Changing Japanese marriage patterns

Recently a pastor (with a doctorate) asked me a research question on marriage patterns in Japan. They quoted from Stephanie Coontz (Marriage, a History).  She asserts Japan is culturally promoting sex among it young population: “Japanese pundits lament the drop in business in Japan’s rent-by-the-hour ‘love hotels’ and some are calling for the youth to not hate sex.” Is this idiosyncratic or is she truly reflecting the culture? So I researched it a bit (the Dr. John in me). Here are my observations.

  1. Stephanie Coontz appears to be a careful scholar but I am always hesitant about a westerner writing on Japan, especially in a book where they try to make a point about the west. East and West are very different and we begin with different concerns and values.  I take this sentence with a grain of salt.
  2. One of Stephanie Coontz’s concerns is that love motels are not doing very well. It could be merely an economic answer.  Japan as a whole is doing poorly economically and disposable income is limited, hence the problem with the “love hotel” business. The resort where we have the CPI conference has been struggling for a growing business for decades and it is in a popular vacation spot.
  3. There are several changes in Japan which I have observed and read about which I believe shows some changes in sexual relationships and marriage.
  4. The drop in the birth rate, but that does not always indicate a drop in sexual relationships. The government is even rewarding couples who have children. I doubt that the government of Japan is encouraging young people to have sex. I don’t think in the history of the world and in Japan young people developed an attitude to hate sex.  Hormones dictate otherwise.
  5. The roles in marriage have been steadily changing.  Not all of this is negative and some of it is even Biblical.  See the whole chapter on changing marriage in Japan: New Japan: Debunking Seven Cultural Stereotypes by David Ricky Matsumoto (Mar 1, 2007)
  6. The role of men in Japanese society has changed dramatically from the Samarai warrior/salary man. Many young Japanese men have become wimpy even effeminate men. There was a previous androgynous trend (note Japanese animes) and also the Otaku roles for young men ( Then there are  “Herbivore boys.” See This would justifiably turn off many Japanese young women.
  7. Women’s role is also changing like the modern “gaaru” (girl)
  8. As far as I know the practice of enjo kosai ( or “compensated dating” has probably diminished due to the economy. But young people have less moral resistance to promiscuous sex.  Shintoism and Buddhism do not really speak against it like the moral law of God from the Bible. Also in society it is permitted as long as you do not shame yourself or family.  And the most common form of birth control is abortions which are widely practiced.

To sum up, a lot has to do with the economy, busyness of Japan, stress, and the role of men. I would generally agree with this article on sex and marriage values among young people. (But I would ignore the statement about hikikomori that overstates the relationship.) Certainly we need to pray for wisdom for Japanese young people and abstinence.  Also we need to pray for the women of Japan, the men of Japan, and marriages in Japan. May each Japanese find the joy of marriage that God intended when he created us.

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