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May 30, 2012

The Divorce Toilet

Women in Japan are praying to the porcelain god, but it has nothing to do with booze

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Want to wash your hands of a guy who's no good? Then why not go a step further and flush him down the toilet? This is what hundreds of women are doing at an ancient Buddhist temple in Japan. Known as the "divorce temple," Mantokuji Temple in the town of Ojimamachi helps women get rid of bad-relationship karma with the aid of a sacred latrine. Women write down their wish to sever their marriage ties on a piece of paper, then flush it to have their prayers answered.

Thanks to Japan's rising divorce rate (up fourfold in the past 50 years), Mantokuji has become a pilgrimage site for unhappy wives. The Japanese believe that spiritual gods exist in everything — even the john — so the idea is to get the blessing of Kawaya No Kami, a toilet deity believed to live at the temple. Until a century ago, the temple served as a refuge for Japanese women who wanted to leave bad marriages but couldn't because only husbands could initiate divorce. Swishing their love woes down the pan today may be merely symbolic, but it's got to feel good.

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