Young people in the fourth richest country in the world are having less sex than ever before
CUDDLING cafes where you can pay to gaze into a stranger’s eyes – or have them clean your ears with a cotton bud.
Dates with girls who will dress up as your favourite cartoon character and hold your hand — for a price.
And vending machines where you can buy used knickers and erotic oils that smell like “girl’s armpit”.
It may sound crazy, but this is normal life in Japan, a country which is having a full-blown crisis over its sex life.
Young people in the fourth richest country in the world are having less sex than ever before.
With adult anime inundating stores, young people in Japan are having less sex than ever before
A new study has revealed that more than 40 per cent of singles aged 18 to 24 are virgins.
And in the place of real intimacy a whole “relationship replacement” industry has sprung up.
Dating has been replaced by host or hostess clubs, where singles can pay hundreds of dollars an hour for a polite man or woman to pour drinks and make conversation.
And getting married is no longer necessary when you can just pay £2,130 for a virtual spouse.
Company Vinclu Inc has created a hologram “wife” who will do things like remind you to take an umbrella in the morning and text you in the day to let you know she’s thinking of you.
There are vending machines where you can buy used knickers and erotic oils that smell like ‘girl’s armpit’
As for physical pleasure, there is a myriad of options available for all tastes, including “soaplands”.
These are popular clubs where the male client enjoys good clean fun with a woman who lies him on a waterproof mattress, covers him in soapy water and slides all over him. Sex is not part of the deal.
So-called “cuddling cafes” are also big business, where guest pay around £28 to snuggle up and nap with a stranger, or have them pat you on the head.
Local porn industry is most creative in the world
Then there are the “maid cafes”, which offer waitresses in frilly outfits who will treat you as their master or mistress.
At the weirder end of the spectrum, you can pay £60 to spend an hour with a woman who will dress up as your favourite comic book — anime — character and hold your hand.
There are also a huge variety of ‘hug pillows’ in the shape of a man or woman’s torso
Or if even that is too real, you can buy yourself a “girlfriend knee pillow” — a £90 plastic replica of a girl’s kneeling legs, so you can rest your head in her lap.
There are also a huge variety of “hug pillows” in the shape of a man or woman’s torso, complete with one arm to hold you.
Meanwhile, Japan’s porn industry is among the most creative in the world.
One of the maids gives a customer a massage
Anime cartoon porn magazines videos featuring big-eyed girls have evolved to show every explicit scenarios. And online, popular games allow you to create a virtual partner.
Thirty per cent of single women and 15 per cent of single men aged between 20 and 29 admit to having fallen in love with a character from an anime comic or video game.
Even some of the real girls in Japan look, well, unreal.
This week The Sun printed pictures of Instagram star Jun Amaki, who “broke the internet” in Japan by posing in a so-called “virgin killer sweater” that exposed her anime-like body.
The appeal of the 21-year-old perhaps sums up sexuality in Japan, where fantasy is more appealing than real relationships. So what’s going wrong?
Dr Sharon Kinsella, lecturer in Japanese studies at the University of Manchester, blames the country’s economic decline which means having a family seems unaffordable.
She explained: “It’s had a knock-on impact on relationships more generally, because Japanese people don’t see the point in dating someone they won’t marry.
“Many of the singles I’ve spoken to, especially the women, see it as a labour.”
Indeed, a survey by the Japanese Family Planning Association in 2013 found 45 per cent of women aged 16 to 24 said they were “not interested in or despised sexual contact”. A quarter of men felt the same way.
A third of under-30s had never dated, while a quarter aged 35 to 39 had never had sex.
All this helps explains why Japan’s birth rate is ranked 222 out of 224 countries.
The government estimates that by 2060 the population will have fallen from 127million to 87million, with 40 per cent aged 65 and over.
Already, the country sells more adult incontinence pants than it does baby nappies.
Women are expected to be cute and virginal, meaning casual sex is not an option
Professor Masahiro Yamada, a sociologist at Tokyo’s Chuo University, specialises in Japan’s marriage crisis.
He warned: “The falling birthrate will probably have a very severe impact on the Japanese economy.
“Japan’s social security system will probably collapse.”
No wonder the government wants to get people interested in real-world sex — but it is quite a task.
One of the biggest problems is the rise of a generation known as the “herbivore men”.
They are defined by being very shy and uninterested in sex. Surveys suggest 60 per cent of men in their 20s and 30s identify as being herbivore.
And it’s not like they would approve of women making the first move. That would be seen as “chairi”, or sleazy.
Women are expected to be cute and virginal, meaning casual sex is not an option for many.
Professor Yamada adds that there is also a widespread belief among young people that dating “involves unacceptable risks, both sexually and emotionally”.
Even online dating has had limited success, despite Japan being so notoriously tech-obsessed.
That is partly because even posting a picture of yourself on your profile would be seen as too full on.
Users post pictures of their cat, or even their rice cooker, instead — hardly conducive to romance.
Ai Aoyama, a relationship counsellor based in Tokyo, says many of her clients simply cannot imagine themselves with a partner.
As she puts it: “A few people can’t relate to the opposite sex physically or in any other way. They flinch if I touch them. Most are men, but I’m starting to see more women.”
A few people can’t relate to the opposite sex physically or in any other way
Yet, perhaps not surprisingly, prostitution is rampant.
It is thought that 37 per cent of Japanese men have paid for sex at least once, compared with just seven per cent of British men.
Japan’s obsession with schoolgirls has also come under fire.
In Tokyo there is even a street known as Schoolgirl Alley, home to dozens of cafes where men pay to hold hands with teenagers in school uniforms.
Presenter Stacey Dooley recently made a BBC3 documentary about the cafes, and found girls as young as 13 paid to go for romantic walks with their middle-aged clients.
She said: “These cafes are perfectly legal. The men seem completely unashamed.
“But in my mind these young girls are clearly employed as objects of sexual desire. You have to ask what this says about Japanese culture.”