In the latest Newz of the World Bicyclemark and Tim Pritlove talked about Japan and that people are having less sex because of an article in the Washington Post. Being me I had to comment about some of the things they said. For completeness I am posting my comment which is awaiting moderation at this moment here as well. I am grateful for any comment which shows problems in my statements since this is some stuff I didn’t look into in some time but have to for my final examinations (in 6 - 9 months).

My comment:

Even though applied social sciences is not my specialities in regards to Japan but more the political and economical side, I have to comment on some of the statements made about Japan ;)

  1. Japan is crowded and it is not bad if the population gets reduced. The problem is that with a decreasing population your work force decreases. Since the pension system is a pay-as-you-go-system you have a real problem in financing the pensions. Especially with the baby boomers leaving the work force soon. The increase in total factor productivity is just not high enough to finance these pensions when the labor force continues to decrease. Yes it is crowded (120 million people in a country with the size of Germany but inhabitable is only a third of it). But at least the pension system just can’t afford it (and I am still wondering what happens to China in regards to that). There are discussions to invite more immigrants to counter the demographic change or to find a way that women get faster back into the labor force again (or do not leave it in the first place).

  2. For sex they are going usually into love hotels because you are living usually in one room and the walls are thin. a) Young people tend to go to love hotels because walls are thin and well you don’t want that your parents could hear you. In addition it is still not really socially acceptable that a boy and a girl are together at home in one room. A boy meeting a girl alone already means that they usually have to have a date. Or you have parents who want to have some time together, people with affairs, prostitution (even though that one is kinda forbidden) etc. Love hotels have themed rooms which you won’t get in a normal hotel. b) People do not always live together in one room. Normal apartments have several rooms and a lot of people even have a house with two levels. The rooms are usually smaller but that is balanced out with practical furniture (closets in the wall, the futon which you can put away into the closet when you are not sleeping etc. – but beds are becoming more popular) Anecdote: When I lived in Japan I didn’t know a lot of people with only one room – and they usually lived alone, didn’t have a lot of money or lived in very very expensive areas. Oh wait, the same accounts for people in Germany with one-room-apartments. In my case I lived with a Japanese family (mother, daughter, grandmother, another foreigner and me). The grandmother, the other foreigner and me had all our own rooms. The mother and the daughter slept in the living/dining room. Since we all used futon, you didn’t see on the day anything that the living/dining room was used for sleeping. Rooms were all small but not uncomfortable. And don’t forget that you can always go up in terms of height of buildings even in countries with a lot of earthquakes.

  3. Maid bars are aimed at business men. Ehm, no. Usually they are aimed at Otakus, nerds. Yes, there are otakus who are also business men, but the target group are more or less nerds. Targeted at business men are hostess clubs. There you pay a lot of money to talk with a pretty looking woman which lets you feel that you are the king (and they usually do not serve to foreigners…I knew someone who was a waiter in such a club, so I got some anecdotal evidence about that). But foreigners usually wouldn’t probably also do not pay for that service. You pay around $100 per hour to talk with a woman plus drinks etc. Only in the cheap clubs you might have a chance to go with a woman to a love hotel after the club is closed if you pay extra (don’t forget prostitution is forbidden in Japan…but there are also loop holes).

  4. You never get an apartment with room mates Yes and no. It is not as common as here but it is getting more common. I even knew someone who lived with a roommate together in a one-room-apartment. But there are guest houses in bigger cities which essentially work like living in an apartment with roommates. Everyone has his/her own room. There are usually shared bath rooms and maybe shared kitchens.

  5. You live at home or alone Problem 1) Having an own apartment is really expensive. You pay 3 months of rent as kind of a gift to the land lord and there is an additional 3 months deposit. Thus you do not leave home if it is not necessary (my favorite phenomenon in that regard are the parasite singles). Btw. this is different with guest houses. There is the “gift” not involved and the deposit is far lower. Problem 2) As a couple you do not live together before you didn’t marry because it is socially not acceptable. So again a problem there with leaving home (oh and getting children; btw. abortions are in Japan afaik more “popular” as in the US or in Europe. Iirc one reason is that there is no Christian background to condemn it and Shinto and Buddhism both don’t really condemn it iirc. But this is something from far deep in the back of my head I wouldn’t swear on.)

In addition besides of students or people who studied (or expats) I actually did not yet learn so many people to know here as well who share an apartment. Even with students it seems to decrease in Germany and people seem to tend to live longer at home since the change to a Bachelor/Master-system here. And the Japanese I learned to know here who are doing working holidays are often sharing an apartment with others ;)

  1. There was something in the podcast also about women and the labor force in Japan but I just can’t find it right now. Women usually are expected to leave the labor force when they are getting children. It is even getting so far that when people are marrying that the company will try to convince the woman to leave the company because she has now to take care of the household and has to get babies. Women who do not want that do not marry and it is hard for women to marry after 30. In the past there was this great metaphor for the christmas cake (which you eat on christmas which is there more like a party with friends and new years eve is the family thing) which gets bad after the 25th of December. Meaning that women have problems finding a men when they are than 25. Nowadays you talk about the New Years cake (which gets bad after the 31st). In addition things like kindergardens have usually chronically bad opening times for people who work. And since flexible time programs are usually not existent (and which would solve also this overcrowded train-problem in the rush hour), you just can’t combine work/career and children. Thus you see an M-curve in the labor participation rate by age. Which brings me back to the problem with the demographic problem. Women usually return to the labor force after their children grew up only as part-timers. Henceforth they can’t bring in a full wage into the social system.

But I think that is enough before I get lost in my trail of thoughts. I hope that clarified some things about Japan. And I really have to read up again on some of the stuff before I go into my final examinations :/