CCIES Home » Japan

Japan

(Nippon)

Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D., and Tsuguo Shimazaki*
Updates and comments by Yoshimi Kaji, M.A., Timothy Perper, Ph.D., and Martha Cornog, M.S., M.A., and Robert T. Francoeur, Ph.D.**



Download PDFccies-japan.pdf


*Communications: Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D., Kyushuu University of Health & Welfare, Yoshino-cho, Nobeoka City, Miyazaki Prefecture, Japan; yhatano @ phoenix.ac.jp. Tsuguo Shimazaki, Nippon Information Center for Sexology, Hobunkan Bldg. 6F 3-11-4 Kanda-Jinbo-cho, Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo Japan 101-0051; nics @ mail.at-m.or.jp. Comments: Yoshimi Kaji, M.A., Japanese Association for Sex Education, Miyata Bldg. 2F 1-3 Kanda Jimbocho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-0051, Japan; ykaji @ crocus.ocn.ne.jp. Timothy Perper, Ph.D., and Martha Cornog, M.A., M.S., 717 Pemberton, Philadelphia, PA 19147 USA; perpcorn @ dca.net.

**Editors’ Note: Because of time and space constraints, the Editors have converted most of the extensive original bar and line graphs of the original chapter into tables or comments in the text. We have marked the textual material as 2003 comments following our standard notation in square brackets with the end of the comment referencing the original figure or table number and page number in IES2, i.e., the original chapter on Japan in volume 2 of the International Encyclopedia of Sexuality. Those figures that we have converted to tables contain this reference information in the new tables’ footnotes. For those original line graphs that did not contain actual numbers, we have approximated the percentages, which are noted where appropriate. The reader is referred to the original figures in the original volume or on the Web at http://www. SexQuest.com/ccies/ies2-ref-figures.html. [Web Editor’s Note: In this online version of the chapter, we have also provided links directly to the specific IES2 figure where cited for the reader’s convenience. The IES2 tables referenced at the end of tables here and in the text are not linked because they are the same tables as in the original chapter, although they now usually have different table numbers because of the ones we created from the original figures.]
Map of Japan

View Larger Image in New Window (CIA 2002)

Contents*

  1. Basic Sexological Premises 637
  2. Religious, Ethnic, and Gender Factors Affecting Sexuality 640
  3. Knowledge and Education about Sexuality 642
  4. Autoerotic Behaviors and Patterns 645
  5. Interpersonal Heterosexual Behaviors 646
  6. Homoerotic, Homosexual, and Bisexual Behaviors 659
  7. Gender Diversity and Transgender Issues 660
  8. Significant Unconventional Sexual Behaviors 661
  9. Contraception, Abortion, and Population Planning 671
  10. Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV/AIDS 673
  11. Sexual Dysfunctions, Counseling, and Therapies 675
  12. Sex Research and Advanced Professional Education 675
  13. References and Suggested Readings 676

*A Note for Researchers:  The numbers included in the section titles in the Contents above refer to the page numbers in the print edition of the CCIES. For the convenience of researchers, an Adobe Acrobat (PDF) file of this chapter is available for download above (click the PDF icon), which reflects the actual pagination of the book. This will allow scholarly writers to cite actual page numbers in the printed book for quoted material, as well as its availability on the Web and the URL if desired. See also How to Use This Encyclopedia.

Chapter URL:  http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/ccies/jp.php    Retrieved: 

[Note from the CCIES Website Editor:  Please send any additions, corrections, or updated information to:  Raymond J. Noonan, Ph.D.]

Return to top of page

Demographics and a Brief Historical Perspective

ROBERT T. FRANCOEUR

A. Demographics

It was Marco Polo, a man from Venice, Italy, in the latter half of the 13th century, who wrote a book titled Le Merveilles du Monde, in which he introduced the country of Japan to the Western world as Jipang, “the land of gold.” His book was actually a collection of his experiences and information about his journey through central Asia and China.

Japan is an island country, located to the east of the Asian continent in the northwestern part of the Pacific Ocean. The islands face the Pacific on the east and south sides, the Sea of Japan and East China Sea on the west side, and the Sea of Okhotsk on the north side. The islands form a bow-shaped string stretching from the northeast to the southwest. In addition to five major islands, i.e., from the north, Hokkaido, Honshu or Main Island, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa, there are some 320 small islands over a square kilometer (0.39 sq. mi.) each, totaling 145,883 square miles (377,835 km2). Japan is slightly larger than Germany or the state of California, and smaller than Spain.

A relatively mild climate prevails, because of the location of most of Japan’s islands in the Temperate Zone. With four distinctive seasons, there are variations because of the longitudinal distribution of the islands. Because of the mild climatic characteristics, natural features of the islands, and religious philosophy, the Japanese people have developed a sensitive and cooperative attitude to the relationship between nature and humankind, in contrast to Western culture, which is independent, and often exploitive or in opposition. Such views of nature and humankind may be regarded as characteristic of the Orient.

The landmass of Japan is rather small and approximately 87% of the land is mountainous. As a consequence, fields and basins of rather small scale are divided by mountain ranges. From the beginning, this geographic circumstance has isolated local communities—which in the early days were independent countries—producing different cultures, customs, and religious events in different areas. This situation persisted into the 20th century. Since the Meiji Era (1868-1912), the influence of Western cultures, along with economic growth and the development and popularization of the mass media system in recent years, has promoted an increasingly shared (common) education and culture, resulting in the current unification of the Japanese culture. Cultures imported from China and Korea since the 5th century, and from the Western world since the Meiji Era, have been well absorbed by the Japanese people. The Japanese always kept a flexible attitude in accepting foreign influences to amalgamate traditional and imported cultures, forming their own specific culture.

In July 2002, Japan had an estimated population of 127 million, double what it was in 1925. (All data are from The World Factbook 2002 (CIA 2002) unless otherwise stated.)

Age Distribution and Sex Ratios: 0-14 years: 14.5% with 1.05 male(s) per female (sex ratio); 15-64 years: 67.5% with 1.01 male(s) per female; 65 years and over: 18% with 0.73 male(s) per female; Total population sex ratio: 0.96 male(s) to 1 female

Life Expectancy at Birth: Total Population: 80.91 years; male: 77.73 years; female: 84.25 years

Urban/Rural Distribution: 77% urban to 23% rural and small villages, clearly indicating an extreme urban-centered social construction. In the second half of the 1900s, Japan’s cities grew into metropolises as the focus of work. At the same time, the number of core (nuclear) families with a small number of children is increasing. As a result, the local community as the basis for human network activities and a humane life is often lost.

Ethnic Distribution: Japanese 99.4%; Korean: 0.6%. The government needs to pay attention, though, to the possible problem with minority races, such as Ryukyu (Okinawa) and Ainos, and the forced immigrants from the Korean Peninsula during World War II. At this moment, administrative policies and responsive movements of adherence and preservation of the respective cultures are effectively carried out.

Religious Distribution: observing both Shinto and Buddhist beliefs: 84%; others: 16%, including 0.6% Christian

Birth Rate: The estimated raw Japanese birthrate in 2002 was 10.03 per 1,000 population, compared with 51.8 in 1980, 63.6 in 1960, and 110.4 in 1950, only 45 years ago. The trend of decreased birthrate and increased longevity is already creating serious problems for Japanese society. Japan has a high-aged society that represents a heavy concentration of aged people in contrast to the working population. The current ratio is somewhere around one retiree for every four workers.

Death Rate: 8.53 per 1,000 population

Infant Mortality Rate: 3.84 deaths per 1,000 live births

Net Migration Rate: 0 migrant(s) per 1,000 population

Total Fertility Rate: 1.42 children born per woman

Population Growth Rate: 0.15%

HIV/AIDS (1999 est.): Adult prevalence: 0.02%; Persons living with HIV/AIDS: 10,000; Deaths: 150. (For additional details from www.UNAIDS.org, see end of Section 10B.)

Literacy Rate (defined as those age 15 and over who can read and write): 99%; attendance for nine years of compulsory school, although most Japanese children attend at least 12 years of school

Per  Capita  Gross  Domestic  Product  (purchasing power parity):   $27,200  (2001 est.);  Inflation:   –0.6%; Unemployment: 4.9%; Living below the poverty line: NA

B. A Brief Historical Perspective

According to Japanese legend, the empire was founded by Emperor Jimmu in 660 B.C.E.. However, the earliest records of a unified Japan date from a thousand years later, about 400 of the Common Era. Chinese influences played an important role in the formation of the Japanese civilization, with Buddhism being introduced to the islands before the 6th century C.E.

A feudal system dominated Japan between 1192 and 1867, with locally powerful noble families and their samurai warrior retainers controlling local government, and a succession of military dictators, or shoguns, holding the central power. This ended when Emperor Meiji assumed power in 1868. The Portuguese and Dutch developed some minor trade with Japan in the 16th and 17th centuries. United States Commodore Perry opened American trade with Japan in an 1854 treaty. Japan gained Taiwan and other concessions following an 1894-1895 war with China, gained the south half of Sakhalin from a 1904-1905 war with Russia, and annexed Korea in 1910. During World War I, Japan ousted the Germans from Shantung and took over the Pacific islands controlled by Germany. In 1931, Japan took over Manchuria, starting a war with China in 1932. World War II started with Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and ended with two atomic bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

In 1947, Japan adopted a new constitution that reduced the Emperor to a state figurehead and left all the governing power with a Diet. In a few decades, Japan quickly moved to become a major world power and leader in economics, industry, technology, and politics.

Return to top of page

1. Basic Sexological Premises

A. Gender Roles

In Japan, a strict hierarchy of social classes and clearly defined traditional gender roles have their roots in over 2,000 years of cultural history. In terms of social classes, merchants or chyonin were beneath the farmers and artisans. Samurai, the social elite, were retainers in the service of the shogun and the daimio. The samurai, who represented the superior male, constituted a bureaucratic and conservative hereditary group. The samurai and his sword were more a class symbol than the fierce warrior pictured in American television mythology.

As for gender roles, Karel Van Wolferen (1989) gives a terse picture of the traditional/modern female gender role in The Enigma of Japanese Power:

Although in reality Japanese tradition has never frowned on working women, and today the majority of working married women are obliged to help make ends meet in their families, the officially sponsored portrait of “wholesome” family life invariably shows that the proper place for women is at home. In a country where stereotypes are treasured, emphasis on the established proper roles of women is especially noticeable. It extends to demurely polite deportment, a studied innocent cuteness, a “gentle” voice one octave above the natural voice and always a nurturing, motherly disposition. The modern woman in the world of the salaryman [white collar workers] is a cross between Florence Nightingale and the minister of finance (as women are always totally responsible for household finances). Superior intelligence is a liability for girls and women, and must be disguised.

In early 1989, the Welfare Ministry launched a poster campaign to stress that the only difference between males and females is biological. The posters showed two romping, mud-splattered toddlers with the caption Tamatama otokonoko, tamatama onnanoko: “He just happens to be a boy; she just happens to be a girl.” This notion gained little support from government ministries more closely allied to business and industry, who joined the politicians in upholding traditional gender-role values as a means of continually exploiting the diligence of the people (Bornoff 1991, 452).

In a 1982 opinion poll conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office, 70% of the Japanese surveyed agreed with the statement that “Japanese women still believe a woman’s place is in the home and that little girls should be brought up to be ‘ladylike.’” In a 1989 multinational survey by the same agency on the theme “Men should work and women should stay home,” 71% of the Japanese women either completely or somewhat agreed with the premise (see also discussion of Table 28 (IES2 Fig. 34, p. 814) in Section 5B, Interpersonal Heterosexual Behaviors, The Sexuality of Adolescents). Critics suggest that respondents to government surveys may be inclined to give answers they believe the authorities want to hear, so it is important to balance these government survey results with similar surveys in the private sector. In one such survey conducted by a noted cosmetics firm, four fifths of the women found working women admirable, and 70% rejected the notion that a woman should quit her job after marriage (Bornoff 1991, 453). Still, the argument that traditional sex roles are strongly valued in Japan is persuasive when one considers that only 20% of Japanese firms offer female employees a year’s maternity leave, in most cases without pay, and that daycare facilities are woefully inadequate. (One should recall, however, that the record of American corporations is not much different on these issues, and certainly lags far behind the policies in some European countries.)

Gender roles are clearly defined, although they are also being challenged in modern Japan.

At the two extremes of female and male in popular culture, one finds the geisha and the sumo wrestler: the dainty living doll standing for femininity and the mountainous icon of macho flesh with the little porcine eyes. Between the two bookends plenty of scope lies in a nebulous heaven of make-believe far from the constrictions of daily routine. Segregating the sexes during childhood and defining the contexts and nature of their encounters later on, Japanese society defines gender roles with adamantine rules. In the realm of the imaginary, the strict roles encapsulating male and female are broken, being transgressed in fantasies which can be singly and variously violent, sadistic, maudlin, sentimental or comical. Transcending the laws of society, authority and even gender, these fantasies reach apotheosis in the popular imagination with ethereal creatures as blessedly sexless as occidental angels. (Bornoff 1991, 437)

Gender definitions in Japan can transcend the anatomical; masculine and feminine attributes can fade or fuse through conventions. This is most clearly seen in public rituals, for instance, when the emperor becomes a female incarnation of the sun goddess Amaterasu during the daijosai enthronement ceremony (See Bornoff 1991, 15-16, for the legend of Amaterasu and Ama-no-Uzume, the Heavenly Alarming Female). Gender reversal is also common in both traditional theater and modern cinema. After centuries of evolution, kabuki became a sophisticated form of theater in which the all-male cast plays all roles. Kabuki theater has long found a female equivalent in certain geisha theatricals comprising dances and playlets in which some of the female cast adopt male roles. In Nobuhiko Obayashi’s film Tenkosei [Transfer Students], a 1983 offbeat youth comedy hit about junior high school lovers who undergo a kind of Kafka-like metamorphosis when the girl’s soul enters the boy’s body, and vice versa, and are forced to confront their awakening sexuality, the characters adopt the physical and social gender roles of the other. Similarly, the famed Takarazuka Young Girls Opera, founded in 1914, embraces many older male-role superstars, with female actors performing in braided pantomime in military uniforms, tuxedos, cowboy garb, and samurai armor, blue cheeks, and mustaches. The Takarazuka Opera is part of a virtuous theme park called Family Land, “a florid world of Tinseltown baroque in pink, a feminine Disneyland with rose-colored bridges spanning artificial water courses.” In 1987, when Takarazuka unsuccessfully pushed for recognition as a traditional art form to gain tax exemption, male traditionalists were quick to point out that geisha theater provided the proper traditional female counterpoint to male kabuki (see also Section 7 on cross-dressing, gender-crossing, and transsexualism; Bornoff 1991, 436-439).

[Update 1997: In ancient times, Japanese women wielded considerable authority. Until the 11th century, it was common for Japanese girls to inherit their parent’s house. The rise of Confucianism and a conservative moral movement that preached the inferiority of women in the early 18th century significantly reduced women’s role. In some respects, Japanese women today have less power in society than they did a thousand years ago. Fewer than one in ten Japanese managers is female; women in less-industrialized nations, like Mexico and Zimbabwe, are twice as likely to be managers. Only 2.3% of Japan’s key legislative body are women, compared with 10.9% in the U.S. House of Representatives. In this regard, Japan ranks 145 in a list of 161 countries, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

[The public gender roles, however, are reversed when one steps inside the Japanese home. Typically, the wife handles and completely controls the household finances. She gives her husband a monthly allowance and has total control over the rest of the family income. Half of the husbands in one survey reported they were dissatisfied with the size of their allowance, but could do little if anything about it. While the husband and wife may have a joint bank account, and automatic teller machines are available, wives often do not share access to these with their husbands (Kristof 1996b). (End of update by R. T. Francoeur)]

[Update 1997: In the late 1990s, a new phenomenon appeared in Japan’s vibrant, big-city nightlife that may echo other signals noted in this chapter suggesting that traditional Japanese gender roles are changing. A 1996 New York Times report by Miki Tanikawa focused on New Ai (“New Love”), the largest of Tokyo’s estimated 200 “host clubs.” The host clubs are a variation of the ubiquitous clubs where businessmen regularly unwind in the company of charming young women, except that the traditional gender roles are reversed and sex is not part of the host-club scene. In the host clubs, it is the women who are flattered and flirted with by attractive men of their choice. The clientele are usually the wives of wealthy men or hostesses at the businessmen’s clubs where they spend their working hours pampering male clients. On a busy night, New Ai entertains more than 300 customers in its rooms elaborately decorated with rococo-style furniture, statues, and chandeliers. A band provides music ranging from standard jazz to Japanese love songs. Unlike their male counterparts, the host clubs are strictly for companionship and nonsexual entertainment. Still, an evening of flattery, chatting, drinking, and dancing can cost the equivalent of US$500 or more. Regular clients may run up monthly bills of $3,000 to $4,000.

[Traditional values are, nevertheless, evident in the absence of sexual activity and in the secrecy women are expected to exercise in their visit to a host club. Japanese men can have an open nightlife, including visits to the sexual hot spots known as “soaplands.” Japanese women do not have this freedom (see discussion of soaplands in Section 8B, Significant Unconventional Sexual Behaviors, Prostitution). Despite their efforts to defy social conventions, clients of the host clubs often choose a host and remain devoted to him for years, sometimes showering him with expensive gifts to express their affection. (Tanikawa 1996; (End of update by R. T. Francoeur)]

B. Sociolegal Status of Males and Females

[Note from the CCIES Website Editor:  See Last-Minute Developments for updates related to this topic that were added after this chapter had been typeset.]

An important insight into the status of women and men in the realities of everyday life and legal statutes can be found in the workplace. Female employees who pass the tekireiki, or marriage age, without getting married often encounter discrimination, despite the enactment in 1986 of an Equal Employment Opportunity (E.E.O.) Act. While firing such a female employee is against the law, the atmosphere may become so strained because of inquiries from supervisors and colleagues that the unmarried female may decide to leave the company. Women who remain employees and unmarried after tekireiki must be compensated as they climb, however unwelcomed, the corporate ladder. Onna dakara (“Because I am a woman”) is a line often heard in the perennially popular and unabashedly sentimental Enka folk songs. Indeed, in a conservative country in which Confucian samurai ethics were resuscitated in the 1880s and fomented lucratively ever since in industrial disguise, being a woman can be difficult. Obligatory marriage and motherhood, and subservience to her husband and his family, would seem to have no place in a technopolitan economic supergiant in which half of the work force is female (Bornoff 1991, 452).

The E.E.O. law has been largely ineffectual because large corporations have a strong standing with the government, making enforcement of any measures against sexual discrimination unlikely. From the largest international firms to the smallest businesses, the widespread view is that sexual discrimination is unethical only according to concepts adopted in recent years, concepts that, to some, are quite foreign. The law entitles women to complain, but this more often than not results in “counseling” rather than action, and so few women complain. Even if filing a complaint could theoretically win a woman higher wages and guard her from dismissal, the action of filing a complaint would be viewed as a complete lack of loyalty to the firm and only earn her complete ostracism by her colleagues. Nevertheless, some major firms, including several banks, have recently moved to put ability before traditional stereotypes and hierarchical promotion, and stress greater sexual equality in the workplace. However, even when management gives female employees equality with males, the male business associates the women have to deal with are often uncomfortable or unwilling to deal with a woman as an equal (Bornoff 1991, 452).

[Update 2002: Japanese gender roles are still evident in most female names (which are formed using a word for child), in their limited career opportunities, and in the strong stigma and life of hardship women encounter if they divorce. It is still almost impossible for a woman to use her maiden name after she marries. Many women who are divorced face insurmountable obstacles in achieving financial independence. Even obtaining a credit card in her own name is very difficult. Gender-based restrictions affect women even after death. Under Japan’s complex burial customs, divorced or unmarried women have been traditionally unwelcome in most cemeteries, where plots are still passed down through the husband’s family and descendants must provide maintenance for burial sites or lose them. About a decade ago, this began to change, according to Haruyo Inoue, a sociologist of death and burial at Japan University. “The woman who wanted to be buried alone couldn’t find a graveyard until about ten years ago.” In 2002, there were close to 400 new cemeteries that serve single women only. According to Junko Matsubara, a popular writer on women’s issues who is credited by many with igniting the trend to separate-sex burials in the late 1990s, “The point isn’t simply to avoid being buried with one’s husband, but rather to learn how we as women can lead more independent lifestyles.”

[Western notions of women’s liberation have never taken hold among Japanese women, which gives more social significance to what is quietly becoming one of the country’s fastest-growing social trends. In a 2002 TBS television network survey, 20% of the women who responded said they hoped to be buried separately from their husbands.

[In another recent development, eight years after Princess Masako and Prince Naruhito married, and after fertility treatment following a miscarriage, Princess Masako produce a daughter on December 1, 2001. The newborn Princess Aiko could become a legal heir to the 2,000-year-old Japanese imperial line and Japan’s first “test tube emperor,” if the governing party decides to change the law of succession, which currently limits succession to the throne of the Sun Goddess to males (French 2001, 2002). (End of update by R. T. Francoeur)]

C. General Concepts of Sexuality and Love

The Shinto religion recognizes neither good nor evil, so the concept of sin and personal guilt so commonly associated with sex in Western cultures does not exist in the Japanese tradition. The persistence of fertility festivals echoes the acceptance of sex and romance as a natural component of everyday life. Rooted in folk religions and primitive animism, these festivals are celebrated by revelers wearing traditional masks representing the more frankly sexual and comical denizens of Shinto myth and carrying oversized papier-mâché phalli and vulva through the streets (Bornoff 1991, 14-15, 89-90).

Apart from the persistent traditional culture of Japanese sexuality, it is true that Japan has also experienced a rapid modernization, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. As in other societies, modernization in Japan has brought a series of changes in the daily life and lifestyles and hence in human behavior. Table 1 provides a summary of such changes as a model of trends, problems, and issues in lifestyles and human life that are the result of a variety of primary and secondary changes (IES2 Table 1, p. 771; Hatano 1972).

Table 1                  

Trends, Problems, and Issues in Lifestyles as the Result of Primary and Secondary Changes in Societal Modernization

Table 1

In general, technological development has resulted in a significant decrease in the amount of physical labor and inconvenient living circumstances. Development of scientific knowledge, along with popularization of education, brought more literacy and freer communications among the common people. The power of the patriarchal structure that originally gave an eccentric, unbalanced character to the family organization decreases as modernization proceeds. In this manner, communication within the family is being ignored. Modern Japanese family life has come to the point where many parents are not taking care of the children and the children are not establishing their self-identity. On the other hand, with only one or two children, parents, and particularly mothers, may be overly protective to the point of rendering their offspring indecisive and inadequate in their interpersonal relationships.

Such changes also cause significant shifts in the way human sexuality is experienced in modern Japan, including the sexual consciousness and sexual behaviors among the people (see also Table 2) (IES2 Table 2, p. 772; Hatano 1991bc). The impact of the scientific development invited marked progress in the knowledge of biology and genetics. This in turn stimulated the development of sexology. For example, much of the mystery in childbirth, especially the superstitions that there are certain relationships between the behavior of the parents in the past and the physical nature of the newborn, has gradually disappeared. The promotion of science education in public schools has helped this tendency.

Table 2                   [Also referred to later]

The Development of Sexology Promoted More Demand for New Sexuality Education

Events Contents
Development of science
and sexology
Biology and genetics
Broadening perspectives  
on sexual behavior
Family planning, separation of reproduction and
sex, liberation from traditional sex roles, freer
sexual activities
More demand for new
sexuality education
Transmission of accurate sexual knowledge and
information, value judgment education as standard  
of behavior judgment, education for life planning

The next event in this line was the development of sexology and knowledge about sexuality, such as the separation of reproduction and other sexual behaviors, family planning, emancipation from traditional sex roles, and, subsequently, a more liberal attitude regarding sexual activities. Promotion of family planning after the war years played a decisive role in decreasing the yoke of the women in Japan. At some times, abortion was the most frequently used method of family planning, resulting in certain aftereffects on women’s health. In these societal trends, religion no longer played a strong role in controlling the code of ethics because of the allergic reaction to the national control of religion during the dark days of World War II. However, at the same time, modern Japanese have often lost self-identity in terms of development of moral judgment and values.

The pre-modern Japanese had no choice but to accept and follow the lifestyles, behavior patterns, and basic philosophy of life of their parents or leaders in the society. Role models and lifestyle patterns were rather easily found among the family members, as long as one did not attempt to find something new in life. Modern Japanese people, confronted with an explosively large amount of information pouring into their brains, have had to learn how to sort and select this information before they can apply it to actual daily living. It is quite true that during the economic postwar prosperity period, Japan’s economic growth almost became the standard of values for society, inviting severe criticism from people in other parts of the world.

Education in information selection systems or value systems—moral education, particularly in relation to sexual activities—has become a major necessity in formal and informal education. Likewise, education in sexual behavior, not in terms of instruction in a behavioral code but in terms of providing understanding of the stages of psychosexual development, will benefit the development of each individual’s sexuality. Likewise, sexuality education is expected to enhance education for parenting. All of these needs share a common base as consequences of modernization. The current national Course of Study of the Ministry of Education does not include education for either value systems or for establishment of self- and sexual identity. Perhaps these aspects of education belong to the realm of family education. Unfortunately, in contemporary Japan, the national administration of public education is so well developed that the general public has almost forgotten the responsibility of family education. This is causing some serious social problems, particularly when parents expect the public schools to assume complete responsibility for teaching all the codes of ethics, including sexual behaviors.

Return to top of page

2. Religious, Ethnic, and Gender Factors Affecting Sexuality

A. Source and Character of Religious Values

According to the latest statistics from the Japanese Ministry of Education, 96.25 million Japanese believe in Buddhism, 109 million in Shintoism, and 10.5 million in other indigenous Japanese religions. A total of 1.46 million are members of various Christian churches. The sum of these statistics exceeds by 75% the total population of Japan. The explanation lies in a characteristic of the Japanese people’s attitudes toward religion, which may not be easily understandable for the non-Japanese. The logic of this seemingly illogical trait of Japanese life may be explained in a typical example of Japanese parents who have a custom of visiting a local Shinto shrine to pray to all the 8 million divinities of Shintoism for the healthy growth and well-being of a newborn baby. In the same family, the same parents may have held their wedding ceremony at a Christian church and prayed there for happiness of their newly formed family. The same couple may read the holy scriptures in the Buddhism temple when a family member dies, praying for the dead one to be accepted in the heavenly world safely. Such inconsistency is widely accepted among the Japanese without much friction. Indeed, “three different bells ring in the valley,” instead of “three bells ring in the valley.” Having a mix of various religions in one’s daily life is a common way of the Japanese lifestyle. In addition to these well-organized religions, nature worship, which is closely related to Shintoism, is another prevalent religious belief.

Regardless of the mix of religions practiced, which heavily influences the Japanese consciousness on culture, sex, and sexuality, one needs to understand the substantial connection between religion in Japan and the culture, value system, and attitudes toward sexuality. This understanding requires a brief sketch of the history of religion in Japan.

The results of archeological studies in Japan indicate a common practice of burying the dead with certain religious services and rituals during the Jomon and Yayoi culture periods, which ended somewhere around the 3rd or 4th century C.E. During the Jomon period, which lasted several centuries, especially in the eastern part of Japan, remains indicate the special attention the ancestors of the Japanese people then paid to sex and procreation. This is well demonstrated in the artificial designs of the earthed works that are frequently excavated. Throughout the Jomon period, people lived by hunting and gathering, and there was little evidence of any power struggles or the existence of social classes. The Yayoi period arose after the Jomon, around 100 B.C.E., mostly in the western part of Japan. This culture introduced rice crops and ironware from the Korean peninsula and Chinese continent. With these new cultural influences came a disparity of wealth and social classes, which gradually spread throughout the society. (See Bornoff 1991, 7-16, for a helpful discussion of the sexual and coital implications of Japanese creation myths.)

Later, in the middle of the 6th century of the Common Era, Buddhism and Confucianism were introduced to Japan from Kudara in the Korean Peninsula. These religions rapidly spread nationwide, combining with the gradual permeation of a central government power ruled by the Emperor’s family. Popularization of the new philosophy and new administration proceeded along with the preservation policy of these value systems by the central government. In adopting this new religion and culture, Japan followed a path distinctively different from that pursued in other countries. In most cultures, a religious war has been necessary before a newly introduced religion could gain acceptance. In Japan’s case, the local religious practices and customs of the preceding culture were not abandoned; rather both old and new cultures and religions seemed to have coexisted quite peacefully.

From the early years until the end of the 16th century, the prevailing religion in Japan was an amalgamation of Buddhism, Shintoism, which is close to nature worshiping, and local religions. During the Muromachi Era in the 14th to 16th centuries, the Catholic form of Christianity was introduced and propagated to some extent by the Portuguese until 1590, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi issued a national policy prohibiting Christianity. In the next three centuries, during the Tokugawa (Edo) Era, the circumstances surrounding religion in Japan returned to the amalgamation of Buddhism, Shintoism, and local religions as before the Muromachi Era.

In 1868 when the Tokugawa Shogunate collapsed, the Meiji Era began with restoration of the emperor who held power within a new political system that promoted a policy of nationalism and who strengthened the nation’s military force so that modern Japan could compete on even terms with other already modernized nations. As the spiritual basis of this strong Japan, the government pronounced that Shintoism would be the national religion. The emperor’s family tree, it was claimed, could be traced back some 120 generations through more than 2,000 years of history. Whether or not the historical facts were twisted to some extent, the government goal was to integrate all the religions in Japan into one by national decree. This idea was pursued until the end of World War II in 1945. Aside from the intention of national power, among the common people the concept of traditional Buddhism and citizen’s beliefs were substantially followed. This is another proof of the variability of the religion of the Japanese.

In the newly adopted Constitution of Japan after World War II, freedom of faith was promised, and thus the religious control of the national government was abandoned. At the same time, the chaotic coexistence of various religions leaves the religious thoughts of today’s Japanese more or less ambiguous.

B. Source and Character of Japanese Ethnic Values Affecting Sexuality

While culture has been variously defined by different researchers, the concept is used here to indicate the complex of phenomena, ideologies, religion, and literature that provide the fundamental orientation for all sorts of behavior patterns of the Japanese people. As was mentioned earlier, deep in the Japanese mind, the structure of cultural consciousness includes a tendency to nature worship and local religions. This may be because of the roots of the Japanese consciousness in an agrarian culture that has been uniquely molded by archeological and historical processes. It can be said that the general belief among the Japanese that children are the natural gift from the divinities is an expression of the sexuality of the Japanese people. In the ancient days of the Nara and Heian periods, the Man’yoshu, a late 8th-century collection of 10,000 Waka poems, many of which are love songs, and the 11th-century Romances of Genji, 54 volumes of love stories by the woman novelist Murasaki Shikibu, strongly conveyed the attitude and message that love and sexuality were an important part of human thought and everyday behavior as a natural expression of human nature. In other words, sexuality was openly accepted among the early Japanese people.

In Japan’s history, an aristocratic culture dominated in the Nara (710-794), Heian (794-1336), and Muromachi (1336-1573) Eras. In the Sengoku (Turbulence) Period, many warlords competed with each other until the Tokugawa Shogunate was established and national integration begun in 1603. Various groups of the military commanders maintained control of the culture and the behavior of the Japanese people during the Sengoku and Tokugawa Eras. Therefore, the cultural construction and sexuality of the Japanese people operated in a double-layer system. More specifically, extremely strict moral ethics and control of behavior were enforced on children and adults in the families of the samurai class (soldiers and the commanders), who were influenced by the Confucianism originally introduced to Japan in the 6th century from China. In the feudal value system, as well as its family system, there was no room for any free expression of human passions and natural desires. Thus, not only romantic love, but also immoral and adulterous behavior of any kind were strictly prohibited, and severe penalties, including capital punishment, were instituted for any case that came to light.

While the samurai community kept to a strict behavior code of ethics, the commoners and the townspeople did not, except for the upper-class commoners who closely followed the samurai code of ethics. Romantic love was freely allowed among the commoners, and often an illegitimate child—a single mother and her child in today’s sense—was accepted and reared without any prejudices in the community or tenement commune (Bornoff 1991, 83-149).

All of the ukiyo-e and shunga (pornographic paintings) by Utamaro, Hokusai, and Kunisada were produced from the commoners’ culture. Yoshiwara, the sexual amusement quarter in the city of Edo, painted by Oiran, a prostitute and social entertainer of the highest class, for example, prospered in the middle and later Edo Era. Few examples of erotica in the world tell us as much about the cultures that produced them as the shunga tell us about the practices and fantasies of the Japanese. Among the more striking features of shunga is the common presence of children, indicating just how very uninhibited and frank the Japanese were about sex (Bornoff 1991, 184-86).

These examples of a dual-layered social and cultural construction during the samurai ruling periods produced a double standard of code ethics, each code composed of its own logical but superficial principles and real intention. These two codes are still actively practiced in contemporary Japanese society, making the understanding of the Japanese culture confusing and difficult.

It was during the very last stage of the Edo Era—in fact, only 130-some years ago—when the country of Japan abandoned its three-century-old policy of national isolation, that free trading and cultural exchanges began with the other countries of the world. As has been already discussed earlier, the modernization process of the nation at such an extremely rapid pace produced certain distorted periods in the history of modern Japan. These periods of turmoil and confusion include the collapse of the Tokugawa Shogunate political system, the restoration of the Imperial ruling system in the Meiji Era, the rise of nationalism in the Taisho Era, and the dominance of the militarism that collapsed at the end of World War II in the middle of the Showa Era.

During the Meiji Era, in order for the country of Japan to be able to compete evenly with the other nations in the world, Japan took a policy of economic enrichment based on development of heavy industry, strengthening of the military power, and placing the Imperial family in the sacred order. The value of each individual in this social system was extremely neglected, resulting in the idea that a man is to serve the nation and a woman is to bear children. Any consciousness of sexual equality was thoroughly repressed, and sexual discrimination—the ideas that higher education is not necessary for women or that childless women deserve to be divorced—were commonly expressed and adhered to. Under such circumstances, a very patriarchal sexual culture emerged in which specific male-centered sexual behavior was accepted without any argument. The proxy engagement system, in which it is mandatory for parents to choose the marriage partner of their child, and in which the matchmaking ceremony takes place only after the parents have chosen the marriage partner (distinctively different from the matchmaking practice seen in the modern times in which the young couple has the right to choose to proceed or not), were typical of such practices.

The cultural structure in the Taisho Era is often called Taisho Liberalism. As a temporal reaction of the Imperial-family-centered social structure of the Meiji Era, some opinion leaders advanced distinctly liberal ideas during this era. This was particularly evident in literary works, as some women writers and cultural leaders proposed the very first expression of the feminist movement in Japan. Others followed by advocating communism and the birth-control movement. The case of Senji Yamamoto, the first sexologist in Japan, was certainly an example of this liberalization trend. Yamamoto had spent some time in America while young and had been influenced by its culture. He was assassinated in 1902, at age 40 years, by an ultra-right-wing terrorist opposed to Yamamoto’s promotion of birth control, labor liberalization, proletarian theory, and the anti-Law of Public Peace Maintenance. The national leaders of that time regarded a person like Yamamoto, who recognized the sexual rights of each individual, worked hard against poverty, and had a strong anti-power attitude, as dangerous.

The Taisho Era, which lasted only 15 years, was followed by the militaristic age of Showa, in which Japanese militarists initiated a series of wars, including the invasion of China and military actions in Southeast Asian countries and the Pacific area, leading up to World War II.

In the historical process of Meiji, Taisho, and Showa, Japan’s primary national policy consistently focused on economic enrichment and strengthening of the military power. Within this societal atmosphere, children were regarded as a national treasure, and thus they were reared comparatively freely. In contrast with contemporary urban life, adolescents in the agricultural community life that dominated the Meiji and Taisho Eras, learned most of the manners and rules that were necessary to spend a normal life in the adult community by spending time together with peers in the local community. A good example of this peer learning was the Shuku or “dwelling-together practice.”

This Shuku community group is roughly classified as either Wakamono-shuku for young males and Musume-shuku for young females. Within the local community, it was mandatory for each youth to join the shuku of their respective sex at a specified age. In the shuku, they worked together for the village in the daytime and learned the traditional codes of behavior of the community in the evening. Sexuality education in today’s sense was definitely included in this community education system. Within the local community, the freedom of love was widely accepted, as those who fell in love with each other were usually allowed to get married. Children of the ruling-class families, such as village master and landowner, however, were not allowed to enjoy this freedom during their adolescent and youthful days.

In 1945, after World War II, the Japanese people were granted the right to experience democratic and liberal lifestyles because of the cultural influences of the Allied Western countries. The Japanese people have enjoyed this freedom in the subsequent 50 years, and yet, at the same time, the traditional Japanese consciousness of the societal system, moral codes, and fundamental attitude toward life and sex formed throughout the centuries still regulate their thoughts and behaviors today. The highly successful experience of 50 years of newly available pro-Western ways of life visible on the surface of Japanese culture today is definitely overpowered by the centuries-old value systems and views toward sex, human beings, religion, and society at the conscious level and deep in the mind. The sexuality of the modern Japanese is, therefore, formed in a double-layered manner that, in effect, defies clear description or understanding by outsiders. The world has become smaller as the consequence of the vast development in the transportation and media systems. At the same time, however, it is often pointed out that deep in the mind of the modern Japanese people, the national isolation policy is still alive.

Return to top of page

3. Knowledge and Education about Sexuality

A. Historical Perspectives

There are various opinions among the historians regarding the time of the establishment of Japan as a nation, but at least many agree that it was after the 6th century when the political system had gradually formed into a certain style, not in the modern sense, but in a way that was based on and facilitated by organized education run by Buddhist priests from their temples. With the coming of Buddhism in 538 or 552 C.E. (depending on the source cited), numbers of Buddhist priests came from Kudara on the Korean Peninsula. In addition, a likely larger number of Japanese priests went abroad to Korea and China to study. In these temples, education in Buddhist scripts and political administration was provided for the priests and the children of the national administrators.

It is commonly recognized that the first schools in Japan’s history were the Daigakuryo, or College Dormitories, established in the nation’s capital, and the Kokugaku or, National Schools, which were established in each major city, in accordance with the Taihorituryo, or Great Treasure Laws enacted in 701 C.E.

Subsequently, various educational systems were established to provide education exclusively for the ruling class, i.e., aristocrats, samurai, and priests. Even though the political systems and/or power structure changed from time to time, these educational systems persisted because the schools were established by the ruling daimyo (feudal lords or landlords) or samurai families. Education for the townsfolk and commoners, though not yet institutionalized, was initiated in the 13th and 14th centuries and continued afterwards in the Buddhist temples. During the Edo era (1603-1886), such private schools for elementary education became quite popular and were known as Terakoya or temple houses.

Education for women was not available in the rulers’ schools, but was available to some extent in the “commoners’ schools.” Then, in the early 1700s, in the middle of the Edo Era, a unique educational organization developed as a function of the village and town community, for the education of the immature youths for daily life, including education in sexual behavior. These organizations were known as the Wakamono-gumi, or young men’s activity group, and the Musume-gumi, or daughters’ activity group. This system of community education was disbanded in the middle of the Meiji Era around 1890 in favor of promoting newly established public school systems.

In 1868, as the shogunate political system collapsed, Japan made its first step into the modern world when Emperor Meiji transferred the capital from Kyoto—formerly Edo, where the Shogunate was located—to Tokyo. In 1872, the new government announced a law known as Gakusei, or School System, based on the French school system, and launched a nationwide education for all. This educational law, intended to promote industrial development and the universal conscription system, was ultimately linked with the national policy of enriching the country and strengthening its armament. One may observe in this historic transition the germination of the Japan’s militarism in the 20th century.

The Law of Education, enacted in 1879, took a liberal direction in using the American school system as its base. This was quickly amended the following year by the “Revised Law of Education,” which put the emphasis on Confucianist morals as the fundamental spirit. This traditional vision was obviously necessary because of strong opposition within the government against Western liberalism. “Catching up with the already modernized nations in the world” was indeed the priority motto of the Meiji government, but in terms of practical education, the goal of producing guns and battleships outranked the education of humans. In 1903, the government took over supervision and authorization of textbooks in order to develop uniformity in people’s thoughts and minds. As a result, Japan’s education was overwhelmed by the moral and behavior codes of Confucianist ethics based on the emperor system and nationalism.

A short-lived liberal trend developed between 1912 and 1926, when Emperor Taisho was on the throne. This liberal movement, however, was not strong enough to change the government’s educational policy, and in the long term, the militarists regained power.

The militarism, and later fascism, grew stronger and matured in the Showa Era beginning in 1926 and climaxing in education’s dark period during World War II (1941-1945). After the 1945 defeat, Japanese education was completely transfigured with the adoption of a 6-3-3-4 year sequence, the first nine years being mandatory (six years of elementary school and three years of junior high school). This newly implemented system also brought to Japan substantially equal opportunity of education for boys and girls and all social classes.

The outstanding economic growth of Japan throughout the postwar years is regarded as a contemporary marvel. Along with it, education in Japan also made great progress quantitatively as well as qualitatively. Much of its content will be introduced in the following section. It should, however, be explained here that the Showa Era was closed in 1989 upon the passing of Emperor Showa, and now it is the era of Heisei.

B. Sexuality Education in Contemporary Japan

The Background Education System

As of 1994, Japan had a total of 65,000 schools of all kinds for its total population of 124.3 million. This includes approximately 25,000 elementary schools (grades 1 to 6), 12,000 junior high schools (grades 7 through 9), 5,500 senior high schools (grades 10 through 12), 1,100 colleges and universities (including two-year junior colleges), 6,700 vocational colleges (mostly two-year), 15,000 kindergartens, and 1,000 special schools for handicapped children. The rate of actual participation in required education has been as high as 99.9% since around 1910, although the length of mandatory education was much shorter before 1945. These statistics exclude some 1,200 heavily handicapped children and an estimated 100,000 prolonged absentees because of illness and unwillingness to participate.

The great majority of those who complete the required education of nine years by age 12 go on to three-year senior high school, specifically 94.3% of the boys and 96.4% of the girls. Advancement to colleges and universities is 36.3% for men and 39.2% for women. This trend to high academic achievement orientation has created stress and mental pressure in the “entrance examination war” all Japanese youths experience. Because of overemphasis on the entrance examination, many recognize the necessity of Juku, extracurricular schools in the evenings and on holidays, tutors, and/or correspondence courses to prepare for the examinations. Such practices are common in Japan these days, perhaps more so than in other countries, suggesting the need to discuss the effects and consequences of the Juku for the social life of Japanese adolescents and young adults.

The detailed curriculum in each school level, the general objectives of each subject, and aims and contents of each school year for each subject are precisely controlled by the national Course of Study. It may seem that the national government limits and controls the contents of education and its teaching methods; however, the Course of Study only presents the frame structure of the teaching, and the classroom teacher has the liberty of the details presented. The Course of Study is revised once every decade or so.

As in some other countries, the Ministry of Education provides a list of approved textbooks from which teachers select those to be used in their classes. It is true that sometimes court cases have arisen about the suitability of the national policy on textbooks, questioning whether the government is interfering with education, whether the examination/approval system conflicts with the Constitution, or whether the system infringes on the freedom of expression. However, so far the system is functioning well, with individual schools and teachers free to choose classroom content and presentations aside from government approval of texts and teaching materials.

Sexuality Education

There is no distinct sexuality or family-life education course included in the subjects to be taught in the Japanese school system. The Course of Study does not require anything to be taught about sexuality, nor does the national government determine any objectives or the content of sexuality education wherever a local school or teacher decides to deal with this topic at any grade or school level. The official statement provided by the Ministry of Education states that “The contents of education regarding sex (and sexuality) are distributed in various respective subjects (relevant to biology, sociology and health, etc.) and sex (and sexuality education) is certainly expected to be integrated in all these subject matters at each school.” Therefore, the promoters of sex (and sexuality) education, such as those involved in the Japanese Association for Sex Education (J.A.S.E.), have been advocating school instructional programs by developing and publishing Sex Education Guidelines for various school levels and various grades. J.A.S.E. was established and was officially approved by the Ministry of Education in 1972, and has since been the leading nonprofit organization in the field of sex education.

On the other hand, improvement in education for HIV and AIDS is increasing in Japan’s schools because of the rapid spread of HIV and AIDS throughout the world since the late 1980s. This in turn has strengthened the importance of sex education in the Japanese schools.

Since 1992, as a result of revisions in the elementary school Course of Study, childbirth has been introduced into the science textbook, and physical and psychological changes of adolescence into the health education textbook, indicating that some changes can be made in the Course of Study. Any changes in the Course of Study automatically means definite changes in the instructional contents at every school. At present, all upper-grade elementary schoolchildren are expected to be exposed to the physiological and psychological aspects of human sexuality. However, so far no textbook describes any aspects of sexual intercourse, which has prompted some criticism from classroom teachers about the incomplete vision and unrealistic attitude of the Ministry of Education.

In the junior high school level, certain topics in sex education are dealt with in health education, science (biology), social studies, and domestic science. However, these are handled less candidly and actively than in elementary schools in the same system or district. The case is similar as well in the senior high schools; the reason perhaps being that classroom instruction is regarded much less as an education for human living than as a preparation for the next entrance examination, i.e., senior high school for the junior high students, and colleges and universities in the case of senior high school students.

“Education indeed is the greatest prevention” is the standpoint of the Ministry of Education regarding HIV and AIDS prevention. Because of this viewpoint, elementary school faculty are strongly encouraged to teach that HIV and AIDS are not transmitted by mosquito bites or by shaking hands with others, and that no person with HIV or AIDS should be discriminated against. It is greatly regretted by many educators and members of J.A.S.E. that sex education in Japanese schools currently needs to be improved so much and that teaching the fact that HIV can be transmitted through sexual intercourse is still not well accepted among the schoolchildren. This has an impact also on a number of cases in which hemophiliac patients have become HIV-positive because of contaminated blood transfusions. [Update 1997: By 1985, about 40% of all Japanese hemophiliac patients, more than 2,000 people, had contracted HIV through contaminated imported blood products. As of 1995, hemophiliac patients accounted for 60% of Japanese people with HIV. See Section 10B on HIV/AIDS. (End of update by Y. Kaji)] Even these patients are hesitant, because of public ignorance, to admit they are HIV-positive. As a matter of fact, voluntary admission of HIV-positive status is almost nonexistent in Japanese society. This is because, for most Japanese people, admitting to being HIV-positive is viewed as a kind of social suicide and societal discrimination is definitely expected.

Because of centuries of a national isolation policy that rejected anything that might endanger cultural and religious harmony, a person with any unusual handicap or disease like HIV was commonly treated as an enemy of society, or at least rejected. It is, therefore, difficult to judge whether appropriate HIV-related education would produce any effects in changing the attitudes of children of any age to HIV-positive persons. [Comment 1997: An added problem is the great reluctance, especially among elementary schoolteachers, to mention, let alone discuss, sexuality in their classrooms (End of comment by Y. Kaji)] Even in junior and senior high schools, where one might expect teachers to be more open in dealing with sexual issues, and students to be more open to education about discrimination prevention, the effectiveness of education in reducing discrimination against persons with HIV is unclear.

The content of the sex education actually received by students was studied in 1981 and 1987 surveys; Table 3 shows a breakdown in the content of sexuality education by subject (IES2 Fig. 1, p. 784; J.A.S.E. 1988). When these subjects are clustered into three general categories, 1. physiobiological, 2. psychological, and 3. social, the youth surveyed reported that 29.4%—three out of every ten—had received no sexual education at all (type 0) while an identical figure of 29.4% received an education that covered all three general categories (type III). A little over 20% had sexuality education that covered only the physiological and biological aspects (type I), while 13.5% and 12.8% had instruction that covered the physiological-biological and social (type IIA), or psychological-biological and psychological (type IIB), respectively. In Table 3, the heavy concentration of responses on the top six items, which cover the physiological/biological background of sexuality, supports the conclusion that when Japanese children do receive sex education, it is more often limited to the facts of physiology and biology.

Table 3                  

Subjects Actually Taught in Sex Education and the Percentages of Students Receiving Such Information by Sex, 1981 and 1987

Subjects Females Males
  1981 1987 1981 1987
Sex organs & functions 63.7%  77.3%  73.2%  83.9% 
Menstruation 92.6%  98.4%  64.9%  78.3% 
Ejaculation 52.9%  66.1%  68.8%  83.3% 
Secondary puberty signs 75.1%  83.7%  71.0%  84.6% 
Procreation 64.8%  83.3%  56.6%  75.8% 
Gender selection & heredity 37.0%  50.3%  38.3%  53.2% 
Psychological & behavioral differences between sexes   28.4%  25.7%  27.3%  23.1% 
Sex roles & cooperation 22.6%  21.3%  25.0%  25.6% 
Male/female friendship 27.5%  23.8%  27.9%  25.2% 
Adolescent psychology 30.9%  40.1%  32.6%  48.0% 
Friendship & love 14.1%  16.6%  16.4%  20.8% 
Marriage meaning & premises 19.1%  25.5%  18.5%  22.3% 
Population control & family planning 31.0%  48.5%  26.8%  40.0% 
STDs and misconduct 51.9%  41.0%  53.5%  45.2% 
Sex and culture 7.1%  11.6%  12.7%  19.7% 
Sex morals 11.2%  11.8%  16.7%  17.6% 
(IES2 Fig. 1, p. 784)

Table 4 presents the percentage of each type of sex education actually given to students of different school levels (IES2 Fig. 2, p. 785; J.A.S.E. 1988). Naturally, the amount of education, particularly that of type III, increases as the level of schooling advances. In addition, it is shown that in junior high school, the psychological aspects of sexuality are emphasized. This may be an understandable trend since the biological and psychological aspects of pubescent events occur just before or in the early stages of adolescence.

Table 4                  

Types of Sex Education Actually Given and Percentage of Secondary
and University Students by Sex Who Received Each

Age Group Type 0    Type I    Type IIA Type IIB Type III
Males
Junior High
Ages 12-14
47.1% 24.0% 3.4% 15.1% 10.4%
Senior High      
Ages 15-17
24.5% 12.5% 17.3% 6.0% 39.6%
University
Ages 18+
25.6% 10.5% 19.3% 5.5% 39.1%
Females
Junior High
Ages 12-14
19.2% 37.5% 3.4% 28.5% 11.4%
Senior High
Ages 15-17
8.7% 15.0% 22.2% 8.4% 45.6%
University
Ages 18+
6.1% 14.0% 26.2% 6.0% 47.7%
(IES2 Fig. 2, p. 785)

As mentioned earlier, the contents of sex education in Japanese school systems are more or less centered around physiological aspects and are, therefore, cognitive-oriented rather than attitudinal-behavior-oriented. In order for sex education in Japanese schools to become the comprehensive sexuality education it needs to be, more consideration must be given to the psychological and sociological aspects of sexuality. HIV and AIDS education and prevention needs to be incorporated in this framework as a well-balanced education within the national Course of Study.

C. Informal Sources of Sexual Knowledge

Teen sex magazines are popular and widely read by Japanese youth. They are noticeably different from their adult counterparts, comparatively wholesome, or at least harmless or insipid. Instead of the violent, sadistic, and degrading content common in adult pornography, teen sex magazines are filled with frivolous, inane, and unabashed boys’ club talk and candid cheerleader squat-shots and near-nudist pictorials. Since true sexuality education is absent from Japanese education, and parents and the community no longer communicate this essential information to youths, these magazines do perform an important function, providing limited but basic information about sexual anatomy. Unfortunately, their popularity depends on adolescent titillation that ignores the need to provide information on STD prevention and contraception. Japanese television is also a major informal source of limited sexual information, particularly in the early evening television cartoon programs that cater to adolescent male curiosities about female anatomy (Bornoff 1991, 71). (See Section 8C for comments on the Roricon or “Lolita complex” that is so widespread in Japanese sex magazines and can be said to constitute a national characteristic.)

Return to top of page

4. Autoerotic Behaviors and Patterns

There are clear gender differences in terms of the masturbation fantasies and concrete activity that Japanese boys and girls pursue in their adolescent behavioral development. In reality, the great majority of the senior high school boys practice masturbation, while the majority of girls of ages 20 and 21 years still ignore masturbation after experiencing their first intercourse (J.A.S.E. 1994). The median 22-year-old female has not engaged in masturbation. This may indicate a difference in the degree of sexual drive between the two sexes. But another possible reason that females are not eager to engage in masturbation is the social pressure against the female’s self-motivated sexual activities that are unrelated to procreation, although this belief is steadily becoming weaker. The majority of young Japanese women perhaps do not give serious consideration to autoeroticism because of the subconscious expectation that a good Japanese woman should always be modest in any sexual activity. [Comment 1997: This may be changing as young Japanese women increasingly reject traditional female roles. (See Section 5C on adult heterosexual behavior, marriage, family, and divorce, below.) (End of comment by Y. Kaji)] According to the 1981 survey results, females discover and first experience masturbation as a result of “incidental touching of the genital organ by something” and/or “reading erotic articles.” For males, there is an indication that being “taught by some friend” is the more common inspiration.

[Comment 2003: In terms of the cumulative frequencies of masturbation experiences of Japanese youths in the 1987 and 1993 national surveys, 16% of the 1987 males had begun masturbating, while about 6% of the 1993 males and the same percentage of both 1987 and 1993 females had masturbated by age 12. For both groups of women, the cumulative totals rose slowly to about 13% at age 17, and then rose to 32% for 1987 females and 35% for 1993 females. After a sharp rise in masturbation experiences between ages 12 and 16, 1993 males held a plateau until age 19. Males surveyed in 1987 leveled off for a year and then moved ahead by 8% over their 1993 peers. At age 21, 92% of 1987 males, 95% of 1993 males, 34% of 1993 females, and 32% of 1987 females had masturbated (IES2 Fig. 3, p. 786; J.A.S.E. 1994). (End of comment by the Editors; percentages are approximations from the original line graph; see note at beginning of chapter.)]

The teen sex magazines mentioned above in Sections 3C, Knowledge and Education about Sexuality, Informal Sources of Sex Education, and 8C, Significant Unconventional Sexual Behaviors, Pornography and Erotica, which are used primarily by young males as a masturbatory stimulant, pose many societal and cultural questions. [Comment 1997: The sex magazines and comics targeted to young females are also popular and raise many controversial questions. (End of comment by Y. Kaji; see also Perper and Cornog’s observations on manga in Section 8D, Sex, Love, and Women in Japanese Comics.)] Apart from their relatively healthy content in terms of normal psychosexual development, one controversy centers on the degree to which the staggering amount of these magazines produced and their extensive use by teenagers and older males for masturbation is all that wholesome. Do these magazines promote normal psychosexual development, or do they support and promote an unhealthy, introverted social isolation? Is the plethora of teen sex magazines an unhealthy substitute for many young men who have not developed the interpersonal skills they need to relate to women on a mature and intimate adult level? (Bornoff 1991, 71).

Return to top of page

5. Interpersonal Heterosexual Behaviors

A. Childhood Play and Sexual Behaviors

The Threat of a New Subspecies

Since education in sexuality and education for parenting share a common basis, it may be helpful to sketch the possible role and position these two aspects of education hold in the natural developmental sequences of play and sexual behaviors children pass through as they mature (see Table 5) (IES2 Fig. 4, p. 788; Hatano 1991bc). Throughout his or her growth and development, the child is expected to experience certain events and to develop certain skills, so that development of a mature consciousness and behavior will be promoted. Regular mother-child behavior like breastfeeding during infancy is believed to stimulate mental activity of the baby and to enhance a trustworthy relationship between parent and child. Based on this sort of relationship, the time spent in play and fun experiences between the two would promote a sense of playful exploration and form the basis of interpersonal relationships, as well as emotional security. This in turn enhances the ability of a child to play with other children and successfully join in peer-group activities.

Table 5                   [Also referred to later]

Human Developmental Stages and Assignments of Play and Sexual Behavior and Positions of Sex Education and Education for Parenting

Table 5
(IES2 Fig. 4, p. 788)

Peer-group activities, especially involving play activities among young children, are believed to develop the social aspect of personality. It seems that social development of an individual includes acquisition of communication skills with others, procedures to maneuver human relations, leadership development within a group, and coping skills between boys and girls, between elders and the young, and between the strong and the weak. As a person grows and becomes ready to engage in heterosexual relationships and sexual behavior, these human relationship skills will become necessary to cope with the opposite sex. Likewise, the above skills are needed when a person becomes a parent.

Together with increasing urbanization and modernization, Japan, especially in recent years, is witnessing the emergence of a new type of young person—what may be termed Neo homo sapiens—who often does not accept traditional institutional human relationships and prefers living exclusively at the keyboard of a computer, communicating via networks, and avoiding direct human relations with the others. These young people are often cruel, lacking in interpersonal relationship skills in the sense of human relationships with the others, and unskilled in heterosexual or homosexual relations in later adolescent life. This is evidenced in the increase in older bachelors and in the increasing frequency of Narita divorce—divorce upon returning to Narita New Tokyo International Airport from a honeymoon trip outside of Japan—indicating the lack of patience, human relationship maneuvering skills, and inability to maintain a married relationship.

What usually happens [in a Narita divorce] is that newlyweds take a honeymoon in a place like Australia or Hawaii, and the husband is so intimidated by overseas travel that he scarcely wants to leave his hotel room.
            The wife, on the other hand, has already taken several foreign trips with girlfriends and is much more comfortable with the idea of being abroad. She wants to spend her days scuba diving and her nights bopping in the disco, and she finds her husband a dreadful bore. So she dumps him at the end of the honeymoon, and they say a final good-bye at Narita. (Kristof 1996a)

The need for sexuality and parenting education is expected to increase as technology continues to transform Japanese society.

The Past and Present Contrasted

According to the latest national statistics, the average married Japanese couple has 1.6 children, definitely one of the lowest rates in the modern world. This tendency to a small number of children is a reflection of urbanization and a high-economic, growth-centered family life with the wife being a highly educated career woman. [Comment 1997: This tendency for Japanese couples to have fewer children may also reflect the lack of sufficient social welfare and public childcare systems, which pressures mothers to stay home and take care of their children. Many Japanese women are reluctant to have more children because of inflexible working hours required by Japanese companies, long-distance commuting to work, the high cost of housing, and the lack of childcare facilities. (End of comment by Y. Kaji)] Apart from the need and preference of each individual family, this trend is not necessarily a healthy phenomenon for society in general, particularly because of the consequences of impediments that the individual single child encounters in his or her development (see the third column in Table 5).

In the past, the Japanese family was often situated in a large, family-tree system where several families related by kinship lived together on the same land but in different houses. This arrangement sometimes accommodated different families of three or four different generations. The children learned many important matters from the members of the various families, as well as from their own immediate brothers and sisters. With many children in each family, each child enjoyed excellent educational opportunities within the family community. Indeed, everyday life in the community functioned as the community education. The advent of modernization brought an urban life that forced the extended family and neighborhood community to abandon its educational function. In addition, the daily human exchanges and the network system with the neighbors were lost.

In the pre-modern community, children of similar ages formed peer groups and played together near their farm homes, in a backyard, an open field, or in the barn. The children often obtained interesting and helpful information related to sex from observing the farm animals; in this manner, sexuality education went on in an informal manner. The “doctor/nurse play” they often enjoyed within their peer group in a secret space provided sexual information and fantasy, which in turn helped them form a healthy sexual identity of their own.

Children in contemporary Japan, first of all, now have fewer brothers and sisters in their family so they seldom have opportunities to cope with a small baby, with a younger child, or with an older and stronger child. Some young children of 3 start special training in preparation for the entrance examination for kindergarten. In addition to public school, almost all elementary schoolchildren today attend Juku, or special training school, for entrance examination for some junior high school, that may provide a better opportunity for future school advancement. In addition, training in piano, ballet, and swimming, for example, is becoming a common practice among children of all ages. As a result, the children have very little time for spontaneous activities such as playing and spending time together with the children of the peer group. One’s ability to live socially and peacefully with other people of different types and capabilities is usually cultivated in these childhood circumstances; however, contemporary Japanese children are not in the position to experience such education. It may not be surprising then to find young grownups today who lack the usual skills of living, playing, and communicating with young people of the same and/or other sex. Human relations require skills in sexuality-related behaviors, such as talking with and obtaining trust from the peers of the other sex, and these are skills that may not be attained by merely reading books or watching television programs.

Contemporary children, who are busy with Juku and extracurricular training programs, must watch television programs, play television/computer games, and read comic books during the precious free activity hours, perhaps an hour or so in the late evening, after finishing all the previously scheduled programs. While there is much information related to sex and sexual behaviors on television and in comic books, exposure to this information is not sufficient when they have to use it on their own, cognitively and affectively. They need to perceive this information in the context of actual human relations and experiences. In actuality, most contemporary Japanese children build their knowledge pertaining to sex in a passive manner that results in distortion and inflexibility. The sex-related knowledge should be actively acquired by each individual with a positive attitude in order for one to handle sexuality in later life constructively and with enjoyment. The reality in Japan today seems to be quite different from what it should be.

This is not to imply or suggest that today’s children will grow up to become sexual deviants or criminals. However, it is obvious that attention needs to be paid to the fact that in Japan today, the psychosexual developmental processes of the infants and children are experienced in abstract textbooks rather than in actual experience-oriented activities.

B. The Sexuality of Adolescents

[Note from the CCIES Website Editor:  See Last-Minute Developments for updates related to this topic that were added after this chapter had been typeset.]

The Results of Four National Surveys

The office of the Prime Minister sponsored nationwide surveys of sexual development and sexual behaviors of Japanese youths in 1974, 1981, 1987, and 1993. The surveys, conducted by the Japanese Association for Sex Education (J.A.S.E.), mobilized nearly 30,000 youths of ages between 12 and 22 years each time. The reports provide a substantial picture of the sexuality of Japanese youth. The full reports were published in Japanese by J.A.S.E. (1975, 1983, 1988, and 1994) and summarized for the international community on several occasions by Yoshiro Hatano (1988, 1991ab, 1993).

[Comment 2003: In comparing the ages of menarche in girls and the start of ejaculation in boys, about 5% of all four groups had menstruated or ejaculated before age 10. According to the 1993 survey, a majority of 54% of the 12-year-old girls had already experienced their first menstruation. The menarche curve for girls then quickly declines to a few percent at age 16 and beyond; by age 19, close to 100% of the girls were menstruating. Girls mature a year or more earlier than the boys (IES2 Fig. 5, p. 791; J.A.S.E. 1994). At age 12, 19% of males had experienced ejaculation. For boys, the peak ejaculation onset occurs at age 13, with about 38% of boys experiencing ejaculation for the first time at that age. At age 15, 76% of the 1993 boys and 64% of the 1987 boys were experiencing ejaculation. By age 21, 96% of the boys surveyed in 1993 and 84% of the boys surveyed in 1987 had experienced ejaculation (IES2 Fig. 6, p. 792; Shimazaki 1994-95).

[In the cumulative frequencies of the development of “interest in sex” among Japanese youths in the 1987 and 1993 surveys, at age 13, 37% of 1987 girls and 42% of the 1993 girls, and 42% of both the 1987 and 1993 boys experienced an “interest in sex.” Between ages 15 and 18 the cumulative total for boys rose from about 78% to 93%. At age 20, 100% of 1993 males and 96% of 1987 males expressed an interest in sex. Between ages 15 and 18, the cumulative male totals rose from 58% the 75%, peaking at about 90% at age 21 (IES2 Fig. 7, p. 792; J.A.S.E. 1994).

[As for the cumulative “interest in approaching the opposite sex,” 25% of 12-year-old males surveyed in 1993 and 34% of 1987 males were interested in approaching a girl, while 55.5% of 1993 girls and 48% of 1987 girls had experienced an interest in approaching someone of the opposite sex. At 16, the cumulative totals were 75% to 80%; by age 21, the cumulative totals for all four groups ranged from 89% for 1987 females to 91% for 1993 girls, and 94% for 1987 males and 96% for 1993 males (IES2 Fig. 8, p. 793). As for the cumulative frequencies of “desire for physical contact with the opposite sex,” the survey results are shown in Table 6 (IES2 Fig. 9, p. 793). There is a clear difference between an interest in approaching a member of the opposite sex and the desire for physical contact, in that the boys are strongly interested in direct physical contact with the opposite sex while the girls are only interested in becoming closer with the other sex.

Table 6                  

Cumulative Frequencies of “Desire for Physical Contact with the Opposite Sex” for Males and Females Surveyed in 1987 and 1993

Age 1993 Males     1987 Males     1993 Females 1987 Females
12 17% 31% 11% 7%
13 33% 33% 11% 7%
15 70% 60% 22% 22%
17 84% 80% 37% 27%
19 84% 94% 50% 30%
21 97% 97% 70% 53%
Editors’ Note: Percentages are approximations from the original line graph
(IES2 Fig. 9, p. 793).

[Although these young people, both male and female, seem to start their adolescence with heterosexual “interests” by age 13 or 14, this interest does not have a concrete outcome in social activity, namely dating, for some years. In 1993, 3% of the males and 2% of the females reported dating. Twenty percent of both 1993 males and females started dating at age 14 or 15, and 40% of the Japanese youth, both males and females, surveyed in 1993 had their first dating at age 14 or 15. The tail for the age-of-first-date curve dropped to 7% at age 17 and to 1% at age 21, for both males and females (IES2 Fig. 10 & Fig. 11, p. 794; J.A.S.E. 1994).

[In the 1987 and 1993 national surveys, between 5% and 9% of the males and females had experienced dating. From age 13 to age 21, cumulative statistics for males surveyed in 1987 lagged behind their 1993 counterparts by 3% to 8%. Females surveyed in 1993 led in cumulative frequency of dating experience at all age levels.

[Further analysis of these statistics suggests that the girls do not necessarily pursue real love-seeking activities, but prefer spending some time with a friend of the opposite sex. As a matter of fact, they are slow in becoming involved in sexual arousal experiences, while their male counterparts demonstrate a different developmental trend: Sexual arousal comes ahead of dating for males and after dating for the females. Between ages 12 and 14, males surveyed in 1993 have a significant lead of up to 12% over the same-age females in experiencing sexual arousal. At age 14, 1993 females overtake and surpass their male counterparts by about 5% until the two populations match at ages 20 and 21 in their experiences of sexual arousal and first dating.

[As for the onset of dating, nearly equal numbers of males and females surveyed in 1993 reported having their first date at the same ages, being neatly matched from age 11 to 21. Ages 14 and 15 marked the peak years for having one’s first date, with 20% of males and females having their first dates at age 14 and another 20% at age 15. After age 15, the curve for first date gradually declines in the late teens. About 3% of the boys and girls surveyed in 1993 had their first date at age 10 or 11. Ages 14 and 15 were the most common ages for first dates, with 20% of boys and girls having this experience at age 14 and another 20% at age 15. About 6% of boys and girls reported their first dates at age 17.

[For the cumulative frequencies of being sexually aroused reported in the two national youth studies, see Table 7 and Table 8 (IES2 Fig. 12 & Table 3, p. 795; J.A.S.E. 1994).

Table 7                  

Cumulative Frequencies of “Being Sexually Aroused” for Japanese
Youths in the 1987 and 1993 National Surveys

Age 1993 Males     1987 Males     1993 Females 1987 Females
12 28% 24% 20% 14%
14 49% 35% 22% 15%
16 78% 76% 27% 27%
18 85% 84% 40% 30%
21 94% 96% 74% 62%
Editors’ Note: Percentages are approximations from the original line graph
(IES2 Fig. 12, p. 795).

Table 8                  

Rate of Sexual Arousal and Desire to Touch the Body of Opposite
Sex by School Classification (in Percentages)

  Junior High Senior High College
  Male       Female Male       Female Male       Female
Sexual arousal    47.5 21.2 81.1 30.4 92.5 54.7
Desire to touch 43.8 13.2 81.0 32.3 93.9 53.9
(IES2 Table 3, p. 795)

[An examination of cumulative frequencies for kissing and touching the body of the other sex indicates that for boys, kissing and touching the body of the other sex occurs at the same age level, very probably with the two activities occurring as part of the same encounter. In the meantime, the girls are again slower in the physical-contact behaviors, and they perhaps consider kissing itself and their first kissing experience very seriously. Males and females demonstrate a difference in their developmental trend: Sexual arousal comes ahead of dating for males and after dating for the females (IES2 Fig. 13, p. 795; Shimazaki 1994-95).

[Three percent to 8% of males and females in both surveys reported having their first kissing experience sometime by age 13 (see Table 9) (IES2 Fig. 14, p. 796; Shimazaki 1994-95). (End of comment by the Editors; percentages are approximations from the original line graphs; see note at beginning of chapter.)]

Table 9                  

Cumulative Frequencies of First Kissing Experience among the
Japanese Youths in the 1987 and 1993 Surveys

Age 1993 Males     1987 Males     1993 Females 1987 Females
21 76% 78% 70% 62%
19 57% 43% 57% 43%
17 34% 25% 39% 30%
13 4-6% 4-6% 4-6% 4-6%
Editors’ Note: Percentages are approximations from the original line graph
(IES2 Fig. 14, p. 796).

Japanese youths, both male and female, show a remarkably slow development in sexual behaviors in comparison to other societies. There are no clear antisexual activity policies existent in the nation, nor any discouragement of male-female relations in the nation’s limited sexuality education. The most probable reasons behind the slow psychosexual development lie in the traditional societal attitude toward the free sexual activities, particularly when they involve educated, upper-class women, and the society’s strong respect for education, which results in suppression of sexual behaviors among the youths.

[Comment 2003: The 1987 and 1993 males were about even in experiences of touching the body of the opposite sex until age 16, after which the 1993 males reported between 6% and 11% more physical sexual contact with females than did the 1987 males. With some fluctuations, 1987 and 1993 females remained about on a par in touching experiences with males until age 19. At age 19, about 20% of both groups of females reported touching experiences. Between ages 19 and 21, the two female groups diverged with 1987 females, rising to 54%, while only 24% of 1993 females reported touching experiences (IES2 Fig. 15, p. 796).

[A comparison of cumulative frequencies of petting and intercourse experiences by age progression shows a smooth curve for petting experiences for 1993 males and 1993 females, increasing with age to age 21, where females are about 11% below their male peers. The four curves for intercourse experiences are very similar up to age 16, when 1993 males and females show a distinct increase at age 16, a slowdown at 17, and a second increase from age 18, to 69% for 1993 men and 64% for 1993 women. For the 1987 men and women, the cumulative intercourse-experience curve shows a steady rise to age 17, when the male and female lines continue to rise but diverge (both with an increase at age 20), until the 1987 men reached 59% and the 1987 women reached 36%. Table 10 shows the cumulative percentages reported (IES2 Fig. 16 & Fig. 17, p. 797).

Table 10                  

Cumulative Frequencies at Age 21 for Petting and Intercourse Experiences

  1993 Males     1987 Males     1993 Females 1987 Females
Petting 73% 66% 62% 45%
Intercourse    69% 59% 64% 36%
Editors’ Note: Percentages are approximations from the original line graphs (IES2 Fig. 16
& Fig. 17, p. 797).

[In comparing the male/female cumulative frequencies of kissing, petting, and intercourse (see Table 11), survey results for males show, as might be expected, an experience gap of 1% to 3% at ages 12 to 15, with the gaps between kissing experiences and petting/intercourse for ages 15 and 19 increasing to 10% to 15%. After age 20, the frequency gaps for all three experiences narrow. For males at all ages, cumulative experiences for petting are a few percentage points higher than for intercourse. There is no crossing over in the cumulative order, i.e., for males, kissing experiences are highest and intercourse lowest at each age. For females, survey results at all ages show a close approximation of the cumulative frequencies for petting and intercourse, with a 2% to 3% edge for petting over intercourse. At age 13, females reported slightly more intercourse experiences than petting experiences. Between age 14 and 15, petting and intercourse experiences were closely linked. At ages 16 and 18, females reported more experience with petting than with intercourse; at age 17, females reported more cumulative experience with intercourse than with petting. Overall, males reported a steady increase in all three experiences from age 12 to 21. Females showed a similar steady increase, with a slight slowdown in the upward curve for all three experiences between ages 17 and 18 (IES2 Fig. 18 & Fig. 19, p. 798; Shimazaki 1994-95).

Table 11                  

Cumulative Frequencies of Kissing, Petting, and Intercourse Experiences among the Japanese Males and Females in the 1987 and 1993 Surveys (in Percentages)

Ages: 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
Males
Kissing 4.2 5.0 10.5 21.0 30.5 40.6 55.7 63.0 77.0
Petting 2.0 3.0 9.0 10.6 21.0 29.0 39.0 55.0 72.0
Intercourse 1.0 1.5 4.8 8.0 17.2 23.0 37.0 51.5 69.0
Females
Kissing 6.0 6.5 12.0 24.5 39.5 41.0 55.0 67.0 79.0
Petting 1.0 2.0 4.2 10.5 19.5 26.5 34.5 44.7 63.0
Intercourse 1.0 2.0 4.2 8.7 21.4 25.0 34.5 44.4 61.0
Editors’ Note: Percentages are approximations from the original line graph (IES2 Fig. 18 & Fig. 19, p. 798).

[Table 12 provides survey data on the total number of coital partners classified by sex and school levels (IES2 Table 4, p. 799; Shimazaki 1994-95). As with previously cited results, these data indicate more-active behavior for males than for females. Psychologically, the girls seem to develop their interest in the other sex earlier in adolescence: By 12 years of age, 50% of girls already demonstrate a general interest in boys, as opposed to the 14-year-old median-age boy. But such interest in the other sex among the girls is more mental and fantasy-based, and not necessarily accompanied by actual physical activities, such as physical contact, in which the boys are four years ahead of the girls, and sexual arousal, in which boys are five years ahead of the girls (see Table 13) (IES2 Fig. 20, p. 800). (End of comment by the Editors; percentages are approximations from the original line graphs; see note at beginning of chapter.)]

Table 12                   [Also referred to later]

Total Number of Partners Engaged with Intercourse Experiences
(in Percentages)

Number of
Partners

Junior High

Senior High

University

Total
  Male     Female Male     Female Male     Female Male     Female
1 52.6 43.3 49.7 48.7 31.3 50.0 38.8 49.0
2 5.3 16.7 15.9 19.6 18.1 17.9 16.7 18.5
3 5.3 13.3 10.3 8.9 14.0 8.0 12.3 8.8
4 0.0 0.0 2.1 2.5 6.6 8.5 4.7 5.5
5 5.3 0.0 4.1 3.8 6.2 4.2 5.4 3.8
6+ 21.1 6.7 9.0 6.3 16.0 5.2 13.8 5.8
Don’t Know    10.5 20.0 9.0 10.1 7.8 6.1 8.4 8.8
Total % 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Responses 19    30    145    158    243    212    407    400   
(IES2 Table 4, p. 799)

Table 13                   [Also referred to later]

Sequential Developmental Model of Various Sexual Events and Experiences of the Average Japanese Youth as Seen in the Age of the Median Person for Respective Events (as of the 1988 Survey)

Table 13
(IES2 Fig. 20, p. 800)

The sexual difference in the cumulative experience rate of dating in the age progression does not seem to be very great, but the women’s special activeness, far surpassing men’s activeness, has been consistently noticed in all of the four surveys. The similarity between the sexes on this behavior very probably occurs because males and females of roughly the same age level are generally dating each other. On the other hand, the increased dating activity of females 15 years and older may have come about because older males start proposing dates to younger females who became more accepting than in earlier times.

In terms of actual heterosexual behaviors, the age differences between the sexes were rather small or nonexistent: dating (boys one year ahead), kissing (the same age), petting (boys one year ahead), intercourse (boys one year ahead), and dating (girls one year ahead).

The 1987 data were used to construct a developmental sequence model of sexual events and experiences of the Japanese youths (see Table 13) (IES2 Fig. 20, p. 800); Hatano 1991). For the median male, experience of ejaculation and sexual curiosity occur within the same developmental year, and related experiences like masturbation and interest in the opposite sex occur in the next year. Indeed, for males, a series of physical and psychological pubescent events suddenly occur within a short two-year period. On the other hand, the social events of adolescence seem to need a certain time to mature, as it took three years after the stormy coming of these pubescent events for these boys to reach the first dating experience. Then three more years are spent before the first petting experience. The time between first petting and first intercourse is usually quite brief; sometimes the two experiences occur simultaneously, in which case both occur with the same partner.

For the median female, the first menstruation is a clear sign of puberty; however, other psychological and behavioral pubescent events are not as concentrated as they are with the male. A Japanese median girl takes about five years after menarche to reach the first dating experience, and another five years before the first experiences of petting and intercourse. In other words, the adolescent time of a boy is three years shorter than that of a girl.

In the case of a boy, sexual curiosity arises together with the ejaculation experience and quickly leads to masturbation. The pubescent male is thus mono-sex-organ-oriented (phallocentric). In the case of a girl, menarche occurs a good two years earlier than the first sexual development event of boys (i. e., ejaculation), but it does not lead to sexual curiosity for about two years on average, nor does it quickly move to masturbation, which comes towards the very end of female sexual development.

For a boy, the onset of dating leads to a sequence of heterosexual physical behaviors, such as touching the body of a member of the opposite sex, kissing, petting, and intercourse, within the short span of three years after the first date. Girls experience these events in the last three years of the five-year time span that starts with the onset of dating, two years after the average male.

Perhaps because girls traditionally do not initiate dates but rely on the male to take the initiative, and because it occurs one year earlier than in boys, there is a difference between them. At the same time, considering the data, the boy would have to date a different, slightly more mature girl after his first date partner in order for this hypothesis to be supported.

It should be noted that for girls, physical behavior, such as masturbation and touching a boy’s body, occurs during the same last stage of development along with intercourse, whereas for a boy it is actually the key mechanism for the progression of subsequent development and is distributed over much earlier stages. The male experiences the series of physical changes and psychological developments in a shorter time span than the female, perhaps because of a strong sexual drive provided by male hormonal secretions. Male maturation is thus centered around more physical and concrete behaviors, and one event hurriedly leads to the next step. For the male, a sexual behavior means a direct phallic-oriented concrete activity, whether monosexual, such as sexual arousal and masturbation, or heterosexual, such as touching the body of a member of the opposite sex, petting, and intercourse.

Female masturbation, which occurs later than the male, seems to be more possible in relation to the aggressive behaviors of the male. A girl’s maturation process is thus centered around vague, romantic loving; it is more psychological and, in the beginning and for some time, devoid of any concrete physical activities. Then, in its later stages, actual loving activities, such as kissing, petting, and intercourse, gradually proceed passively, along with concrete approaches made by the male.

The passiveness of the female in various heterosexual activities is demonstrated by the fact that the physical satisfaction/performance of the sexual activities, such as masturbation and touching the body of a male partner, is experienced at the same developmental time with intercourse and preceded by kissing and petting, which are only possible with a partner. This suggests that the sexually active male should change partners from one stage to the next, because the length of time devoted to the practice of one event varies between the male and female. Consequently, the male tends to seek a more permissive female as he moves rapidly along the developmental sequence. Thus, the typical Japanese male starts by dating a female a year younger than he, experiences the first kissing with a same-aged female, and experiences his first intercourse with a third female, who is at least a year older than he is.

Acceleration/Deceleration Trends in the Sexual Development Sequence

Changes in the timing of various sexual events and experiences for the average Japanese male and female in these four surveys, 1974, 1981, 1987, and 1993, are shown in Tables 14, 15, 16, and 17 (IES2 Tables 5 & 6, pp. 805 & 806; IES2 Fig. 21 & Fig. 22, pp. 803 & 804; Hatano 1991; Shimazaki 1994-95). In the seven-year intervals between one survey and the next, certain changes in developmental ages are observed, although the primary sequential order does not change. In particular, there was a slight acceleration tendency in the latter half portion of adolescence between 1987 and 1993. The steady and noticeable increase in the rate of actual sexual behaviors, like kissing, petting, and intercourse, especially among the college-level students, both male and female youths, is particularly noticeable. This “emancipation” tendency may be a sign of the modernization and Westernization of this age group. At the same time, one needs to consider the possible danger in the spread of STDs and AIDS, even though the latter was not really perceived as a threat in Japan as of mid-1995. (However, comments on the present and future of AIDS must be made with the utmost caution. The results shown earlier in Table 12 on the number of sexu al partners, for example, already indicate that more than 60% of male and more than 40% of female college students admitted to having multiple intercourse partners.)

Table 14                   [Also referred to later]

Changes in Rate of Experiences of Various Sexual Events among
University Students in Four Surveys (20-Year-Olds;
Junior College Students Included in the Data)

  1974     1981     1987     1993    
Kissing Male 45.2% 53.2% 59.4% 63.4%
  Female 38.9% 48.6% 49.7% 68.5%
 
Petting Male 29.7% 40.3% 53.3% 57.0%
  Female      17.9% 29.9% 34.1% 45.7%
 
Intercourse    Male 23.1% 32.6% 46.5% 52.7%
  Female 11.0% 18.5% 26.1% 44.9%
(IES2 Table 6, p. 806)

Table 15                   [Also referred to later]

Comparison of Various Sexual Experience Rates among the Japanese Youths in Four Surveys

  School
Level*

Male

Female
Experiences   1974 1981 1987 1993 1974 1981 1987 1993
Menstruation (in females); Ejaculation (in males) JHS     37.8 46.7     75.0 80.3
SHS   87.1 83.8 86.0   97.2 95.5 95.1
Univ.   95.4 92.0 91.5   98.4 98.4 98.0
 
Interest in sex JHS     52.5 53.9     45.5 48.6
SHS   92.8 69.6 89.9   75.0 71.4 70.5
Univ.   98.2 95.6 96.7   89.0 84.5 87.9
 
Dating JHS     11.1 14.4     15.0 16.3
SHS 53.6 47.1 39.7 43.5 57.5 51.5 49.7 50.3
Univ. 73.4 77.2 77.7 81.1 74.4 78.4 78.8 81.4
 
Masturbation JHS     30.0 33.3     6.9 10.1
SHS 84.1 77.1 81.2 80.7 21.6 17.2 10.0 12.6
Univ. 90.4 93.2 92.2 91.5 26.1 28.6 21.1 25.8
 
Kissing JHS     5.6 6.4     6.6 7.6
SHS 26.0 24.5 23.1 28.3 21.8 26.3 25.5 32.3
Univ. 45.2 53.2 59.4 68.4 38.9 48.6 49.7 63.1
 
Petting JHS       3.9       2.6
SHS 13.9 13.1 17.8 18.2 9.6 15.9 14.7 16.5
Univ. 45.2 40.3 53.3 60.6 17.9 29.9 34.8 42.8
 
Intercourse JHS     2.2 1.9     1.8 3.0
SHS 10.2 7.9 11.5 14.4 5.5 8.8 8.7 15.7
Univ. 23.1 32.6 46.5 57.3 11.0 18.5 26.1 43.4
*Students: JHS = Junior High; SHS = Senior High; Univ. = University (IES2 Table 5, p. 805)

Table 16                  

Sequential Changes in the Developmental Model of Various Sexual Events and Experiences of the Average Japanese Male in These Four Surveys as Seen in the Age of the Median Person for Respective Events

Table 16
(IES2 Fig. 21, p. 803)

Table 17                  

Sequential Changes in the Developmental Model of Various Sexual Events and Experiences of the Average Japanese Female in These Four Surveys as Seen in the Age of the Median Person for Respective Events

Table 17
(IES2 Fig. 22, p. 804)

Accelerated physical growth is often observed when more-favorable circumstances are provided, a good example being nutritional improvement. Japanese Ministry of Education statistics suggest a sharp acceleration in physical growth starting in the early 1950s and ending by 1980 (IES2 Fig. 23 & Fig. 24, p. 806; Hatano 1991bc). Apparently, the Japanese postwar growth acceleration because of greatly improved nutrition reached saturation around 1980. More specifically, little growth acceleration was observed in males and females after 1960. Since the changes in the biological phase of sexual maturation ended over three decades ago, the recent accelerating changes in sexual behavior patterns must be because of social changes and new pressures. Likewise, since there was no particular biological deceleration phenomenon during the past 50 years, decelerating behavioral changes can only be explained in terms of changes in social control.

Contemporary Japanese society is enjoying fully its freedom of creeds and beliefs, and rather radical liberal thoughts have been prevalent. As the scientific understanding of human sexuality spreads, people prefer more freedom in sex-related behaviors, as noted earlier in Table 2. This tendency involves college- and university-level students since they are treated as “adults” in Japanese society, and experience little social restriction on their behavior. Under the circumstances, it may be rather natural to find an ongoing behavioral acceleration among the youth of this age level. Changes in the rate of experiences of certain sexual events among university students in these four surveys are shown in Table 14 and Table 15.

Contemporary Japan is an overly matured society, and thus certain pathological phenomena may be observed in relation with childrearing and the educational systems. One example is the over-controlling of children by parents, particularly by mothers who overly emphasize academic achievement and sacrifice spontaneous play of the children. Hence, children do not demonstrate autonomous development in their decision-making abilities or their interpersonal human relations. Some observers are increasingly anxious about the possible lack of developments in interpersonal human relations and decision-making abilities among contemporary Japanese children. It would not be a surprise if these children were to show deceleration tendencies in their sexual behaviors because self-realization and individual independence are so important in the development of sexuality, and hence in the orderly development of sexual behavior.

Another example is the unnecessarily tight pressure of university entrance examinations. Since admission to a university of rank is often considered to be the decisive factor for the whole life of a Japanese, senior high school students are particularly repressed in their sexual behaviors in lieu of preparatory studies. Based on the same logic, parents, and perhaps classroom teachers too, are eager to require that the children concentrate only on schoolwork, and definitely discourage the sexual activity of the children. As a result, the onset of the pubescent developmental sequence, and the adolescent behavioral developmental sequence in general, are being decelerated at certain times. At the same time, because of the freer mode of sexual behaviors, particularly among post-senior high school youth, the last portion of the sexual development sequence is condensed to a shorter period of time.

How Japanese youth can cope with the shorter time span for adolescence and for sexual maturation and more-liberal sexual behavior patterns is an issue of concern for both society and for sex educators and sexologists.

Thoughts and Attitudes Behind the Sexual Behavior of Youth

Certain data in the 1987 and 1993 national surveys suggest changes in the sociopsychological background of various sexual behaviors.

Table 18 shows the survey results about the primary initiator of the dating and intercourse behaviors among the Japanese youths in the 1993 survey (IES2 Figure 25, p. 807; J.A.S.E. 1994). Between 40% and 49% of the male and female respondents reported that dating and intercourse were jointly initiated. In the remaining cases, 46% of the males and 35% of the women saw the male partner as the initiator of dating, while 44% of the men and 60% of the women saw the male partner as the initiator of intercourse. Often, it is assumed that a female wants to pretend that she was forced to follow the male partner in certain sexual behaviors, even though such an attitude relieving the female of responsibility for her sexual behavior may be a reflection of a prevailing lack of self-identity in Japanese women. The ability to make one’s own decisions in many important life events is one of the goals of sexuality education, and therefore, the situation is still quite challenging for sex educators.

Table 18                  

Primary Initiator of Dating and Intercourse
Behaviors among Japanese Youths in 1993

Age Group Myself  Partner Jointly
Dating
    Junior High Male 46% 10% 44%
    Junior High Female     17% 35% 48%
Intercourse
    Junior High Male 44% 7% 49%
    Junior High Female 0% 60% 40%
(IES2 Fig. 25, p. 807)

Circumstances for the first sexual arousal experience in the 1987 survey are shown in Table 19 (IES2 Figure 26, p. 808; J.A.S.E. 1988). The main source of sexual arousal for junior high school boys, ages 12 to 14, and to a lesser extent, girls of the same age, is watching sexual material on television and the cinema, 60% versus 45%, respectively. Among university students, on the other hand, 60% reported being sexually aroused—and only 11% by watching erotic visual material; 41% of university men reported being sexually aroused by watching erotic visual material.

Table 19                  

Circumstances for First Sexual Arousal Experience

  Junior High
Students
12-14 years
Senior High
Students
15-17 years
University
Students
18+ years
Males
    Watching TV, video, movies, etc.    60% 47% 41%
Females
    Watching TV, video, movies, etc. 45% 31% 11%
Females
    During dating with opposite sex 15% 43% 60%
(IES2 Fig. 26, p. 808)

The main rationales for the first kissing experience are shown in Table 20 (IES2 Fig. 27, p. 809; J.A.S.E. 1988). Close to two thirds of both males and females found their justification for a first kiss in “liking the person.” One in two males reported love or curiosity as their main motive, while significant numbers of women listed love, curiosity, being forced by the male partner, or no reason as their motive.

Table 20                  

Major Rationales for First Kissing Experience

Rationales Males     Females
Sexual arousal 21% 2%
Liking the person 65% 60%
Loving the person       26% 19%
Curiosity 25% 16%
Forced by partner 4% 18%
No reason 13% 16%
(IES2 Fig. 27, p. 809)

In terms of the partner’s age at first intercourse, roughly equal numbers of university males reported their partner was older than, the same age as, or younger than they were, while more junior and senior high school boys indicated that their partners were either the same age as or older than they were (see Table 21) (IES2 Fig. 28, p. 809; J.A.S.E. 1988). Regardless of education, about two thirds of the females reported their first sexual partner was older than they. The use of contraceptive devices by both sexes in their first intercourse increased with the level of schooling, reaching 73% and 85% for university males and females, considerably higher than in the United States (see Table 22) (IES2 Fig. 29, p. 810; J.A.S.E. 1988).

Table 21                  

Partner’s Age Classified by Age at Coital Debut


Age Group
Older
Partner 
Younger
Partner
Same
Ages    
Not
Certain
Males
Junior High
Ages 12-14
40% 5% 51% 4%
Senior High
Ages 15-17
31% 13% 54% 2%
University
Ages 18+
27% 35% 37% 1%
Females
Junior High
Ages 12-14
69% 3% 27% 1%
Senior High     
Ages 15-17
60% 3% 36% 1%
University
Ages 18+
62% 4% 34% 0%
(IES2 Fig. 28, p. 809)

Table 22                  

Rate of Contraceptive Devices Used Classified by
Time of First Intercourse Experience



Age Group

Device
Used      

Device
Not Used
Ignorant
about
Devices

No
Answer  
Males
Junior High
Ages 12-14
54% 33% 6% 7%
Senior High
Ages 15-17
71% 26% 1% 2%
University
Ages 18+
73% 26% 1% 0%
Females
Junior High
Ages 12-14
56% 32% 2% 10%
Senior High     
Ages 15-17
70% 29% 1% 0%
University
Ages 18+
85% 14% 1% 0%
(IES2 Fig. 29, p. 810)

Among the reasons cited for the first coital experience, overall roughly half of the males cited “sexual arousal” and “liking the person,” and a third reported “curiosity” or “loving the person.” Six out of ten females cited “liking the person” and 38% “loving the person,” while 18% were motivated by “curiosity,” 15% by “sport,” and 13% by “coercion” (see Table 23) (IES2 Fig. 30, p. 810; J.A.S.E. 1988). In breaking down these motives according to education, six out of ten senior high school and university males cited “liking the person,” while junior high school girls mention coercion by the male partner more often than university females do (see Table 24) (IES2 Fig. 31, p. 811; J.A.S.E. 1988). Table 25 (IES2 Table 7, p. 811) clearly shows that more females than males think they love their first intercourse partner, and a great many more males than females have intercourse because they were sexually aroused or more curious about the event.

Table 23                  

Major Rationales for First Intercourse Experience

Rationales Males     Females
Sexual arousal 46% 6%
Liking the person 58% 61%
Loving the person     30% 38%
Curiosity 33% 18%
Being a sport 15% 3%
Forced by partner 4% 14%
No reason 9% 9%
(IES2 Fig. 30, p. 810)

Table 24                  

Major Rationales by Age for First Coital Experience



Rationales
Junior High
Students
12-14 years
Senior High
Students
15-17 years
University
Students
18+ years
Males
    Liking the person    51% 61% 60%
Males
    Being a sport 23% 13% 11%
Females
    Forced by partner 16% 14% 10%
(IES2 Fig. 31, p. 811)

Table 25                  

Rationales of First Sexual Intercourse Event by School Level of Occurrence
(in Percentage; Includes Multiple Answers)

MALES Time of Event*   FEMALES Time of Event*
Rationales JHS      SHS     Univ.    Rationales JHS      SHS     Univ. 
Liking 52.2 61.9 62.1   Liking 56.6 66.0 61.7
Loving 34.1 28.4 32.9   Loving 39.5 31.0 53.0
Aroused 45.6 48.1 48.6   Aroused 6.6 7.6 6.1
Curiosity 37.9 32.2 34.3   Curiosity 18.4 21.8 13.0
Being sport 23.6 13.5 11.4   Being sport 10.5 3.0 0.9
No reason 14.3 8.7 5.0   No reason 14.5 10.7 5.2
Forced 11.5 2.4 0.7   Forced 17.1 14.2 10.4
Got drunk 8.8 8.0 5.7   Got drunk 10.5 5.6 2.6
 
Number used  182    289    140      Number used  76    197    115   
*Students: JHS = Junior High; SHS = Senior High; Univ. = University (IES2 Table 7, p. 811).

In terms of attitudes regarding premarital intercourse and its connection with anticipation of marriage, the largest number of female university students in the 1987 survey believed that premarital sex is acceptable when there are certain agreements between the partners; the second largest group found it acceptable when based on love (see Table 26) (IES2 Table 8, p. 812).

Table 26                  

Relationship Between Attitudes on Marriage and Premarital Intercourse among University Female Students

  Attitude on Premarital Intercourse  

Attitude on Marriage
Unaccept-  
able
Marriage  
Premise
Love
Premise  
Agreement
Premise

Total N
Total
Percent
Earlier the better 11.1% 25.8% 31.7% 36.1% 208 100%
When time comes 9.5% 19.3% 29.4% 41.7% 558 100%
No desire 14.8% 11.1% 37.0% 37.0% 27 100%
No idea 13.5% 14.9% 20.3% 51.4% 74 100%
 
Total (percent) 10.5% 19.0% 29.4% 41.1% 757 100%
(IES2 Table 8, p. 812)

Table 27 indicates the degree of concern about pregnancy and STD/AIDS reported by sexually active senior high school and university males and females in the 1993 survey (J.A.S.E. 1994). While both males and females expressed strong concern about pregnancy, 51% and 61%, respectively, and 42% and 34% were “somewhat concerned,” their strong concern about the risk of STDs and AIDS was significantly less. This might suggest that the threat of STD/AIDS is not as high in Japan as in other countries, or that the youth are not aware of their actual risk (IES2 Fig. 32, p. 813).

Table 27                  

Degree of Concern While Engaged in Intercourse among
Japanese Youth in 1993 Survey


Age Group
Strong
Concern    
Somewhat
Concerned
Pregnancy
    Senior High & College Male 51% 42%
    Senior High & College Female    61% 34%
AIDS & STDs
    Senior High & College Male 17% 49%
    Senior High & College Female 22% 60%
(IES2 Fig. 32, p. 813)

Throughout the four national surveys in these 20 years, sexually active Japanese youth showed a steadily increasing trend in their use of contraceptives from 56% in 1974, to 68% in 1981, to 69% I 1987 and then to 79% in 1993 (IES2 Fig. 33, p. 813; J.A.S.E. 1994). Along with attaining “behavior emancipation,” Japanese youths appear to be taking responsibility for protecting their own health and that of their sexual partners.

Across the education spectrum, Japanese males are more likely than not to agree that a man’s role and place is to work outside of the home and a woman’s role is to take care of the family. The split is more obvious among university students, with close to 60% agreeing and 40% disagreeing, indicating a conservative trend for more-educated males (see Table 28) (IES2 Fig. 34, p. 814). Females were significantly more likely than males to disagree with this statement of roles, but university females also showed a clear conservative or traditional trend in their belief on this issue.

Table 28                  

Attitudes about the Hypothesis that “Man’s Role Is to Work Outside the Home and Woman’s Role Is to Take Care of the Family”

School Level Male Agree    Male Disagree Female Agree Female Disagree
Junior High School 52% 44% 40% 58%
Senior High School   53% 46% 38% 62%
University 58% 40% 46% 54%
Editors’ Note: Percentages are approximations from the original line graph (IES2 Fig. 34, p. 814).

Traditionally, Japanese married by age 25, but this expectation is clearly waning. Regarding their future plans of marriage, Japanese youth keenly reflect the current social trend toward later marriage. About one half of the young people indicated that they want to marry eventually, but are not concerned about the age at which they might marry. Only one in five wanted to marry soon (see Table 29) (IES2 Table 9, p. 814).

Table 29                  

Opinions about Marriage (in Percentages)

  Junior High Senior High University Total
Opinions Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female
Want to marry soon 20.3 22.3 17.6 23.1 19.6 27.9 19.1 23.7
Want to marry eventually, regardless of age 45.9 45.4 59.7 50.9 58.5 53.6 53.9 49.3
No preference to marry or not 14.3 18.7 13.1 17.7 15.6 14.1 14.0 17.4
Will remain unmarried 2.4 3.0 1.6 3.1 1.2 2.3 1.8 2.9
Other 1.2 0.7 1.1 1.1 0.9 0.8 1.1 0.9
Cannot answer 11.7 8.5 5.4 3.6 3.3 0.6 7.6 5.0
Don’t know; Not answered 4.2 1.4 1.5 0.5 0.9 0.4 2.5 0.8
Total (percentage) 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Total (persons) 1,008 1,008 1,008 1,008 424 488 2,440 2,504
(IES2 Table 9, p. 814)

C. Sex and Sexuality of Japanese Adults

Marital Sex

The Japanese ethical and cultural views of sex could probably be summed up in a few words as something repressed, embarrassing, and simply not talked about. Thus, statistics representing the Japanese concerning frequency of sexual intercourse, sexual positions, and level of satisfaction are still not reported today. Similarly, statistics on oral and anal sex in Japan are not available. One could probably conjecture, however, that the number of Japanese practicing such forms of sex has increased over the past decade or two, because of the influence of more-open conceptions about sex or of adult-oriented comics and magazines.

In November 1990, The Weekly Post, which boasts the largest readership for a magazine in Japan, published the results of a survey in which a random sampling of 2,000 readers took part. Of those surveyed, 33.6% of the men and 23.0% of the women gave complete, valid responses. The average ages of these men and women were 44 and 41 years old, respectively. According to the survey results, which may or may not be relevant to our discussion, 85% of the men indicated having had sexual intercourse in the past month. Among these, 55% had had sexual intercourse in the past week. Of all respondents, 15% had not had sexual intercourse in the past month.

Among the men who indicated having sexual intercourse in the past week, 51% had had it once, 31% twice, and 13% three times, making the average number for the previous week 1.7 times.

In other survey responses, 51% of the men indicated that they practice oral sex, and 8% replied that they practice anal sex. Twenty-nine percent of the women said that they always experience orgasm when having sexual intercourse, 30% replied frequently, 24% replied occasionally, and 8% said almost never or never.

While this survey cannot be said to represent the average Japanese, it does provide a general picture of their sexual practices. The results of this survey, when compared to a similar survey conducted by the Kyodo Press in 1982, show an increased percentage in every category, which clearly indicates that sexuality in Japan is becoming increasingly more open.

Marriage and Family

Dramatic improvement of women’s status in society in the 50 years since World War II has resulted in great changes in the consciousness and attitude of the Japanese people toward marriage and family. Some obvious examples of such improvements are a steady increase in the number of women attending higher education institutions, a remarkable growth of professional and social activities by educated and enlightened women like Nora in Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 Et Dukkehjem [A Doll’s House], and development of a self-sustaining economic strength and expansion of independent life with individual decision making. The daughters of the traditional Japanese families, i.e., the Japanese female dolls wearing pretty kimonos, who used to be educated how to serve and follow the man (husband) and how not to express their own ego, desires, and needs are now nonexistent, having become a part of fairytales. [Comment 1997: An additional factor, mentioned in Section 4, Autoerotic Behaviors and Patterns, may be the slow-fading expectation that a good Japanese woman should always be modest and not initiate any sexual activity. (End of comment by Y. Kaji)]

The consciousness and attitude of the men regarding marriage and family life have also been forced to change greatly throughout the time of high economic growth and the current economic stagnation and collapse of the “economic bubble.” The unbalanced economic life between consumer life and insufficient income, and extremely poor housing conditions that come from living in highly concentrated, dense metropolitan communities, are major examples of the forces that have caused changes in attitudes about marriage and family life. In 1950, the average age of first marriage of Japanese adults was 25.9 years for men and 23.0 years for women; by 1990, this was 28.4 and 25.8 years of age, respectively. This rather high age of marriage is not expected to drop in the near future.

According to a recent report from a survey of young adults’ attitudes about marriage, the rate of those who indicated “marriage is not a must unless one needs to,” and/or “living independently is more important than marriage,” was 41% and 32.8% of women in their 20s and 30s, respectively, and 32.9% and 37.1% of men in their 20s and 30s, respectively.

The youth in older generations used to be concerned with a “get married to have sex and propagate” philosophy that was reflected in the statistical data. [Comment 1997: Ten years ago, in a survey conducted by the Ministry of Public Welfare in 1987, 91.8% of the males and 92.9% of the females aged 18 to 34 indicated that they wanted to get married. A 1986 survey of university students reported that their cohabitation rate was only 0.3% for males and 0.8% for females. (End of comment by Y. Kaji)] However, the authors of this chapter believe that there is a trend among today’s youths to move away from the traditional form of family life and marriage to accept cohabitation as a natural form of living in male-female cooperation. The majority simply hope that when all the conditions are fulfilled, it is not a bad idea to get married. [Comment 1997: Surveys need to be conducted to support or disprove this interesting hypothesis. (End of comment by Y. Kaji)]

The traditional matchmaking system as a prelude to marriage is well known. The system was developed under the feudalistic atmosphere and warriors’ society in which the preservation of the family was of priority importance. The so-called “middleman in honor” was asked by the parents of the young man or woman to find their child a proper partner in terms of the social level and position of the family. Traditionally, age was not a consideration.

This system is still widely practiced today, although the social status of the family and the respective person is increasingly becoming less important. In the 1960s, a survey analysis reported that 40.7% of all marriages were arranged in the manner mentioned above, and 57.0% were a freely made decision or love-oriented marriage. The rate of arranged marriage in a 1980s survey dropped to 22.8% for arranged marriages and rose to 71.8% for love-oriented marriages, leaving about a quarter of all marriages still arranged by a matchmaker. The newest trend in this system is an increase in the requests for arranged marriages among men over age 30, a reflection perhaps that these older bachelors tend to avoid the rather uneasy attempts to build a love-oriented heterosexual relationship. Marriage is not an easy life event for the young and middle-aged Japanese men these days, particularly considering a 1991 poll by the Asahi Shimbund that reported 60% of Japanese women consider Japanese men “unreliable” (Itoi & Powell 1992). (See also the discussion of the “Narita divorce” phenomenon in Section 5A above.)

[Multiethnic Marriages

[Update 2002: In the early 21st century, marriage and continuing the family line has become a major problem for many Japanese men. By the time a Japanese man reaches his late 30s or 40s, it is almost impossible for him to find a bride in her 20s or early 30s. Japanese culture celebrates youth as few other cultures do, and the 30- or 40-year-old male is out of the competition. Divorce has been uncommon until quite-recent times, and midlife marriages even rarer. Add in the fact that Japanese women are demanding a higher standard of living from prospective husbands and shunning marriage as noted above.

[As noted in the brief historical perspective, Japan has long been known as the quintessential insular country. Even today, Japan is a near-classless, mono-ethnic nation with 127 million people, of whom a scant 1.5 million are resident foreigners. Less than a million are Korean and Chinese who have lived in the country for generations. But, they are still considered outsiders and remain subject to Japan’s exclusive cultural practices and arduous naturalization laws. However, as more and more Japanese men find it increasingly difficult to find Japanese wives and Japan’s population continues shrinking, some new thinking has taken root in recent years: Perhaps marriage with a foreigner is the best answer for these lonely men who want to continue their family line.

[The trend of young Japanese marrying non-Japanese spouses started in the 1970s with more Japanese women marrying foreign husbands. In the 1980s, increasing urbanization left many poor rice farmers with no Japanese women to marry as the women migrated to the cities in search of a more comfortable life. At first, the rice farmers turned to poorer Asian countries, particularly the Philippines, in their search for brides. In 1990, Korean women were very popular, but as Korea’s economy improved, interest in Korean brides declined. In the 1990s, the number of Japanese men marrying Chinese women rose tenfold, despite past animosities and the ongoing political tensions between Japan and China. In 2003, China was the country of choice for foreign spouses, even if the spouse came from a far-western province of China.

[International marriages are now an urban phenomenon, fueled by exchange-student liaisons. And the boom is just beginning. In 2002, over 2,000 international marriage agencies were operating in Japan, with at least 107 specializing in Chinese spouses (see Table 30).

Table 30                  

Japanese Men and Women with Foreign Spouses


Year  
Japanese Wives with
Foreign Husbands
Japanese Husbands with
Foreign Wives
1970 4,000 1,800
1985 5,000 7,000
1990 5,500 20,000
2000 7,500 28,000

[International courtships usually depend on the Internet, with a few visits by the man to the woman’s home and family, which may be several thousand miles distance in some remote western province of China. In many international courtships and marriages, communications are difficult, even after a couple have been together for some time. Communications often depend on an electronic dictionary, fragmentary sentences and phrases written with the Chinese characters that the Japanese and Chinese languages share (French 2002). (End of update by R. T. Francoeur)]

[Japan’s Changing Family Geometry

[Update 2000: In the traditional Japanese family, the first-born son and his wife are expected to take care of his parents in their old age. A son is also critical for continuance of the family name. With Japanese families having only one or two children, the odds are that the parents may have no son and one or two daughters. In families with only a daughter or two, the future care of the parents depends on whether or not the daughter(s) adopt(s) her husband’s family name, and on whether the daughters decide to live in the husband’s parents’ house or in her parents’ house.

[The new family geometries evolving as a response to reduced fertility may involve the daughter keeping her own family name instead of adopting her husband’s name, and the husband joining his wife’s family and accepting responsibility for caring for her parents in their old age. This pattern of the husband living with the wife’s family and assuming the burden of eventually caring for her parents is an arrangement almost unheard of just a generation ago. In “groom adoption,” parents with a single daughter may adopt her husband, who will then take her family name, an old custom that is fading in popularity.

[The pressures behind these new geometries include falling birthrates, the world’s most rapidly aging population, sky-high real estate prices, the inheritance of parental real estate, and persistent economic uncertainty after a decade-long recession. The result is often an increasingly open and sometimes raw tug of war between the parents of brides and grooms to determine which parents will be cared for in old age by their children, and who will maintain the family gravesite. As the beneficiaries of an economic golden age in the 1960s and 1970s, many of Japan’s elderly have huge personal savings and immensely expensive urban real estate. The contest between families for the allegiance of children has thus become inevitably intertwined with struggles over inheritance rights. Indeed, more and more men are being lured away from their own families to those of their wives by the promise of financial security. These struggles are increasingly eroding the male-driven family structure common in Japan. Ultimately, among the most important consequences of the economic power of the wife’s family will be the strengthening of the role of women themselves in Japan and their growing equality with men (French 2000). (End of update by R. T. Francoeur)]

[Fading Three-Generation Families

[Update 2002: Despite impressions to the contrary, the practice of an extended Japanese family living under a single roof with the son bringing his wife home to live with him and his parents is relatively new in Japanese culture. It dates back only to the Meiji Era, from 1868 to 1912. Before the Meiji dynasty, most Japanese couples lived apart from their parents. However, as lifespans increased, the Meiji government wanted the household to become the unit of welfare, with the younger people providing all the care of their elders. In this system, the daughter-in-law’s role is that of a submissive yome (or more politely, a oyome-san), who is ruled by her mother-in-law and has no independence of her own. Her main role is to take care of her husband’s parents. This system continued after World War II, and began to weaken in the 1960s and 1970s.

[Today, the tradition of parents and children, sometimes three generations, living together has all but disappeared in urban areas of Japan, although it still observed in the rural areas. In 1999, people age 65 and older living on their own or as couples accounted for almost 46% of households, compared with 20% in 1972. In the same period, the number of three-generation families who live together under one roof has declined from 55.8% to 29.7% of all households.

[Among the many factors contributing to the demise of the yome are the lure of cities, the desire of more women to work outside the home, the independence of both young and old that comes with financial security, and the fact that increasing numbers of young women do not want to become oyome-san and take on the burden of caring for the elderly in their homes. To Japan’s credit, the government now offers a huge menu of healthcare services for older people in their homes. The government provides workers to cook meals and bathe elderly family members, and nurses to administer injections. While the elderly have pensions that enable them to live independently, their children are not likely to enjoy this same freedom, as their public and private pension plans are grossly underfinanced (Strom 2001). (End of update by R. T. Francoeur)]

Divorce

The attitude of the Japanese people toward divorce has changed as much as their attitude toward marriage. Historically, the divorce rate in the Meiji Era (1868-1912) was higher than the current figure, very probably because men could divorce wives easily, since the social status and human rights of women were regarded as light as a feather. No statistics are available regarding marriage and divorce before Meiji (1868).

In 1946, divorce laws eliminated the old three-line letter whereby a man could dismiss his wife. Before World War II, Japan had one of the highest divorce rates in the world; that high rate is echoed in recent years, following after an all-time postwar low, with the difference that most divorces now are sought by women. Laws still leave alimony rather skimpy, but child-custody now favors the mother instead of the mandatory custody by the husband’s family that prevailed before 1945.

Like many other democratic practices, the principle of male-female equality was first established throughout the legal structure of modern Japanese society in 1945. The Japanese people used to believe that ending a marriage in divorce for whatever reasons involved a loss of face and honor. Many, particularly among the older generations, still hold to this belief. In this respect, maintaining the marital structure, even when the husband-wife relations are practically broken, is socially acceptable and often the rationale for not divorcing. Considering this background, the divorce rate remained low during the 1950s and 1960s, less than 1.0 per 1,000. By the 1980s, the divorce rate had grown slightly to 1.5 per 1,000. The more recent rate is not much different from the 1980s rate. There are important differences in these general statistics. The divorce rate for couples in their early 20s was 17.0 per 1,000 in 1985, more than ten times the overall average. For couples in their 40s, the rate was 3.6 per 1,000, twice the overall rate. [Update 1997: According to Kristof (1996a), comparative divorce rates in the mid 1990s showed about 24 divorces for every 100 Japanese marriages, compared with 32 per 100 in France, 42 per 100 in England, and 55 per 100 in the United States. (End of update by R. T. Francoeur)]

The increased rate of divorce among the young people may come from their immaturity in the social-perseverance quality, while the rate among middle-aged people may be the result of changes in the male-female social strength relations. For the latter, factors to be considered include a rebellion of the women against the men-centered social structure, expansion of the economic independence of the housewives, and more promotion of women’s emancipation. This, in turn, provides the starting point for a discussion about the husband/wife roles in the family life in the modern and future Japanese society.

[Update 1997: In an early-1990s survey conducted by the Dentsu Research Institute and Leisure Development Center in Japan, married men and their wives in 37 countries were asked how they felt about politics, sex, religion, ethics, and social issues. Japanese couples ranked dead last, by a significant margin, in the compatibility of their views. In another survey, only about a third of the Japanese said they would marry the same person if they could do it over. However, this incompatibility might not matter as much, because Japanese husbands and wives traditionally spend little time talking to each other. This is not unexpected, given the primacy most Japanese men place on their work, the disparate social positions and power of men and women in traditional Japanese society, and the suppression of emotions and feeling. The reality in many marriages is the “7-11 husband,” so-called because he leaves home at 7 A.M. and returns home after 11 P.M., often after going out for an after-work drink or mah-jongg session with buddies. A national survey found that 30% of the fathers spend less that 15 minutes a day on weekdays talking with or playing with their children. Fifty-one percent of the 8th grade students reported they never spoke with their fathers on weekdays. In reality, then, the figures for single-parent Japanese families are deceptive, with the father in dual-parent families more often than not a theoretical presence (Kristof 1996a).

[Divorce, in Japan, has long been a simple matter, requiring little more than the signatures of both parties and filing the papers in city hall. Two major factors in Japanese culture have kept the divorce rate very low despite the lack of couple compatibility, communications, and emotional satisfaction. On the male side, shame is still a powerful social and financial sanction, especially in the workplace, where many companies are reluctant to promote employees who have divorced or have major problems at home. A divorce is always a negative factor in the employment world.

[Japanese women knew that this simple procedure carried with it many hidden consequences that made divorce psychologically, socially, and financially prohibitive in all but the most abusive situations. Family and relatives are socially embarrassed and shamed by a daughter who has rebelled against a life spent catering to a husband. In a shame-sensitive culture, the whispers of neighbors can be demoralizing. Also, court-ordered alimony was stingy, few jobs were open to middle-aged women, and banks often turned down applications for loans, mortgages, or even credit cards. While child custody goes to the mother in three quarters of all divorces, most Japanese mothers do not have a career or much in the way of financial resources. In the mid 1990s, only about 15% of divorced fathers paid child support (Kristof 1996a). (End of update by R. T. Francoeur)]

[Divorce among the Middle Aged

[Update 2003: Although the overall divorce rate in Japan appears flat when compared with America and Europe, in the last few years, divorces among older people have been skyrocketing, reflecting profound changes in a traditionally conservative society. Fifteen years ago, middle-aged divorces were almost unheard of in Japan. But in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the divorce rate among younger couples was steadily creeping upward to levels comparable with many European countries.

[Some social-trend observers attribute the explosion in middle-aged divorce to a sort of trickle-up women’s liberation, in which grown daughters, often still living at home, prod their mothers to stop putting up with emotionally barren or abusive relationships with their fathers. Concepts novel to Japanese culture, like individualism, materialism, and personal happiness, have been embraced by daughters and are now being picked up by their mothers, breaking down traditional values of the collective good, of harmony, and, above all, of gaman, or self-denial. Another factor has been a shift in the content of daytime television and advertising that reflect and energize changing attitudes surrounding middle-aged divorce. Sexy daytime dramas and Jerry Springer-style talk programs, known as “wide shows,” have emerged to tutor women in issues like divorce, post-motherhood careers, and sexual freedom. Other roots of this phenomenon are profound social changes, like the demise of lifetime employment, later marriage, the collapsing birthrate, and a growing number of social-dropout younger adults, who drift between part-time jobs and live with their parents well into their 30s. Taken in combination, these changes are comparable to the seismic cultural shifts seen in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s (French 2003). (End of update by R. T. Francoeur)]

Sexuality and Older Persons

Recently, surveys in Japan have enthusiastically taken up the topic of sexuality among the middle-aged and aged population. In 1979, Hideko Daikuhara, a public health nurse in Tokyo, conducted Japan’s first-ever research on the actual condition of sexual activity among aged persons. Later, Yoshiaki Kumamoto and others at the Sapporo Medical School firmly established research on gerontology—in Japan, gerontology is a branch of andrology. Kumamoto reported the results of a survey on the relationship between sexual activity and aging that was conducted as a part of his research. The survey revealed that 14.2% of men in their early 60s were no longer sexually active. For men in their late 60s, the percentage of inactive males was 22.8, with 32.0% in their early 60s, 50.3% in their late 70s, and 62.6% of men aged 80 or older who were no longer sexually active. Of those who indicated being sexually active, 60% in their 60s, 40% to 55% in their 70s, and 30% 80 or older said they had sex once or twice a month.

Kumamoto’s survey was given to 5,500 men. Although it would be difficult to say his survey is representative of middle-aged and aged men in Japan, it is sufficient reference for the trend of sexual activity in these age groups. “Human beings do not lose their sexual drive until they die,” has been an expression heard among the common populace of Japan for many years. This is evidence that the Japanese have had sufficient knowledge of the sexual activity made evident in Kumamoto’s survey. On the other side of the coin, the popular expression regarding men who are “forever chasing after women, in spite of their age” offers proof that Japanese have both an official and a private stance when it comes to sexuality.

[Extramarital Relationships

[Update 1997: Traditionally, the Japanese male has always had much more freedom for extramarital affairs than the women. In Japanese culture, there is no sin in sex. It is treated as a natural part of life by the Japanese, even more so than in European cultures. Few Frenchmen were upset when the widow and the former mistress of President Mitterand stood side by side at his funeral, because the whole affair was handled with proper decorum. Unlike the United States, Japanese culture has been even more accepting of the private extramarital affairs of high-ranking Japanese politicians, business executives, and ordinary husbands. Extramarital affairs traditionally posed no problem, unless the man either allowed this side of his private life to interfere with his duties or he lost face by not maintaining proper social decorum. One loses face and shames one’s family by making public something that should be private (Bornoff 1991, 262-300).

[While no data are available on the incidence of extramarital sex and affairs, the incidence of such behavior is undoubtedly affected by several factors in the changing scene of Japanese male-female relations. While husbands have many avenues for extramarital sex available, with geishas, “soap ladies,” and the sex workers who ply their trade via telephone clubs, pink leaflets, mobile van services (Pinkku Shiataru), lovers’ banks, massage parlors, date coffee shops (deeto kissa), or on the street, the number of Japanese wives who seek a lover as a way of spicing up their lives with a bit of romance seems to be increasing. In the 1983 More Report on Female Sexuality, 70% of the women ages 13 to 60 surveyed reported being sexually unsatisfied. Add to this the fact that Japanese wives control the household finances and have considerably more leisure time than their husbands. Many of the part-time sex workers in Soaplands are female students and frustrated housewives who control their own work schedules and can use the extra money easily available in this work. A 1986 survey conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office found that 10% of the 680 women sex workers arrested by the police were housewives (Bornoff 1991, 334). (See also Section 8B, Significant Unconventional Sexual Behaviors, Prostitution.) (End of update by R. T. Francoeur)]

Return to top of page

6. Homoerotic, Homosexual, and Bisexual Behaviors

[A. Homosexuality in Pre-Modern Japan

[Comment 1997: Masculinity and virility were exalted in the ancient nature religions and in Shinto precepts and rituals that prepared the ground for the warrior culture. In the Shinto winter ritual of hadaka matsuri, males of all ages purified themselves with an icy dip in a mountain spring or waterfall, liberally consumed purifying saki, and then formed a pyramid of naked male bodies, a seething mass exaltation of manhood inside the temple. Masculinity was also exalted by the samurai and shoguns who kept legions of pretty young pageboys in attendance. Even among the Buddhist priesthood, where the injunction of chastity forbade all sexual contact of monks with women, homosexuality was considered an acceptable substitute, as it was elsewhere in Buddhist monasteries throughout the Far East. Each novice pledged himself to an older monk for a number of years. In exchange for tuition, the mentor provided his pupil with instruction in the sacred texts and the spiritual quest. The novice embraced the status of “sworn friend,” serving his master, body and soul.

[During the long civil wars, violence and the warrior ethic reigned supreme and women were nothing more than a necessary incubator for progeny. Homosexuality was the ultimate criterion of virility and masculinity. In the stoic way of the warrior and the code of the samurai, nanshoku (male passion) was not a perversion, but a lofty ideal. Strict conventions limited the passive female role of recipient to youths and boys, while the older male played the active male role of inserter.

[For centuries, the traditional Japanese theater, another male preserve, also had an established current of same-sex behavior and relationships flowing through it. As soon as the female precursors of kabuki were banished from the stage in the early 1600s, the overwhelming majority of their male replacements were beauteous catamites and followers of Shudo, “the way of the youth” (Bornoff 1991, 422-433). (See also the discussions of male homosexuality in Section 6 of the chapters on Iran, Morocco, and Turkey.) (End of comment by R. T. Francoeur)]

[Comment 1997: Yanagihashi (1995) has identified four main characteristics evident in pre-modern Japanese homosexual traditions, namely:

  1. The relationships are typically between an adult man and a minor;
  2. The relationships tend to exist in contexts where contact with the other sex is limited;
  3. Female homosexuality seems to be entirely nonexistent; and
  4. The relationships were formed exclusively among members of the privileged classes.

[Homosexuality was understood as a substitute or supplement to heterosexuality in a fundamentally heterosexual and male-dominated society. (End of comment by Y. Kaji)]

B. Male Homosexuality Today

[Comment 1997: Although Japanese culture has in its history a tradition of sexual love between men, and tolerates the expression of affection for the same sex at most levels of society, the contemporary Japanese attitude toward homosexuality is in general very negative. However, the issue has yet to be discussed as a social issue. For example, according to a nationwide survey of 188 university professors who are teaching subjects related to human sexuality, only 30 (15.8%) have ever addressed the issue of homosexuality in their curriculum (National Survey of Sexology and College Education 1995). Though many lesbians and gay men suffer from the prejudice and insensitivity of Japanese society, most heterosexual Japanese people may be unaware of the negative feelings that drive such prejudice and insensitivity. (End of comment by Y. Kaji)]

None of the larger urban entertainment districts in Japan is without its quota of gay bars and clubs. The laws against prostitution are fairly nebulous, but especially so when applied to homosexual prostitution. When a gay bar or club comes to grief from the law, it is usually because it employed boys under the legal age of consent or hired exotic youths from other lands who violate the provisions of their visa by working.

Until the specter of AIDS arose in the mid-1980s, many foreign homosexual men found Japan, with its very long, colorful, and venerable gay history, to be a paradise. The fear of AIDS and a touch of xenophobia have closed most gay facilities to foreigners. Exclusion of foreign gays from Japanese gay facilities provides the reassurance of freedom from the risk of AIDS if Japanese homosexuals associate only with other Japanese gays.

[Comment 1997: Japanese male homosexuals are called okama (august pots), a derogatory colloquial metaphor equating the common cooking pot with the human buttocks. Increasingly popular is the “Japlish” gei, or gay. In a 1981 survey, about 6% of male college students reported being active homosexuals; a third of high school boys surveyed reported latent homosexual inclinations. In a similar 1987 survey, both figures declined to 4.5 and 20%, respectively, with a proportionate increase in heterosexual activity.

[Apart from one gay support group with an overwhelming foreign membership, there are no gay activist groups uniting Japanese in coming out of the closet and political advocacy. Gay magazines, such as the famous Bara Zoku [The Rose Tribe], and gay comics are sold everywhere, but like the many heterosexual erotic publications, their emphasis is more on titillation than information, and certainly not on sociopolitical activism. Gay liberation parties on the political fringe do occasionally surface, especially at elections, but most Japanese gays would rather continue living their erotic lives contentedly in the closet, perusing their gay magazines, and attending gay bars or clubs when they can, rather than become involved in the risky business of political activism (Bornoff 1991). (End of comment by R. T. Francoeur)]

[Update 1997: This situation began to change in 1991 with the filing of the first court case pertaining to gay issues, the Association for Lesbian and Gay Movement vs. Tokyo Municipal Government. In this case, also known as the Fucyu Youth Activity Center Case, the Tokyo District Court reversed a decision by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Board of Education that refused to allow homosexual groups to use a youth activity center. Beginning in 1994, the Annual Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade has been held in Tokyo. In 1995, about 2,000 people attended this event, which was cosponsored by 28 groups with predominantly Japanese membership. Also, in 1995, gay professional organizations, such as the Association of Gay Professionals in Counseling and Allied Medical Fields, were founded. (End of update by Y. Kaji)]

[C. Lesbianism

[Comment 1997: In ancient times, the neglected ladies of the o-oku, the shogun’s harem, were well known for taking consolation in lesbian relationships. Unlike the celebration of male homosexuality among the warriors and their pages, however, Japanese culture has preferred to ignore—neither condemning nor celebrating—lesbian relations. Shunga with a lesbian theme are relatively rare. There are resubian sho (lesbian shows) which are a staple in the modern striptease parlor frequented by heterosexual males, but more as a foreign import than indigenous expression. For a brief time in the early 1980s, Tokyo had a single lesbian bar, but given the contentedness of gay men in the closet and the pervasiveness of female submissiveness, there are even fewer lesbians anxious to come out in public. While most gay bars exclude all women, some are known to cater to lesbians on certain days, and then only for a couple of hours. In modern Japan, lesbianism is shrouded in comparative obscurity (Bornoff 1991, 433-447). (End of comment by R. T. Francoeur)]

[Comment 1997: In Japan, as in most other cultures around the world, lesbians have been doubly stigmatized as homosexuals and as women. Lesbians have been typically viewed by Japanese society as a common element in the pornography targeted to men or as “gender-bending” and antisocial. A variety of colloquial terms are used for Japanese lesbians, all of them more or less derogatory. (End of comment by Y. Kaji)] [Comment 1997: Lesbians are sometimes known as onabe (stew-pot) in contrast with the male okama, or august pot, or more commonly by the “Japlish” resz. Rezubian (lesbian) is the most commonly used term. The otachi, or butch, the actress playing male roles, and the orneko nenne or neko (cat), Çnue, or femme, mark the two ends of the lesbian spectrum. (End of comment by R. T. Francoeur)]

[Comment 1997: One uniquely Japanese custom of gender bending is found in the joshi-puro (women professional wrestlers). Elsewhere in the world, women wrestlers are shapely Amazons in bikinis intently watched by males. In Japan, women wrestlers mimic their male sumo counterparts, with some interesting twists. Joshi-puro stars, such as Chigusa, with a boyish hairstyle and tacky, gaudy leotards, serenades her audience of teenage and preteen girls with popular songs before climbing into the ring to attack, gouge, pummel, and drag her mountainous opponent around the rings. Commenting on the adulation Japanese girls show for their heroes in the All-Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling Association, the director of AJWPWA has suggested that young girls see women pro wrestlers as very strong, ideal men, a substitute for boyfriends. They feel safe getting close to them because they are female. They provide vicarious thrills for the young girls, and models of aggressive champions of self-assertiveness (Bornoff 1991, 433-444). (End of comment by R. T. Francoeur)]

Return to top of page

7. Gender Diversity and Transgender Issues

Except for the practices of certain ethnic groups in the world, cross-dressing, transvestism, gender-crossing, and transsexualism were, until about 50 years ago, generally considered “diseases” that either required medical treatment or were simply not practiced out in the open.

Reaction in Japan was similar, although there were some exceptions. Kabuki, Japan’s traditional theatrical art, is one. All parts in a Kabuki play are played by male actors. Thus, cross-dressing and transvestism, at least in the theater, has long existed in Kabuki roles. One can easily imagine that the actor’s psychological state, or mental makeup, walks a fine line between masculinity and femininity, as the actor tries to immerse himself in his role. Actors responsible for female roles were, from their early childhood, compelled to experience first-hand the everyday life, customs, and etiquette of the women they played. Although this extreme practice is not seen in the modern Kabuki world, it cannot be denied that an aesthetic sensibility exists in the mental makeup of Japanese in which importance is placed on the beauty of men acting in female roles. As a counterpart to Kabuki, Takarazuka Young Girls Opera, which began in 1914, has provided a stage for only female actresses and continues to enchant many women today.

These phenomena may provide a clue when considering gender-crossing, transvestism, and cross-dressing in Japan. That is, the roles in both Kabuki and Takarazuka Opera have come to be viewed as a performance, something one sees only on the stage. Accordingly, occurrences in these fictitious worlds are not always so easily tolerated in the real world. A “drag queen” appearing on television, for example, lives in “television land,” a world from which most people feel detached.

Gender-crossers and transsexuals have not yet been accepted into Japanese society. This is because the majority of people have a dualistic gender bias, believing that a man’s role is to impregnate a woman and a woman’s role is to bear children, while only a minority advocates a society where people are free to choose their gender.

In recent years, gatherings and study meetings on transsexualism and transvestism as a human issue rather than a moral issue have been provided in Japan as well. Saitama Medical School created a stir in July 1996, when its ethics committee approved female-to-male sex-change operations. There is no legal precedent for this in Japanese law and many problems remain concerning how society will accept those people who undergo a sex-change operation.

[Update 2002: In October 1998, five cases of sex-reassignment surgery were performed in Japan (four female-to-male and one male-to-female) by the medical group at the Saitama Medical University. Gender Identity Disorder has gained social recognition in Japan as a status needing medical treatment. A number of transgender support groups have been formed all over Japan. As of March 2000, Trans-Net Japan, a Tokyo-based support group, lists 41 transgender-related support groups all over Japan in their resource booklet. Also, the intersex status has been gaining some social recognition. An Osaka-based support group for the intersexual individuals and their families, PESFIS (Peer Support For InterSexuals) Japan was founded in August 1995 and is now active in Osaka, Tokyo, and Nagoya. In June 2000, Tokyo’s metropolitan government drafted its Guideline for Human Rights Public Policy Advancement. Effective at the end of 2000, it became the first policy guideline in Japan to lists sexual minorities as human-rights-violated people. While the Governor’s special task force committee was working on the draft, both gender identity disorder and homosexuality were listed as categories of people who need to be protected from discrimination. However, in the final draft, homosexuality was excluded. Gay organizations and their supporters quickly objected to this draft and are trying to make the case for including homosexuality in the listing. (End of update by Y. Kaji)]

Return to top of page

8. Significant Unconventional Sexual Behaviors

A. Coercive Sexual Behaviors

Rape

Rape, according to Japanese law, is described as having sexual intercourse with a woman through force or against the woman’s will, but there is no clear legal definition for rape. According to Article 177 of the Criminal Code, “if a girl of 13 years or more is forced to have sexual intercourse by means of a violent act or threats . . . or if sexual intercourse is performed with a girl not yet 13 years of age, regardless of the method or whether there was mutual consent,” the offender will be punished. However, the victim or her parent or legal guardian must file a complaint in order for the rape to be recognized as a criminal act.

In 1994, when victims of rape were required to go through this vague and complicated procedure, 1,616 cases of rape were reported. The number of cases actually dropped between 1980 (1,800 cases) and 1990 (1,500 cases), but recent years have seen a slight increasing trend. In Japan, many feel that, because rape is an offense subject to prosecution only upon complaint, few cases come to light. The actual number of cases is sometimes said to be five to ten times the number reported. This is really the problem we should be concentrating on in our discussions, while striving to settle on a clear legal definition of rape. Although sexual crimes, such as indecent assault, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment, were not until recently taken up as social problems, we can at least say that surveys and case studies on these topics are being performed, and that the formation of a nationwide study network is anticipated for the future.

[Child Sexual Abuse

[Update 2001: A Child Prostitution and Child Pornography Prohibition Law, effective November 1999, prohibits both buying and arranging prostitution of minors who are under 18 years old. It also prohibits making, possessing, carrying, importing, exporting, selling, renting, and displaying child pornography. (End of update by Y. Kaji)]

Sexual Harassment

In 1986, Japan passed an equal-opportunity law for women that was purely advisory and only asked companies to make “an effort” to prevent discrimination against women. The 1986 law provided no penalties for companies that discriminated; it did not even mention the term “sexual harassment.” In December 1996, a Labor Ministry panel recommended putting teeth into the 1986 law by publicizing the names of violators and specifically barring sexual harassment. The panel said that the revised law should expressly forbid gender discrimination instead of simply recommending efforts against it and should ban advertising that describe jobs as “open only to women.” Despite these efforts, protection against sexual harassment in Japan lags far behind American and European standards.

Incest

According to Japanese myth, Izanami and Izanagi, the god and goddess couple credited with creating the islands that make up Japan, were in fact siblings who then married. Also, many stories have been handed down from the 4th and 5th centuries concerning consanguineous marriages (incest) in Japan’s Ruling Family (thought by some to be the ancestors of today’s Imperial Family, but this is uncertain). However, since that time, incest has been taboo and avoided in Japan, as in the Christian spheres of America and Europe.

Yet, reports of incest between a mother and son have become a phenomenon in the last few decades. Such reports have come mostly from volunteer groups that provide counseling over the telephone. Frequent situations in the reports include: 1. a mother who sees her son masturbating in his bedroom and begins helping him, which leads to sexual intercourse; and 2. a boy in a stupor or irritated from studying for exams who is embraced by his mother, who feels sorry for him, leading to sexual intercourse. Many psychologists hypothesize that the anonymous nature of the telephone counseling may result in calls that provide an outlet for the expression of fantasies peculiar to young people. However, there is no reason to totally discount the findings from this counseling method. We look forward with great anticipation to future surveys and studies.

[B. Prostitution

[Comment 1997: Prior to 1948 and the enactment of the Law for the Regulation of Businesses Affecting Public Morals, prostitution was not a criminal offense. The 1956 Prostitution Prevention Law granted the country’s red-light districts a year’s grace, after which the estimated 260,000 sex workers in the 50,000 hitherto-licensed brothels would have to find other means of earning a living. The 1956 law also banned sexual slavery and the practice of selling daughters into the brothel trade. New revisions of the public morals were added in 1984.

[While the commercial sex industry has undergone many changes, it has retained much of its vitality and varied character.

Both before and after the new law, however, the operation of sex-orientated businesses was, and is subject to obtaining “prior permission” from the police and local authorities. This at once casts doubt upon how illegal such things actually are and just what kind of arrangements operators are expected to make in order to open shop. The fact is that bars, cabarets and other concerns employing hostesses are free to operate, provided their services abide by officialdom’s favorite old (and sometimes highly coercive) chestnut of “voluntary restraint.” “Most of the sex industry is illegal, yet it goes on just the same,” the editor of a Tokyo magazine focusing on the mizu shobai recently affirmed. “As in the strip theaters, people usually know when the police are coming to raid them. In businesses like these, there’s a lot of money changing hands under the table.” (Bornoff 1991, 332)

[According to the 1984 More Report of Male Sexuality, the majority of men over 30 had their first sexual intercourse experience with a prostitute, whereas those in their 20s tended to have their first encounters with a girlfriend. (End of comment by R. T. Francoeur)]

[Soaplands

[Comment 1997: It is still quietly accepted and understood that a Japanese husband may join business associates or friends for a visit to a “Soapland” red-light district. The “Soapland” districts in Japanese cities are not an ordinary European or American red-light district. Like the fantasy land of the “love hotels” which provide much-needed romantic privacy for young couples living with parents or with their children in tiny living quarters with no privacy, a “Soapland,” like Kobe’s venerable Fukuhara district,

leaves nothing to be desired in terms of local color, and works up a merry throng on Saturday nights (the streets are nearly deserted on weekday nights). In Fukuhara’s unimaginably gaudy streets, the predominant bordello architecture would put even the most fanciful love hotels to shame. The usual shoguns’ castles are dwarfed by edifices with stucco baroque façades arrayed with colorful son et lumière, and the odd rickety little old Japanese brothel is eclipsed by adjacent chrome-and-smoked glass pleasure domes and sci-fantasy ferroconcrete extravaganzas from some Babylonian lunatic fringe. Here and there touts in proper yakuza uniform lounge in front of the doorways, all short-cropped frizzy hair and neon lights winking kaleidoscopically in their dark glasses. Otherwise pandering seems undertaken entirely by the descendants of the old yarite, aging women sitting on chairs and hailing passers-by.
            Fukuhara’s Soapland foyer interiors have to be seen to be believed. Sprayed fluorescent pink, statuary modeled after Botticelli’s Venus rising from the waves stand blushing outlandishly beneath a red roof evoking a Shinto shrine; traditional Japanese cranes in chromium wing their way across a back lit diorama of the Château de Chenonceaux. . . . In the interests of mandatory discretion, the showy façades completely conceal the executrixes within. Upon crossing the threshold, it becomes apparent that Soapland ladies join the employees of cabarets and pink salons in a great variety of fancy dress: old-time courtesans in florid kimono, nurses, airline flight attendants, bunny girls, Suzy Wongs in high-necked mini cheongsams slit up the sides, SM leather goddesses and Buddhist and Catholic nuns (Bornoff 1991, 271, 263-264)

[The leisurely ritual of a Soapland visit, as described by Bornoff, starts with a ceremonial undressing, followed by a relaxing sudsy sponge bath and gentle massage, a rinse, and a lather dance (awa-odori) or body-body massage in which the Toruko-jo (female) or Sopu-reedi (Soap-Lady) massages every part of her client’s body with every part of her body on a king-size inflated rubber mattress. Another rinse and a skillful shakuhachi, in which the Soap-Lady displays her charms, lead into an artistic performance of sexual arousal that culminates in intercourse. All this occurs with a curious single-minded determination and absolutely no pretense of emotional involvement.

[The old-style, leisurely coital sex play with geishas and Soap Ladies, however, is declining in favor of quick, cheaper (and hence, more frequently affordable) masturbation, oral sex, and voyeurism. The equivalents of “fast food,” noncoital sexual release for males now account for nearly half of the commercial sex trade. Herusu massagi and fashon massagi, health and fashion massage, are increasing in popularity. Independent women work in the videogame halls, discos, date coffee shops (deeto kissa), mobile van services (Pinkku Shiataru), lovers’ banks (telephone date clubs), nude photo studios (popular in the 1970s and in decline since), or wait for calls responding to the pink leaflets (pinkku bira) they post in appropriate public places or drop in private mail boxes (see Section 8D, Significant Unconventional Sexual Behaviors, Prostitution, in the chapter on the United Kingdom for a British parallel to pinkku bira). One factor in this shift is the high-pressure life and lack of leisure in the male business world; most white-collar workers (salarymen) do not have a lot of leisure time or spare money to spend on the traditional commercial sex. Another factor, of course, is a recent growing awareness and concern about AIDS (Bornoff 1991, 282-300).

[According to a 1981 survey, younger prostitutes remained in the trade for three to four years; another small survey of sex workers in the Senzoku-Yoshiwara area in 1988 showed the average age was 26 and careers lasting about 16 months. In the 1986 survey conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office, nearly 10% were housewives, another 10% office employees, and 4% students. More than half cited “making a living” as the motivation, 14% were doing it “for the sake of the family,” 11% were doing it to pay off debts, while others cited money for clothes, travel, and leisure (Bornoff 1991, 273, 334). (End of comment by R. T. Francoeur)]

C. Pornography and Erotica

Arguments over the definition of pornography in Japan tend to converge on the issue of what is obscene. The Japanese courts define obscenity as that which “excites or stimulates sexual desire to no purpose, causes harm to a normal person’s sense of sexual shame, or goes contrary to a good sense of sexual morality.” However, it would be reasonable to say that an interpretation of this correlates with social and cultural changes of the times. In fact, when D. H. Lawrence’s novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, was translated into Japanese and published in 1957, it was deemed obscene and banned. Now, in 1996, the same fully translated book is published without problem. In addition, until just a few years ago, photogravures of nude models in which the pubic hair can be seen were never printed in magazines. Now, however, seeing the pubic hair of nude models in Japan’s weekly magazines that target adult readers is no longer a novelty.

When discussing pornography in the context of Japanese culture, one cannot leave out the shunga genre of the Edo period (1603-1867). Shunga is an art form that enjoyed high regard among the people of its time, but at the same time was kept secret. That is telling of the great artistic impact shunga had on society and, consequently, the ambivalent state of people’s sense of shame, which was attacked by this shocking art form. Even Japanese today are most likely divided in their opinions of whether or not shunga is pornographic or obscene.

Turning our attention to modern times, Japanese who live in the big cities frequently come across shops that specialize in “adult goods,” similar to what one might see in Europe or America. These adult shops house rows and rows of magazines and videos for the purpose of showing explicit sexual activity, although the sexual organs have been painted black or obscured. The reality is that even a junior high school student, albeit one big for his age, could enter such a store and make a purchase. Thus, one could say that Japan is completely open to pornography.

Japanese are often described as ambiguous, neither black nor white, but in a nebulous state of indecisive gray. They do not denounce the adult stores nor do they speak of them in good terms. They merely let the situation stand in a state of ambiguity. Once a year or once every few years, the police crack down on these stores, at which time the media raises a fuss over the issue for a short time, and then once again the problem is forgotten.

Recently, some mothers’ and women’s groups began a campaign to banish pornography from the viewpoint that it is degrading to women. How to effect a change in the male consciousness in order for such grassroots activities to take root is now a major topic, albeit one which is only being discussed among women.

Sexually Violent Fantasies in Comic Books

A contribution to a local newspaper in the summer of 1990 complaining that the contents of comic books had become grossly obscene sparked debate between freedom of expression in Japanese comic books and the negative influence these magazines have on young people. This debate has grown into a major social issue. It is certainly true that a great many scenes in the comic books read by young boys and girls would trouble sensible adults. It should be noted that the authors or publishers of these comics have exercised self-imposed control concerning sexually explicit matter. However, there has been apparently no control from either party in limiting scenes containing violence.

This tolerance of violence is because of the norms of Japan’s male-dominated society and to its long history in which violence was condoned as a symbol of manliness. As a result, the sexual content of comic books aimed at young people has been curbed, whereas the authors and publishers have been given free rein in depicting violence (Bornoff 1991, 69-71). The past few years, however, have seen an active increase in movements, spurred on largely by women’s groups, to denounce sexual violence in the media. As a result, major enterprises, publishers, and television stations have revised their presentations of sexual violence. However, there are always people, in any society, eager to make a profit through work in the underground. It is an undeniable fact that comic books depicting sexual violence can be found in Japan today. Now, many people are crying out that urgent attention be given to sex education, in order to confront the sexism, gender bias, and sexual depravity found in such people as the authors and editors of these comic books. (Editors’ Note: See also the following two sections on “Ladies Comic Books” and Perper and Cornog’s discussion of Sex, Love, and Women in Japanese Comics.)

[“Ladies Comic Books”

[Comment 1997: One type of popular Japanese erotic comics (ero-manga) is the “ladies comic books” that seem to glorify sexual violence and rape. These are not a tiny fringe phenomenon—Amour, the leading such comic, has been published for six years and claims a sales circulation of 400,000. Amour, Taboo, Cute, Scandal, Love, and other similar ero-manga have a greater impact than their substantial sales would indicate because copies are often passed around among friends. Even so, these magazines are also not standard fare for the average Japanese woman.

[The paradox of these “ladies comic books” lies in the fact that, although their readers are overwhelmingly women mostly in their 20s and 30s, the cartoon stories glorify sexually passive women, sexual violence, and rape. Ninety of the 316 pages in the December 1995 issue of Amour, for example, contained rape scenes. Despite the growing independence of Japanese women, these comics portray passive women being brutalized rather than assertive women who control their own lives. When interviewed by a New York Times reporter, Masafumi Mizuno, editor of Amour, admitted that “Sometimes we carry stories where the woman takes the initiative, and those kinds of stories have their fans. But most readers seem to prefer when the women are in a passive position.” Mariko Mitsui, a former politician and active feminist, finds it puzzling that many young Japanese women really do not want to be liberated. “They want to escape independence, and so for them to be raped seems better” than negotiating their own sexual encounters.

[Another popular comics theme, particularly in those aimed at teenage girls, deals with romances between gay men. These are less graphic and more sentimental than stories of heterosexual romances. They are also erotically engaging without being personally threatening for teenagers who are just discovering their sexuality (Kristof 1995). (End of comment by R. T. Francoeur; see a detailed account of manga comics in the following section.)]

[D. Sex, Love, and Women in Japanese Comics

TIMOTHY PERPER and MARTHA CORNOG

[Note from the CCIES Website Editor: The following excerpt from the Japan chapter was written by CCIES Associate Editors Timothy Perper, Ph.D., and Martha Cornog, M.A., M.S. It was posted early for readers of this Encyclopedia interested in Japanese popular culture, particularly cartooning (manga and anime), and in how women and sexuality are portrayed in those media. It is also important because of the widespread popularity of manga and its sexual imagery in the United States and the need for further research in this area. Readers may communicate with the authors at perpcorn@dca.net.]

[Comment 2003: In this comment, we address the sexual content of modern Japanese comics (illustrated books), an art form known as manga (“manga” rhymes with “conga”). Manga represent a non-Western, non-Christian, often quite erotic art form widely read in Japan and increasingly popular in the United States. Manga are very different from the Western comic book because they are deeply rooted in the Buddhist and Shinto belief systems, and antagonistic to the Neo-Confucian patriarchal social structure, which few non-Japanese readers and analysts understand or appreciate. Hence, Hatano and Shimazaki’s descriptions of Basic Sexological Premises (Gender roles, Sociological status of males and females, and General concepts of sex and love) in Section 1 of this chapter and their reflections on religious and ethnic factors affecting Japanese sexuality in Section 2 are vital to our comments on manga (Perper & Cornog 2002).

[Manga are unfamiliar to many (especially older) non-Japanese readers, and the English-language scholarly literature about it is small (exceptions include Schodt 1986, 1996; Shigematsu 1999; Shiokawa 1999; and a recent monograph of our own, Perper & Cornog 2002). Yet in Japan, manga are read by millions of people of all ages and represent some 30% to 40% of Japan’s total yearly print output (Schodt 1996). Translated manga comprise the fastest-growing component of comics marketed in the U.S. (Boyd 2001). However, U.S. media coverage quite typically misrepresents the content and meanings of manga. For example, the dictionary in the word processing program we are using defines manga as “a Japanese style of comic book or animated cartoons, often very violent or erotic” (Encarta 1999). This sort of description is also widespread in newspaper articles (Kristof 1995; Rutenberg 2001), but is nonetheless very wide of the mark. We believe that readers must understand sexuality in manga in its own terms rather than as reflected through fundamentally inaccurate media reporting.

[But far more is involved than simply correcting media misrepresentations. Manga derives from Japanese aesthetic and erotological traditions, and both are very different from what Westerners may believe is universal about sexuality.

[The Japanese Cultural Background of Manga

[Aesthetic Traditions. Japan has at least an 800-year-old tradition of “serial art”—stories told in sequences of pictures (Schodt 1986). Early examples were drawn on scrolls, and include illustrated romances (emonogatari) and illustrated versions of the Tale of Genji (originally written approximately a thousand years ago by Lady Murasaki Shikibu; Hirota 1997). These graphic traditions flourished throughout Japanese history, culminating perhaps during the Tokugawa Shogunate (1600-1868) in the polychrome woodblock prints of Hokusai, Hiroshige, and Kuniyoshi. As a genre, these include prints of cities, markets, and landscapes, as well as pictures of the “floating world” (ukiyo-e) and its courtesans, performers, and everyday dramas (Lane 1999). Notable also are sexually explicit shunga prints, which achieved mastery of art and eros rarely if ever seen in Western art (Fagioli 1998; Kronhausen & Kronhausen 1978, Vol. 1, pp. 260-312; Vol. 2, pp. 211-270). Iconographies of female beauty emerged, for example, in the work of Utamaro and Harunobu, in which female loveliness is irresistibly compelling, not merely sexy or pretty, but transcendent (Hájek n.d.; Kobayashi 1993; Kondo 1956).

[With the opening of Japan to widespread Western influences in the late 1800s, Japanese artists drew on Western graphic traditions to reshape Japanese art, but these developments were truncated—or even aborted—by the rise of nationalist, militarist, and imperialist power in Japan. With the end of World War II in 1945, Japan rebuilt its state institutions, including virtually complete prohibition of censorship. These factors interacted with the need for public entertainment in the desperate years after the war and with the introduction of Western comics and cartoons into Japan, processes that collectively set the stage for a rebirth of Japanese popular art. One result was the emergence of an ever-increasingly diverse art form today called “manga” (for a tabular view of this history, see Manga 1999, pp. 158-159).

[Manga can be classified by market niche: shojo manga for girls, shonen manga for boys, seinen manga for young adult men, including erotica for male readers, and redi komi or redisu, romantic/erotic manga drawn by women for adult women readers. Each has its own styles, audiences, and popular magazines. Many manga for adults—and not a few for adolescents and young adults—deal explicitly with sexuality (Dixon & Dixon 1999; Perper & Cornog 2002; Schodt 1986; Smith 1991). In fact, many manga have sexual content, even if not explicit.

[Erotological Traditions. Japan has long held beliefs about sexuality and about women that will seem startlingly liberal to Westerners. These combine with Japanese artistic traditions to yield some of the finest erotic art being produced in the modern world. Of particular interest are the roots of manga in Japanese erotological and religious traditions.

[Yet it is here that Western, particularly American, readers will have the most trouble. To Americans, sexually explicit depictions fall into either of two—and only two—categories: clinical material or pornography. Clinical material is marked by its emotional detachment, and pornography by its focus on producing sexual arousal. Neither is notable for artistry nor for sensitivity to the array of emotions and social contexts that swirl around sexuality. Indeed, Western pornography excels in decontextualizing sexuality in images of interpenetrating genitals and concupiscent intermingling. For some Americans, such images are unsavory, exploitative, or downright dangerous to individuals and families. To others, they are enjoyable and exciting, partly because the loss of context offers an escape from the sex-negative norms of everyday life. Within these Western social and historical frames for sexuality, it can be difficult—very difficult—even to imagine that a sexually explicit art could exist that does not decontextualize, exploit, or escape from everyday reality.

[One result is of considerable importance for understanding how manga (and Japanese animated video films) with erotic content have been received in the United States. Erotic manga is most often presented in the media, by marketers, and on the Internet as “hentai,” a Japanese word meaning “perversion,” but which has become a catchall word for anything sexually explicit from Japan. The outcome can be strange—for example, Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s 1992 animated film Wicked City has been called hentai even though its basic premise and narrative are religious redemption and motherhood. However, to the American eye, redemption cannot coexist with sexually explicit depictions, and, by default, such images are sluiced into the categories of pornography.

[Yet, Japan is in fact very different from the West. Because the main Japanese islands were never successfully occupied by invaders until the end of World War II, Japanese society retains complex and continuous connections with its ancient historical origins in agrarian life. Japan’s native religion—Shinto—centers on nature and its immediate connections to human existence, mediated through a multiple pantheon of spirits, divinities, and supernatural beings collectively called kami. Nor does Shinto or the many forms of Japanese Buddhism have the notion of original sin. Neither religion has a single Deity who acts as Law-Giver and Eternal Judge of human wrongdoing. Japan lacks—and has lacked throughout its history—an organized, hierarchical, and centralized church for which sexuality is thought to be a sure path to damnation. In many ways, modern Japan retains—and aestheticizes—an open “peasant frankness about things sexual” (Adler & Wolf 2000, 227, 469, 569). This is not to say that Japan is a peasant society—it is nothing of the sort. Instead, Japan is the only major industrialized nation that has not demonized sexuality under the rubrics of sin, danger, and pollution.

[Japanese sexual traditions and customs have origins in native Shinto beliefs and in Chinese Taoism, which both consider sexuality a positive moral and medical good for men and especially for women. Examples range from the Taoist-derived erotology of the Ishimpo, dating from the late 900s C.E. (Levy & Ishihara 1989), to Dr. Sha Kokken’s 1960 illustrated sex manual Seiseikatsu no Chie [Hints for Sex Life], which sold millions of copies (Sha 1964). These traditions are alive and well in manga, particularly in redi komi or redisu, sexually explicit manga drawn by women artists for women readers.

[Women’s Place in Society. American readers unfamiliar with the complexities of Japanese society tend to think that Japanese women are oppressed, repressed, and disempowered by long-entrenched patriarchal rule. This is the image of the timid and submissive Japanese woman tip-toeing with eyes downcast behind her husband. But like all media- and movie-derived clichés about Japan, this view is profoundly oversimplified, if not downright inaccurate when viewed within Japanese social and historical traditions (McClain 2002, 93-98).

[The Shinto pantheon includes powerful female kami, like the sun goddess Amaterasu Omekami, whose shrine at Ise is among the most beautiful in Japan. In legend, Amaterasu is the foremother not only of the Imperial line, but of the Japanese people themselves. Likewise, Japan’s animist traditions have powerful priestesses and shamanesses (Ellwood & Pilgrim 1992, 50-51, 56-58, 72-73, 90). Images of female supernatural and spiritual power appear repeatedly in manga and will be incomprehensible if the reader insists on seeing Japan through Western stereotypes of the subordination of Japanese women.

[Likewise, women’s literacy. Japanese is written in two native syllabaries—hiragana and katakana—plus characters called kanji borrowed from written Chinese. From the 9th century onward, hiragana was used by women and was called onna-de—“woman’s hand” (Japan 1999, 619). Women’s literacy was initially the possession of a courtly class, like the Heian-era women writers, Lady Murasaki Shikibu and Sei Shonagon. But as urban merchant classes developed during the Tokugawa period, women’s literacy increasingly became the norm, not merely because women worked in shops with their families (the wife or daughter who keeps books and accounts must be literate), but also because women read novels (Beasley 1999, 179). From the mid-1600s on, shrine and village schools began to proliferate, and McClain (2002, 84) shows a contemporary woodblock print of two women teachers instructing a class of children in calligraphy. One little fellow is busily poking his brush into a friend’s nose, but another is studiously practicing hiragana while the teacher guides his hand. By 1907, the percentage of girls entering school had reached 96% (Kaneko 1995).

[Another factor conducive to gender equality was the development of agrarian small land holdings during Tokugawa Japan and later, in which members of a nuclear family farmed a small plot of land (Smith 1959; on p. 103, a Tokugawa-era print shows two men and a woman working next to each other threshing wheat). In these forms of family labor, men and women worked together in the fields, for example, planting and harvesting rice. The direct involvement of women in farm production seems to have left a powerful egalitarian imprint on gender relations: Planting rice may be back-breaking work, but in a nuclear farming family, the collaborative labor of both women and men was essential for survival. Hayao Miyazaki’s beautiful and evocative 1993 animated film, My Neighbor Totoro, contains a number of segments showing the essential role—and great importance—of women in farm life as recently as the 1950s, the decade of the film’s setting.

[These agrarian traditions are associated with sexual customs. Anthropologist John Embree described open sexual joking and flirtation in village life (1939/1995), and the 1999 Kodansha Japanese encyclopedia notes that “night visiting” and multiple liaisons long continued in the provinces (Embree 1939/1995, 193-194; Japan 1999, 413). In some areas, such as fishing villages in Western Japan, it remained customary for teenage boys and girls to sleep in communal lodges until the young people paired up and married (a custom called neyado; Yoshizumi 1995, 191, 197). It follows that traditions of open sexual expression were not merely the prerogatives of a “promiscuous” Heian nobility of a thousand years ago—as Morris (1964/1994, Ch. 8, e.g., pp. 225-228) seems to suggest—but have survived as living traditions in Japanese agrarian culture.

[These traditions remained alive as the three great urban centers of Japan developed—Kyoto, Osaka, and Edo (later renamed Tokyo). Ukiyo-e and shunga prints document not only a widespread urban acceptance of sexuality, but also an aesthetic principle that still reigns in manga: Women embody a variety of physical, emotional, and spiritual beauties and powers cohering in one person.

[Against these erotophilic and female-positive social forces have been arrayed a set of beliefs in male superiority and attempts to limit sexual activity. These broadly center on Neo-Confucianism. Neo-Confucianism was not a populist or grassroots movement, but was adopted by the upper and ruling classes, especially during the Tokugawa Shogunate, as providing a warrior- and duty-centered social system for the shogun and his high-ranking samurai retainers (Beasley 1999, 173; Hall 1968/1991, 181-185). From this vantage point of power, its adherents sought to impose Neo-Confucian doctrines top-down on Japanese society. The late 18th-century Neo-Confucianist ideologue Hosoi Heishu wrote, “When she is young, a girl must obey her parents. When she is married, she must obey her husband. When she grows old, she must obey her sons” (McClain 2002, 95). This social and political philosophy centers on obedience to one’s superiors and ultimately to imperial power: The woman owes obedience to father-as-emperor within the family and to husband-as-emperor within a marriage.

[Neo-Confucianism and its underlying principles of male superiority and erotophobia had effects outlasting the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1868. Its tenets remained central to the militarist, nationalist, and imperialist policies that emerged in Japan of the 1930s. Kimura and Yamana (1999) trace the effects on women’s rights, which declined for upper-class (noble) women during the Tokugawa period, then declined in general during the period of Meiji constitutionalism and later militarism, but rose sharply after World War II (see also Yoshizumi 1995). But even so, Westerners living in Japan before and during World War II stress the power and importance of women in local Japanese society, for example, in the village (Maraini 1959, 143, 260).

[It appears that Neo-Confucianist ideology was contested throughout its history and was never fully assimilated throughout Japanese society. Today, Japanese feminist writers stress the need to eradicate the last vestiges of Confucianist patriarchalism (Sodei 1995, 216). But despite these vestiges, and despite the misogyny of some Japanese social circles, modern Japan seems much more similar to its pre-militarist traditions about women and sex than to anything that would please the Neo-Confucianist.

[A number of factors, therefore, combine to create a distinctively non-Western view of sexuality in Japan. These include medical and intellectual traditions that consider sexuality a positive good, religious beliefs that bring people into close conjunction with nature and its fruitional capacities, farming traditions that treat sexuality as normal and natural, and, in the cities, urban traditions of entertainment, theater, and the arts that bring sexuality and female beauty to the forefront. Equally important is the absence of religious erotophobia, in particular, the notion familiar to Westerners that sexuality is sinful in all but a very few contexts. Likewise, the failure of Neo-Confucianism to seize the popular mind and, later, the defeat of the militarists in World War II, reopened Japanese traditions of erotophilia and the view that sexuality is a positive good. Combine all these with traditions of sexually explicit art, and the erotic content of manga seems inevitable and unsurprising.

[The Sexual Content of Manga

[Not all manga are sexually explicit, but most manga we have seen contain material of considerable sexological interest. Sexual representations range from lighthearted love comedy and satire to very serious dramatic fiction, and include virtually all forms of sexuality—romance, flirtation, kissing, courtship, sexual intercourse, oral sex, female and male homosexuality, sadomasochism, prostitution, orgies, transvestitism, hermaphroditism, incest, bestiality, voyeurism, and rape. Throughout these representations, sexuality in its many forms is contextualized by character, plot, and setting, so that it is not isolated from social and psychological meanings contained in the narrative. The result is an extraordinary diversity of content, emotional tone, and drawing styles in manga with sexual content.

[The discussion below is summarized from a monograph (Perper & Cornog 2002) in which we described the erotic content of manga translated into English and commercially available in the U.S. from 1999 to the present, supplemented by a smaller sample of untranslated manga available in Japanese-language bookstores. Readers interested in the details of the sample, together with a complete list of translated manga surveyed, are directed to the original paper. In the descriptions below, publishers are given in parentheses, and manga are categorized according to how important sexuality is to the narrative. The categories we use overlap more or less, and the reader should not take these categories as a rigid taxonomy. The range of depictions is considerable, from manga without any hint of sexual intercourse to stories that focus primarily on sex.

  • [Category 1:  No sexual intercourse.

Sexual intercourse is neither depicted nor implied. Other content of considerable sexological interest may occur, such as transvestitism or intense emotional depictions of adolescent or adult romance. Occasionally, partial or incidental nudity may occur, but is not the focus of the story. By definition, rape does not occur in this category. (Perper & Cornog 2002, 102)

[Included here are manga for boys (shonen manga) and for girls (shojo manga), plus a variety of specialized manga, e.g., about mah jongg or boxing (Schodt 1996) or about firefighters in modern Tokyo (Masahito Soda’s Firefighter! Daigo of Fire Company M, Viz Communications). But also included here are stories about adolescent and young adult romance that deal humorously or seriously with sexuality and its meanings.

[One subgenre is the love comedy, like Rumiko Takahashi’s Lum*Urusei Yatsura and The Return of Lum*Urusei Yatsura (Viz) and Ken Akamatsu’s Love Hina (Tokyopop/Mixx). These stories typically focus   on the endless vicissitudes of the protagonists’ affections, usually presented as comedies of miscommunication and confused lust. Lum is a very pretty 16-year-old alien princess with a volatile temper and a tiger-striped bikini and matching boots, who comes to Earth as part of an alien invasion. When the invasion fails, she immediately finds herself an Earth boyfriend, Ataru Moroboshi, with whom she lives in his parents’ house (Lum and Ataru also attend the same high school). Ataru’s gaze and hands are constantly wandering towards other girls, and Lum is equally constantly zapping him with electric rays or throwing things at him.

[In Love Hina, the male protagonist, Keitaro, has failed his college entrance examinations and is at loose ends until he inherits a boarding house from his grandmother. It turns out to be a girls’ dormitory, and although Keitaro never deliberately makes advances on the young women, he continuously finds himself in compromising positions, like wandering by mistake into the women’s side of the hot springs. In another episode, the young women—none of whom have boyfriends—are talking about kissing, and mischievously start kissing each other. But they are all very quick to retaliate against Keitaro if he overstrays the boundaries of propriety.

[Stories like these have a comic, even satiric, view of adolescent sexuality and its emerging emotions, embodied desires, and virtually complete lack of social skills. These narratives are comic because they often exaggerate the silliness of adolescence and because they drive the plot to deliberately absurd conclusions. But underlying the silliness is what can be called “selective realism.” If the story never explains who feeds these always-hungry adolescents or who pays the rent, it never veers far from the deeper experience of adolescence as a period of genuine uncertainty about sexuality. Below the comedy, an adult reader will sense the fumbling confusion and mixed-up embarrassments of coming of age. Such plots caricature and displace adult sexuality onto the safer and less serious venue of adolescence.

[In another subgenre of young romance manga, feelings of anxiety, alienation, and disorientation come to the forefront. Miwa Ueda’s Peach Girl, Fuyumi Soryo’s Mars (both Tokyopop/Mixx), and Tomoko Taniguchi’s Aquarium (CPM Manga) are far from amusing—indeed, they are quite compelling dramas. In depicting loss and anxiety, these narratives center on worlds in which girls bully each other, sometimes viciously, in which boys are never really trustworthy emotionally or sexually, and in which a girl’s self-mutilation is not at all impossible (in Aquarium and in Mohiro Kito’s Shadow Star, from Dark Horse Comics).

[Other examples include shojo manga such as Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon and Clamp’s Cardcaptor Sakura (Clamp is a group of four women artists from Osaka; both from Mixx). Both have heroines with superpowers, and both are immensely popular as manga and as animated videos. Ten-year-old Sakura has obtained her superpowers from a set of magical cards. But together with coming to peace with her magic, she must sort out her feelings for two boys who like her, and a young man, Yuki, who makes her feel “all floaty,” a good description of Sakura’s growing recognition that perhaps she loves Yuki and perhaps might someday marry him.

[In these stories and others like them, the absence of overt sexuality underscores not a world of asexual children or adolescents, but the reality that genuine sexual involvement is yet ahead of them. These narratives show young people who are still trying to organize and make sense of their sexual feelings, a task made harder because they may not even recognize that their feelings are sexual.

[Also of considerable interest are depictions of gender fluidity, including a variety of male-female interconversions. Rumiko Takahashi’s Ranma 1/2 (Viz) and Hiroshi Aro’s Futaba-kun Change (Studio Ironcat) portray the mix-ups and confusions that attend the magical and repeated transformation of the protagonists, Ranma and Futaba, from male into female and then back. Because these are comedies, transformations always occur at maximally embarrassing moments—for example, when Ranma-female or Futaba-female morph into their male forms in the ladies’ bathroom, or when Futaba, now in female form, discovers that “she” is menstruating.

[Transvestitism also occurs in manga. Early examples include Osamu Tezuka’s Princess Knight (from the 1950s and 1960s; Schodt 1986, 95-96, Fig. 114) and Riyuko Ikeda’s Rose of Versailles (1972-1974), whose apparently male “hero,” Captain Oscar Franois de Jarjayes of Marie Antoinette’s palace guards, is actually a woman (Schodt 1986, 215). Cardcaptor Sakura contains a charming example, when Sakura gets to play the Prince in a school performance of “Sleeping Beauty” wearing an elegant doublet, cape, high boots, plumed hat, and sword.

[In Masukazu Katsura’s Shadow Lady (Dark Horse), the 17-year-old heroine, Aimi Komori, has an alter ego, the supersexy and superpowered cat burglar Shadow Lady. In one episode, the all-male Anti-Shadow Lady Squad of the police force wears wigs and dresses in an attempt to capture her in a department store late one night. But she is vastly amused by the hairy legs and distinctly unfeminine figures of the “female” mannequins that surround her in the cosmetics section. So she strips to her underwear and gleefully flaunts her real femaleness before the frustrated men, who of course cannot capture her.

[Junko Mizuno’s Cinderalla (from Viz; note spelling) is a satiric noir retelling of the classic fairytale, where Cinderalla’s father operates a bizarre yakitori restaurant (yakitori being a kind of skewered chicken dish). He dies but returns as a bright-green zombie with a new zombie wife and her zombie daughters, one of whom complains (or boasts) that she never wears a bra because her breasts are too large. Cinderalla tries to cope by making bras for her new stepsister, and yakitori sauce for the restaurant (from spider eggs and rice wine). But then she falls in love with a zombie idol singer named The Prince. A helpful fairy disguises Cinderalla as a zombie—very pretty, and also bright green with flesh coming off in green blobs. Thus transformed, Cinderalla attends a concert by The Prince, who falls in love with her. As dawn comes, Cinderalla runs away, losing not a slipper but an eyeball. The Prince mounts a search for the eyeball’s beautiful owner, and eventually The Prince and Cinderalla are united, with The Prince now singing at the restaurant. The characters are all very cute—in Japanese, kawaii—but overall, the story is an acid satire of the pretensions of love and family.

[Although sexual interactions are not depicted explicitly in these stories, sexuality is always present in one form or another. Rather than artificially desexualizing life, these stories see sexuality as intrinsic to human existence, sometimes funny, sometimes dangerous, but never to be denied.

  • [Category 2:  Sexuality is an on-going presence, but is as yet not explicit.

Sexual intercourse among the main characters is not depicted explicitly but may be mentioned or joked about. Other sexual dynamics may occur in on-going manner, either jokingly or seriously. Rape may occur. (Perper & Cornog 2002, 102)

[This category blends into the first, but typically the protagonists are older or are more deeply involved with their social settings. A good example is Katsuhiro Otomo’s six-volume manga, Akira (Dark Horse), which became famous as an animated film. It is an extremely complex story about a post-apocalyptic world in which mutant telepathic and telekinetic children vie with neo-imperialists for the control of a war-devastated Tokyo. The imperial soldiers—little more than teenage thugs—wander through the wreckage, raping and pillaging in desperate drug- and power-induced hallucinations. For the antihero, Tetsuo, the only solace is his sexual liaison with a young woman, but not even sex is an anodyne for the catastrophic destruction of society.

[Yukito Kishiro’s nine-volume masterpiece, Battle Angel Alita (Viz), is likewise set in a post-apocalyptic future city, called Scrapyard. Here too rapists abound, as do piles of junk and trash, dysfunctional cyborgs, insane cybersurgeons, and a deadly game of rebellion and war with a ruling class that lives in the floating city of Tiphares. Alita herself is a cyborg warrior, discovered by cybersurgeon Doc Ito as a half-destroyed body in a junk heap. The story traces Alita’s path of self-discovery from her early love for Hugo, a human who is killed trying to reach Tiphares, to an end in which Alita becomes a bodhisattva-like savior of the world.

[Like Akira, Battle Angel Alita centers on a world that has collapsed into chaos, in which personal epiphanies through sexuality or drugs cannot repair the damage. Battle Angel Alita deals with karma, in the sense of a sequence of events set into ineluctable motion as the past reverberates into the future. The almost off-handed presence of sexual themes creates a sense of adult realism in these stories that transcends noir fantasy.

[Clamp’s Clover (Mixx) is among the most beautiful manga ever drawn. It is apparently unfinished, but centers on Suu, a young woman with immense telekinetic powers, and a soldier, Kazuhiko, who is commissioned by a military council of wizards to bring Suu to an amusement park. Unbeknownst to Kazuhiko, Suu is apparently trying to find a beautiful young singer named Ora, who had been Kazuhiko’s lover before she died. We do not find out if Suu’s quest succeeds, but the depiction of Ora and Kazuhiko is among the masterpieces of erotic art, not for being explicit (it is not), but for its evocation of intense erotic love. Here too, sexuality is woven into the fabric of life.

[Likewise, Hiroyuki Utatane’s Seraphic Feather (Dark Horse) is a masterpiece of drawing and design. It is set in a city being built on the moon, where a wrecked alien starship has been discovered. The protagonists are Sunao Oumi, a fretful young man, and Kei Heidemann, a virginally lovely girl whom Sunao rescues from a terrorist bomb explosion in the spaceport. Their growing love arises from Kei’s mysteriously forgotten childhood friendship with Sunao, and is set amidst corrupt corporations and politicians, assassins, plus strange alien robots and their ambitious master, Kei’s brother-in-law, Apep.

[But Utatane’s crowning achievement in Seraphic Feather is United Nations Special Investigator Attim M-Zak. She has the augmented powers of body and mind of an “Angel Class” agent, and is simultaneously erotic, beautiful, proud, and inwardly melancholy. Her sexuality glows through her every action, not as consummated sexual intercourse, but as a source of her power and pride.

[Certain themes link Shadow Lady, Alita, Ora, and Attim M-Zak together. Their openly powerful sexuality does not weaken them nor make them the helpless playthings of men. None is submissive, and none is passive. Neither does their femaleness make them second-best copies of men—for example, female characters who imitate male superheroes. Instead, in these depictions, femaleness is a self-complete state of being. These women do not need or want men to guide them or rule over them. Attim and her heroine sisters act for themselves, and therein we sense not merely resistance to Neo-Confucianist themes of women’s subordination, but their final demise.

  • [Category 3:  Sexuality is increasingly important and explicit.

Sexual intercourse is explicitly depicted or clearly implied in the drawings. Other sexual activities, including rape, may also occur. All are significant to the story, but are not its central focus. (Perper & Cornog 2002, 102)

[Once again, the range and diversity of narrative is striking. Naoki Yamamoto’s Dance Till Tomorrow (Viz) is an ironic view of an alienated generation of slackers, yakuza gangsters, relatives scheming over an inheritance, and a woman hired to seduce the presumptive heir, all admixed with dry humor, explicit sex, and a crazed roster of characters. By contrast, Hideo Yamamoto’s Voyeur and Voyeurs, Inc. (both Viz) are grimly realistic depictions of a firm of young private detectives. In the first major episode of Voyeurs, Inc., they are hired to spy on a high-school girl who, it turns out, is running a prostitute ring starring the services of her classmates. (The story is based loosely on real-life high-school prostitution that began, it is said, in Tokyo’s Shibuya High School; Kimura & Yamana 1999, 75-87.) Matters are much worsened when they discover that her father wants to seduce her. Paradise Kiss, by Ai Yazawa (Tokyopop/Mixx), is a stylish and elegant story about high-school senior, Yukari, her decision to become a fashion model, and her love affair with George, a young fashion designer at the Paradise Kiss boutique. Yukari has never even dated a boy, let alone kissed one, when she decides that she will sleep with George—and she does.

[Historical manga like Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima’s Lone Wolf and Cub (Dark Horse), Sanpei Shirato’s The Legend of Kamui (Viz), and Takehiko Inoue’s Vagabond (Viz) likewise incorporate sexuality into their narratives. Sometimes as rape, sometimes as consensual intercourse, sexuality cannot be avoided in the kind of aesthetic realism sought by these artists.

[But the significance of sexuality is not limited to satire or to aesthetic realism. Picaresque fantasies, like Johji Manabe’s Outlanders and Drakuun (both Dark Horse), portray sexually enthusiastic heroines, for example, sword-swinging Princess Kerula with her lover Dard in Drakuun. When Kerula assassinates Emperor Gustav, she starts a major war between the Empire and her homeland, the tiny kingdom of Ledomiam. In the last published episode, a now-pregnant Kerula and Dard, Kerula’s sister, Rosalia, and her rifle-toting female lover, Rua, plus a crew of other malcontents, are about to invade the Empire in an effort to topple Gustav’s evil successor. In Outlanders, Princess Kahm is the daughter of the Galactic Emperor, which does not stop her from finding, bedding, and marrying a young Earthman named Tetsuya. In the end, her Imperial father kidnaps her, causes her to forget Tetsuya with a magical spell, and then orders her to kill him. But her memories return. She turns on her father in fury and kills him, not her husband, as the imperial world collapses into flaming debris. It is hard to imagine narratives better designed for subverting Neo-Confucianist ideologies of women’s obedience to father and emperor.

[Rumiko Takahashi’s masterpiece, Maison Ikkoku (Viz), is a 14-volume study of love, sex, and marriage in modern Japan. Like novelist Jane Austen, Takahashi depicts her characters in finely wrought detail, from Kyoko Otonashi’s blinding grief at her husband’s death after only six months of marriage, to her suspicious doubts about Yusaku Godai’s motivations and protestations of love, and finally to her admission to herself and him that she returns his love. In parallel, Takahashi explicates the intricacies of an arranged marriage between Asuna Kujo, the daughter of a high-ranking and fabulously wealthy family, and Shun Mitaka, a young tennis coach from an equally wealthy family, who also loves Kyoko. For Kyoko and Yusaku, and for Asuna and Shun, the denouement centers on love and sexuality played out through complex machinations of family and class.

[Shun is skillfully maneuvered into marrying Asuna by both their families, who hold dynastic interests above everything else, and by Asuna herself. Asuna makes her marital intentions very clear—she arrives at his apartment one night ready to sleep with him. Although he is too drunk to respond sexually to her or to remember what happened, and she soon leaves, he certainly understands what it means that she has left breakfast for him in his refrigerator. In delicate but unmistakable symbols of domesticity and food, she has said that they are already married. He cannot ignore her invitation—her chauffeur knew where she was, and therefore so does her family. As rumors start that she is pregnant (she is not), he yields to the social and emotional forces that surround him and soon makes a formal proposal of marriage to her family, which is accepted. Their story ends with the birth of twins and their recognition of their growing love for each other.

[The tapestry of events leading to Kyoko and Yusaku’s marriage is different. Overwrought with anxiety about Yusaku’s feelings, and having just refused Shun’s proposal of marriage, Kyoko accuses Yusaku of having an affair with someone else. Stumbling through his furious denial and through their mutual uncertainties, they end up in a love hotel, only to discover that memories of her late husband prevent them from having intercourse. Painfully, they must set their feelings to rest. The later scene where they triumphantly do make love is one of the most powerful in all manga. They too marry, and Maison Ikkoku ends with the birth of their daughter, Haruka.

[In stories like these, sexuality and sexual intercourse are depicted as they exist in actual life, within complex webs of feelings, intimacies, doubts, pleasures, and responsibilities. Sex is intrinsic to the narrative because it is inescapable in life itself.

  • [Category 4:  Sexuality is central.

Explicitly depicted sexual intercourse and other forms of sexuality are a major narrative focus. (Perper & Cornog 2002, 102)

[Virtually all forms of sexuality occur in this category, and their diversity is hard to summarize. However, a few generalizations will be useful.

[Erotophilic consensual intercourse is typically loud, ecstatic, and drenchingly wet, especially for women. Women are often portrayed as erotic, powerful, and very beautiful (we have identified at least five modalities used in manga for depicting female beauty and sexual allure; Perper & Cornog 2002). Female sexuality is virtually never a source of shame or punishment, perhaps most notably in the sexually explicit redi komi subgenre drawn by women artists for women readers.

[Our sample contains relatively few depictions of male homosexuality, but the fan-drawn genre of YAOI, with its beautiful young men passionately in love with each other, is very popular in both Japan and the U.S. (YAOI-Con 2002). Female-female sexuality occurs more frequently in commercial manga. Some are casual encounters, but other stories depict the two women as partners and lovers in long-term relationships (Pamila and Pfil in Kondom’s Bondage Fairies from Eros Comix, Princess Rosalia and Rua in Johji Manabe’s Drakuun from Dark Horse, and Sheila and her friends in Ryo Yuuki’s Sheila’s Diary, from RedLight Manga). Sometimes, female-female sexual attraction is only suggested by gazes, touches, and intense emotional bonding, for example, between Utena and Anthy in Chiho Saito and Be-Papas’ Revolutionary Girl Utena (Viz). However, in Kunihiko Ikuhara’s brilliant 1997 animated film of Revolutionary Girl Utena, the love affair between Utena and Anthy is not only depicted, but is the heart of the film.

[Because space is limited, we will focus on three themes—comedy and satire, spirituality, and alienation and rape.

[Comedy and Satire. Two artists come to mind when writing about explicit sexual humor in manga—Toshiki Yui and Haruka Inui. Yui’s stories are populated not only by cheerfully erotophilic and very pretty young women, but also by incompetent demons, eccentric gurus, and puzzled young men, all enmeshed in wildly escalating plots. In Yui’s “The Contract” (in Misty Girl Extreme, from Eros Comix), Misty is hoping for sexual ecstasy when she summons a demon. Although he promises to drive her mortal mind insane with pleasure, he manages only one premature ejaculation, and disappears muttering and mumbling as Misty loudly expresses her disgust at how useless he is. Yui’s Wing-Ding Orgy (Eros Comix) is a five-part parody about virginal Keisuke, his reluctant girlfriend, Michiko, and two female spirits, Ruki and Mana, who materialize to assuage his sexual desires. After the malfunction of a magical dildo obtained from a lunatic psychic guru, Keisuke seeks the help of a sex therapist, which only makes matters more complex, as Michiko, Ruki, and Mana coalesce into a single ultrasexy female. In Yui’s “My Little Darling” (in Hot Tails from Eros Comix), a suave demon makes a pass at Miki. When her angry boyfriend, Tetsuya, threatens him, the demon shrinks Tetsuya down to three inches tall and stalks off. Miki and the now-tiny Tetsuya discuss this problem in a coffee shop, and Tetsuya asks to sit on her lap. There he discovers that he can climb into her vagina. While she squirms in embarrassed orgasms, the demon returns and inveigles her to a love hotel. But when the demon’s penis enters her vagina, it encounters the now enraged Tetsuya, who bites this intruding monster and sends the demon through the hotel’s ferroconcrete wall. He regains his full size in a later episode, but for now, Tetsuya is happy with the advantages of his miniaturization.

[Inui’s Ogenki Clinic (Studio Ironcat) is a long-running, slapstick parody of sex therapy. Therapists Dr. Sawaru Ogekuri and Nurse Ruka Tatase are sex-positive, but their treatments are unconventional, to say the least. Dr. Ogekuri’s penis looks exactly like him, including carefully parted hair and eyeglasses (an example of genital personification, Cornog 1986). Yui and Inui’s stories, among others, have female characters with penises and testicles (in Japanese, shii meru). In Ogenki Clinic, even a shii meru woman can have a personified penis, but this one has her face and long hair, and is therefore a female penis (Perper & Cornog 2002, 30). Ogenki Clinic was one of several manga considered harmful by Japanese authorities during the early 1990s (Kinsella 2000, Ch. 5, notes 1 and 2, p. 211), but from the perspective of the year 2003, it seems more satiric than dangerous.

[In an untranslated example by Oida Cute (from Penguin Club Comic, Issue 11, 2001), Hana-chan and her boyfriend are leaving a bar, and Hana-chan is quite drunk (little bubbles keep floating over her head). Once outside, she happily reassures him that she is fine—and then throws up all over him. They end up at a hotel, where Hana-chan falls asleep fully clothed while hugging a pillow. Then she wakes up, decides she wants sex, and begins to masturbate. She and her boyfriend go on to intercourse, but then she throws up again. The story ends with them both taking a shower together and laughing.

[These stories satirize male libido and its blundering desires, the frustrations and complex desires of women, and the vagaries of sex in an imperfect world. The root of the comedy is that sex is constantly running out of control—in the family, in Wolf Ogami’s Super Taboo (Eros Comix); in the workplace, in Tetsu Adachi’s Weather Woman (CPM Manga); and in the entire cosmos, in Ai Ijima and Takeshi Takebayashi’s Time Traveler Ai (CPM Manga). In such goings-on, even the deities are laughing.

[Spirituality. Serious spiritual themes are not uncommon in sexually explicit manga. An example is Zashiki Bokko, by Senno Knife (from Sepia No. 2, Studio Ironicat), which opens with a note: A zashiki bokko is “a female ghost inhabiting an old inn.” Young Masao has just returned to his family’s hot spring spa (onsen) after graduating from college. The welcoming party is well under way, and someone asks him if he will decide to work here at the inn. And peeking at him from behind a sliding paper wall is a very pretty girl. “Koyuki!” he murmurs. The relatives joke that he has no cousin named Koyuki. “Must be a ghost,” they laugh. In a flashback, he remembers years ago when they met in the hot springs, both naked. She stroked his back as he nestled between her legs, and he protested, “It’s getting hard. Stop that!” But she pressed her face to his: “Don’t be ashamed about it. When the time is right, I’ll do it with you.”

[Now alone in his bed, he wonders if she even remembers. But she peeks into his room and then enters and takes his hand. Together, they go to the onsen. “Do you remember the promise?” she asks as they swim together naked. They make love, entwined in the warm water, kissing and caressing. He wonders who she is, and decides that it doesn’t matter. He wants to be with her always.

[Next we see his mother and grandmother talking—Masao has decided to stay and maintain the family inn. “It must be that ghost,” says grandmother. “They say when you have a zashiki bokko then business will thrive.” The final drawing shows Koyuki alone in the onsen, naked and beautiful: “I’ll protect this inn as long as you are here with me.” With her, the inn is protected against fire, bandits, storm, and desolation. She is the kami of the onsen, not a ghost in the Western sense, but a semi-divine female protective spirit—beautiful, erotic, and powerful.

[There are other examples of explicit sexuality, spirituality, and the supernatural. One is Hiroyuki Utatane’s elegantly drawn “Ryu-Ho” (in Countdown: Sex-Bombs, Eros Comix), which retells the legend of Ryu-Ho, the first emperor of China’s Han dynasty, whose mother was a mortal woman and father a dragon. Another is Jiro Chiba’s Were-Slut (Eros Comix), about a young woman whose magical sexuality heals her lovers. A similar theme occurs in Wolf, by Harumi Shimamoto (in Space Dreams, from Studio Ironcat). An untranslated example is Iruka Banto’s Toga-Oi Byakuni (roughly, “To the Nun, the Harm,” from Cute, Issue 10, 1999), set in 1910, about the murderous hatred between young and beautiful Yukiji Wakao and her mother-in-law, Ohkura. Yukiji’s family is high nobility but presumably impoverished, whereas her husband’s family is nouveau riche (narikin) but without rank or status. Ohkura poisons Yukiji after learning that Yukiji has been having an affair with one of her husband’s business associates. But as the supernatural enters the story, Yukiji returns to life, triumphant and transcendently beautiful, and it is Ohkura who dies.

[Alienation and Rape. These themes of spirituality draw on Japanese folklore and religion to create images of sexuality interwoven into the fabric of the universe itself. And yet, sex has a dark side. It leads to art delving not only into sexuality, but also into social chaos and disintegration.

[Such narratives set sex into a grim modernity in which loss of self, identity, and security is the norm. Stylistically, such stories lend themselves to an aesthetic realism recognizable by both content and drawing style—serious themes directly involving social issues and negative emotions portrayed in a gritty, edgy style emphasizing the absence of beauty and prettiness in the characters’ lives (sexually explicit examples include the work of Benkyo Tamaoki, Ronin Tenjiku, and Akira Gatjaw, among others). This sort of realism descends from the gekiga style pioneered in the 1960s and 1970s by artists like Sanpei Shirato (see Randall 2002ab, for a brief history and examples), but is also influenced by cyberpunk, e.g., William Gibson’s 1984 pioneering novel Neuromancer, and by film noir, like Ridley Scott’s 1982 Bladerunner. Now we encounter sexuality set in an alienated and anomic modern world or, more often, in post-apocalyptic worlds of social disintegration (Akira is an example). In those worlds, women’s sexuality emerges not as pleasurable eroticism nor as passive victimization nor as a source of further chaos, but as resistance to death and disintegration.

[Masahi Shibata’s Sarai (ComicsOne) is set in a post-apocalyptic world of social chaos and genetic disintegration. Sarai is a “guard maid,” one of a group of young women who act as bodyguards and warriors. Sarai carries a samurai sword, traditionally a man’s weapon, a visual trope that Neo-Confucianist masculinity can no longer protect society. But Sarai and the other guard maids can, or can try, to prevent utter chaos, sometimes by dispatching rapists and other vermin, and sometimes by saving the lives of their friends.

[One of the most extraordinary examples of a woman armed with a samurai sword is Saya, the protagonist of Benkyo Tamaoki’s Blood (Viz), which combines themes of alienation, sexuality, and Japanese folklore into a sexually explicit horror story. It has a subplot involving explicit female-female sexuality, but Blood centers on the premise that a breeding program has existed for some 150 years for hybridizing human beings and ogres in an effort to obtain for humans the genes that confer immortality on the cannibalistic ogres. The program, ill conceived to begin with, has failed—the hybrids are worse killers than either parent species. Now the terrified human beings have bred Saya as an ogre-hunter, and although her American handlers treat her with great contempt—between assignments they keep her handcuffed and naked in a cell—they are quite willing to use her for exterminating the hybrids.

[Saya locates a motorcycle-riding gang of ogres in Yokohama (“sluts and thugs,” someone calls them), and encounters their psychopathic gang-leader. She tracks him down to a wrecked and abandoned hotel, where he transforms into a monster who wants to rape and kill her, and devour her corpse. Saya beheads him with a single, sudden sweep of her sword.

[But she also encounters her counterpart, Maya, who, like herself, was bred from human and ogre stock as an ogre-hunter. But Maya is defective, and she needs human blood and flesh to live. Yet, it is Maya who tells her of their common ancestry and offers herself as a sacrifice for Saya to eat, thereby to fuse with each other and create their own future, independent of human beings. As Maya commits seppuku, Saya holds her dying body, waiting to complete Maya’s request. Saya escapes, kills her American handlers, and, in the last images, walks through the dark streets of Tokyo seeking her and Maya’s future.

[It trivializes the intensity and power of these images to dismiss them as fantasy or science fiction. Instead, we see women and their sexuality as embattled. Subjected to rape or to scientific but utterly wrongful breeding, these women find weapons and use them. When—to give another example—Attim M-Zak uses a sword to cut the arm off a man attacking her, the narrative has moved far beyond clichés of submissive Japanese women. Instead, we are in the territory of open resistance. But Saya’s reaction to the rapist and to her handlers is not the resistance of a frightened child, nor even of an angry, defiant child having a tantrum. Saya is an adult, trained in the craft and use of a death-dealing weapon, and her purpose is to kill. Her ability to resist comes not from a child’s fear, but from her status as a mature and powerful woman.

[As Blood implies, no situation better illustrates themes of women’s resistance and power than manga that deal with rape. Many critics of manga in the United States and Japan argue that it condones and glorifies rape. However, the data from our sample suggest the exact opposite (Perper & Cornog 2002, 45-54, 80-86). We identified 87 examples of sexual assault or rape in our translated sample. In them, we encounter a theme widespread in sexually explicit manga: rape followed by bloody revenge against the rapists. First we give several examples, and then some statistics.

[In “Dead Angela” by Kaz Yamane (in Verotik 2: Verotika East, published by Verotik), pretty and blonde Angela is the assistant to Professor Devore, an archeologist who has excavated a hitherto unknown bipedal skeleton somewhere in South America. Local terrorists invade the laboratory and machine-gun Professor Devore and then tie up Angela and repeatedly rape her. The terrorist leader shoots Angela, and her body falls backward against the skeleton. Its eye sockets start to glow, and it extends bony protrusions that surround her naked body. Now standing, its skeleton an armored carapace around her, she hears its voice in her mind: It is a living symbiont. “Master Angela, from now on, we are one. Your life is my life, your blood is my blood, your death is my death.” She attacks the rapists, and, with one bloody sweep of her now-armored hand, she rips the head off the man who raped and shot her. The last panel shows her naked in her symbiotic armor, an icon of vengeance. The caption reads, “I am restored to life. We are not alone.”

[Yuichiro Tanuma’s Princess of Darkness (Eros Comix) is similar. It is a complex tale of dreams and demons centering on female art student, Maki Kurohara. In episode 4, she is sexually assaulted by five thugs, but invokes a murderous naked female demon armed with knife-bearing gauntlets who slashes the five men to ribbons.

[One of the most remarkable examples of rape-revenge occurs in Koh Kawarajima’s Immoral Angel (published by Manga 18). Disgusted with humanity, the gods have decided to destroy the world. A man named Nekozo Kyusu, gifted with supernatural powers, is building an ark to save a selected number of his fellow humans (he contemptuously calls them lemmings). He kidnaps a high-school girl, Reimi, to be his mate and repeatedly rapes her. She resists each time, screaming and fighting, but his strength is too great. Finally, he abandons her, pregnant with his child.

[As the anger of the gods increases, the world is wracked by earthquakes, tidal waves, and other disasters. Nekozo abducts and rapes another young woman, but Reimi seems to reappear, naked. She reveals herself to be his and Reimi’s grown daughter Rema, winged and vengeful. As father and daughter battle, his attacks go awry, and Rema taunts him with her mother’s hatred and with his own powerlessness. Avowing that her one and only filial duty to him is to destroy him, Rema tears her father to shreds. She then destroys the ark, obliterating him and his life’s ambitions.

[Immoral Angel deals not merely with rape-revenge, but also is explicitly anti-Confucianist. Earlier scenes of the mother’s repeated rapes are balanced by the daughter’s revenge. The conclusion, like that of most rape-revenge stories, is that rape is virtually a cosmic crime that demands and receives profound retribution and retaliation.

[An untranslated example is Go Nagai’s Devilman Lady (KC Comics), about a woman martial artist who is also a demon. A ravening monster attacks and rapes a woman, but Devilman Lady counterattacks, first castrating him and then killing him. As other monsters attack a group of children, she then destroys them in scenes noteworthy for their bloodiness.

[In the 87 cases of rape in our earlier sample, 80% or 92.0% show the woman or her friends taking violent and most often, murderous revenge against the rapist. An additional five (5.7%) showed rape as criminal, but did not include revenge. This gives (80+5)/87 or 97.7% of the examples that are rape-negative. Only two stories (2/87, or 2.3%) showed rape as something that the woman desires. (See Perper & Cornog 2002, Appendix 2, for a complete annotated list of all 87 cases.)

[Since then, we have located a number of additional examples of rape-revenge, including Blood, Immoral Angel, and Devilman Lady. The occurrence of rape-revenge is a major trope in sexually explicit manga. It is not an artifact arising from our use of a translated sample, because the rape-revenge theme occurs in untranslated manga and in Japanese film, like Takashi Ishii’s 2000 live-action Freeze Me and Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s 1992 animated Wicked City. These conclusions are in line with Diamond and Uchiyama’s (1999) well-documented argument that no correlation exists between pornography and rape in Japan, and also with Schodt’s suggestion that manga may itself help reduce violent sexual crime (1996, 49-53). Rape-revenge manga rise in inexorable emotional intensity, which is released only when the rapists are destroyed and balance is restored between sexuality and the cosmos.

[Conclusions

[The sexual content of manga ranges over a wide spectrum of activities, emotions, and meanings. These include cheerful and humorous erotophilia, serious sexual and erotically expressed love, and revenge and resistance to rape. Most often, sexuality is contextualized by character, narrative, and setting, so that it is portrayed as a fully human activity rather than being restricted to genital couplings.

[At its best, manga contain some of the finest erotic art in the modern world. Japanese traditions have not been lost in these portrayals. Much manga holds the reader’s attention not only for the sheer beauty of the drawing, but as comic and dramatic narrative. Modern manga continues Japanese erotic traditions in representing sex as a positive and healthful good for both sexes. Strong, powerful women characters, innovative and unconstrained treatment of sexual themes, excellent artwork, and powerful plots make manga a force to be reckoned with as the medium gathers more and more readers worldwide. (End of comment by T. Perper and M. Cornog)]

E. Sadism and Masochism

It is well-known that sadism and masochism (S&M) have been taken up in Japan’s literature and paintings. A number of works by Seiu Ito on the subject of shibari (bondage) are famous examples. One depicts a woman being tortured while a drooling jailer looks on in delight. Another shows a naked woman suspended upside down, while under her an old man is enjoying a drink of saki. These are typical of Seiu Ito’s works. Of course, works such as these are not part of Japan’s mainstream literature or paintings, but rather are learned of only in the quiet mania of the back streets.

It is uncertain how many people are interested in this type of sadism and masochism today, but their numbers are not few. Roughly 10,000 magazines dealing in S&M are thought to be sold each month, by which one could estimate the number of interested people to be perhaps two or three times that number.

On the other hand, in the Japanese media’s typical fashion of trying to stimulate the reader’s interest, some minor weekly magazines print photographs or articles that depict situations with a sadistic mistress and a masochistic man. Naturally, most of these depictions are contrived, as people who really practice S&M do so in secret, hidden from public view. Both Tokyo and Osaka have nightclubs in their busiest nightspots that make money off of S&M. Still, experts say that the people who go to such places probably realize it is all just an act.

Return to top of page

9. Contraception, Abortion, and Population Planning

A. Contraception

Various contraceptive devices became available in the democratic days after the war, including use of the pessary (diaphragm), contraceptive jelly and foams, and so on. Nearly 80% of Japanese people still choose the condom as their most favorable contraceptive device. This choice, however, is conditioned by the government’s near-total ban on the oral contraceptive pill. [Update 1997: As of January 1997, only a medium-strength form of the pill was available in Japan for medical (non-contraceptive) purposes. However, some women were using it as a substitute for the low-dose contraceptive pill normally taken by American and European women. Originally, the Ministry of Health and Welfare cited the possible link between the hormonal pill (OCP) and cardiovascular disease, weakened immunity, cervical cancer, and thrombosis as its reason for not approving distribution of the pill in Japan. In 1996, new research studies undermined this objection, and the Ministry of Health and Welfare gave signs that it might remove its over three-decade-old ban on the OCP, perhaps even by the end of 1997. The Ministry admitted to some continuing concerns about removing the ban. There is a fear that, with the birthrate at 1.4 live births per woman, pushing the OCP might drop the birthrate even lower. More realistic is the fear that use of the OCP rather than the condom would increase the spread of AIDS among those who use the pill. More basic to the cultural values of Japanese men and women is the fear that Government approval of the OCP may send a signal of promiscuity and upset the delicate dynamics in male-female relationships. Even married women tend not to discuss contraceptives openly with their husbands. Traditionally, Japanese men are accustomed to taking the lead in relationships, especially when it comes to sex. Japanese women frequently express their awe at the independence of American women who make their own decision to use the pill. Nevertheless, after decades of public and national administration debate, approva l of the OCP may be expected in the near future (WuDunn 1996). (End of update by R. T. Francoeur)]

Japanese contraceptive practices naturally reflect this limitation. According to the latest statistics, 77.7% of contracepting Japanese use a condom; one in five, 21%, use the Ogino method/rhythm method/BBT method; 7.1% use withdrawal (coitus interruptus), 7% rely on surgical sterilization, and 3.7% on the intrauterine device. The rather high popularity of condom usage among the Japanese people is because of the strong policy of the Imperial Army Administration throughout the militarist period, when it was consistently used to prevent various venereal diseases.

Margaret Sanger (1883-1966), the American nurse who eventually organized the International Federation of Birth Control, visited Japan early in the Showa Era, the late 1920s, to promote the birth control movement in Japan. At the time, the national administration disliked this idea because of its own policy of promoting childbirth for national security reasons. Thus, the government publicly opposed the birth control movement. Nevertheless, because the military widely promoted use of the condom for prevention of venereal diseases, it eventually was firmly accepted by the common people in Japan as an effective method of birth control. Later, in the post-World War II years, this positive attitude of the Japanese people toward the condom functioned effectively in promoting the family planning movement.

Condoms are often sold to housewives by door-to-door “skin ladies.” In 1990, moralists were disturbed when, after a marked increase in teen abortions, a condom company targeted the teenage market with condom packets bearing pictures of two cute little pigs or other cartoon animals and names like “Bubu Friend” (Bornoff 1991, 337).

The greatest obstacle in Japan to contraception is the national control of the contraceptive pill (OCP). In the 1970s, the promoters of feminism were openly against induced abortion and thus started a movement to make the OCP available. However, when they recognized that high-dosage OCPs had side effects, they changed their position and strongly opposed its free use. As is widely known now, the majority of current low-dosage OCPs pose little danger. Consequently, some of the current feminist promoters in Japan are not against expansion of choices by making low-dosage OCPs widely available. Nevertheless, the great majority of Japanese feminists still maintain their skepticism about the use of OCPs.

[The Female Condom and “the Pill”

[Update 2001: In June 1999, the 35-year-old government ban on the oral contraceptive pill was finally removed, prompted by serious criticism against the sexual double standard of the government regulatory board that approved Viagra in January 1999, an unusually brief six months after application from the pharmaceutical company. In November 1999, Japan’s regulatory body approved the female condom, which clinical tests found to be 97% effective in preventing pregnancy. The female condom also received a very favorable relative overall acceptability rating of 89% (Reuters Health, November 12, 1999). (End of update by Y. Kaji)]

[B. Unwed Teenage Pregnancy

[Update 1997: Japan has consistently maintained one of the world’s lowest incidences of out-of-wedlock births, well below 5% (Lewin 1995). A 1995 study by the Population Council, an international nonprofit New York-based group, reported that only 1.1% of Japanese births are to unwed mothers, a figure that has been virtually unchanged for 25 years. In the United States, this figure is 30.1% and rising rapidly (Kristof 1996a). (End of update by R. T. Francoeur)]

C. Abortion

[Note from the CCIES Website Editor:  See Last-Minute Developments for updates related to this topic that were added after this chapter had been typeset.]

As has been mentioned earlier, the national policy of Japan after the Meiji Era, when Japan’s modern national structure emerged, was to strengthen the nation. Thus, children were considered to be the treasure of the nation, and abortion was naturally deemed illegal.

With the rebounding of the post-World War II social order, the Eugenic Protection Law was implemented in 1948, and induced abortion became a fully legal and allowed method of birth control in Japan. The law set out certain premises to be satisfied for abortion to be permitted, but many accepted it quite readily. Thus, induced abortion became the most popular method of family planning in Japan in the mid-1950s, with 1.2 million abortions a year, an extremely high rate of 50.2 per 1,000 women annually. Later, the rate and the number of the induced abortions declined rapidly, dropping from 1.1 million cases in 1960, to 730,000 cases in 1970, and 457,000 cases in 1990. By 1990, the abortion rate was 14.9 per 1,000 women a year, less than a third of the rate of 40 years ago. This significant and important change came about because of the special effort of advocates of a sound family planning movement and the increased use of condoms. It should be noted that this reduction in abortion and the popularization of family planning were achieved despite the unavailability of the oral contraceptive pill and a quite-low IUD usage rate.

Even though the current rate of induced abortion is becoming acceptably low, there are still disturbing elements in the statistics, mainly a gradual increase of abortion among teenage youths. In the 1970s, the total number of abortions for teenage pregnancy was approximately 13,000. This number increased to 14,300 in 1970, 19,000 in 1980, and 29,700 in 1990. The rates of abortion among women under 20 years of age increased as follows: 3.2 per 1,000 in 1960 and 1970, 4.7 per 1,000 in 1980, and 6.6 per 1,000 in 1990. Keeping in mind that the sexual activity of young people in this nation is increasing, it is apparent that more-efficient education of the youth for pregnancy prevention is strongly needed. For one thing, sex education within the public education system is far from being well developed in this country. The traditional value systems about sex and sexuality, such as the theory of purity education that prohibits and condemns premarital sexual activities as a crime, for example, creates burdens for the young people, even though two thirds of them accept premarital relations. Such beliefs often affect the sexual behavior of the young and interfere with their acquisition of knowledge and skills about pregnancy prevention.

[Comment 1997: Japan has no debate over the morality of abortion, and no politicians taking political stands for or against abortion. In fact, virtually everyone believes that abortion is each woman’s own private business. Despite this wide acceptance of abortion, there is ambivalence about abortion among many Japanese women and men that reflects the dualism one finds throughout Japanese sexual attitudes. At Buddhist temples around the country, one finds galleries of hundreds, even thousands of tiny memorial statues dedicated to aborted fetuses, miscarried and stillborn babies, and those who died as infants. These mizuko jizo are dressed and visited regularly, sometimes monthly, by Japanese women who have had an abortion or lost a baby and feel a need to atone for their loss. Japanese women, and sometimes men, visit their mizuko jizo to express their grief, fears, confusions, and hopes of forgiveness for ending a human life so early, however rational and necessary that decision may have been.

[The concept of the mizuko jizo did not develop until after World War II and has since been linked more and more with abortion rather than miscarriages, stillbirths, or infant deaths. Even some gynecologists who perform abortions regularly visit the temples to purify themselves in a special Buddhist ritual. In former times, fetuses and even newborns were not believed to be fully human or to have a spirit or soul until the newborn was ritually accepted into its family and linked with its ancestors, so abortion and even infanticide was accepted matter of factly. The recent tradition of the mizuko jizo appears to satisfy many of the emotions and feelings traditionally suppressed in the acceptance of abortion (WuDunn 1996). (End of comment by R. T. Francoeur)]

D. Population Control

From ancient times, population control, particularly in each village community, has been maintained publicly perhaps as part of the wisdom of the public welfare. In pre-modern days, the actual method often involved certain techniques related to primitive religions and/or incantations “turning childbirth changing into stillbirth.” What in Western culture is termed infanticide was not necessarily considered illegal or unreasonable according to the faith and/or ethics of that era. According to authentic ancient belief and practice, the baby belongs to God until the very moment of its first cry. Therefore, suffocating the newborn before it cried, before it was “really born,” and returning the incipient life to God was not considered wrong. Western culture would consider this culpable infanticide, but such was not the case in ancient Japanese beliefs; see the discussion of abortion and mizuko jizo in the preceding paragraph. [Comment 1997: Similarly, in many regions of China, a newborn infant is not considered “fully born” and human until the whole extended family gathers three days after the infant’s birth to celebrate its “social birth” and official recognition by the family’s patriarch and, through him, by the whole extended family and their ancestors. (End of comment by R. T. Francoeur)]

By 1995, the Japanese government had become so concerned about its plunging birthrate—1.53 per woman and declining—that the Institute of Population Problems, a part of Tokyo’s Health and Welfare Ministry, sent out questionnaires to 13,000 single Japanese citizens asking them what they thought about marriage, families, and children. In view of the plunging birthrate and a heating up of the war of the sexes, Japan is facing a demographic time bomb. As the population ages and the birthrate shrinks, the tax burden on the Japanese workforce will rise. Economists also suggest that Japan’s famously high rate of savings will increasingly have to support its retired population, and not factories and other productive investments (Itoi & Powell 1992).

[Update 1997: With its birthrate plunging to 1.4 in 1996—Tokyo’s birthrate was 1.1—Government projections suggested that within a hundred years, by 2100, Japan’s population will tumble to 55 million, from 125 million today. That would be the same population Japan had in 1920. At 55 million, Japan would have a population density five times that of the United States today, but its position as a global power would certainly be reduced, when in 2050 Japan’s population drops to just one quarter of America’s projected population. By the year 3000, it could drop to 45,000, according to a weekly magazine projection. To counteract this trend, many Japanese cities are paying women residents a bonus, up to $5,000, when they have a fourth baby. Among the other incentives being considered are: cash upon marriage, cut-rate land for childbearing couples, importing Philippine women of marriageable age, and cash grants to parents when their children turn 3, 5, and 7, which are all auspicious birthdays in Japan. Because of the discouraging cost of childrearing, some have recommended an annual financial bonus. In 1995, when Prime Minister Hashimoto was Finance Minister, he suggested a novel way of encouraging fertility: Discourage women from going to college.

[In 1996, the average Japanese woman marries at 27. Seventeen percent of women in their early 30s are still unmarried. One of the reasons cited by women who chose not to marry was a common negative view of the Japanese male as a desirable mate (Kristof 1996c). (End of update by R. T. Francoeur)]

[Update 2001: With a 1998 Total Fertility Rate of 1.38 children per fertile woman, Japan is struggling to persuade couples to have more children and help avoid many long-term social problems. Japan’s current population of 126 million is expected to drop to 105 million by 2050. In those 50 years, the median age will increase from 41 to 49 and those age 65 and older will double from 17% to 32%.

[Prior to June 2000, salaried parents with an annual income below US$67,000 and self-employed parents with an annual income less than US$43,000 received a monthly $50 subsidy for each of their first two children, and $100 monthly bonus for subsequent children under age 3. The $50 bonus covers 25% of basic monthly expenses for a child under age 3: food, clothing, and utilities. In June 2000, a new law extended this bonus to children under age 6, more than doubling the number of parents who qualify. Similar past efforts have had scant effect. Social observers suggest that the major factor in Japan’s low birthrate is the increasing number of Japanese women graduating from universities, obtaining well-paid jobs, enjoying their independence, and marrying later in life. Another is the fact that Japanese men traditionally avoid any participation in household work and leave the whole burden to their wives.

[This trend, coupled with the rising number of legal and illegal immigrants attracted by Japan’s shortage of workers, will have serious repercussions for Japan’s future economy and workforce, In 2000, about 1.5 million foreigners resided and worked legally in Japan. But thousands of undocumented aliens are also pouring into Japan, from China, Korea, South America, and Ghana. In 1990, Japan had an estimated 110,000 undocumented immigrants; this rose to half a million in the year 2000. In 1989, 4,159 Japanese who had immigrated to Brazil a generation or two back returned to Japan. In 1998, 222,217 returned from Brazil. In 1989, 864 Peruvian Nikkeijin returned to live in Japan; in 1998, 41,317 returned to Japan. In Oizumi, a small industrial town 50 miles (80.5 km) from Tokyo, nearly 12% of the population is Latino.

[As Japan’s birthrate plummets and legal and illegal immigration accelerates, many aspects of Japan’s traditionally insular homogeneous monoculture are already changing, including the context and character of sexual attitudes and behavior. (End of update by Y. Kaji)]

[Update 2002: In March 2002, the Japanese Cabinet issued a report signaling concern over Japan’s plummeting birthrate and the aging population. In May 2002, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi ordered his top aides to draw up policies outlining plans to make parenthood more attractive and affordable for the country’s swelling ranks of childless 20- and 30-year-olds. Echoing the need for new social strategies to promote parenting, Health Minister Chikara Sakaguchi predicted that company employees would have to pay nearly 25% of their salary to pension premiums to maintain the current payout in 2025. Japan’s population is expected to peak at around 127 million as early as 2005. After 2005, Japan’s population is expected to fall rapidly over the next 50 years to roughly 100 million. Meanwhile, the “graying” of Japan will accelerate until, by 2050, 35.7% of Japan’s population will be over age 65, more than double the percentage in 2000. Demographers and economists do not agree on the effectiveness of new policies to encourage more young people to have more babies as a long-term viable solution. Faced with similar futures and failure of efforts to raise the birthrate, European and North American countries have stabilized their populations with immigrants (Greimel 2002). (End of update by R. T. Francoeur)]

Return to top of page

10. Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV/AIDS

A. Sexually Transmitted Diseases

[Note from the CCIES Website Editor:  See Last-Minute Developments for updates related to this topic that were added after this chapter had been typeset.]

Japan’s Venereal Disease Prevention Law has remained unchanged since it went into effect in 1958. However, venereal diseases (VDs) common at the time this law was established, along with genital herpes, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and HIV/AIDS, have come to be called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in Japan, as well.

Of these STDs, HIV/AIDS excluded, typical VDs of the past, such as syphilis and gonorrhea, have followed a steady decline year after year. The number of gonorrhea cases, for example, reported to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, in line with the Venereal Disease Prevention Law, declined from its peak of 178,000 cases in 1950 to 4,000 in 1964. Slight peaks in the number of cases reported were seen thereafter, with 12,000 in 1967 and 13,500 in 1984, but between 1970 and 1980, the number hovered between 5,000 and 7,000 cases. As concern for HIV/AIDS began to intensify in Japan in the 1990s, the number of gonorrhea cases showed a steady decline from 3,465 cases in 1992 to 1,724 cases in 1993 and 1,448 cases in 1994. As for the number of syphilis cases reported to the Ministry, a steady decrease can be seen from 6,138 cases in 1970 to 3,635 in 1975, 2,081 in 1980, 1,904 in 1985, 1,877 in 1990, and only 804 cases in 1993.

On the other hand, the actual number of herpes, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis cases is unclear since reporting of these diseases is not required. However, the Ministry of Health and Welfare began collecting data in the late 1980s from selected hospitals, with reports gathered from about 600 hospitals throughout Japan. This data suggests the following trends: Trichomoniasis and condyloma acuminatum have shown a decrease, albeit slight, but the same cannot necessarily be said for chlamydia and herpes. Reports indicate that the number of infections among people in their teens or 20s has become particularly striking. Such reports cannot be said to be unrelated to the increase in sexual activity among Japan’s youth. Since sexual activity among these youths is expected to become even more prevalent in the future, it is obviously desirable that we tackle countermeasures for these STDs in earnest.

[Update 2001: The first sentinel surveillance of STD in Japan was conducted in 1998. Woman-man ratios of infection rates per 100,000 persons for each STD, and high woman-to-man ratios for overall STD incidence (1.40), condyloma acuminatum (1.11), genital herpes (2.25), chlamydia (2.31), and nongonococcal and nonchlamydial infection (1.51), challenge the current Japanese common understanding that STDs are mainly a male health problem treated by urologists. STD prevention and treatment in Japan should focus more on female patients (Kumamoato 1999). (End of update by Y. Kaji)]

B. HIV/AIDS

Japan has not been quick to respond to the HIV/AIDS problem in its own country. Patients showing signs of Kaposi’s sarcoma and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia for which no cause could be found began to appear in America in 1981. The following year, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began calling the syndrome AIDS. In 1983, it became known to the world that a virus, named HIV, was the cause.

At last, Japan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare was moved to action, forming an AIDS research task force, which began surveillance for occurrences of AIDS in Japan. The first AIDS patient that the surveillance committee found was a homosexual returning briefly from America in March 1985. In May of the same year, they announced that AIDS patients contracting the disease through blood transfusions had been confirmed. In 1996, the country became embroiled in an extremely serious debate, in which the government or several committee members of the AIDS research task force and pharmaceutical companies were suspected of a secret pact to cover up the outbreak of “the real first” AIDS patients who had contracted the disease through unheated blood products. This problem was resolved in July of 1996 when the government and the pharmaceutical companies apologized to these victims and paid them an out-of-court settlement. However, not everyone feels that the agreement reached is a complete solution to the problem.

Turning to the situation of HIV/AIDS in Japan, current as of the end of May 1996, 3,642 people had been infected with HIV (including those with AIDS symptoms), of which 1,806 contracted the disease through unheated blood products. Although these numbers are extremely low compared to those of other countries, one cannot discount that the HIV/AIDS problem in Japan is a large one. For example, only 13,703 people underwent examinations for HIV in 1995, just one third of the 37,774 tested in 1992, when the number of people taking the examination reached its peak. In Japan, the number of people taking the test has declined over the past three years, from which one could assume Japanese feel the danger of contracting HIV/AIDS is becoming more and more remote.

For those unlucky enough to contract AIDS in Japan, there are 203 AIDS-authorized hospitals throughout the country where one can receive treatment. However, the names of nearly half of these hospitals are currently not being made public. Furthermore, some hospitals, even some of the AIDS-authorized hospitals, refuse treatment to AIDS patients, as reported by the Osaka Plaintiffs in AIDS Litigation Organization.

Of course, not everything about the HIV/AIDS problem in Japan is negative. For instance, until recently, major newspapers and other companies serving the public, such as NHK Television, had not directly taken up sexual problems. However, with the current situation, including the HIV/AIDS problem, even the most straitlaced newspapers and television stations have begun to use such words as condom, homosexuality, and anal sex. Such a trend has engendered the makings of informative reports on human sexuality. This issue is not felt in the media alone; it is also having a great impact on Japan’s educational system. HIV/AIDS is clearly introduced in junior high school textbooks on health as an infectious disease. Thus, all children in Japan are now learning about HIV/AIDS.

Furthermore, teachers of social studies, home economics, and homeroom classes are actively educating students about HIV/AIDS in order to dispel any prejudices and discriminations the students may have. Naturally, this education is not only aimed at HIV/AIDS discrimination, but is related to sexual discrimination, as well. Although sex education in Japan is not sufficient in its current state, this education aimed at HIV/AIDS and discrimination may be the breakthrough Japan needs, and perhaps a golden opportunity to firmly establish sex education in the schools. This can certainly be viewed as a positive influence.

[Update 1997: As of August 1995, the reported number of AIDS-related deaths was 626. The cumulative number of reported cases of HIV infection was 3,423 among Japanese persons and 881 among non-Japanese. Among this number were 1,803 hemophiliac patients who contracted HIV as a consequence of the use of contaminated blood products in their daily treatment.

[The incidence of AIDS in Japan is still very low, although some suggest that the official figures underplay the actual incidence and danger. Only 15 deaths from AIDS were reported in 1986 for a population of 120,000,000. By mid-1988, the death toll had risen to 46 with an additional 34 confirmed in hospitals, and 1,038 persons who tested seropositive.

[The initial response of the Japanese gay community to the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s was misguided. Because the number of Japanese gay men infected with HIV had been comparatively low, many Japanese gay men, like the rest of the Japanese people, found it easier to view AIDS as an exclusively foreign phenomenon. Discrimination against foreign, especially Western, gay men by Japanese gay men was widespread. One consequence of the fear of AIDS is that homosexuals visiting Japan report that many former gay paradises, particularly the no-holds-barred male sauna, are now closed to non-Japanese. (End of update by Y. Kaji)]

[Update 2001: As of June 2000, Japan had an accumulative reported 5,058 persons infected with HIV and 2,367 AIDS patients. This number included 1,434 HIV-infection cases and 631 AIDS cases where the virus was transmitted by use of tainted blood products. Most HIV/AIDS cases in Japan are because of sexual transmission. Reported HIV/AIDS cases transmitted by IV-drug abuse or mother-to-child transmissions are less than 1% of the total cases. (End of update by Y. Kaji)]

[Update 2002: UNAIDS Epidemiological Assessment: HIV prevalence rates in Japan continue to remain well below 1% for most HIV-risk-behavior groups, except among female sex workers of foreign nationality (2.7% from 1987 to 1999). Most reported HIV/AIDS cases in Japan during the mid-to-late 1980s and early 1990s were because of HIV-infected blood products that were imported for the treatment of hemophilia patients; a third of the AIDS cases (33%) reported in 1988 were in hemophilia patients infected through imported blood coagulation factor products.

[The high percentage of hemophilia AIDS cases is still the distinctive characteristic of HIV infection in Japan and is not seen in other countries in the world. However in 2000, about 78% of newly diagnosed HIV infections appear to have been acquired through sexual contact. One of the characteristics in recent years is that the infection through sexual contacts in Japan is getting higher among Japanese men. Almost all HIV infections in Japan are related to imported infections (including hemophilia infections), and then some limited transmission from these infected persons to their regular sex partners. Behavioral data show low condom use, both in the general population and among female sex workers (6% to 25%).

[Estimates suggest that, by the end of 2001, 12,000 persons were living with HIV, a prevalence of 0.02% among people aged 15 to 49 years.

[The estimated number of adults and children living with HIV/AIDS on January 1, 2002, were:

Adults ages 15-49: 12,000   (rate: < 0.1%)
Women ages 15-49: 6,600  
Children ages 0-15: 110  

[An estimated 430 adults and children died of AIDS during 2001.

[At the end of 2001, an estimated 2,000 Japanese children under age 15 were living without one or both parents who had died of AIDS. (End of update by the Editors)]

Return to top of page

11. Sexual Dysfunctions, Counseling, and Therapies

Unfortunately, no compiled information is currently available on sexual dysfunctions in Japan. However, by drawing inferences from many researchers on the subject, certain facts come to light. The most common dysfunction, accounting for about half of all informally reported sexual disorders, is erectile dysfunction. Other common dysfunctions include sexual phobias, sexual avoidance, decreased sexual desire, dyspareunia (painful intercourse), female orgasmic disorder, vaginismus (painful vaginal spasms), homosexuality, and gender identity disorder.

One dysfunction that has become an issue of late is that of sexual inactivity among couples. Dr. Teruo Abe, a psychiatrist who studied under the American Helen Singer Kaplan, defines the term sexually inactive couples as “couples who do not engage in consensual sexual intercourse or sexual contact for a period of one month or longer, despite the lack of special circumstances, and who can be expected to remain sexually inactive for a long period after that.” Abe reports that the number of such sexually inactive couples during the period from 1991 to 1994 increased by 2 to 4 times the number between 1985 and 1990. Yet, over a ten-year period, only 303 patients with this dysfunction came to seek Abe’s assistance. Assuming that there are about 50 institutions in Japan that treat this sexual disorder, estimating generously, then only about 12,000 to 15,000 people have visited doctors for this sexual disorder over the past ten years. While there are probably many opinions on whether this number is large or not, the number reflects the current state of the disorder in Japan.

There are no types of sexual dysfunctions peculiar to the Japanese. The most common dysfunctions are treated by such specialists as gynecologists, urologists, and psychiatrists, or clinical therapists and counselors. Unfortunately, these fields of medicine remain too isolated from one another in Japan. It would be desirable, therefore, for the medical institutes themselves to gain an understanding of all aspects of human sexuality.

In 1976, the Japanese Red Cross Medical Center was the first public medical institution in Japan to establish a sexual counseling center. Although before that time, sexual treatment was carried out in the gynecology, urology, and psychiatry departments of private and university hospitals, such treatment was mainly for functional disorders. It was very rare for these hospitals to provide treatment from the perspective of total human sexuality.

Japanese doctors, counselors, psychologists, and sociologists who first became aware of the importance of sexual counseling and treatment met and formed the Japanese Association for Sex Counselors and Therapists (JASCT) in July 1979. The Association welcomed Patricia Schiller, founder of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT), as honorable chairman and adopted the ideology of her organization. The JASCT proceeded to take charge of sexual counseling and therapy in Japan and continues to do so today. JASCT’s objective is to carry out surveys and research with the help of sex counselors and doctors who treat sexual disorders. They do not issue licenses in recognition of qualifications.

From what limited information is available, it certainly seems that Japan is very active in the treatment of sexual dysfunctions, but unfortunately the reality is that a lot more problems remain unsolved. Underlying those problems in Japan is the popular notion that sex is not something you talk about, and the belief that, except in cases of extreme pain, as long as you can tolerate the problem, it will heal in time and you will not have to bother others about it. Recently, however, an increasing number of people in their 40s or younger, who have been exposed to a more sexually open society in their youth, are moving away from this tendency and seeking sexual counseling and treatment.

Return to top of page

12. Sex Research and Advanced Professional Education

A. Research and Advanced Education

With the exception of such scientific subjects as reproduction and birth taught in the fields of biology or medicine, Japan’s institutions of advanced education have only made sex a direct topic of research in the past two or three decades. Traditionally, sex has not been made a subject of learning in Japan’s academic world. Thus, on the rare occasion that someone has pursued the study of human sexuality, that person has been seen as an outcast, and, at times, ostracized, as was the case with Senji Yamamoto, who taught in the Biology Department of Doshisha University and, early in the 20th century, was Japan’s first sexologist.

Although Japan became a democratic society in 1945 allowing for the freedom to study human sexuality, even in institutions of advanced education, a wall remained standing in the academic world inhibiting such freedom, and the wall was high and thick. No reason exists for the academic world to be separated from society. It has become gradually understood that sex education is necessary in higher education in order to address the various problems in Japanese society, such as sexual problems among youth, information on sex provided by the media, the issue of STDs and HIV/AIDS, and the phenomenon of more couples opting to rear fewer children.

Universities for training teachers and departments of education were the first to show an interest in teaching sex education at the university level. Regardless of its quality, sex education in Japan’s elementary and junior high schools and institutes of advanced education is usually taken up in the health and science curricula. Therefore, it was natural for sex education to be first taught to those interested in teaching. Recently, an increasing number of departments of human science have been established in Japanese universities, wherein study of basic human sexuality has become abundant.

Still, sex education in universities and other institutions of advanced education cannot be said to be functioning sufficiently. Take, for example, the estimate that only about 5% of Japan’s 1,150 universities and junior colleges provide lectures on human sexuality. One can assume that developing more programs on sex education in universities and other institutions of advanced education will become a major issue in Japan’s educational system.

B. Sexological Organizations and Publications

Until mid-1996, the authors of this chapter, Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D., served as Director, and Tsuguo Shimazaki as Secretary of the Japanese Association for Sex Education (J.A.S.E).

  • Japanese Association for Sex Education. Address: J.A.S.E., Miyata Building, 2F, 1-3 Kanda Jinbo-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 101 Japan. Tel.: +81-3-3291-7726; Fax: +81-3-3291-6238. J.A.S.E. publishes Sex Education Today, a monthly journal.

In mid-1996, Tsuguo Shimazaki established the Nikon Information Center for Sexology (NICS). Address: N.I.C.S., Hobunkan Building, 6F, 3-11-4 Kanda-Jinbo-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101 Japan. Tel.: +81-3-3288-5900; Fax: +81-3-3288-5387. N.I.C.S. publishes Sexology Updater (ten times a year).

Other Japanese sexological organizations and publications include:

  • Japanese Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (JASECT), JASE Clinic, 3F Shin-Aoyama Bldg (West),–1 Minami–Aoyama, 1-chome Minato-ku, Tokyo 107 Japan.
  • The Japan Family Planning Association, Inc. (JFPA). Address: Hokenkaikan Bekkann, 1-2, Ichigaya Sadohara-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162 Japan. Tel.: +81-3-3269-4041; Fax: +81-3-3267-2658. JFPA publishes the journal Family Planning and Family Health (monthly).
  • Japan Federation of Sexology (JFS). Address: c/o Nikon Information Center for Sexology (NICS), Hobunkan Building, 6F, 3-11-4, Kanda-Jinbo-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101 Japan. Tel.: +81-3-3288-5200; Fax: +81-3-3288-5387.
  • Japan Institute for Research in Education, 4-3-6-702 Kozimachi Chiyodaku, Tokyo 7102 Japan. Tel.: 03-5295-0856; Fax: 03-5295-0856.
  • Japanese Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning, Inc. (JOICFP), 1-1, Ichigaya Sadohara-cho, Shhijuku-ku, Tokyo 162 Japan. Tel.: 81-3/3268-5875; Fax: 81-3/3235-7090.
  • Japan Society of Adolescentology (JSA). Address: c/o Japan Family Planning Association, Hokenkaikan Bekkann, 1-2, Ichigaya Sadohara-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162 Japan. Tel.: +81-3-3269-4738. JSA publishes the journal Adolescentology (four times a year).
  • The Japanese Society for Impotence Research (JSIR). Address: c/o First Department of Urology, Toho University School of Medicine, 6-11-1, Omori-nishi, Ota-ku, Tokyo 143 Japan. Tel.: +81-3-3762-4151, extension 3605 or 3600. Fax: +81-3-3768-8817. JSIR publishes the Journal of the Japanese Society for Impotence Research.
  • Japanese Society of Sexual Science (JSSS). Address: c/o Hase Clinic, Shin-Aoyama Building, Nishikan 3F, 1-1-1, Minami-Aoyama Minota-ku, Tokyo 107 Japan. Tel.: +81-3-3475-1789. Fax: +81-3-3475-1789. JSSS publishes the Japanese Journal of Sexology (semiannually).

Return to top of page

References and Suggested Readings

Adler, S., & S. Wolf. 2000. Fodor’s Japan (15th ed). New York: Random House.

Asayama, S. 1979. Sexuality of the Japanese youth: Its current status and the future prospects. Sex Education Today, 36:8-16 (in Japanese).

Beasley, W. G. 1999. The Japanese experience: A short history of Japan. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Benedict, R. 1954. The chrysanthemum and the sword–Patterns of Japanese culture. Charles E. Tuttle Co.

Bornoff, N. 1991. Pink Samurai: Love, marriage and sex in contemporary Japan. New York: Pocket Books.

Boyd, R. 2001. On second thought, there is a need for Tenchi. Comics Journal, 238:93-99.

CIA. 2002 (January). The world factbook 2002. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency. Available: http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html.

Cornog, M. 1986. Naming sexual body parts: Preliminary patterns and implications. Journal of Sex Research, 22:393-398.

Diamond, M., & A. Uchiyama. 1999. Pornography, rape and sex crimes in Japan. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 22:1-22. Available: www.afn.org/~sfcommed/Pornography.htm.

Dixon, D., & J. K. Dixon. 1999. A serious look at the amazing phenomenon of erotic comic books. In: J. Elias, V. D. Elias, V. L. Bullough, G. Brewer, J. J. Douglas, & W. Jarvis, eds., Porn 101: Eroticism, pornography, and the First Amendment (pp. 427-36). Amherst, NY: Prometheus.

Earhart, H. B. 1984. Religions of Japan. New York: Harper and Row.

Ellwood, R. S., & R. Pilgrim. 1992. Japanese religion: A cultural perspective. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Embree, J. F. 1995. Suye Mura: A Japanese village. Ann Arbor, MI: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan. (Original work published 1939).

Encarta. 1999. Encarta world English dictionary [CD-ROM]. Microsoft Corporation/Bloomsbury Publishing.

Fagioli, M. 1998. Shunga: The erotic art of Japan. New York: Rizzoli/Universe Publishing.

French, H. W. 2001 (December 5). Japan: An equal opportunity throne. The New York Times, p. 6.

French, H. W. 2002 (May 9). Death does them part (Wives make sure of that). The New York Times, International Section, p. A3.

French, H. W. 2002 (July 31). For more Japanese, love is a multiethnic thing. The New York Times, International Section, p. A3.

French, H. W. 2003 (March 25). As Japan’s women move up, many are moving out. The New York Times, p. A3.

French, H. W., S. Isett, & C. Sygma. 2000 (July 27). New pressures alter Japanese family’s geometry. The New York Times, International Section, p. A3.

Greimel, H. 2002 (May 22). Tokyo’s new task: To turn singles into married parents. Newark [New Jersey] Star-Ledger, p. 2.

Hájek, L. (n.d.). Harunobu. London: Spring Books.

Hall, J. W. 1991. Japan: From prehistory to modern times. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. (Original work published 1968).

Hatano, Y. 1972. L. A. Kirkendall: His platform for sex education and its background. Bulletin of Tokyo Gakugei University, 24(5):164-177 (in Japanese).

Hatano, Y. 1988. Sexualerziehung von kindern und jugendlichen in Japan. In: N. Eicher, et al., eds., Praktische sexual medizin (pp. 34-42), Verlag Medical Tribune (in German).

Hatano, Y. 1991a. Changes in the sexual activities of Japanese youth. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, 17(1):1-14.

Hatano, Y. 1991b. Education for parenting viewed from education of sexuality. In: Japanese Ministry of Education, ed., National women’s education center.

Hatano, Y. 1991c. Child-socialization and “parenting” education. In: International seminar on family education proceedings, pp. 272-92.

Hatano, Y. 1993. Sexual activities of Japanese youth. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, 19(2):131-144.

Hatano, Y, & R. Fujita. 1976. Sexual behavior of selected college and vocational school students in Tokyo. Bulletin of Tokyo Gakugei University, 28(5):262-72 (in Japanese).

Hirota, A. 1997. The tale of Genji: From Heian classic to Heisei comic. Journal of Popular Culture, 31:29-68.

IES2. 1997. Hatano, Y., & T. Shimazaki. Japan (Nippon). In: R. T. Francoeur, ed., International encyclopedia of sexuality (vol. 2, pp. 763-842). New York: Continuum. [This is the original version of the current chapter for readers who wish to refer to the original graphs, which were converted to tables or text here. See the footnote at the beginning of this chapter.]

Itoi, K., & B. Powell. 1992 (August 10). Take a hike, Hiroshi. Newsweek, pp. 38-39.

Japan: Portrait of a nation (Rev. ed.). 1999. Tokyo: Kodansha.

Japanese Association for Sex Education (J.A.S.E.), ed. 1975. Sexual behavior of Japanese youth. Tokyo: Shogakukan Press (in Japanese).

Japanese Association for Sex Education (J.A.S.E.), ed. 1983. Sexual behavior of Japanese youth. Tokyo: Shogakukan Press (in Japanese).

Japanese Association for Sex Education (J.A.S.E.), ed. 1988. Sexual behavior of junior high school, senior high school and university students in Japan. Tokyo: Shogakukan Press (in Japanese).

Japanese Association for Sex Education (J.A.S.E.), ed. 1994. Sexual behavior of junior high school, senior high school and university students in Japan. Tokyo: Shogakukan Press (in Japanese).

Kaneko, S. 1995. Women’s place: Cultural and historical perspectives. In: K. Fujimura-Fanselow & A. Kameda, eds., Japanese women: New feminist perspectives on the past, present, and future (pp. 1-14). New York: The Feminist Press of the City University of New York.

Kinsella, S. 2000. Adult manga: Culture and power in contemporary Japanese society. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai’i Press.

Kimura, Y., & A. Yamana. 1999. What Japanese women are really like. Tokyo: Katsuyuki Hasegawa.

Kobayashi, T. 1993. Utamaru: Portraits from the floating world. Tokyo: Kodansha.

Kondo, I. 1956. Kitagawa Utamaro. Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle.

Kristof, N. D. 1995 (November 5). In Japan, brutal comics for women. The New York Times, Sec. 4, pp. 1, 6.

Kristof, N. D. 1996a (February 11). Who needs love? In Japan, many couples don’t. The New York Times, pp. 1, 12.

Kristof, N. D. 1996b (June 19). Japan is a woman’s world once the front door is shut. The New York Times, pp. A1, A8.

Kristof, N. D. 1996c (October 6). Baby may make three, but in Japan that’s not enough. The New York Times, p. 3.

Kronhausen, P., & E. Kronhausen. 1978. The complete book of erotic art: Erotic art, Volumes 1 and 2. New York: Bell.

Kumamoato, Y., et al. 1999. Sexually transmitted disease surveillance in Japan. 1998.

Lester, R. C. 1987. Buddhism. New York: Harper and Row.

Lane, R. 1999. Ukiyo-e: An introduction to the floating world. In: R. Faulkner, Masterpieces of Japanese prints: Ukiyo-e from the Victoria and Albert Museum (pp. 11-23). Tokyo: Kodansha.

Levy, H. S., & A. Ishihara. 1989. The tao of sex: The essence of medical prescriptions (Ishimpo) (3rd ed.). Lower Lake, CA: Integral Publishing.

Lewin, T. 1995 (May 30). Family decay global, study says. The New York Times, p. A5.

Manga: Une plongée dans un choix d’histoires courtes du 12 Octobre au 18 Décembre 1999. 1999. Paris: Maison de la Culture du Japon à Paris.

Maraini, F. 1959. Meeting with Japan. London: Hutchinson.

McClain, J. L. 2002. Japan: A modern history. New York: W.W. Norton.

More report on female sexuality. 1983. Tokyo: Shueisha.

More report on male sexuality. 1984. Tokyo: Shueisha.

Morris, I. 1994. The world of the shining prince: Court life in ancient Japan. Tokyo: Kodansha. (Original work published 1964).

National survey of sexology and college education. 1995. Sexual Science, 4(1):27-68.

Perper, T., & M. Cornog. 2002. Eroticism for the masses: Japanese manga comics and their assimilation into the U.S. Sexuality & Culture, 6:3-126 (Special Issue).

Randall, B. 2002a. Hey kids! Gekiga! Part one. The Comics Journal, 244:91-120.

Randall, B. 2002b. Hey kids! Gekiga! Part two. The Comics Journal, 245:107-111.

Rutenberg, J. 2001 (January 28). Violence finds a niche in children’s cartoons. The New York Times, pp. 1, 19.

Schodt, F. L. 1986. Manga! Manga! The world of Japanese comics. Tokyo: Kodansha.

Schodt, F. L. 1996. Dreamland Japan: Writings on modern manga. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press.

Sha, K. 1964. A happier sex life: Study in modern Japanese sexual habits (R. Y. Tatsuoka & S. Kozuka, trans.). Tokyo: Ikeda Shoten.

Shigematsu, S. 1999. Dimensions of desire: Sex, fantasy, and fetish in Japanese comics. In: J. A. Lent, ed., Themes and issues in Asian cartooning: Cute, cheap, mad, and sexy (pp. 127-163). Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press.

Shimazaki, T. 1994-95. Upon completing the fourth youth sexual behavior investigation. Monthly report sex education today, 1994, 12:9-12, and 1995, 13:1-3. Tokyo: The Japanese Association for Sex Education (in Japanese).

Shiokawa, K. 1999. Cute but deadly: Women and violence in Japanese comics. In: J. A. Lent, ed., Themes and issues in Asian cartooning: Cute, cheap, mad, and sexy (pp. 93-125). Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press.

Smith, T. 1991. Miso horny: Sex in Japanese comics. The Comics Journal, 143:111-115.

Smith, T. C. 1959. The agrarian origins of modern Japan. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Sodei, T. 1995. Care of the elderly: A women’s issue. In: K. Fujimura-Fanselow & A. Kameda, eds., Japanese women: New feminist perspectives on the past, present, and future (pp. 213-228). New York: The Feminist Press at the City University of New York.

Strom, S. 2001 (April 22). On the rise in Japan: Assertive daughters-in-law. The New York Times, International Section.

Tanikawa, M. 1996 (September 8). Clubs where, for a price, Japanese men are nice to women, The New York Times, Styles Section, p. 49.

UNAIDS. 2002. Epidemiological fact sheets by country. Geneva, Switzerland: Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS/WHO). Available: http://www.unaids.org/hivaidsinfo/statistics/ fact_sheets/index_en.htm.

Wolferen, K. Van. 1989. The enigma of Japanese power. New York: Macmillan.

WuDunn, S. 1996 (November 27). Japan may approve the pill, but women may not. The New York Times, pp. A1, A10.

WuDunn, S. 1996 (January 25). At Japanese temples, a mourning ritual for abortions. The New York Times, pp. A1, A8.

Yanagihashi, A. 1995. Traditional homosexuality in Japan (OCCUR, Association for the Lesbian and Gay Movement). A paper submitted to the 12th World Congress of Sexology, Yokohama, Japan.

YAOI-Con. 2002. YAOI-Con convention guide, October 18-20, San Francisco, California. Available: www.aestheticism.com; www.yaoicon.com.

Yoshizumi, K. 1995. Marriage and family: Past and present. In: K. Fujimura-Fanselow & A. Kameda, Eds., Japanese women: New feminist perspectives on the past, present, and future (pp. 183-197). New York: The Feminist Press at the City University of New York.