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No sex please, we're Japanese
October 20, 2013 12:27 PM   Subscribe

Young people in Japan are increasingly abstaining from romantic relationships and sex. The media refers to this phenomenon as sekkusu shinai shokogun, or "celibacy syndrome".

Marriage has been declining in Japan for some time, partly due to institutional discrimination in Japanese industry, with married women often being routinely passed over for promotions and mothers expected to resign their jobs and become dependent housewives. However, now it seems that a significant proportion of younger adults in Japan are abstaining from romantic relationships and sexual intimacy altogether, with surveys showing large numbers of people not being in a relationship (61% of unmarried men and 49% of women aged 18-34) or having never dated (30% of single men under 30). Another survey found that 45% of single women aged 16-24 and over a quarter of men in the age group "were not interested in or despised sexual contact". Meanwhile, in 2011, sales of adult diapers exceeded those for babies for the first time. And young men and women are eschewing dating and pursuing their own separate lives.
posted by acb (109 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, I'm sure that island chain will make a nice wildlife refuge in 100 years.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 12:32 PM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Isn't the government spending lots on research for robots to care for the elderly?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:38 PM on October 20, 2013


Well, I'm sure that island chain will make a nice wildlife refuge in 100 years.

Huh. Maybe that's how you get Pokemon.
posted by maryr at 12:39 PM on October 20, 2013 [18 favorites]


I don't see the problem here. If Japan needs more young people to support the labor market, can't they just rely on immigration to fill the gaps? I mean, unless they did something monumentally stupid like alienate practically all of their neighbors or promote ethnic homogeneity as a national value.
posted by aw_yiss at 12:41 PM on October 20, 2013 [129 favorites]


Isn't the government spending lots on research for robots to care for the elderly?

Correct. There was an article saying the decision was, basically, "We can let in a bunch of immigrants to deal with our aging and needy elderly or we can build a bunch of hyperadvanced robots beyond imagining" and they went with the robots.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:44 PM on October 20, 2013 [36 favorites]


I don't see the problem here. If Japan needs more young people to support the labor market, can't they just rely on immigration to fill the gaps? I mean, unless they did something monumentally stupid like alienate practically all of their neighbors or promote ethnic homogeneity as a national value.

It's...well, it's more than a little unfair to conflate "monumental stupidity" with a lack of clairvoyance and omniscience over the past several thousand years.
posted by clockzero at 12:44 PM on October 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


I read an article about this a few months ago. It made it seem like for young ladies, dating and marriage was such a severe handicap that they practically had no choice but to forget it. The different parts of society's expectations are severely out of balance.
posted by bleep at 12:45 PM on October 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


Man, I understand the worry about preserving culture and all, but it really seems like in this day and age a low birth rate should be celebrated.
Hysterical statements like this don't help any:

Kunio Kitamura, head of the JFPA, claims the demographic crisis is so serious that Japan "might eventually perish into extinction".

posted by mannequito at 12:46 PM on October 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


it really seems like in this day and age a low birth rate should be celebrated.

A country with a rapidly aging workforce and not enough young people to replenish it is a country on its way to bankruptcy. It's one thing if you have a massive population that's being crushed under its own birthrate, very different if your population growth can't keep up with the number of elderly who need assistance.
posted by schroedinger at 12:51 PM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


It took me a couple of minutes to realize that the FPP is not actually conflating the wearing of adult diapers with 30somethings deciding not to have relationships.
posted by elizardbits at 12:52 PM on October 20, 2013 [85 favorites]


It sounds like young Japanese are questioning the entire traditional life route. They've seen their parents and grandparents go through meaningless, demanding jobs and perfunctory relationships, and they've seen an economic collapse that made all that hard work seem highly questionable. Dating and relationships are seen as difficult minefields, time-consuming and compromise-filled, and if you 1) don't want kids, 2) are struggling with finances and time, and 3) can find satisfaction in other, instantly gratifying ways (social media, gaming, internet porn, whatever) then it doesn't seem worth it. The modern world offers endless distractions if you're feeling lonely. This isn't a Japan-only thing by any means, I'm expecting to see this all over the world within another generation. I'm not sure if it's cause for alarm, but it may force society to consider the lifelong-single as just another valid choice in a confusing and challenging world. Humans are not going to go extinct.
posted by naju at 12:53 PM on October 20, 2013 [64 favorites]


What's interesting to me is there seems to be no mention of any efforts made to not make family life and work life as overwhelmingly terrible as its young people apparently find it. It seems to me a very Japanese conservatism where enough young people are opting out of the traditional route because it's apparently awful and the answer seems to be "do nothing because otherwise we would have to admit that the traditional route is awful and stifling."
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:58 PM on October 20, 2013 [59 favorites]


Young people in Japan are increasingly abstaining from romantic relationships and sex.

So...They're practicing for marriage?
posted by Thorzdad at 1:02 PM on October 20, 2013 [22 favorites]


The whales are singing.
posted by Segundus at 1:06 PM on October 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


The lead character in Otomen ("Girly Men") was a tall martial arts champion, the king of tough-guy cool. Secretly, he loved baking cakes, collecting "pink sparkly things" and knitting clothes for his stuffed animals.

I assume he's asexual by choice, because on the basis of that biography I would have assumed he's had to figure out acrobatic ways of having sex while baking and knitting just to fit all the sex he's having into his schedule.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:08 PM on October 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


While there are some interesting and true facts in this article, a lot of it seems like sensational wtfjapan drivel.
Cohabitation is completely normal in Tokyo.
The number of people going to see a sex counselor such as that lady are minuscule. The number of guys going to "massage" places is much higher (though apparently the numbers are dropping compared to previous generations).
I'm sure the number of women 16-24 in Japan who claim to be uninterested in sexual contact has always been high (in fact, I wouldn't be surprised to hear it's currently lower than previous periods in history).
And Ai is a completely normal name here, good grief..
posted by koakuma at 1:09 PM on October 20, 2013 [41 favorites]


Thorzdad nails it.
posted by sfts2 at 1:16 PM on October 20, 2013


To back up what koakuma pointed out, Japan's current TFR is actually up from the mid 2000s low, is considerably higher than South Korea and in fact just about the same as Canada. It's a nothingburger of a story; like a lot of countries, Japan will have to deal with an aging population after women's rights and the availability of contraception controlled the 20th century explosion of population, but it's not because it's trendy for the kidz not to have sex.
posted by tavella at 1:16 PM on October 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


just about the same as Canada

Yes, but Canada is a multicultural society which has encouraged mass immigration for more than a century. Our low birth rate is no threat to our culture(s) and we reduce overpopulation elsewhere by 250 000 people per year.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:25 PM on October 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


If Japan's birth rate is so low, why was Starbucks full of screaming babies?
posted by betweenthebars at 1:25 PM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


In browsing through the Flickr gallery of an artist I really like (Kozyndan), I came across this description of Japanese pornography (almost SFW, but there are little images of naked breasts, so you've been warned), related to a specific shop in Nakano Broadway. In short, the description paints a picture of a culture where sex is a foreign, unusual experience, to be examined, not enjoyed. Of course, this is just one description of pornography, not a mirror of the society as a whole.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:27 PM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


betweenthebars: If Japan's birth rate is so low, why was Starbucks full of screaming babies?

It only takes one screaming baby to make a room full of noise. Two screaming babies could sound like a hundred, if you're in a small space with those babies.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:29 PM on October 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Nakano Broadway caters to a specific subculture and isn't necessarily representative of mainstream tastes. However, I have seen live-action tentacle porn in a regular porn shop.
posted by betweenthebars at 1:35 PM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


After nearly two "lost decades," a nation that makes pathological overwork a hallowed virtue, has a similarly pathological insistence on ethnic homogeneity enforced by both casual racism against non-pure-blood Japanese and a near total absence of practical immigration, and which like many developed nations is so in the pockets of business that they force nearly all women to choose between their career or children, they discover that young folk are not pairing off and having babies?

This is my surprised face.
posted by chimaera at 1:40 PM on October 20, 2013 [26 favorites]


To their credit, "Pot Noodle Love" at least SOUNDS much more charming than "Fuckbuddies."
posted by argonauta at 1:50 PM on October 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


Tentacle porn has existed for hundreds of years and is unrelated to the falling population problem and/or lack of interest in sex. There is plenty of "regular" porn here, too.
I would guess idol groups such as AKB48 would be more likely to be related to this issue.

Many Japanese people consider western porn to be weird or gross, too, for what it's worth- obviously fake breasts, fake orange tans, unnatural hairlessness, gorilla-like grunting, etc..
posted by koakuma at 1:50 PM on October 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


Another survey found that 45% of single women aged 16-24 and over a quarter of men in the age group "were not interested in or despised sexual contact".

No. Sorry. I call bullshit on this. I have never met an asexual person. I have heard that such people actually exist. Like Yetis, there are not many of them. 45% of the female population 16-24 of Japan "not interested in or despise sexual contact"? No way. No way this can be correct.
posted by three blind mice at 2:07 PM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


No. Sorry. I call bullshit on this. I have never met an asexual person. I have heard that such people actually exist. Like Yetis, there are not many of them. 45% of the female population 16-24 of Japan "not interested in or despise sexual contact"? No way. No way this can be correct.

Perhaps the context in which sexual contact occurs in mainstream Japanese society isn't particularly compelling to young women with expectations of independence and self-actualisation?

(Also, asexuality is a documented phenomenon. Though by all accounts, an order of magnitude or two smaller than 45%.)
posted by acb at 2:12 PM on October 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


I know a number of asexual folks.
I'm not ace myself but right now, depending on how the question was phrased I too might answer that I was not interested in sexual contact because I am taking some time off from that right now to concentrate on other things in my life.
I find this totally plausible.
posted by pointystick at 2:13 PM on October 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Man, I understand the worry about preserving culture and all, but it really seems like in this day and age a low birth rate should be celebrated.

There's "low birth rate" and there's "demographic crisis". They aren't the same thing. The USA has a low birth rate. Russia has a demographic crisis.
posted by Justinian at 2:13 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Friends in Japan pointed out to me that while the "relationship" part sure rang true — and with the potential costs to women of marriage, made perfect sense — the "no-sex" part seems to them like bullshit.

Much more likely as an explanation was that people aren't going to discuss or even admit to the existence of their casual-sex lives with those carrying out surveys.
posted by bonaldi at 2:14 PM on October 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


I think there is less of a stigma in Japan to be uninterested in sex. Lack of a strong interest in sex doesn't mean you're less of a man/woman here. It's funny to read all of the horrified reactions to this article on the English Internet.
It would be nice to have the breakdown of how many women say they are uninterested in sex vs how many say they despise it.
On preview, I think bonaldi is right I saying it's less likely that people here will be completely honest in surveys regarding sexual matters.
posted by koakuma at 2:19 PM on October 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Our low birth rate is no threat to our culture(s)

Sure it is. By definition, 1.41 is a path to extinction. Which is not to say that other more fecund groups won't carry the numerical weight - but do you imagine that surviving groups are going to carry the cultural weight of the <1.41 crew with any real conviction?

Not a lot of Beothuk culture in Canada these days.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:24 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Not interested in having sex" could also be interpreted as either "has no sexual feelings/urges"' or "not interested in navigating the process of acquiring and doing sex". I don't really know anyone not interested in having sex (I don't think) but I do know people who don't think it's worth the bother of getting it and I'd believe that a large chunk of women feel that way, especially in a place that prioritizes career.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 2:25 PM on October 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Don't tell my nationalist Korean cousins, but sometimes I look at Japan to see a possible future for Korea. If societal pressure to couple off (I mean I like the dorkiness of "couple outfits" but "do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend" does not need to be the second or third question you ask a new acquaintance) lessens as people question the necessity of marriage etc, I think that would be kind of wonderful. Maybe you want to roam around with your high school buddies and find friendship more worth your time. Sounds a-ok.
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:33 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Not a lot of Beothuk culture in Canada these days.

What the hell does a population being wiped out by a colonizing force have to do with a very large country's population responding to economic incentives? Here's a less WTF comparison with Western Europe: PDF. TL;DR: if marriage is less desirable, people marry less. Cycles ensue.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:39 PM on October 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm waiting for it to happen here in the US. Relationships can be wonderful, but they can also cause real harm. I'm more interested in the honeymoon phase these days, before the new boyfriend who seemed amazing starts to criticize you for not being perfect.

And I honestly do have more fun with my friends doing all the things I want to do.

The wanting to be celibate part is hard to wrap my brain around though, but are ppl celibate-celibate or do they jack off on pillow girlfriends or buy and use vibrators?
posted by discopolo at 2:39 PM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Perhaps the context in which sexual contact occurs in mainstream Japanese society isn't particularly compelling to young women with expectations of independence and self-actualisation?

Given the high price young women have to pay for sex in terms of independence, self-actualization, status, and self-respect, I doubt I'd feel that was a valid trade off as well. The sexual objectification of women appears extremely strong, and women's roles also appear quite inflexible.

Let's not mention living quarters--as much as I enjoy Mr. BlueHorse's company, there are times that 2000 square feet is almost not enough. Granted, we could live in a smaller place if it were laid out better, but the house we're currently in is typical US housing and not necessarily designed in a way that facilitates privacy for two independent people.

(Is Japan a society in which women would admit to using vibrators?)
posted by BlueHorse at 2:42 PM on October 20, 2013


The porn thing is pretty much a derail. Japan is different than most other countries when it comes to porn, and bears very little of the shame/stigma placed on things that would be branded immoral in western (judeo-christian) culture. In that sense, it's quite refreshing.

With the mention above of people wanting to pursue non-work focused lives, I see more and more people trying to find an alternative to office work. There's a not-insignificant portion of young people here who either can't get into that world, or have no interest in it.

The problem is, wages are crap, and part-time work is, well, part-time. A lot of the people being talked about in articles like these still live at home with their parents, which is a by product of a country with ridiculous cost of living combined with industries realizing they can avoid the mess of full-time employees by switching to contract and part-time labor. Combine that with notoriously weak labor laws and ineffectual unions, there aren't a lot of jobs to go around, and it's only getting bleaker.

In that sort of situation, broke and living at home, how much dating can you do?

And that's not even getting into the cultural implications of your most popular music group having rules forbidding dating, even while the group is simultaneously hyper-sexual yet infantilized. AKB48 somehow made a beach full of dancing teens in bikinis singing 'I want you, I need you' into a remarkably sexless bit of bubblegum. Meanwhile, hyper sexual pop stars (like Koda Kumi) seem to have largely fallen by the wayside.

All of that aside, Japan is in for a world of hurt when they finally have to seriously bring in foreign labor to make up for shortfalls. The programs they have now are horribly restrictive and very difficult for 'guest' workers to transition to long term resident status. In the not so distant future, they'll need to bring in tons of people. I'd like to hope that it's done in a way that isn't demeaning and racist, but on the other hand, I'm sure there are people in the government thinking about this and admiring how, say, Dubai deals with its imported labor.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:02 PM on October 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'd heard from a friend who lived in Japan for a number of years that STD rates among sexually active young people were significantly higher in Japan than the average for the developed world. I actually have no idea if that is true or not, but it could certainly be a factor in turning a lot of youth off from the idea.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:03 PM on October 20, 2013


the demographic crisis is so serious that Japan "might eventually perish into extinction".

There are only about 120 million of them left. That's a few orders of magnitude more than the typical endangered species. I think we should wait a few decades before worrying about extinction. On the one hand I envy them being a bit ahead of rest of the world at learning to live with declining population. On the other hand they have such a long way to go before the country isn't very extremely crowded with people.
posted by sfenders at 3:09 PM on October 20, 2013


After nearly two "lost decades," a nation that makes pathological overwork a hallowed virtue

Haven't studies shown that despite the stereotypes, Americans are actually more productive per hour and take fewer vacation days?
posted by spaltavian at 3:35 PM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Once I went to an otaku shop once and saw tentacle porn which is so very 'weird' unlike the normal porn we have at home! I'm going to assume that everyone likes tentacle porn and make value judgments about those people, the same way that I'm going to make value judgments about people who are into BDSM and bondage and various other kinks!"

"Once I interviewed this sex counselor and she told me that people are being celibate! I'm sure she's not biased! I think she has this funny name like Ai that stands for 'Love', which is super exotic, like Amanda or Amy!"

"As a reporter I'm going to look at statistics about birth rates and families and romantic relationships and make assumptions that romantic relationships and sexual relationships are the same thing! And then when I interview people I'm going to assume that they're going to tell me about their personal sexual lives entirely candidly!"
posted by suedehead at 3:50 PM on October 20, 2013 [23 favorites]


It sounds like young Japanese are questioning the entire traditional life route.

That is totally cool, but can't we have lots of amazing sex while we ponder these critically important questions?
posted by freakazoid at 3:50 PM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Haven't studies shown that despite the stereotypes, Americans are actually more productive per hour and take fewer vacation days?

America has similar problems with the cult of overwork, decreasing class mobility, a generation shaping up to have a lower standard of living than its parents, and forcing women to choose between career and children. But America also has a robust immigration system that keeps it from being the demographic timebomb Japan is shaping up to be. Every child born in Japan today will have an ever-worsening productivity burden when the retired class balloons, far worse than their peers in the US will.

Young people in Japan aren't stupid. Increasing numbers are looking at their standard of living, their future prospects, and the challenges in forging and maintaining relationships in the face of the aforementioned problems, and are, very rationally, choosing not to exacerbate their problems by having children.
posted by chimaera at 3:50 PM on October 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Has it already been three weeks? Is it really already time for another questionable-premised, underinformed "isn't Japan just soooo crazy" article by someone who counts "one, two, trend"?

The stuff after the jump is kind of interesting, but really, any "trend" "news" article should be taken with a pinch of salt; any that purports to be about Japanese "trends" should be taken with a whole box.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:59 PM on October 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


spaltavian: "After nearly two "lost decades," a nation that makes pathological overwork a hallowed virtue

Haven't studies shown that despite the stereotypes, Americans are actually more productive per hour and take fewer vacation days
"

They do! That's pretty well established — it's more so that in Japan, you fundamentally demonstrate what a hard worker you are by simply being at work for the longest. It's… kind of messed up.

(Admittedly, some jobs, like teachers, legitimately are doing what should be two people's jobs, and routinely put in 70+ hours of legitimate work per week simply because otherwise the work won't get done, but that's the exception rather than the norm)
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:01 PM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Japan's not crazy, but it's certainly different.

A small anecdote: I went out to Tokyo a few years back for a convention, and decided to stay a few extra days because -- heh, Tokyo! After switching from the conference hotel to something more affordable, I was told that there were to be absolutely no extra guests in my room without a substantial extra fee.

OK, not something I was particularly planning on doing, but there was actually a guard posted at the elevator to make sure people weren't sneaking anyone in.
posted by effugas at 4:45 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's worth remembering that the US fertility rate is well below replacement if you ignore Hispanic families and new immigrants. I wonder if the US government is going to decide this is a problem and try to fix it with better maternity and childcare policies, or if they'll just ignore it.
posted by miyabo at 4:48 PM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have never met an asexual person.

You've never known someone who has been through a 2 year custody fight?
posted by Mr. Yuck at 4:56 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's worth remembering that the US fertility rate is well below replacement if you ignore Hispanic families and new immigrants.

So if you ignore a huge portion of the population, then? Like 1/5th?
posted by Celsius1414 at 5:03 PM on October 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Sorry, isn't a plummeting birthrate pretty common in post-industrial societies? I recall hearing stories about ore-reunification West Germany having its birth rate plummet as people were more interested in jobs, vacations, standard of living, etc then kids, and places without kids not liking it when people with kids moved in ("It used to be such a nice, quite neighbourhood...) Am I totally crazy or is this not a thing?

Also: Doesn't Japan have one of the highest population densities in the world? Wouldn't lessening that to something a bit more sane actually not be the worst thing around? A lot of these factors seem self-correcting; People can't afford houses large enough to raise kids in, well, when your population starts falling houses will get cheaper. When there aren't enough workers to fill jobs, employers will have to offer more child care support, and treat women better (Though some laws would help that along).

That said, more immigration certainly can fix this just as well; I mean, I know people who moved to Canada when they were 6, and you'd never know it. Give it another generation or two and their kids will barely know where they came from (Heck; *no one* in my extended family knows where one of the founders of it came from; We all assumed it was Ukraine since he moved to a Ukrainian colony when he got here, until one of his kids remembered that he didn't speak Ukrainian, he spoke German-- It is just that his kids all spoke it, since they grew up in a Ukrainian colony), and his kids are still alive! I mean, I'm pretty much bog-standard urban Canadian culture, and my great-grandmother was an immigrant, as was just about everyone before her. Do a bunch of immigration now and by 2100 no one will be able to tell who's family has been in Japan for 100 years or 1000 years.
posted by Canageek at 5:06 PM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Do a bunch of immigration now and by 2100 no one will be able to tell who's family has been in Japan for 100 years or 1000 years.

No cynicism intended, but I suspect that's kind of the fear.
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:09 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


betweenthebars: "However, I have seen live-action tentacle porn in a regular porn shop."

I'm kind of scared of the potential answer here but I'm not nearly brave enough to google it so: Surely the tentacles are simulated/CGI/Puppets right?
posted by Mitheral at 5:17 PM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Government handwringing. Kids today. Back when Japan was a powerhouse we knew how to... Lazy lifestyle "journalism". Blah, blah, blah.

Like most polling, it's all in how you ask the questions. Young people saying "no" to "sexual contact". No surprise. Also, define "date". They may be thinking of a really big deal fine restaurant, not 3 guys and 3 girls off to karaoke for a few hours after school club activities. Heck, school club activities are where you meet someone-you don't have to ask them out on a date.

As a teacher, I meet a lot of Japanese young people. They want to talk about who is "hot", their girlfriend/boyfriend if they have one, what kind of person they want to marry, how many kids they plan to have. They want these things. At least when they are 19 or 20 and reality hasn't set in yet.

From the Guardian:
"Amid the recession and unsteady wages, men like Kishino feel that the pressure on them to be breadwinning economic warriors for a wife and family is unrealistic. They are rejecting the pursuit of both career and romantic success.

From Japan Crush
"30% Of Unmarried Women Require That Their Marriage Partner Has A Yearly Income Of At Least “5,000,000 Yen” [approx. $54,000]"

That's your problem. Right there. If I were a professional in my late 20's early 30's making 3 to 4M (pretty decent) I'd have few prospects and wouldn't even care because I couldn't take on the responsibility of not just my own family, but also my own parents and potentially my spouse's parents as well.

Also, because of how real estate works, both rental contracts and apartment sizes, more casual cohabitation seems not as easy as in many places. Much harder to try things out. All or nothing for many people.
posted by Gotanda at 5:27 PM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


So if you ignore a huge portion of the population, then? Like 1/5th?

It is like 1/5th, but it's not an evenly distributed 1/5th. The rapidly expanding parts of the US are southern California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas. If you don't live in one of those places, your region will be facing a lot of problems similar to Japan in a decade or two.
posted by miyabo at 5:30 PM on October 20, 2013


Many Japanese people consider western porn to be weird or gross, too, for what it's worth- obviously fake breasts, fake orange tans, unnatural hairlessness, gorilla-like grunting, etc..

What, Japan doesn't have Ganguro Porn?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:31 PM on October 20, 2013


Japan is indeed encouraging immigration, specifically engineering talent, and I tend to think the whole "rapidly ageing society, need to foster mass immigration" is rather overblown anyway.

For example, Japan is at least two different countries: Tokyo, and everywhere else. Tokyo certainly does not have a problem with population decline, although I believe for the last couple of years, thanks to the twin disasters the Metropolitan area has experienced a slight net population decline as people move west.

In terms of "sexless" marriages and the declining marriage rate, I think there are at least a couple of issues.

For one thing, wages have stagnated or even eroded over the past two decades. On top of that there is inflation, plus a shift away from the "lifetime employment" system (you know, the one which encourages "presentee-ism" in exchange for lifetime employment).

So it's harder for young men to generate the income to establish a household.

Of course, Japan could solve its demographic problems by encouraging women to work, and work for higher wages. The starting salary for a female white-collar worker with a college degree is something like $1200 a month, and they are let go once they get married and have a child.

As for sex and sexless marriages, while I hate to judge, I would say the practice of visiting brothels can be pretty widespread. Men are certainly having sex, just not with their wives.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:33 PM on October 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Don't tell my nationalist Korean cousins, but sometimes I look at Japan to see a possible future for Korea. If societal pressure to couple off (I mean I like the dorkiness of "couple outfits" but "do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend" does not need to be the second or third question you ask a new acquaintance) lessens as people question the necessity of marriage etc, I think that would be kind of wonderful. Maybe you want to roam around with your high school buddies and find friendship more worth your time. Sounds a-ok.

Isn't Korea also a lot more culturally Christian than Japan (thanks to not having confined Western missionaries to a fortified island at a critical juncture)?
posted by acb at 5:34 PM on October 20, 2013


The comparison to 'Otomen' is really unfair and misleading. The main character of that story, Asuka, loves baking and knitting and cute things, sure, but the whole plot of that manga is (so far) about Asuka balancing his less traditional hobbies with his deep affection for a girl, Ryo, who loves him regardless of his personal interests. Neither Asuka nor Ryo have left the market for romantic relationships. Lazy journalists are lazy.
posted by vesper at 5:37 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Canada is provided as an example of a "mature economy" responding to the problems of the demographic shift by encouraging immigration.

I think Canada's experience with immigration over the last 20 years has been a bit of a failure.

Immigrants are not well-integrated into Canadian life. 50% of Canadian immigrants are settled in Toronto... hardly benefiting Canada as a whole.

36% of immigrants who have been in Canada for 5 years or less live in poverty. This means they are hardly acting as replacement workers to support an ageing population, and instead need help themselves. And even when they claw themselves out of poverty, a just-above-the-poverty-line household income is hardly going to be enough to support aged non-workers.

On top of that, what kind of quality of life are these immigrants living just above, at, or below the poverty line experiencing in Canada? I've known and worked with many immigrants, and it is challenging for their mental health.

So I do question, in a post-industrial context like Japan's, just how effective immigration is going to be.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:40 PM on October 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Young people in Japan are increasingly abstaining from romantic relationships and sex ... Meanwhile, in 2011, sales of adult diapers exceeded those for babies for the first time.

If I didn't have to worry about impressing the opposite sex, I would totally opt for adult diapers too. Pausing my game for a "bathroom break" is such a fucking hassle.
posted by dgaicun at 5:41 PM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Japanese-language anime and manga is certainly still jamful of kids pairing off. Surely there's some domestic market for that still.
posted by jfuller at 5:50 PM on October 20, 2013


Japanese-language anime and manga is certainly still jamful of kids pairing off. Surely there's some domestic market for that still.

Unless a significant proportion find that watching depictions of dating/sex/love (possibly coupled with virtual girlfriend mobile phone apps, boyfriend pillows and such) sufficiently satisfies those urges (or at least causes them to quiet down a bit), allowing them to get on with other things in their lives.
posted by acb at 6:08 PM on October 20, 2013


The starting salary for a female white-collar worker with a college degree is something like $1200 a month, and they are let go once they get married and have a child.

Yeah, the government tried to boost birth rates by offering pretty decent monetary/tax incentives, but with maternity leave still traditionally up to 1 year here, the corporate tendency to avoid/discourage young wives/mothers on the payroll probably trumps the govt. incentives in many cases.
posted by p3t3 at 6:19 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's...well, it's more than a little unfair to conflate "monumental stupidity" with a lack of clairvoyance and omniscience over the past several thousand years.

Pissing off your neighbors and glorifying ethnic homogeneity aren't only stupid if you have demographic problems in your nation's future.
posted by straight at 6:26 PM on October 20, 2013


How can there exist at the same time a shortage of jobs AND a need to bring in immigrants?
posted by bleep at 6:33 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The porn thing is pretty much a derail.

Maybe. It seems at least possible that some kinds of porn could lead to men expecting things from women that women don't want. That could partly explain the number of women claiming to be uninterested in sex. They could be uninterested in the kinds of sex the men around them want.
posted by straight at 6:34 PM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


So I do question, in a post-industrial context like Japan's, just how effective immigration is going to be.

I think an active immigration policy is just the first step in the right direction; there's still the question of who to allow in (professional skill sets vs lower level labour), whether or not those industries are receptive to foreign experience (I think Canada is terrible in this area) and community support programs and subsidies.

I also think the dividends don't happen until the next generation. With socialised healthcare, various child benefit programs, decent public education and subsidised post-secondary education, it's quite possible and probable that the children of immigrants grow up to be regular citizens and end up a lot better than their parents.

At least, that's been the case with myself and all my friends here in Canada. But like others have hinted above, this might not be what the powers that be in Japan want.
posted by tksh at 6:48 PM on October 20, 2013


How can there exist at the same time a shortage of jobs AND a need to bring in immigrants?

Not enough high status, high pay jobs.
posted by effugas at 7:21 PM on October 20, 2013


I also think the dividends don't happen until the next generation. With socialised healthcare, various child benefit programs, decent public education and subsidised post-secondary education, it's quite possible and probable that the children of immigrants grow up to be regular citizens and end up a lot better than their parents.

At least, that's been the case with myself and all my friends here in Canada. But like others have hinted above, this might not be what the powers that be in Japan want.


The thing is, the way things are going in Canada, many social programs (such as the ones you mention) are going to cease to exist in their current (diminished) form thanks to the demographic shift.

Low-paid immigrants are not going to fund those programs. Maybe their children might, but was that part of the bargain? Attracting skilled immigrants from abroad to live in basement suites? Or to work in a slaughterhouse in Lethbridge? My grandparents were immigrants after the war, but they got good jobs in the mills and the canneries.

And let's not forget what the "powers-that-be" in Canada want: more Tim Hortons workers.

And also the powers-that-be in Canada are looking for a way to depress wages, and are using immigrant workers to do it.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:26 PM on October 20, 2013


How can there exist at the same time a shortage of jobs AND a need to bring in immigrants?

And a need to keep wages low.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:27 PM on October 20, 2013


So this is the inspiration for the American Tea Party's Immigration policies?
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:33 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


...although they do expect a prohibition on abortion to keep providing native-born low-income workers.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:35 PM on October 20, 2013


The summary of the study that found that 40% of young women are uninterested in sex:
「第6回男女の生活と意識に関する調査」結果(概要)

Another study (2011) done by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, that was quoted in the article:
第14回出生動向基本調査
posted by koakuma at 7:44 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


KokuRyu, while there certainly has been a push to bring in more highly skilled workers (even a complete reordering of the previously confusing visa categories), they're aiming at the wrong problem. The government (and Keidanren) wants highly skilled labor, and they want to be able to pay peanuts for it. While there certainly has been a boom in foreign workers in and around Tokyo, for the most part, the rules still work to make long-term residence difficult.

The problem they're missing is the mass of unskilled positions that are available, that most Japanese people don't want, or won't take. For a long time these were referred to as the three K's, which translate into dirty, dangerous, and demeaning. Any job in those categories is seen negatively, and business have a very hard time getting workers.

Just a couple examples, none of which I'm going to argue are sweeping demographic trends: In recent years, it's not at all uncommon to see help wanted signs in convenience stores for overnight staff. The salaries on offer are almost always very high, compared to daytime work (daytime seems to be about 9-10 dollars an hour, where the night time ads are offering 12-14), yet the people behind the counter after midnight are almost always the owners of the store, often in their late fifties or older, working behind the counter because they can't offer a wage that would attract workers without becoming unprofitable.

Again, in recent years, mostly in Tokyo, but slowly spreading out into the burbs, is something you never used to see, which is foreigners working at fast food restaurants and convenience stores. For the most part, visa-wise, the only legal way to do that is to be here as a student. The thing is, these are the jobs that are available. Service industry jobs.

And don't forget the nursing industry, and their outright scam programs for foreign workers. They invite Indonesian and Philipine nurses to come to Japan, and 'give' them three years to master the language. At the end of their three years, they're required to pass a very, very difficult language exam. If they fail, they have to return home. Of the first group of hundreds of nurses, something like five passed, and only two of those stayed. The thing is, it's not, in any way, set up as a worker training program. Those nurses are working beyond full-time, for very, very low wages (so much so that the Japanese nurses union complained), with very little support. It's a program to use nurses for cheap labor, with a requirement for extension that is almost impossible to complete.

Even more ridiculous, there was the move a couple of years ago to pay Brazilians living in Japan to leave. The only catch was if they took the money, they had to give up their preferred resident status (there's a long history between Japan and Brazil, and Brazilians with Japanese ancestry are, or were, offered special status). Again, those workers were deemed necessary as long as there was a demand for criminally low wage labor. Now, of course, that the economy is picking up again, the government is changing their mind. Of course, that offer is only valid if the Brazilian in question has managed to secure an employment contract (while in Brazil) for at least a full year of employment in Japan.

Sorry for the derail. This is one aspect of living in Japan that never gets any more pleasant.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:05 PM on October 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Oh, and Mitheral and Peter McDermot:

Surely the tentacles are simulated/CGI/Puppets right?

What, Japan doesn't have Ganguro Porn?

Yes, and yes (though the Ganguro thing has pretty much fallen by the wayside, as that subculture has pretty much disappeared).

I need to get a sockpuppet.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:07 PM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


So, I wonder if the basic lesson of David Hackett Fisher's The Great Wave (no relation) applies.

Individuals who see the prospect of financial uncertainty tend to delay or forego having children. If conditions change, individual choices change, with expected aggregate effects.

It's sorta fascinating to consider his theory in light of a generation that has access to effective birth control.
posted by Mad_Carew at 8:09 PM on October 20, 2013


From the study I linked above that was quoted in the article:

Percentage of girls "not interested in sex" or who "despise sexual contact"
[Age 16-19]
2008: 46.9
2010: 58.5
2012: 60.3

[Age 20-24]
2008: 25
2010: 35
2012: 31.6

So apparently the writer of the article averaged the two to get the 45% result.
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find the percentages for "were not interested in sex" or "despise sexual contact" on their own. Too bad, because it could be interesting.

I was wrong in my previous assumption that the percentage decreased over time. I am really curious what changed between 2008 and 2010; I was in Japan at the time but can't remember anything in particular that would have this kind of effect... other than AKB48 taking over the country.
posted by koakuma at 8:14 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am really curious what changed between 2008 and 2010;

Did the recession not hit Japan? That seems like it would constitute an obvious cause.
posted by tychotesla at 8:21 PM on October 20, 2013


Did the recession not hit Japan? That seems like it would constitute an obvious cause.

Good point! I wonder how it would affect high school students, though. Maybe there was an increase of students working part-time jobs?
posted by koakuma at 8:24 PM on October 20, 2013


I always feel annoyance at the OMG Too Many Old People hysteria, because that is by definition, a short-term problem. One thing you can say for old people...they die off. If you need to pay more people to take care of them for a short amount of time, that seems completely do-able. Is that really going to be more of a burden than your average war? Whereas too many births bring you many more decades of issues.
posted by emjaybee at 8:26 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


tychotesla, the recession (or as it was called here, the Lehman Shock) undid all of the modest gains that had been made since the collapse of the bubble. It pretty much set the Japanese economy back two decades.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:27 PM on October 20, 2013


This is a disturbing article. I've been to Kyoto, and when you've seen a
pachinko parlor 6 stories high, all glass, that looks like a pachinko machine itself...
it's rather odd. You can really look into modern Japanese culture and see some of the phenomena described in the article. When I was there, around 1990, the current phrase was "American Spirit", which meant a "can do" attitude,
let's say, and openness to innovation..which was rather in direct conflict with traditional "Wa", harmony, don't rock the boat. I'm really not surprised at this article.
posted by eggtooth at 8:31 PM on October 20, 2013


Percentage of girls "not interested in sex" or who "despise sexual contact"
[Age 16-19]
2008: 46.9
2010: 58.5
2012: 60.3

[Age 20-24]
2008: 25
2010: 35
2012: 31.6


Does the writer take into account the fact that Japanese middle schoolers only just notice somewhere around the age of 15 that the opposite sex isn't riddled with cooties? Like, seventh-grader-crying-when-told-to-work-with-a-partner-of-the-opposite-sex bad. It's pretty normal in Japan for kids to be socialized pretty strictly to adhere to the notion that they should only even be friends with kids of their own gender much later than in, say, the US.
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:14 PM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ghidorah, I think my point was that although Japan's immigration policies are fucked up, Canada (which was pointed out as an alternative scenario)'s policies are fucked up, too.

I think there is the tendency to paint Japan as this weird, "other" country when in fact it's just a common OECD / G7 nation... save, of course, for the status of women. But if women in Canada typically earn only 75% of what men earn, and if just 10% of board members in Canada are women, is Canada really any better?

Speaking of convenience stores and fast food restaurants in Japan, they don't pay a living wage either in Canada, and so we have to bring in "temporary foreign workers," typically from the Philippines, and not just in the oil patch. I often wonder what that Tim Hortons employee from the Philippines, here for maybe six months or a year, thinks about Canada. Is it really worth it to come here?

Going back to Japan, one of the good things of the so-called stagnation is that Japan now has a cheaper cost of living than Canada. Everything is cheaper, food, housing, clothes, cars...
posted by KokuRyu at 9:17 PM on October 20, 2013


I can't speak to Canada, KokuRyu, except to point out things in Japan, policies and practices that don't, as far as I know, go the same way in Canada. The immigration experience in Japan has been* a series of hoops to jump through, with all of the language being used to remind foreigners that they are essentially only supposed to visit. The image of Japan as a place to immigrate to is not one I've ever seen. It's a place to visit, and to maybe work for a couple of years.

Ten years to become a permanent resident. That's ten years before you can realistically get a credit card (depending on your employment), a loan, or anything that helps to put down roots. Getting citizenship requires legally changing your name to a Japanese name, as well as proving how Japanese you've become. This is not a culture that's going to handle its coming need for immigrants, not temporary workers. Japan needs people who want to stay, who want to bring up their children here, but at the same time, Japan very much doesn't want foreigners bringing in their own culture.

* What, if any, long term changes will come about because of the revision of immigration procedures remains to be seen. It doesn't help that one of the driving forces behind the revision was to take the granting of residence permits away from local (read:gaijin friendly) governments.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:06 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The archetype of all generalizations about Japan:

"Once I went to Japan and saw this $THING, and I know $THING is not representative of a culture, but I couldn't help but think Japan is all $THING, and I think that's really weird."
posted by suedehead at 10:07 PM on October 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


So apparently the writer of the article averaged the two [age ranges of 16-19 and 20-24] to get the 45% result.

Great research, koakuma!

If that's true -- and skimming over the PDF, it looks like it is -- then this is a pretty egregious error on the reporter's part at best, manipulating figures to get a sensationalist headline at worst.
posted by suedehead at 10:18 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Falling fertility rates are completely normal. Japan leads and the rest of the world follows.

In the US last year, there were more deaths than births in one important demographic (non-Hispanic whites, SLNYT).
posted by kadonoishi at 12:03 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think an interesting statistical breakdown would also be "Percentage of girls 'not interested in frankly answering survey questions about sex' or who 'despise frankly answering survey questions about sex'".

Regarding the Indonesian nurse program, my understanding was that the government didn't set it up as a way to get cheap nursing labor, but that there was a trade negotiation with Indonesia, in which Japan was requesting some sort of access to Indonesia (reduction of tariffs on cars, incentives to set up manufacturing plants, whatever), and Indonesia wanted a tit-for-tat, so Japan set up the nursing program. The Japanese government never cared if it was successful.

Regarding the whole sex topic, I suspect that there's a kernel of truth, but buried under a huge pile of BS, as there always is when it comes to Japan reporting. "In Japan, 2% of the population does weird thing A, as opposed to 1% of the population of the U.S." -> "Japan has twice as many people doing weird thing A!" -> "Pretty much everyone in Japan is doing weird thing A! It must be caused by stereotypical Japanese trait B!"
posted by Bugbread at 1:57 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I understand the kind of intellectual obsession that can become the most important thing in a life...

But look...if your job in HR is more important than sex and companionship...well, it's time to reassess... Devoting your life to mathematics or philosophy or writing...that's understandable...but...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 5:49 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


So apparently the writer of the article averaged the two [age ranges of 16-19 and 20-24] to get the 45% result.

Eh, it's not a peer-reviewed science paper.
I'll allow it.
Although if I were writing it I'd frame it as "girls aged between 16-19 are 60% ... while their older siblings in the 20-24 age bracket are turning off sex. with 25% not interested in 2008, rising to more than 30% in 2012".

I saw this article today, and I thought it was interesting enough to post here, but I didn't feel comfortable enough chucking it alone, and nor did I feel confident looking for padding (and, also the idea of going to Japan to experience the culture gives me the heebee jeebies because there are too many people) but I am glad it did get posted.

These discussions fascinate me.
posted by Mezentian at 6:56 AM on October 21, 2013


I think an interesting statistical breakdown would also be "Percentage of girls 'not interested in frankly answering survey questions about sex' or who 'despise frankly answering survey questions about sex'".

I was thinking the same thing, but I think it's the trend (if it really exists) that's interesting. If the number of girls unwilling to frankly answer survey questions about sex is increasing, that probably says something about cultural attitudes about sex as well.
posted by straight at 8:00 AM on October 21, 2013


Japan is doomed, as this article suggests Compound what the article implies about Japanese
moral due to the nuclear accidents with the fact that radiation is spreading all over Japan right
now, and what result do you see?
posted by eggtooth at 8:06 AM on October 21, 2013


But look...if your job in HR is more important than sex and companionship...well, it's time to reassess...

That's pretty unfair. It's more like "if having secure employment and a steady income is more important than sex..."

Still not the choice some people would make, but it's silly to pretend that these pressures come from Japanese people being passionately devoted to their paperwork.
posted by straight at 8:06 AM on October 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I want to say that there is a possible heteronormative lens this article has been analyzed through. Actually, I know quite definitively that there is a heteronormative lens here. I am just hesitant to say that because if there are homosexual concerns that are not being discussed or explored, then one that one criticism of homosexual community stands even though I have always argued against. What is that one criticism? Homosexuality would lead to minimal levels of procreation. Globally speaking, that criticism is still irrelevant but perhaps not for the Japanese.

Of course, I am making a huge, dangerous assumption here. And of course, I am not going to over that most are probably very much heterosexual but merely closer to the asexual side of things. But, hell wouldn't it be a thought? Heteronormativity leaving an entire country confused? The greater implications of that just seem far too precarious. I recognize that.
posted by thetoken at 8:46 AM on October 21, 2013


thetoken: I agree with you that the Japanese people are having an identity crisis. Perhaps it goes back to Perry and the Black Ships, entering Tokyo harbor and forcing the Japanese to trade with the West. Certainly that event precipitated the Meiji period of rapid move from feudal, medieval Japan
to the modern era. The industrialization of Japan happened in an amazingly short time span.
There must have been great culture shock, because the old identity and the emerging one
co-existed during this period. Some of the old principles, like Wa, like Bushido, (may) have been in
conflict with the new ways of doing things. And then, just when they thought they had it together,
they lost WW2 very badly, and were occupied. This must have been a tremendous shock to the group ego. No wonder the younger generation are turning their backs. It's like they're going through the sixties in the States without the associated freedom. What do people do when there seems no hope of positive change? If you do pavlovian tests with animals, if they get mixed messages when they think they're getting food, and get zapped instead, eventually the animals just give up.
posted by eggtooth at 9:59 AM on October 21, 2013


It is like 1/5th, but it's not an evenly distributed 1/5th. The rapidly expanding parts of the US are southern California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas. If you don't live in one of those places, your region will be facing a lot of problems similar to Japan in a decade or two.

This is what I'm not getting about your assertion. You're taking out 1/5th (in 2012) of the population of the United States and saying the population will be decreasing.

Estimates for the future vary, but this one by the Pew Research think tank says Hispanics will be nearly 30% by 2050. And they're projecting over 80% of a population increase to 438 million will be from new immigrants and their descendants.
This report offers two alternative population projections in addition to its main projection. The alternatives are based on immigration levels roughly 50% above and 50% below the baseline projection, but use the same fertility and mortality assumptions as the baseline projection. Under the lower-immigration scenario, the population would rise to 384 million in 2050, and new immigration would account for 71% of growth during the projections period. Under the higher-immigration scenario, the population would go up to 496 million, and new immigration would account for 87% of the increase. The baseline projection shows the population will rise to 438 million, and new immigration will account for 82% of the increase.
So around half again as much population, with whites losing their majority status along the way (which they already have in certain parts of the country), down to 47%. And that 2012, Hispanic 1/5th number will be going to at minimum 1/3rd of the US population by 2050.

Not all of those people are going to be living in the Southwest. Costs of living are already high in California, for example, and though they're projecting immigration here to continue to slow, native Californians will be increasing dramatically and driving up costs. And as rich as Texas is, they won't be able to afford their no-income tax policy for long if property and sales taxes have to keep rising in order to meet basic services for a burgeoning population. (Plus the shale oil fracking that funded all the current rich-folk craziness there ain't going to last forever.)

Those new Americans are going to have to go some place, and while the complexion of Midwesterners will certainly be shifting away from lack of melanin, that doesn't mean Midwesterners will disappear.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:08 AM on October 21, 2013


A p.s. to my comment: During WW2, the Japanese government, to the very end, told the Japanese people that Japan was winning the war....seems like deja vu all over again.
posted by eggtooth at 10:39 AM on October 21, 2013


Not a Japanese, but an Italian writing. We have a very similar situation in here with natality and dependency ratios so hear me please. *ROAR*

First, let's get rid of the argument of some governments' pret-a-porter (as in fashionable nonsense) sociologists who apparently can't peel an onion to get to the inner layers because that would make baby government/industry cry: no, youngsters are not Internet-Iphone obsessed, are not "destroyed by porn", are not NEETs, are not lazy bones who want an easy route to instant gratification(success.

All the above listed characteristics, of course, can be found among youngster, but to characterize ALL youngsters like that is obivously ridicolous. Moreover, these are superficial, easily recognizable laiers/traits and that is for a very specific reason: anybody in the public can notice them.

Why should that matter? Because humans wants explanation out of curiousity (and to feel the nice sensation of understanding what is going on in the world) and if you provide them with something they can actually _see_, most of them will be satisfied with the provided explanation.

Example: why people still go to restaurants, are not we in the middle of an economic crysis? Pret-a-porter sociologists advance that people still go to restaurants, hence there is no crysis or it is not so bad. Yet: 1) food is number one source of instant gratification, relatively unexpensive and does not require capital 2) people need to eat ! 3) there are few thousand restaurants in any city and (especially in big cities) there are MILLIONS of people 4) people don't dine in restaurant every day, what you see is customer rotation 5) restaunts open and close very quickly, you may just be seeing a peak of customers 6) there are millions of people who seldom if ever go to a restaurant during a year.

That much to debunk the easy notion that restauratns are a proxy of how millions of people are living. Bullshit! It's simplistic shit that explains nothing imho, but makes people feel righteosly indignant and satisfied with an explanation that does not challenge their world view.

Now to the least visibile aspects:
1. cost of living: has risen over the years, while wages have been stagnating for at least the last 20 years (cost of living = housing, healthcare cost, transportation, the "basics" of western societies);

2. pensions: at least in Italy we abandoned the pension scheme that paid the worker every month the amoung of money he/she received as he/she LEFT the job: in other words, the last salary, who usually was the highest as salaries were very much tied with seniority. The new scheme is tied to how much money the worker/employer pays during his worklife. Of course, if one got a low wage, the payment for pension will proportionally be low and because these pesions ARE NOT inflation indexed people will not recover all inflation - over 30 years of worklife that means they will receive a pension that is MUCH lower than the average of their salaries (these are not my evaluations, these come from the Director of the biggest national fund of Italy);

3. Cost of rising babies: as high as ever, but higher thanks to the fact that there are fewer kindergartens (obviously because there are less kids around) and not necessarily in a position that is CLOSE enough to families, close enough to allow for family members to leave their kid and go to work in a reasonable, sustainable amount of time. Moreover, the state subsided places are quite scarce, hence it is not uncommon to pay 200-400 euros a month for a kindergarten place: that is roughly 15% of the AVERAGE italian monthly salary.

I could go on for a while, but I guess these points are enough to make people think a little.
posted by elpapacito at 3:09 PM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cost of rising babies

And vice versa.
posted by acb at 4:55 AM on October 22, 2013


Wrong about Japan and Sex:

One of the most damning bits of data in The Observer piece purports to say that 90 percent of women say "staying single" is better than what they think being married is like. As Twitter user Inoue Eido points out, the survey actually says that nearly 90 percent of woman who haven't married do plan on getting hitched. It's worth noting that the number is higher than it was in the 2002 and the 1997 survey. The original survey also notes that around 87 percent of women think there's merits to being single—it does not say "staying single."

Finally, there's the claim there's something the Japanese media calls "sekkusu shinai shoukougun" (セックスしない症候群) or "celibacy syndrome." On Google, the only mentions I can find of the Japanese media using the term is last December in a tawdry Japanese tabloid about the numer of female virgins at Japanese universities. The same tabloid interviewed the 52-year-old sex worker, which The Observer profiled in the Japanese sexless piece it published this weekend.
posted by suedehead at 10:05 AM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's worth remembering that the US fertility rate is well below replacement if you ignore Hispanic families and new immigrants. I wonder if the US government is going to decide this is a problem and try to fix it with better maternity and childcare policies, or if they'll just ignore it.

Not only that, but the U.S. fertility rate is now actually below the Russian ("in-crisis") rate.
posted by psoas at 10:40 AM on October 23, 2013


....let alone the rising cost of babes.
posted by eggtooth at 1:19 PM on October 23, 2013


No, Japanese People Haven’t Given Up on Sex


Is it strange that so many unmarried Japanese people aren’t in relationships or interested in being in one? Not really. A Pew survey this year, concerned mainly with online dating, began by asking Americans who are not married or living with a partner whether they are in a “committed romantic relationship.” Seventy-one percent said no. Seventy-five percent of those who are not in a romantic relationship said they are currently not looking for one, numbers that are much higher than in Japan. About half of single Americans said they haven’t been on a date in the last three months. The number of Americans in their late teens and early 20s who have never had sex is also rising: about 29 percent of women and 27 percent of men, according to the National Survey of Family Growth. (That survey of Japanese people under 30 refers to “dating,” not sex.)

Nearly 40 percent of American women have never been married, according to one survey, and nearly 20 percent of American women in their 40s have not had children, according to another. Both those numbers are steadily rising.

The “were not interested in or despised sexual contact" number does seem very high, though the “or” seems to be doing a lot of work in that sentence. A 2008 survey of found that 10 percent of American women between 18 and 44 reported “low sexual desire.” And plenty of people living in any culture who do experience sexual desire don’t actively look to fulfill it with another person for various reasons.

posted by suedehead at 3:34 PM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's kind of unfortunate that the story took off in the "Weird Japan" direction, but I think it's still an interesting cultural problem that it seems like there's such a huge disconnect between what's expected of women traditionally and what modern women see and want in on and how they behave within that context. I would like to see a legit sociological study of whatever is going on over there, if anything. That's not to say that America or any other place is devoid of interesting and tragic cultural problems. I want to see legit sociological papers on those as well.
posted by bleep at 8:03 PM on October 23, 2013


I've been to Japan and India, some years ago, and, while India seemed the most
foreign, or alien, if you like, to me, place I'd ever been, Japan, on the other hand, seemed much more familiar....from the coffee houses with waiters in bow ties, seemingly everyone at rush hour in downtown Kyoto, dressed in sharp looking business attire, department stores that looked like Macy's,
streets flowing with Mercedes. Few things seemed old: the potato carts with their steam whistles, (they have them in Mexico too)...of course, the temples and such. I remember seeing an exhibit
of photographs in a gallery, by an American during WW2, of Japanese soldiers and people on some of the islands that the Americans invaded. There was an old Japanese man there, accompanied by his daughter...I guess...a young woman. That man looked at me with a look of such hatred as I never have experienced. On the surface, Japan seemed very familiar. But something is buried very deep in that culture...that was my experience.
posted by eggtooth at 12:04 PM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


A look at worker vacation days in various countries. Japan fares better than the U.S.

[Washington post]
posted by craniac at 6:25 AM on October 25, 2013


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