Japan Maintains The Ancient Tradition Of Adopting Adult Men

When it comes to business, family comes first. But when it comes to family, business comes first.
Japan Maintains The Ancient Tradition Of Adopting Adult Men

Despite having a worse birth rate than a nunnery, Japan has the world's second-largest adoption rate. They also have the largest adoptees since a whopping 98% of all adoptions are between an adult Japanese man and another adult Japanese man. This is often already the older man's employee and/or son-in-law (who then agrees per contract to take the name of his now sister-wife), but they can be flexible negotiators in their son-search. If he still has his starter-pack parents, they'll happily offer them a buyout. If their new hand-picked son is already married, they'll just also adopt his wife as part of a package deal. And if no one around the office catches their fancy, they'll turn special matchmaking app promising to hook up single men with dads in their area.

That's because the greatest job promotion a young go-getter can get in the Japanese corporate structure is to the position of Son Of The Boss, who in Japanese tradition can only happily die behind his desk if he knows he has a competent son waiting in the wings. Like a lot of countries, Japanese culture places extra value on family-owned businesses, but unlike the rest of the world, Japanese families only care about continuing the name, not the bloodline. Even major companies like Mitsubishi, Toyota, and Canon have been handed over to former CEOs' proverbial redheaded children. Keeping businesses in the family is such an important sign of success and stability that bosses can adopt a goat for all their shareholders could care. As long as the right name remains on the big plaque, they'll have the utmost confidence that Billie-san is the right man for the job.

Meg Stewart
At least he's good at shredding documents. 

Like most hardcore Japanese business practices, this weird form of feudal meritocracy can be traced back to the age of the samurai. For centuries, particularly during the Edo period, Japanese nobles would seek out competent young men to audition for Who Wants To Be The Next Clan Heir. But entrepreneurial adoption wasn't just reserved for the upper echelons. Merchants, small-business owners, and even peasants would scout for local son talent -- sometimes even promoting these proteges over the heads of their own large adult sons.

Ross Pollock, Flickr
Imagined being bullied by your brother for not being adopted.

But Japan wasn't the first to look outside of the house if their kids didn't prove to be management material. The practice of using adoption to pick the next pater familias was also popular with Ancient Roman nobility, most notably their emperors. The first proper emperor, Augustus, was only a distant (but very clever) relative of Julius Caesar until he was adopted in the dead dictator's will to continue his hostile takeover of Rome. In fact, work-related adoption might have been the greatest thing that ever happened to the Roman Empire since a majority of what are considered the least insane, least likely to bang their sister or appoint a horse to the senate, "Good Emperors" reached the top (from ever so slightly below the top) on their own merit.

But the European practice of adult adoption was wiped out by the new feudal nobility during the Middle Ages. Not because they wanted to create a more competitive marketplace for baby orphans. (How would the Church get free labor if not by people dropping them off on their steps?). On the contrary, these very Christian rulers banned adoption altogether, believing no one deserves to be part of a good family unless they slid into that privilege on a wave of nepotism and discarded placenta. After all, if God had to make do with his slacker hippie of a biological son taking over the family business, why should anyone else get to pick and choose?

To adopt Cedric as your large adult son, you can find him on Twitter.

Top Image: imtmphoto/Shutterstock Pixabay


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