Tag Archives: relationships

Japan Dating Statistic II: Sex Life

Part 1: Japanese Dating Statistic I

When I talk about yellow fever, I’m sure most people know I’m not talking about mosquitoes. And for those with a special attraction to Asian women, Japan certainly seems like a mecca of awesome. Not only is its population homogenous and therefore sufficiently Asian-girl-filled (98.4% Japanese), but Japanese women tend to be perceived as petite, demure, and having higher-than-normal voices. Even Wikipedia has an article on cuteness in Japan, placing Japan in a category of it’s own when it comes to those 可愛い少女.

So many love hotels...but so little time?

Not only that, but Japan is also one of the world’s biggest pornography producers, coming in third place behind South Korea and China in terms of revenue. I’m not sure if those statistics include animated pornography, which Japan seems to have monopolized in terms of production (although I could find no hard statistics about this specifically).

HOWEVER, as I continue to read through Lovesick Japan, I came across some interesting numbers:

In a 2005 survey…Japan ranked dead last—forty-first out of forty-one countries—in frequency of sex, with a self-reported frequency of 45 times per year (up from 36 times per year in 2001). The second lowest country, Singapore, was far ahead (73 times per year), and the global average was 103. (source)


The first sexual experience for more than half of men over 30 is a prostitute. (source)

Ouch, Japan!  I’m trying to think of a unique reason for why Japan ranks so low compared to all other countries, but I can only come up with a bundle of reasons that don’t seem to be adequate reasons:

  • Japanese students spend most of their time studying for entrance exams and don’t become interested in sex until later and not as often.
  • As adults, Japanese people work very long hours, so the time in the day to have sex simply does not exist. And when wives or husbands come home, they’re too tired to have sex.
  • “It’s too bothersome” — this is actually one of the most common reasons given by couples for why they don’t have sex, although it doesn’t explain anything.
  • Japanese people, wanting to avoid confrontation, simply put up with not having sex rather than directly talking to their partner about the problem.

I’ve been able to find a lot of articles describing sexual activity patterns in Japan and how this affects day-to-day, but little on any strong reason why any of this is actually taking place. Perhaps it’s just a combination of all these things that can be found in Japan but not elsewhere that is causing the problem.

Perhaps it’s because Japan has a rather masturbation rate—after all, it has all that porn to go around—with 38% percent of Japanese masturbating weekly (source — but couldn’t find original cited article), compared to 28% in the US (source). Of course, this 10% difference doesn’t seem significantly higher, so again it seems like an insufficient reason.

It’s likely being caused by all of the reasons I’ve listed and more, since I doubt it’s a singular issue that’s causing the problem. It’s more a problem of culture that seems to be the issue, which is derived from a bundle of hard-to-distinguish factors, rather than one significant reason.


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Japanese Dating Statistic I

I pulled this from a book I’m currently reading:

A 2006 government survey—and note here that the government cares—found that 52.2 percent of single men and 44.7 percent of single women between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four had no relationship of any sort with any member of the opposite sex, not even friendship.

Source (in Japanese).

I couldn’t find a comparable statistic for single US adults, but I imagine that it’s a very different looking figure. Perhaps for people who attend all-boys or all-girls schools in the US, the lack of any relationship with the opposite gender would make sense, but the fact that even friendships do not exist seems rather shocking to me.

Is it due to the long hours that the Japanese often work that causes this to happen? Is it because of the herbivore man phenomenon in Japan that causes men (and women?) to be uninterested in talking with each other? Is this just shyness among singles in Japan taken to an extreme?

When I go to Japan this summer, I hope to be able to talk with some Japanese people about this figure. Obviously Japan’s population decline is a big problem; so what can we do to get Japanese people interested in each other?

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Book Review: Goodbye Madame Butterfly (2007)

With college over until the fall semester, I’ve had time to actually sit down and do some reading for pleasure, a not-so-common event for most college students.

The book is Goodbye Madame Butterfly: Sex, Marriage and the Modern Japanese Woman by Author/Journalist Sumie Kawakami. It’s a collection of stories about the lives of different Japanese women (and two men) based off interviews the author conducted herself. Some of the stories include:

  • Joint Venture — Story about Emi, heiress to her family’s extensive estate, who must try to find a man who will take her last name in order to keep the estate under the family name. She eventually marries late, but her husband constantly cheats on her with other women. Despite this, Emi, who is getting older and wary about whether she would be able to find another man this late in life and still hold on to the family estate, sticks with her disloyal husband.
  • Purgatory — Story about Fumiko, whose hard-working husband is never at home, and so she suffers due to a lack of romance and sex. Unable to get a divorce—since her husband will not consent and she has no evidence of an affair—she moves away from her husband and tries to live a normal life as a semi-single mother.
  • The Sex Volunteer — Story about Hideo, a male sex-volunteer working at a clinic that provides women who are inexperienced, or married but no longer having sex, the chance to go on dates and/or have sex.

These and the other stories in the book are all interesting to read, and none of them have definitively happy or sad endings—most tend to end on a melancholy note.

The themes in the book cover  issues like sexless marriages due to working men in Japan seeing their wives as their mothers, how long working hours in japan—for both men and women—affect relationships and the way people live their lives, and how many Japanese people, despite problems or even adultery in their relationships, carry on through 「仮面夫婦」(kamenfuufu), simply making an act out of being husband and wife even if love between them no longer exists.

Good stuff

Overall all the stories are interesting enough, it’s well-written, and the themes covered are the sorts of modern-day issues in Japan that I’m interested in. Many of the stories deal with adultery in relationships, but this is not particularly surprising, given that the author’s other work, Wives in Love: Even if It Is Called Adultery (2003), would seem deal with that very subject.

If you’re even remotely interested in the sorts of modern-day drama that goes on in Japan, this is a good book to pick up. It’s ultimately a light-read, as there are very few facts or figures other than some about sexless marriages. Nonetheless, the lives of some of these women are very dramatic, and unlike your typical JDrama, these don’t usually end conveniently wrapped with with a nice little happy ending.

Bad stuff

One of the things that bugged me about the book comes from its introduction:

I fictionalized some parts of these stories to protect the identities of these women as well as their family members, friends, and lovers.

This is not the end of the world, but it gives me the sense that with this disclaimer she can make up as much or as little as the story as she wants. While reading, I would sometimes wonder if everything described had really happened, or if the part I was reading was actually something of the author’s imagination. If I want to learn about the sorts of things Japanese women go through, I want to know I’m reading something that was at least meant to be true.

Second, in terms of reading things that are true about Japanese culture, even if every story in the book were true, that wouldn’t make these stories an accurate portrayal of Japanese relationship life. The stories were chosen because they were particularly interesting or raunchy, rather than the norm of society.

There are lots of crazy relationship stories from the US, but collecting a few crazy stories about and then subtitling it “Sex, Marriage and the Modern US Woman” would be completely unfair—there’s no way we’d be able to draw anything from a book like that. While I don’t think Kawakami’s work is completely off-the-wall, it seems more suitable for entertainment than anything else.

Nonetheless, because the book does introduce a number of important issues related to Japanese relationship culture, it’s a good, light way to get interested in the subject.

Grade: B+

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