You’ve just had a rough day. You spilled hot coffee on yourself in the morning, missed the bus, and brought the wrong papers to your presentation. And to top it all off, you left your phone at home so you couldn’t even tweet your misfortunes to the world. All you want is someone to tuck you back into bed and hold you while telling you that everything will be alright. Ideally, your significant other would do this for you – if you had one.
If you’re in Japan, the chances are fairly high that you won’t have a special somebody. It seems like it would be easy to find someone to connect with in the heavily populated cities of Japan but in fact the rate of relationships, whether it be dating or marriage, has dropped in recent years along with the birth rate. Over 30% of unmarried men in their thirties have zero dating experience according to a study carried out by Meiji Yasuda Life featured in Japan Crush. Why is it so difficult to find love in Japan?
Outside perception of sex and love in Japan is often a contradictory one. Japan is simultaneously regarded as one of the most culturally conservative and sexually liberal countries. The traditional structure of a salaryman and his housewife remains an intrinsic part of society while, at the same time, a new outlook on childless single life burgeons among the younger generations. Young people, especially young women, simply don’t see the benefits in getting married anymore.
The Guardian writes about how women are heavily discriminated against in the workplace if they are married or seen as likely to marry because it is assumed that they will abandon work to produce children. So if a woman wants to have a successful career, she can’t risk engaging in any meaningful, long-term relationship.
Many young men also shy away from such relationships, often because feel they can’t live up to the traditional expectations that they be the sole provider for a family. This younger generation isn’t instilled with the same sense of duty that their parents had to reproduce. In short, both men and women find relationships to be too “troublesome” – they’re disillusioned by the worth of romance.
With this decrease in long-term relationships, the commercialized love industry has flourished. A seemingly endless number of new services – the majority of which are aimed at men – have appeared to fulfill all the surface benefits of a girlfriend or wife ranging from renting a cuddle buddy or a drinking companion to paying to have your ears cleaned.
No girlfriend? No worries. For about 3000 yen (approximately $30 CAD), you can get twenty minutes of cuddle time with a cute girl at places like Soineya in the Akihabara district of Tokyo. Of course, you’ll have to pay a little extra if you want the girl to pat you on the back or if you want to sleep on her lap (you find a full price listing on Japan Today). For some, this slice of companionship is enough to make up for the lack of a genuine relationship.
If cuddling isn’t quite enough, then there are always rent-a-date services, as described on Rocket News 24. These dates aren’t meant to be an escort service. They’re just an opportunity for a guy who’s a little shy around girls to innocently spend some time with one – for the most part. In special circumstance, these prepaid dates can develop into something else but that’s often not the case.
It’s easy to be shy in Japan. The culture there is one that promotes modesty and restraint as opposed to general flashiness. The prevalence of technology, particularly in the larger cities, has made it easy to retreat from human contact. This technology comes in many forms, whether it be the eerily realistic androids that Japanese engineers are developing or the abundance of dating simulation games produced for both men and women.
In some cases, people will even go as far as to marry their virtual girlfriends, as in the case of Sal 9000, which is the groom’s username, and Nene Anegasaki, a character in a video game.The more of this technology that people partake in, the more unfamiliar they become with real-life interactions and try to pull back into their virtual shells, creating a cycle of shyness that feeds on itself. In extreme cases, these people are known as hikikomori, who close themselves off from the outside world altogether.
This isn’t to say that there are a huge number of these recluses in Japan. Hikikomori only make up a small part of the population but even among the rest of Japanese people, finding some genuine romance just isn’t high on the agenda. And with the love industry continuing to come up with increasingly creative ways to facilitate this, it’s easy to be alone, even in one of the most densely populated places in the world.