Currently, Japan has one of the world’s lowest birth rates in the world. Although its population is 126 million, that number is dropping every year and it pales in comparison to the U.S. population of 314 million and China’s 1.35 billion. In fact, fewer Japanese babies were born in 2012 than any other year in history.
According to sex and relationship counselor Ai Aoyama, this number could drop dangerously low with the current views of the Japanese youth. Aoyama is hoping to cure Japan’s wave of “celibacy syndrome” which has young adults losing interest in both physical and romantic relationships. In fact, many do not see marriage in their future at all. In 2011, a study showed that 61% of unmarried men and 49% of women aged 18-34 were not in any kind of romantic relationship and a third of people under 30 had never dated at all.
There are many speculations as to why Japanese young adults feel no need for human affection. The Guardian argues that Japan is “battling against the effects on its already nuclear-destruction-scarred psyche of 2011’s earthquake.” This scared mentality leaves Japanese citizens with the feeling that there is simply no point to relationships and no point to love.
Some of Aoyama’s patients are in their 30’s and have shut themselves off from the world. In fact, some of these individuals can’t even touch a member of the opposite sex and prefer other forms of intimacy. For instance, Aoyama describes one of her clients who “can’t get sexually aroused unless he watches female robots on a game similar to Power Rangers.” Aside from talks and tutorials with her patients, Aoyama uses therapy, yoga and hypnosis to try and help her patients.
The Guardian also argues another reason for this loss of interest. With Japan’s current lifestyle desire, marriage and relationships simply do not make sense. In today’s modern Japan, marriage is seen as a “grave” for career-focused women.The World Economic Forum ranks Japan as one of the world’s worst nations for gender equality at work. Promotions for women in the workplace is difficult as it is. Once a woman is married, it is seen as nearly impossible because of the assumption that the woman will have children. 70% of Japanese women leave their job after their first child since it is socially expected for mothers to stay home and raise their children. Japan’s Institute of Population and Social Security reports 90% of young women believe that single life is “preferable to what they imagine marriage to be like”.
Men also seem to have no problem in the apathy wagon. The Guardian claims that men have become less career-driven and as such, do not want the responsibility of the traditional household role as the provider.
Despite the overwhelming lack of enthusiasm, Aoyama is determined to put human intimacy back on the map. Hopefully this task can be achieved soon. According to Kunio Kitamura, head of the JFPA, the issue is so serious that he fears Japan “might eventually perish into extinction.”