[ View the story "Single in Japan" on Storify] Single in Japan What does the rising number of young singles mean for the country’s future?
The Stream· Thu, Oct 24 2013 08:45:39
Japan has one of the lowest fertility
in the world. Its population is shrinking fast and, according to projections, by 2110 it will
from 127 million to 43 million.
An unprecedented number of young Japanese are single and have developed a strong aversion to marriage. Recent government studies
that 61 per cent of unmarried men and 49 per cent of women aged 18-34 were not in any kind of romantic relationship.
Japan's declining population has been well reported in the past and the country is
in its rising single culture. A recent article in The Observer, titled "
Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex?
", revisited the phenomenon and painted a stark picture of a sexless Japan. The piece was shared more than 70,000 times and sparked a flurry of online commentary:
Young people in Japan not having relationships or sex. Somebody needs to bring me over there, no?Dr. Ruth Westheimer
apparently people under 35 in Japan aren't interested in/despise sex and I just think that is the saddest thingalex
@sara_salman sex is a major and successful business in Japan.what youngsters are running away from is commitment not sex. @AJStreamS A S H I (サシ)
There are many reasons attributed to this trend, such as Japan's
a new generation of heterosexual men who are not interested in sexual relationships. Unlike the previous generation of hyper-masculine, career-driven men, 'herbivores' choose to avoid high-pressure, high-expectation lives.
that 60 per cent of men in their early 20s and around 42 per cent of men between 23 and 34 consider themselves to be
The 'herbivore' phenomenon took off when a TV show about a martial arts champion who secretly loved baking and stuffed animals called
Otomen (Girly Men) became a huge hit in Japan.
Japan's increasing solo society has also been attributed to advanced technology and virtual worlds. Love Plus is a popular
virtual dating game
in Japan that allows users to develop relationships with one of the characters:
Tráiler pre TGS de New Love PlusDove Wardlow
@AJStream I think the blame is likely on virtual video games. At least dating a computer won't give you a heart break.Oracle
The popularity of manga and anime has also created a group of people who satisfy their need for intimacy with fictional characters. This group of self-confessed virtual loners is called
Otaku (geek ) and specifically refers to "a young person who is obsessed with computers or particular aspects of popular culture to the detriment of their social skills".
Another factor is the shifting gender roles of Japanese women. Many females are now choosing careers over marriages. Persistent workplace inequality pressures many women to choose between the two. Today, around 70 per cent of women
quit their jobs
after giving birth.
But Japan is having a population crisis, and the number one reason is probably due to shifting gender roles. As more women enter the work force (over 50% of the Japanese work force are women) and become career oriented, it means there's less time for them to be getting pregnant and giving birth. That's not sexism. That's just math. After all, there's only so much time in a person's life.kotaku.com
The "celibacy syndrome" argument is heavily disputed. After The Observer article went viral, A New York Times reporter in Tokyo,
, began tweeting her critical response.
@AbiHaworth @PGourevitch Fascinating story--just question some of your #s & assertion that we've stopped having sex, which simply isn't trueHiroko Tabuchi
Gawker-affiliated gaming website
published an article that provided further context and counter-statistics to the article's thesis:
There is a Japanese saying that goes, "Marriage is the graveyard of life" ("結婚は人生の墓場である"), but it's non-gender specific and a reworking of a quote by French poet Baudelaire. There is actually an old Japanese saying that goes, "Marriage is a woman's happiness" ("結婚は女の幸せ"), but that doesn't get a mention. Pkotaku.com
And then, there's the claim that working women are called "oniyome" (鬼嫁) or "demon wife." Japanese language dictionaries (here and here) define the word as pertaining to mean wives—not working wives. The word "oniyome" was popularized in Japan in 2005 when a TV show called Oniyome Nikki (鬼嫁日記) or "Demon Wife Diary" about a husband who was henpecked by his mean stay-at-home wife. Pkotaku.com
Other publications were also quick to post studies that show an opposite trend:
Don't worry. The Japanese are having plenty of sexWriters at The Guardian and other outlets have expressed concern that the Japanese have lost all interest in sex. There's not much eviden...
The online community chimed in to voice their concerns about the article:
Discussion abt Japan and the decline of sexual desires seems a bit odd. After one article everyone believes people don't have sex in Japan?uǝuoʇɥǝl ɐʞʞııɯ
Hey sneering Americans, are Japan's herbivore men a majority of the male 20-40yos? No? Then stop saying "Japanese men" aren't having sex.Daniel M. Bensen
@HirokoTabuchi poland, south korea, taiwan, czech republic: all have lower fertility rates than japan. and italy is right there too.Chico Harlan
How long until we find out that all those stories about how nobody has sex in Japan anymore are all way overblown?Blake Hounshell
On Twitter, some tried to spark the hashtag #ImJapaneseAndILikeHavingSex:
new hashtag #imjapaneseandilikehavingsex @HirokoTabuchi let's make this happenMio Coxon
Haha yes. a few news reports don't speak for all “@miocoxon: new hashtag #imjapaneseandilikehavingsex @HirokoTabuchi let's make this happen”Rachel Lake
What do you think? Is Japan suffering from a "celibacy syndrome"? Or is the whole thing being blown out of proportion?