Advertisement

“That May Be Japanese Law … but Not in My Country!” Marriage, Divorce, and Private International Law in Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly

  • Giorgio Fabio ColomboEmail author
  • Masabumi Suzuki
  • Dai Yokomizo
Chapter

Abstract

Madama Butterfly is one of the most famous operas by Giacomo Puccini. Set in Japan in 1904, it depicts the tragic love story between B.F. Pinkerton, an officer in the US Navy, and Cio-cio-san (also called Madama Butterfly), a young Japanese girl from Nagasaki.

The libretto (written by Giacosa e Illica—one of whom happened to be a lawyer) is quite interesting from a jurist’s perspective as it mentions a number of legal. The pivotal point in the opera is the marriage between the officer and the young Japanese lady. Questions arise about the law applicable to the marriage itself (including the formalities required), that applicable to the matrimonial life and, more importantly, whether Pinkerton was allowed to unilaterally divorce by abandoning the conjugal house, an option in his view permitted by Japanese law (but of course not allowed under the law of the USA). In the opera, the validity of this option is taken for granted, but a legal, technical analysis leads to a different conclusion.

This paper investigates in detail the legal aspects of Madama Butterfly, in light of the applicable law in Japan in 1904: in particular, the Civil Code of 1898 (Minpō), the Japanese Code of Private International Law (Hōrei) and the Nationality Law (Kokuseki hō). The story of Pinkerton and Butterfly will be analyzed through the lenses of law to find answers to the following questions: Was their marriage validly performed? Which law regulated their marital life? And most of all: Did the law in 1904 grant the husband the ability to unilaterally divorce through abandonment? In trying to deal with these questions, the paper relies on the original text in Italian (of course providing an English translation for the international readership).

References

  1. Auslin MR (2006) Negotiating with imperialism: the unequal treaties and the culture of Japanese diplomacy. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  2. Bailey-Harris R (1991) Madame Butterfly and the conflict of laws. Am J Comp Law 39:157–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Belasco D (1928) Madame Butterfly: a tragedy of Japan. In: Six plays. Little, Brown, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Colombo GF (2014) Japan as a victim of comparative law. Mich State Int Law Rev 22:731–754Google Scholar
  5. Dogauchi M (2008) Historical development of Japanese private international law. In: Basedow J, Baum H, Nishitani Y (eds) Japanese and European private international law in comparative perspective. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, pp 27–60Google Scholar
  6. Fuess H (2004) Divorce in Japan. Family, gender and the state 1600–2000. Stanford University Press, StanfordGoogle Scholar
  7. Giacosa G, Illica L (1906) Madama Butterfly. Una tragedia giapponese. Ricordi, MilanGoogle Scholar
  8. Girardi M (1996) Esotismo e dramma in “Iris” e “Madama Butterfly”. In: Puccini e Mascagni. Quaderni della Fondazione Festival pucciniano 37–54Google Scholar
  9. Girardi M (2002) Puccini: his international art. The University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  10. Kitagawa Z (1997) Use and non-use of contracts in Japanese business relations: a comparative analysis. In: Baum H (ed) Japan: economic success and legal system. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, pp 145–166Google Scholar
  11. Long JL (1898) Madame ButterflyGoogle Scholar
  12. Lönholm LH (1898) The civil code of Japan. Maruya, TokyoGoogle Scholar
  13. Loti P (1888) Madame Chrysantème. Calmann-Lévy, ParisGoogle Scholar
  14. Ramseyer JM (1996) Odd markets in Japanese history. Law and economic growth. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Röhl W (ed) (2005) A history of law in Japan since 1868. Brill, LeidenGoogle Scholar
  16. Sakurada Y (2008) Chocho-Hujin no Higeki. Kyoto University Law and Politics 21 COE Program for the Reconstruction of Legal Ordering in the 21st Century, Occasional Paper Series 28:19–39Google Scholar
  17. Torii J (1999) International human rights and the law concerning family relations. In: Andō N (ed) Japan and international law. Past, present, future. Brill, Den Haag, pp 257–270Google Scholar
  18. Upham FK (1998) Weak legal consciousness as invented tradition. In: Vlastos S (ed) Mirror of modernity: invented traditions of modern Japan. University of California Press, Berkeley, pp 48–66Google Scholar
  19. Van Rij J (2001) Madame Butterfly: Japonisme, Puccini & the search for the Real Cho-Cho-san. Stone Bridge Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  20. West MD (2011) Lovesick Japan. Sex, marriage, romance, law. Cornell University Press, IthacaCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giorgio Fabio Colombo
    • 1
    Email author
  • Masabumi Suzuki
    • 1
  • Dai Yokomizo
    • 1
  1. 1.Nagoya University, Graduate School of LawNagoyaJapan

Personalised recommendations