Thursday, October 24, 2013

What's going wrong in Japan?

You might have seen the most recent reports about the aversion that many young Japanese men and women have toward each other and to sex.

Recent studies in Japan have found that about a quarter of Japanese people now have no interest in a romantic relationship and it is projected that 40% of young Japanese women will never have children. One study found that nearly half of Japanese women aged 16 to 24 were not interested in or despised sex.

The question is why. The newspaper articles I've seen mostly take the easy way out and blame men for old-fashioned attitudes toward women. It's true that if you have a society in which men are brought up to be traditional, and women to be feminist, that you're likely to have incompatible expectations between men and women. But the evidence I've seen is that Japanese men are, if anything, rejecting the masculine ethos of the past rather than clinging to it.

I'm not exactly sure from this distance why Japanese men and women have turned so much from each other, but I can throw in some possibilities.

When I lived in Japan I was struck by the lifestyle of my male colleagues. They were married men in their 20s and 30s. They would stay at work until about 7.00pm, then play mahjong, then get something to eat, then play pachinko, get home at 11.00pm, get served supper by their wives, go to bed at midnight and then get up at 6.00am the next day to start the process over. They were proud of this punishing schedule.

It's not a lifestyle that's likely to hold together a culture of family life. It seems that the younger generation of Japanese men are unenthusiastic about it, and it's hard to blame the women for not finding it fulfilling.

It's ironic that Japan is known for a corporate culture, when such a male lifestyle was likely to bring about individualisation, by which I mean a sense that men and women are to lead separate lives and to find their fulfilment separately from each other.

It doesn't help that the Japanese have apparently divorced sex from marriage to a greater degree than elsewhere. Supposedly it is more common in Japan for wives to begin to shut down marital relations some years into the marriage, and there is something of a culture of porn and paid sex in Japan.

It seems too that young Japanese women have picked up an independent career girl lifestyle that is familiar to us here as well:
I meet Eri Tomita, 32, over Saturday morning coffee in the smart Tokyo district of Ebisu. Tomita has a job she loves in the human resources department of a French-owned bank. A fluent French speaker with two university degrees, she avoids romantic attachments so she can focus on work. "A boyfriend proposed to me three years ago. I turned him down when I realised I cared more about my job. After that, I lost interest in dating. It became awkward when the question of the future came up."

Tomita sometimes has one-night stands with men she meets in bars, but she says sex is not a priority, either.

If I'm correct in this, then what are the solutions?  A society has to be careful to allow men to fulfil a masculine role not only at work but also within the family home. Competition at work to provide for a family is good, but the bar shouldn't be raised too high, to the point that men have to give everything to the breadwinning role. If there is no chance to give the best of yourself in a relationship with your wife and children, then can we be surprised if family life falls away?

The drift toward individualisation has to be combated. This means, amongst other things, creating a culture in which sexual fulfilment is found within a marriage rather than outside of it. It means finding a high value in marital love and parental love - higher than the value of shopping or travel or work routines.


  1. Sex relations in Japan have never been much like the western model even before modernity.

  2. I think Japan is so alien to Western norms that we would really need a Japanese commenter to give any meaningful input. It's a culture that is highly outbred, like northwestern Europe, but not individualistic. It's a population that is more neotenous than Europeans. It's not really a culture that Westerners can understand, I suspect it's actually a lot more alien to us than eg the Muslim Middle East. If Japanese men and women are both losing interest in sex as well as in love and marriage, we may reasonably expect that Western influences are at least partly responsible, but I don't think we can know what's actually going on.

  3. Japanese society does not need the same moral constraints as Western societies do on sex. Strict social rules prohibiting promiscuity and adultery are necessary in Europe/North America/Oceania because the majority of the inhabitants of those places have higher extroversion and testosterone, which lead to more pro-sex behaviours. Japan never needed any rules against casual sex and adultery in the past because very few people were extroverted and sexually aggressive enough to seek out a huge number of one-night-stands and extramarital affairs. The Japanese are well behaved, not because they have any self-control, but because they have lower sex drives to begin with.

    I think this also applies to much of Asia, and Asian descended inhabitants of Western countries. Asian men, whether in Asia or the West, can sleep around without much societal disapproval but few choose that route because they are not so horny to begin with. Asian women face more societal disapproval but still less so than conservative White Christian women. However, I wouldn't be surprised if Asian women still had lower rates of adultery simply because they desire less sex.

    In short, there are two types of chaste people: those who have higher sex drives who are using every last bit of self control to not sleep around, and those who have no compunctions against sleeping around but choose chastity out of lack of sex drive. Most people in the first category are White, most people in the second category are Asian. I will say though, one of my best friends is 26 years old, Caucasian female, attractive, and still a virgin (her religion, Reform Judaism, allows her to have premarital sex). Yet she chooses to remain a virgin mostly because she never feels the urge to have sex. So Caucasians can also be virgins due to lack of sex drive.

    Lack of sex among Japanese people is the least of the word's problems. Their country is horribly overcrowded and they could stand to lose half of their population. Also, Japan does not have the problem of a 50% divorce rate and 40% illegitimacy rate that the United States does. So maybe its just better that the Japanese people don't have sex and keep their illegitimacy rate low.

  4. Japan is undergoing a process of transition from stage 3 to stage 4 Demographic Transition.

    Japans birth rate has been falling since WWII, this has the effect of producing more males than females ( sounds counterintuitive but it is known as a Marriage Squeeze, it's based on the fact that men marry down in age). Excess males increases the perceived value of females.

    The effect of excess males is that women delay marriage, casual sex increases, the marriage age gap declines and their expectations in partner value increases ( increased hyperagamy).

    So a large cohort of males at the margins lose out and the women play the hyperagamy gambit too long and find themselves single in their 30s. And honestly why would any self respecting man marry a women in her 30s when she's wasted the best years of her life waiting for Mr Big?

  5. Japanese sex ratio for age range 15-64 is 1:1 and so the comment about excess males is rubbish. Falling birth rates do not create gender imbalances. Similarly hypergamy in Japan is rare as the hierarchical class system does not allow it. In Asia the only societies which permit hypergamy (and polygamy) are the Muslim ones of Indonesia and Malaysia but even there it is not common.

    Japanese, Koreans and Chinese are Oriental and of a profoundly different nature from Europeans. The outsider can never fully understand these ancient cultures and civilizations. As he looks into these cultures, beyond a certain point, the veil descends and the outsider is cut off. Beyond their most superficial attributes, they are inscrutable. However they all share the characteristics of a certain type of limited emotional expression, roboticism and a greater degree of self control as well as a strong sense of ethnic cohesion ( and indeed superiority) and loyalty in which crossing social taboos leads to shame and ostracism.

    Japan is not a Christian country and has never ascribed to Christian values (this is partly why it has never been able to control rampant corporate and political corruption) and therefore we cannot judge it by Christian values.

    You say:
    "If I'm correct in this, then what are the solutions? A society has to be careful to allow men to fulfil a masculine role not only at work but also within the family home. Competition at work to provide for a family is good, but the bar shouldn't be raised too high, to the point that men have to give everything to the breadwinning role. If there is no chance to give the best of yourself in a relationship with your wife and children, then can we be surprised if family life falls away?"

    We cannot impose cultural values on Japan or seek to analyse their behaviour in any depth. However, we similarly cannot seek to control economic competition and the hours men have to work in the West. Throughout the history of a nation economic conditions will fluctuate due to factors frequently outwith our control and working patterns have to change to adapt to that.
    In traditional societies marriages are social institutions sustained by ethnic ties of kinship and loyalty and not personal relationships whose outcome is based upon conditional factors such as the length of time a man spends with his family . In Third World countries it is common for men and women to be forced to seek employment overseas necessitating long periods of absence from home and family. However this does not lead to family breakdown. The crucial factor is the adaptability and resilience of the social institution.

    In almost all Asian societies marriages have to be formally arranged by the family of bride and groom. In Buddhist societies like Japan, marriage is not a religious obligation (a Buddhist monk at a wedding being a sign of bad luck) In recent years Japan has departed from this tradition leading to a decline of marriage and delayed family formation. If one examines in more details the statistics, one can find good evidence that the families which stick to the old traditions of arranged marriages (largely the elites) still have normal marriage rates and low divorce rates. Japan's problem is therefore a consequence of "Westernisation" of marriage and abandonment of traditional procedures and the redefinition of marriage from a social institution based upon kinship to a personal relationship conditional upon the fulfillment of certain conditions.

    1. Anon, although marriage is important as a social institution, the most profound aspect of it is a personal one, in which we experience a loving union with the opposite sex. It is an act of completion.

  6. I don't think low sex drive is the catch all explanation. People buying used panties in vending machines and watching all that pornography and porn substitutes (what else do you call most of the anime) want sex. And that doesn't begin to mention the rampant prostitution. I view Japanese inability to go out and get sex a reflection of their inability to go out and get anything, not a lack of desire.

    People think Japanese are disciplined, but the western conception of discipline is that you make an active choice to do something. In Japan the "discipline" mostly take the form of someone telling you to do something and you doing it because your too weak to say no (but you want to inside). That's a very different thing. I'd say Japanese want sex, they are just too pussy to go out and get it.

  7. Marriage in the major civilisations including the West until the 20th century has always been a social institution first and foremost, a binding together of families and tribes. The personal aspect of it has always been a secondary matter and not the main purpose of the institution. Love is an emotion and all human emotions are fickle. One cannot be "in love" all the time any more than one can be happy or depressed all the time. As we know that human emotion is fickle and inconsistent, one cannot guarantee a loving union with the opposite sex will persist over the duration of a marriage and accordingly we cannot make marriage conditional upon its persistence. Similarly one can have a loving union with people who are quite unsuitable as life partners.

    Important social institutions which are responsible for the raising of children and the preservation of the social order cannot be conditional upon emotional states. The personal loving union, a state impossible to maintain with effectiveness and satisfaction 100% of the time, must always take second place to the social functions of the marriage itself. Societies which seek to make the personal loving union the primary function of marriage, as the West has done and Japan is following, always face the dilemma of what to do when the emotions fail and the personal union is no longer loving. The usual recourse is to divorce and family breakdown. Thus a society in which marriage is primarily a personal relationship will inevitably end up polygamous either simultaneously or serially, as in order to sustain an emotional state derived from a loving union, multiple partners will be required. This is the reason behind the initial push for divorce legalisation in the West and acceptance of serial marriages. And as a direct consequence of that there are now moves for the legalization of polygamy of which the legalisation of homosexual marriage is merely the stepping stone. (By the way polygamy exists in the Mormon communities of the USA legally). The percentage of homosexuals in societies is around 1% of the population and so why the big deal about gay marriage when civil partnership would be sufficient for the majority of gays who are themselves confused by the push for gay marriage (the main point about gays being that they don't want to be like everyone else). The real purpose behind the hullabaloo about gay marriage is the legal redefinition of marriage as a "loving union" which opens the way for the next push for polygamy. Once society accepts marriage as just a loving union there can be no objections to polygamy. One might say that its occurrence (and tolerance) in the Mormon and Muslim populations in the West has effectively legalised it.

    A society which redefines marriage as a personal relationship, therefore, is not sustainable and will inevitably undergo a social collapse under the weight of the moral disorder and social dysfunction which it has unleashed. Society must therefore chose between the preservation of the social order (which puts personal gratification second) or social disorder which puts personal gratification first and rapidly leads to social collapse. Japan should therefore return to its traditions and stop Westernising otherwise it is finished.

    1. Anon, agreed that marriage can't be simply defined as a loving union and that the stability of the institution is critical. In some of your comments, though, (not the one above) you seem to take these insights too far, by stressing only the "social order" aspects of marriage.

      Has modern society gone too far along the road of defining marriage as a commitment ceremony to celebrate the love people feel for each other? Here you are absolutely right. It is destroying marriage as an institution.

      Be careful though, in bringing things back, not to leave out the personal relationship aspect of marriage altogether. It is still a powerful impetus in motivating young people to make the commitment to marriage. It is still a profound life experience for the young people concerned.

      Let me put it this way. The idea that we should marry in order to keep our family line and our ethnic tradition going is, in normal conditions anyway, a significant motivation when it comes to marriage. It is part of the logic of why we should do our utmost to make our marriages work, since we are making a commitment not only to our spouse but to the larger traditions we belong to and have a responsibility to.

      But people do also experience, at a deep level, a drive to find someone of the opposite sex to make a lifelong commitment to, and raise a family with. And to make this relationship close and "inward drawing" and to create a warmth and strength of family culture it is understood that this relationship should be faithful and secure.

      This drive, if successfully nurtured within a society, can be a major strength of family life. Marriage will work best if the two aspects - the social and the personal - are brought together, if there is an ordering of culture which gets the combination right.

    2. "This drive, if successfully nurtured within a society, can be a major strength of family life. Marriage will work best if the two aspects - the social and the personal - are brought together, if there is an ordering of culture which gets the combination right."

      All civilizations understand that marriage works best if the social and the personal factors are aligned. That is why Asian and Jewish families make extensive and thorough background assessments of potential spouses for their children and limit their searches to family, friends and "knowable strangers" whose characters are known and whose behaviour can be to some degree predicted. The care and expense, often involving the use of private investigators to verify authenticity of backgrounds (and this is becoming more common), taken in these investigations greatly exceeds the wanton abandon with which many Western (and particularly Anglo- American families) hand over their sons, and more disturbingly, their daughters to the care and often abuse of people they do not know and increasingly frequently have never met. Western marriage has become a casual affair, largely left to chance.

      At the same time, traditionalists understand that marriage has to be based upon substance and that means specific identifiable criteria which are considered to be essential to the building of a sound social institution. The personal commitment, compromise and hard work required to build a sound family life which is able to fulfill its social responsibilities over a long period of time gives rise to love and emotional gratification. True love is built over many years of shared experience. The Anglo American idea of "falling in love" is not love. It is infatuation. On their wedding day, most couples are not "in love". They are infatuated and may admire each other but they do truly know or love each other. The high rates of divorce and dysfunctional marriage (which may not result in divorce but does cause a huge amount of social disorder) prove that.

      Therefore traditional wisdom the world over follows the natural order of commitment to the building of marriage as a social institution first and foremost with love and personal gratification following from that. And this is the way traditional societies have been and always will be because that works. An analogy can be found in business where the traditional view is that the purpose of a business is to produce excellent goods and services from which a financial profit should be the consequence. The profit, therefore is not the purpose of the business but the consequence. American wisdom has inverted the old values making profit the purpose of the business. The result of this has been the collapse of American industry with the quality of goods and services diminished in order to maximise profit. The Americans did the same with marriage inverting the natural order of things to place personal gratification first and the social institution second. The result has been the collapse of the American family. And by exporting their infantile values first to Europe and then to Asia, they have spread the misery worldwide. As the USA steadily disintegrates economically, socially and politically, the American dream rapidly becomes and American tragedy.

      You comment "Let me put it this way. The idea that we should marry in order to keep our family line and our ethnic tradition going is, in normal conditions anyway, a significant motivation when it comes to marriage. It is part of the logic of why we should do our utmost to make our marriages work, since we are making a commitment not only to our spouse but to the larger traditions we belong to and have a responsibility to."

      Social pedigree and family line to a traditional person is not merely a motivation to marry but the main purpose of marriage.

    3. See, I agree that the current way of doing things is inadequate, but I don't think you need to pull things back all the way to your position in order to set things right.

  8. "I view Japanese inability to go out and get sex a reflection of their inability to go out and get anything, not a lack of desire." That's an absurd statement.The Japanese have proved to be very effective in building an advanced technological industrial nation and outperform many (in fact most) Western nations academically. They have also been a very effective military force. The evidence therefore confirms that they are very capable of going out and getting what they want. They are the most developed nation in Asia.

    " the western conception of discipline is that you make an active choice to do something" Another false statement. The Western concept of discipline is self control and obedience to orders in a military or employment setting. This is pretty much the same as it is everywhere.
    In Japan social conformity is valued highly and individuality to a large degree repressed. People in Japan cannot go out and get sex as people in the West do because social stigmas, taboos and their consequences preclude such behaviour.

    1. Anon, I agree with your first paragraph, but less so with your final one. What struck me about Japanese society when I lived there was that the formal taboos were stricter (i.e. about gambling, drinking, sex) but that there was an agreement to turn a blind eye to what happened in practice in these areas of life. For instance, you might not be allowed to gamble in the pachinko parlours, so you would win a complimentary chocolate bar, go outside the parlour, and exchange your chocolate bar for a wad of cash. Or the man in what was clearly called a "whisky bar" might not be allowed to sell you liquor, but he would be happy to sell you a plate of peanuts for $50 and then present you with a bottle of whisky free of charge. I don't believe that young Japanese people have lost interest in sex because it's not possible for them to go and get it because of social taboos. If anything I suspect the opposite is the case, and that sex has become too divorced from ideals of love and marriage, leading to a certain cynicism about it.

    2. "but that there was an agreement to turn a blind eye to what happened in practice in these areas of life."

      Most formal taboos exist for the social control of the lower classes of a society and are never fully enforced against all social classes and Japan is no exception to that rule. The Japanese quite rightly want to protect their people from falling into the clutches of the vices of gambling and drinking which are detrimental both to the family and to the work place and might upset Japan's economic miracle. I think you will find that the agreement to turn a blind eye is discretionary and depends entirely upon the situation in which you are attempting to drink or gamble. As an expat alien white man, you may be permitted to drink whisky and gamble because the Japanese bar men see you as a promising cash cow, want your money and don't consider you as part of their race. The Japanese are not stupid and they are quite astute to the weaknesses of Westerners. They quite frankly don't care if you become an alcoholic or gambler so long as they can profit from your vices. And if you do become a rampant gambler or an alcoholic, or in any way threaten their social order, then they will fast as lightening, cancel your visa and deport you back to Australia. The same taboos against drinking and gambling meanwhile may be rigidly enforced against a Japanese man.

      In a similar vein, the Japanese officially deport illegal aliens and yet at the same time allow illegal immigrant Nigerians to remain in the underworlds of the major cities. Why? Because they assist the Yakuza and help to control prostitution. If they get caught or cause trouble they can quietly be kicked out of the country or otherwise disappeared. In Japan, white people and Nigerians are just expendable aliens who are tolerated for as long as they are useful to the Japanese.
      That's the bottom line. And so the perceptions and experiences of the social taboos of an expat alien may be very different from those of a native Japanese.

      Cynicism about sex is a phenomenon observed in all countries where the imposition of American values about marriage and sex has caused a collapse or decline in the traditional arranged marriage system with resultant confusion of young people, dysfunctional marriages and failed relationships. Western people are cynical about sex too, however the outward manifestations are different. They descend into rampant promiscuity and sexual deviancy and degradation. The Japanese are too restrained to do that and just withdraw.

    3. Anon, when I lived in Japan just about everybody seemed to be in the pachinko parlours - dad, mum, grandma, the kids. But it was something you didn't talk about in polite company, even if that polite company had been there the night before.

    4. Pachinko parlours are the Western equivalent of bingo or fruit machines and most Western people would not admit going to bingo or fruit machines in polite society. They are not serious gambling places and they are not casinos. They allow the people to indulge in the Oriental / Buddhist weakness for gambling without doing serious harm.

    5. That's like saying that the slaves built the pyramids because of their amazing discipline. People can accomplish lots of things out of fear. The number one motivation for any action over there seemed to be, "it would bring shame...". That's reacting out of fear, not acting out of a conscious and individual choice.

      I have no doubt fear can accomplish a lot, even build a modern economy. However, apparently it can't get Japanese people to f....

  9. "The comment about excess males is rubbish. Falling birth rates do not create gender imbalances."

    With the plethora of information on the web you'd think people would check to make sure their world view actually matches reality. I guess some people are just lazy.

    Demographic analysis is a complex topic, much too complex for keyboard jockeys to make sweeping statements.

    Urvi Neelakantan - Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, Univerisity of Illinois
    Michele Tertilt - Department of Economics, Stanford University

  10. The Japanese like the Swedes have had their masculine culture outlawed and taken away. I imagine it's impossible for some Japanese men to even know where to start to get closer to a more masculine identity.
    It might have to do with the war or it could be just that masculinity is seen as oafish and not cosmopolitan. Which would jeopardise ones standing in their society. Similarly the increase of women into the workforce means the notion that a masculine life is successful would be questionable when there are women making more money than some men.
    I think this results in Japanese guys feeling it's just too difficult and not attractive enough to get a date. They would have to shamefully become macho and rugged. Which would mean they would lose standing among women and the whole of their society. Bit of a catch 22.

    1. Interesting. But don't the Japanese have their equivalent of the PUAs? I actually think that "day game" originated in Tokyo in the late 90s. Do men have to get uber masculine to have strong body language and know how to effectively kino escalate a woman? I mean are American players (lets say the white ones) really all that masculine? Say as compared to Latin guys that grow up in harsh crime-ridden, drug-lord ridden barrios? Were Neil Strauss and Mystery truly "masculine". They were actually dandies.

      My point is that there will be an inevitable lessening of sexual polarity in a technologically advancing industrialized society. I'm not entirely sure that's a bad thing. As long as its capped, which sadly is not what happened with the rise of the Left.

  11. Some of these comments are really interesting. The first thing that I thought of and that many commenters have mentioned is that Asians are more K-selected and thus are just wired differently. But that being said, I have noticed that Asians born and raised in America (I'm sure the same is true for other Anglo-sphere nations) are different than than their Asian born counterparts. Asian American girls are basically non-distinguishable from white girls in their behavior once they've been Westernized.

    So my point is I'm not sure how much of this is biology and how much is culture although I'm sure both play a role

  12. 2 points without much detail:

    Japanese girls are possibly the most spoilt creatures to ever grace this green earth. They say they dont want to get married, but what they mean is - they dont want what is available. An uncomfortable, mostly Beta Japanese man who is a slave to his company first, his mother second and his hobby third.

    Nobody has discussed, or at least in layman's terms, the fact that most Japanese Boomers had their marriages arranged for them. How are parents of Gen X and Y Japanese supposed to explain how to meet and someone and develop a relationship when they themselves never had to? The concept of arranged marriages began to fade in the late 1970s (yes, yes, that is where this all began) when women left home and started going to university. From that point on - ladies were on their own and they havent exactly made their mothers dreams come true.

    1. In a society without a formal system of arranged marriage family formation is just a matter of chance and when things are left to chance, in general, they do not work out well. People stop taking marriage seriously and simply drift into marriage with people whom they happen to meet and feel some attraction without a thorough evaluation of the potential spouse's suitability as a life partner. This leads to mismatched couples, dysfunctional family formation and marital failure.

      Additionally young people lack the wisdom, experience and maturity to select suitable life partners and are prone to impulsiveness. No country which is serious about its future would leave family formation to the whims of the young.

    2. Anon, this is the argument you repeatedly make, but you take it too far. In a stable culture, in which there was a more serious orientation to marriage, there would be more emphasis on the matching of suitable qualities. There might also be given a greater weight to parental advice (or even to a system of screening). But there is no way that Westerners are going to accept a system of arranged marriages. I don't even think it's the ideal way of doing things - better to have young men wait until they're mid-20s when they ought to be mature enough to think things through.

  13. Fukushima must be a major factor. The second blow after Abenomics wrecked the economy. There are huge numbers of sick young people in Japan with reports of people dying aged 34 from all sorts of atypical illnesses caused by exposure to high levels of radio isotopes and their complications to the immune system. The death rate for 2012 is a record high from non disaster causes.