Japan Losing Its Sex Drive?

Condomania. A Harajuku Landmark. 2010.

An article that just hit the wires  — not the first word about this, and certainly it won’t be the last —  that is, has hit the net declaring that Japan’s government is concerned — alarmed? — about the declining sex drive in Japan.  Excerpt:

The data confirmed a wider social belief that younger men are becoming “herbivorous”, a label attached to passive men who do not actively seek women and sex.

The latest biennial survey found that 36.1 percent of Japanese males between the ages of 16-19 said they had no interest or even despised sex, a jump from 17.5 percent in the 2008 study.

Compounding the issue was data that showed 59 percent of girls in the same age group felt the same way, up 12 percentage points from 2008.

The data is a worry for a government aiming to encourage couples to have children to reverse a falling birth rate and avert a potential economic calamity.

Story in the Nikkei (Japanese Financial Paper) in Japanese/日本語 here, and blogging on it here.

Here’s a little news blurb on it  in Chinese.  And another.  I think the Chinese are gloating.



As mentioned, this isn’t the first time this subject’s come up and generated a lot of buzz on the web.  This blog article  =>  Is Japan Really Sexless? <=  appeared in 2006 and comments (almost 600) continue coming in to this day.  If you’re interested in this subject, I highly recommend this piece.  Even more interesting, the Comments at the end of the article.  This blog article is actually more comprehensive than today’s wire story above.  Excerpt:

One in five sexless couples say they view sex simply as a nuisance. A small number cite the lack of a private space, because children or elderly parents often sleep just the other side of a paper-thin door, leading many married couples to even sleep in separate rooms. Mitsui Home announced recently in an Asahi Newspaper article, that in 30% of the new houses they build, the couples are asking for 2 “master” bedrooms. This is a shocking statistic, which shows that sexless couples want to continue living their lives together – separately! “We are sort of room-mates rather than a married couple”, one 31-year-old man, who had not had sex with his wife for two years, told the Asahi Shinbun.

There are many other theories about why the Japanese become less inclined to raunchy evenings in the sack together, but likely it is a mixture of some of these:

  • Stress of work/life in Japan (maybe the taihen cloud?)
  • Lack of understanding, and usage of contraception, especially “the pill” (who wants to use condoms with their wife!?), making sex with your wife viable only when you want to have a baby
  • Abundance of 不倫 (furin, or extra-marital) relationships
  • More and more Japanese women choosing career over family
  • A tendency among Japanese married couples to feel an aversion to sex with their spouse, not because they dislike one another, but rather because they feel that they have more of a sister-brother relationship; the sanctity of which would be destroyed with a repulsive incest-like feeling, by what westerners would consider normal conjugal relations . . . .

Again, I recommend reading the comments below the main article (they are adult-oriented, mind you), mainly from expat men living in Japan and married to Japanese women.  But women from around the world, married to Japanese men, weigh-in, too.  Incredible and telling.  Here are a couple cathartic nuggets, for example (again, out of the 595 to-date):

+ “Wow, this is funny (or actually NOT funny) because Timmy describes almost the exact same situation I’m in as well. To her it’s a chore, and why do that when she could be browsing her Japanese blogs while sipping tea instead? If I had a nickel for every time she pushed it back just one more time I’d be a rich man by now….” From Doug.

+ . . . thank goodness I came across this website and found out there are women like me.  I just married my Japanese husband a few months ago after moving back to the US from Japan, but we were sexless from the beginning.  I have to beg my husband for sex, and even at our most frequent it’s maybe once every 1 or 2 weeks.  I never thought I would have to beg for sex from my own husband.  I have tried everything, but he just has no interest in sex, or rather, he can’t be bothered. Interesting though that when I offer to give him head without intercourse he’s more than happy to accept . . . I honestly don’t know what to do.  I am really unhappy.  The thing is, he is a really wonderful husband and partner in every other sense of the word, and I am madly in love with him.  Any advice from others with the same problems would be greatly appreciated.”  From JAga.

+Reading the words of all of the delusional individuals above, it makes me cringe to think the writers seem to suggest that sexlessness is a uniquely cultural, and specific to Japan.

“Have you read about the prevalence of sexless marriages in North America and Europe? How about the wide spread impotency (physically and mentally) of Western men and the sexually detached women?

“As a counselor at a marriage clinic for the past 25 years, Caucasian couples are much more susceptible to sexlessness than East Asian couples (Chinese, Japanese and Korean) at the rate of 3:1. Many signs point to stress and Western diet (high fat and salt content, refined sugars and carbs).”  From Catherine.

.     .     .

Otaku-kun: Another Male "Herbivore?"

.     .     .


  1. OK, I know we have our sex troubles here, too. I’ve seen plenty of stats on long term declines in frequency of sex. All those ads for Viagra and Levitra remind us that there must be a huge market for the stuff. (By the way, watch carefully next time you see one of those ads – they are all targeted to women.) A US study done in the late 80s found that 40% of 40 year old men reported some level of erectile dysfunction.

    But “36.1 percent of Japanese males between the ages of 16-19 said they had no interest or even despised sex”? That’s really hard to fathom. It’s also hard to fathom the huge jump from 2008 to 2010.

    Is it possible that we’re losing some of the meaning of the question in translation?

      • letsjapan
      • January 15th, 2011


      This article (the main one that leads off this post) hit me exactly the same two ways: (1) the fall-off of sex after marriage is not necessarily a “Japanese Thing;” yet, (2) the “Herbivore” phenomenon — for the 16-19 year olds — was rather startling.

      And, like you, I wonder about the questions (how a question’s asked determines the answer) and the translation. I’ll try to dig a little deeper into this over the next week or so and see what I can find.

      Thinking about the 16-19 year old guys, I’m wondering whether (again, depending on how the question/s were asked) the responses may not have so much testifed to a rising asexuality (ironic pun intended) in younger Japanese men, as much as to a growing pessimism about finding “the right girl” (in a society where marriage is put off, stability is desired-yet-increasingly-hard-to-come-by, the attention-span continues to diminish — if Americans think their 12-22 year-old population is obsessed with texting and fixated on with whatever electronic device is plastered to their noses, they should ride a train in Japan) which, in turn, translates into a sense of “Well, I’m just going to stop worrying about it.” Something like that. I’m just speculating here, but to me that makes more sense (sad though it may be) than a huge swath of the young male population just not having thoughts about sex.

      Or there’s something in the water. Who knows.*


      * A conspiratorially-minded person might say, “Hu knows.” I’m not so inclined, thought.

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