TOKYO: Mitsutoshi Fukatsu has been with his wife for three decades, but their lives have grown apart. As a busy stationmaster in central Japan, he returned home only to eat, bathe and sleep.

Now with retirement looming, the 56-year-old wants to get to know his wife better. He's helping with chores, calls his wife by her name Setsuko instead of just grunting and recently learned a new phrase: ``I love you.''

Mr. Fukatsu was one of a small group of men taking part in Japan's second annual ``Beloved Wives Day'' on Wednesday in hopes of salvaging their marriages by doing something unusual paying attention to their wives. Last year, a new group for men called the Japan Doting Husbands' Association designated January 31 as a day for husbands to return home at the unusually early hour of 8 p.m., look into their wife's eyes, and say, ``Thank you.''

This year, the first of Japan's postwar baby boom generation will reach 60 and retire, meaning an unprecedented number of men will have to abandon their home-away-from-home the all-consuming office and spend more time with their spouses.

There are financial reasons as well. An impending law change that gives housewives a bigger share of their spouse's pension could trigger a surge in divorces among older couples, as women frustrated with years of neglect take the money and run.

Ms. Setsuko Fukatsu appreciates the new attention.

``In the end, the children will leave and have their own families, so the two of us need to live a happy and a healthy life together.'' AP