Japanese men like foreign women

I lived in Japan for a year and learned something disturbing about relationships and sex

Simon Cumming / Flickr"Kabukicho," he said. “The hotel that my company booked is in Kabukicho.” That struck me as a little strange. Kabukicho is what we call the red light district in Tokyo. Hostess bars, night clubs, prostitutes on the street. Not an environment in which I would have expected a classic hotel chain.

When we turned the bend and I saw our hotel, everything was clear to me. It had no windows, prices were calculated in hours. My friend's company accidentally booked a Love Hotel for us. A Love Hotel is not as disreputable as you might think now - okay, apart from the hot tub with pink lighting and the plush slippers. It is an important part of everyday Japanese culture. Young lovers who still live with their parents, married couples whose apartments are too noisy, or even affairs meet in these hour hotels to let go of their inhibitions.

From 2010 to 2011 I studied at a university in Japan for a year and got to know the strange relationship to love and sexuality in Japanese culture. I would almost call it schizophrenic. Because on the one hand the Japanese would never use words like penis or vagina, not even among friends (when an exchange student once did it, the Japanese were embarrassed), on the other hand it happened more often than once that a " Salaryman ”(an office worker) sat and unabashedly leafed through some hardcore manga porn.

Japan's sex problem

What worries me most now, however, is that many of the things that I found strange seven years ago are already discovering in Europe today.

Japan has a sex problem, economists call it a "demographic time bomb". The population is getting older, but fewer and fewer children are being born.

Of course, this is also a problem in other industrialized countries, but nowhere is it as devastating as in Japan. The nation suffers from the fact that declining consumption weakens the economy. This drives families to have fewer children, which in turn weakens the economy even further. On average, women in Japan have 1.41 children.

Japan has become a sexless and celibate society. In a survey by the Meiji Yasuda Institute of Life and Wellness, 39 percent of Japanese women and 62 percent of Japanese between 25 and 35 said they had never had a really serious relationship.

A lot of work, little fun

Why is it that so many young people are left alone? An attempt to explain: In Japan two worlds are currently colliding - that from the time of the economic miracle and that of modern culture.

During the early 1950s, Japan made economic growth a priority. The government obliged large companies to offer permanent jobs and in return only demanded lifelong loyalty from the employees. The model worked at that time and led to the economic miracle in the 1960s.

But at the same time it had the unpleasant side effect that people were working more and more. Not for nothing was a separate word created in Japan for those who die from being overworked: karoshi. I remember the rush hour that I always had to go through seven years ago. When all these employees in their white shirts and black suit trousers and skirts stood in the subway with their iPhones or those white flip phones clenched in their hands.

Or when, as a student, I walked past office complexes where all the lights were still on at 9 p.m., people sat in those countless rows of tables and stared at their screens. Back then I was already wondering what kind of life it must be that only consists of getting up, working and sleeping. I'm not surprised that these people no longer have the strength to date.

Women choose careers over marriage

But there is another problem: For a long time it was traditionally customary for women to marry quickly after university, to take care of the household and the children, while their husbands earn money. This unspoken rule is still cemented in the minds of many people. A good friend of mine was asked pejoratively several times whether she was a lesbian because at the age of 24 she was not yet engaged or married. One would think that such a technically advanced country would also be socially advanced, but it isn't.

But young people have changed nonetheless. Women no longer want to face the pressure to give up their careers once they are married. The logical consequence? You just stay single.

This development leads to strange trends like weddings where there is only a bride and no groom because women marry themselves. You don't want to miss the big day with a wedding dress and cake, but you don't necessarily want to commit to a man.

About a year ago, the headline made the rounds that more and more Japanese were marrying their good friends and acquaintances. To be honest: I also have some Japanese friends who simply married their buddies, classmates and acquaintances. "It is not passionate love, but there is security," said one of them. They live together in an apartment and everyone goes about their work. The social pressure has decreased.

Strange relationship with sexuality

In addition, there is the strange relationship the Japanese have with sexuality. You would think that people look for one-night stands if they don't want to have a relationship, but many are too uptight for that. When in doubt, they prefer to concentrate on fictional sex objects in manga porn or video games instead of chatting to someone in a bar.

The Love Hotel is not the result of a sexual revolution - it is the symptom of a major societal problem. If you don't even want to be heard peeing in the toilet (yes, that's why there are these automatic flushing noises at the push of a button), you certainly don't want the others to know that you are having a sex life.

Since the rental prices in Tokyo are among the highest in the world and even families of four often only live in a 50 square meter apartment, which is usually extremely noisy, you have to take financial and infrastructural efforts to drive to a love hotel and just having sex. According to a survey in 2016, around 4.5 million people between the ages of 35 and 54 are still living with their parents. So the question arises: Where should people get closer besides in hour hotels?

These people, who are over 30 years old and still live with their parents, are called “parasitic singles”, so you can imagine how much these people are worth in Japanese society.

Does the problem also affect Germany?

So far there is no empirical evidence that "Sekkusu shinai shokogun", as the phenomenon of the sexless society is called, actually exists. But if we are to be honest, certain traits can now also be recognized in Germany.

We work as much as we did 25 years ago, according to data from the Federal Statistical Office. “Obviously, a third of German companies are working over the limit,” IW boss Michael Hüther recently told the “Welt”. The fact that Germans are spending more time at work again is linked not least to the economic upturn.

These zombies, who sit huddled in the subway with their smartphone and no longer perceive their surroundings, I see them more and more in Germany. Then we look at a study from the “Archives of Sexual Behavior” from 2016, according to which young people in the USA, i.e. in a western country, have less sex today than Generation X and baby boomers - and this phenomenon is not already there more as Japanese as you might think.

Also read: "Japan's sex problem creates economic and social problems that the country has never seen before"

Technical progress does not stop at us either. High-tech sex dolls, virtual figures, humanized robots - what has always seemed strange to us about the Japanese or the Chinese can soon also prevail with us. If nobody needs a partner anymore (let alone has the time for it), then Germany too can become a “demographic time bomb”.

For a year I saw what an aging, overworked and uptight society looks like. Don't get me wrong, the year in Japan was one of the best of my life. But I don't want that for my everyday life.