL SHIGEKUNI

When I was a child, I used to drive the adults around me crazy because I was continually asking questions. Nevertheless, thinking back to these times, it occurs to me, to a certain extent, I have kept this trait.

A question that has been on my mind, but not expressed, has to do with the centuries-old Japanese (and I expect, not restricted to the Japanese) custom of arranged marriage (baishaku kekkon). The arranger was called the baishakunin.  It is common to hear criticism of the practice, but there some positives to the process that we may not have considered.

I read an article once about the induction of men into the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The article stated their average IQ was 110. Considering the average in the general population is between 90-110, I was quite impressed.

Having a career in education, I realize a number of factors enter into how a person performs on an IQ test, but how can arranged marriages figure into raising IQ scores? The baishakunin would obviously check the genetic history on both sides of the families. If there were anyone in the lineage who was mentally retarded, that would surely be a negative factor as a choice of a potential marriage partner. If this were to happen over a period of several generations, would this not result in higher average test scores?

If this example were to be applied to other undesirable conditions such as mental illness, or other genetically transmitted illnesses, would not a reduced incidence of these conditions have a beneficial effect over several generations?

The Japanese are reputed to have the longest life expectancy of any nationality. How might arranged marriages explain this?

When I posed these questions to a few people, I got emotional reactions. The general feeling was that in bringing up this subject I was promoting a kind of Japanese elitism, perhaps akin to Hitler’s ideas of an Aryan master race.

I had to remind these people that I was not stating this idea as my opinion, or anything proposed by anyone I knew. It was only a question I have been harboring for a few years.

I have been writing this column now for a little over a year. Even though my email address is at end of the column, I seldom hear from anyone.

What I have said comes from “the top of my head.” I would welcome any comments, pro or con.

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Phil Shigekuni writes from San Fernando Valley and can be contacted at [email protected] The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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