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Old 2017-08-30, 01:46   Link #1
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Join Date: Jul 2009
Social acceptability of cousin relationships in Japan?

Cousin romances in anime are something that can really weird out American viewers. I was under the impression that cousin relationships are widely considered to be acceptable in Japan, but have become vastly less common post WWII due to increasing urbanization. However I've also come across evidence to the contrary such as this foreign policy article and a scene in Daily Lives of High School Boys where a girl's budding feelings for an out of town boy get crushed by him asking around and finding out that they're actually cousins.

So yeah -was I correct in thinking that cousin relationships in anime generally aren't meant to be seen as some kind of forbidden fruit, or is the viewpoint that its unacceptable due to genetic risks more widespread than I thought?

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Old 2017-09-03, 09:19   Link #2
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Pennsylvania
As far as anime goes I read an article once discussing the whole cousin relationship, and it had to do with the antisocial tendencies of the Japanese Otaku. Otaku are nervous talking to non family members (whether this is real or imagined is up for debate), and a cousin is distant enough to not be total squick, but still family so antisocial issues don't crop up as much. Now Otaku don't actually do this in real life, but the characters they like do, because I mean who hasn't tried to think how cool it would be to be their favorite character at some point.
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Old 2017-09-16, 22:13   Link #3
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Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: I've moved around the American West. I've lived in Oregon, Washington, Utah, and Oklahoma
Age: 38
Well... I can't speak directly to Japanese cultural issues, but I can address American issues and suggest some likely relations:

First, the risk of birth defects due to cousin marriage is actually quite low.

The base risk of birth defects is ~2 to 3%.

Children of second cousins experience no discernible increase in risk.

Children of first cousins experience a risk of ~3 to 5%.

Children of double cousins (eg: the fathers are brothers, and the mothers are sisters) experience a risk of ~4 to 7%.

In comparison the risk of birth defects to cocaine users is ~17% and the risk of marijuana users is ~12%.

It takes repeated cousin marriages to develop real risks (like the Hapsburg line).

More likely the acceptability of cousin marriage is related to other issues.

The biggest is probably the prevalence of arranged marriages. There is a clear preference for cousin marriages within arranged marriages.

The second is probably the availability (and importance) of land. The less land there is to go around the more important it is to preserve land ownership within families - with cousin marriage being a very important method to do this. When farming was the primary employment of people, owning sufficient land was even more important.

These two reasons are probably the main reason America is so hostile to cousin marriage, in a way that is really an outlier in world culture.

America adopted self arranged marriage earlier than most countries, and America had massive land surpluses due to the American frontier.

Additional reason might be the prevalence of high profile excessive cousin marriages resulting in birth defects in the culture. The West in general had this on display in the Hapsburg and other royal marriages. In fact, these examples of excessive cousin marriages actually goes back to Rome, which also banned cousin marriage. Since much of Western law codes go back to Rome (especially the Anglo Saxon common law traditions) it shouldn't be a surprise that bans on cousin marriage are most prevalent in Western cultures.

My guess would be that effects due to increased transportation, urbanization, and other such effects increasing the marriage pool come after these three.

Decreasing birth rates would also have conflicting effects. On the one hand it decreases the marriage pool, but on the other it makes cousins closer in equivalence to siblings. In other words the Westermarck effect is more likely.

My guess is that the decline in arranged marriages is the primary reason for the decline of cousin marriages in Japan.

Followed by the decrease in the importance of owing land.

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