JAPAN: ANALYSIS

Japanese saying ‘no thanks’ to sex should send up red flags in country with one of the world’s lowest birth rates

The number of men with no sexual experience drops with age, but it’s still large at 34: 26.1 per cent. For women age 34, it’s somewhat less, but not by much – 23.8 per cent.

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 January, 2016, 7:32pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 January, 2016, 7:32pm

Japan is well known for many things, and its obsession with sex is one of them. It has one of the most robust pornographic and adult-toy industries in the world and airs TV commercials for items as banal as candy that feature sexually suggestive themes. It even has an annual fertility festival that parades two five-foot-tall penis sculptures down a busy street on a Sunday afternoon.

And yet nearly half of singles in Japan have no interest in dating – a situation that many experts predict will help lead to a population decline of one-third in the next 45 years.

According to a survey of never-married people by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, 27.6 per cent of single men and 22.6 per cent of single women have no interest in engaging in a relationship with the opposite sex. Researchers cite those statistics to argue that a significant portion of Japanese simply has no interest in sex. They might even have an aversion to it.

Auumu Ochiai, a researcher based in Tokyo said: “41.6 per cent of males in their 20s have never dated anyone.”

41.6 per cent of males in their 20s have never dated anyone
Auumu Ochiai, researcher

The number of men with no sexual experience drops with age, but it’s still large at 34: 26.1 per cent. For women age 34, it’s somewhat less, but not by much – 23.8 per cent.

That’s not to say that all of them wish to remain single. Ochiai said his research indicates that nearly 90 per cent of single people would like eventually to marry. The Japanese government gives similar estimates.

Still, it’s easy enough to find Japanese who have little interest in developing a relationship. Yuki Kobari, who’s in his 30s, said he used to date several years ago, but that becoming involved with someone now would be a burden. Now his spare time is pretty much his own.

“I can devote myself to my hobbies and do what I want,” he explained.

He acknowledged that might not always be his preference, though he feels he has time yet before he must worry about making a commitment. His estimate: four or five years. Then, he said: “It’s going to be the time when you have to make a decision.”

Helping to drive the lack of interest in marriage is a change in Japan’s conservative social mores, with 31 per cent of single Japanese admit that relief from family pressure is one motivation for picking a partner. But that pressure is decidedly less now than it used to be. Plus, it’s easier to be single now.

“The world is pretty established as single-person-based, so there is not much inconvenience,” said another 30-something Japanese. “I cannot really imagine having people in my life.”

That, he said hesitantly, includes potential sex partners.

Well, I do not want people in my life, so sex is included here
30-something Japanese man

“To be honest, basically, how can I say? Well, I do not want people in my life, so sex is included here.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, he asked that his name not be published.

The lack of interest in sex is not limited to singles. According to a survey by the Japan Family Planning Association conducted last year, 44.6 per cent of married couples say they are in a sexless marriage. Some of the main reasons include work fatigue and childbirth.

What is surprising, though, is that 10.1 per cent of male and 23.8 per cent of female respondents say they find sex to be too much work, another 10.1 per cent of males and 5.4 per cent of females have come to think of their spouse as a blood relative, and 4.5 per cent of males and 5.9 per cent of females say that they have other activities they find more interesting than sex. A further 16.9 per cent of males and 13.0 per cent of females listed “other” as their answer.

That augurs poorly for Japan’s birthrate, computed as the number of children the average Japanese woman is expected to have in her lifetime. At 1.4, it’s one of the lowest in the world. In 1985, it was 1.8, the same as the United States’ rate then; now the US rate has inched up to 1.9.