Sex, Love And Dating In Japan: The Truth
October 3, 2013

Sex, Love And Dating In Japan: The Truth

Okay, I say ‘The Truth’, but I can’t claim to be some sort of guru on the subject of sex, love and dating in Japan after only a year in the country and without having sampled as much as one ought to in order to present a complete and accurate study. Given the size of Japan’s population, I should really have sampled 12,000 subjects in order to provide a small margin of error in any conclusions. But actually I’ve just chatted with locals and friends in the pub who have been here a while, and sort of observed, and to a fairly moderate extent dipped my toe in (that’s a metaphor, I haven’t gotten into the kinky stuff already).

Let’s start with sex. Well, as it happens that’s something you couldn’t realistically say to a Japanese girl whose acquaintance you had just made. Despite some people’s impression that Japan is one big sex fest- based on exaggerated stereotypes, certain Japanese pop culture, and the mistaken belief that what goes on in some small areas of Tokyo applies to the whole country, Japan is actually more conservative than a lot of Western countries. One night stands do happen, but are rarer than Westerners may be used to. Instead, perhaps more admirably, new romantic encounters are a bit more like I imagine the 50s were at home; a bit of nice courting and wooing before eventually getting down to business. That said, the idea that sex should only happen after marriage doesn’t persist widely, and doesn’t have the religious drive behind it that causes it to persist elsewhere. Once people are in relationships, a healthy sex life is normal. The only issue is that most young people live with their parents until they are married, and so need to make use of Japan’s discreet, pay by the hour ‘love hotels’, along with the older people having affairs there.

As for the weirder side of sex that Japan is known for; well, I haven’t seen a single vending machine selling girls’ used panties yet. There are a lot of vending machines, but none of them seem to sell those. I heard that they were phased out a few years ago. I also haven’t come across anyone trying to insert any marine life inside themselves (although one would expect they would do it behind closed doors). I did hear that a girl recently died as a result of such behavior, but how typical she was I’m not sure.

Soaplands, where men (and very occasionally women) can go and be treated to a massage that is so sensual it gives them pleasure they never thought was possible, even before any sexy stuff is taken care of, are prohibitively expensive for many people. The places are a grey area legally, but seem to stay just inside the law (or are ignored by the law) and still keep customers happy. Apparently, they are off limits to foreigners, except for a few in the big cities where the girls who usually tend to foreigners are Korean or Chinese rather than Japanese. Apparently. A friend told me. Okay, a friend of a friend. Actually, a complete stranger. Someone just shouted it at me in the street.

On the more long-term side of things, there is an increasing problem with people finding marriage partners. Some say the boys are getting worse at dating, while still holding onto the unfortunate belief that a girl over 25 is past her marry-by date. The Christmas cake phenomenon, some call it (after the 25th, no one’s interested). There do seem to be a lot of perfectly nice, single girls in their late 20’s and early 30’s, so I believe the reality does exist. It’s sad really, given the societal pressure on them to get married and start a family. But it does mean that if you happen to be a nice guy looking for company in Japan, you could do a lot better than a soapland.

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John is a freelance writer from the UK, currently living in Japan and thoroughly enjoying their food and whiskey. His first novel, Three Little Boys, and his travel book, Following Football, are currently available on

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