- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
It would be hard top Miyuki Hatoyama in terms of eccentricity. The former Japanese first lady was best known for the fact that she claimed that she was abducted by aliens and knew Tom Cruise in a former life. Naoto Kan’s wife Nobuko, according to the Economist, is known “mainly for her straight-talking manner and no-nonsense influence on Mr Kan.” But there is one interesting thing about their relationship, as blogger Michael Cucek explains:
What everyone has either been ignoring, willfully or not, is that the PM and his wife are related.
First cousins, in fact. If online family trees are correct, Kan Naoto’s mother and his wife Nobuko’s father are sister and brother.
Whilst first cousin marriage is the most common form of marriage in pre-modern societies and was not at all rare in even urban areas in pre-war Japan, it has become a rarity in this modern, mass education, mobile age. While obviously legal (just barely) it has been driven out by a mass inculcation of the belief that first cousin marriage carries an unacceptable risk of birth defects, should there be children. Indeed, the prime minister and his wife’s parents vehemently opposed the two marrying.
Hat tip: Japan Probe