Japan
(Nippon)

Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D., and Tsuguo Shimazaki*

* Note: The Encyclopedia editor is grateful to tile authors for their effort to complete this chapter in lime for inclusion in the first three volumes despite their concurrent responsibilities in coordinating the 12th World Congress of Sexology in Yokohama. The editor also acknowledges the invaluable assistance of Yoshimi Kaji, M.Ed., his former New York University graduate student, for her additional comments, for checking his editorial additions, and for helping to bring this important chapter to completion. Her comments have been integrated in the text in brackets with her name (Kaji) at the end of each comment.

Contents

  1. Demographics and a Historical Perspective
  2. Basic Sexological Premises
  3. Religious and Ethnic Factors Affecting Sexuality
  4. Sexual Knowledge and Education
  5. Autoerotic Behaviors and Patterns
  6. Interpersonal Heterosexual Behaviors
  7. Homoerotic, Homosexual, and Ambisexual Behaviors
  8. Gender Conflicted Persons
  9. Significant Unconventional Sexual Behaviors
  10. Contraception, Abortion, and Population Planning
  11. Sexually Transmitted Diseases
  12. HIV/AIDS
  13. Sexual Dysfunctions, Counseling, and Therapies
  14. Research and Advanced Education
  15. References and Suggested Readings

Demographics and a Historical Perspective

A. Demographics

It was Marco Polo, a man from Venice, Italy, in the latter half of the thirteenth century, who wrote a book entitled 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 each, totaling 372,000 square kilometers. Japan is slightly larger than the land of Germany and smaller than Spain.

A relatively mild climate prevails, due to the location of most of Japan’s islands in the Temperate Zone. With four distinctive seasons, there are variations due to longitudinal distribution of the islands. Due to 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 the 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 land mass of Japan is rather small and approximately 87 percent 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 this 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 fifth 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 early 1996, the population of Japan was close to 126 million, equivalent to one half the population of the United States, or to the combined populations of France and Germany. The population in 1925 was approximately 60 million and it took nearly seventy years to double to our current size. Approximately 77 percent of the total population live in urban areas and less than 23 percent, 28 million, in towns and villages, clearly indicating an extreme urban-centered construction. Japan’s cities have grown 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.

According to the report by the Ministry of Public Health and Welfare, the average life expectancy of the Japanese is 77 and 82 years for men and women respectively. The longevity of the Japanese is steadily increasing. On the other hand, the Japanese birthrate is 39.2 per 1,000 female population, in comparison to 51.8 in 1980, 63.6 in 1960, and 110.4 in 1950, only forty-five years ago. In 1992, the Japanese had 1.53 children per woman. The trend of longevity extension and decreased birthrate obviously is creating serious problems for Japanese society for future days. 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.

The 1996 World Almanac gives Japan’s birth rate as 11 per 1,000 population and the death rate at seven per 1,000, giving a natural annual increase of 0.3 percent. Japan had an infant mortality rate of 4 per 1,000 live births in 1995, one hospital bed per 74 persons and one physician per 570 persons. Literacy in 1992 was listed at 100 percent with nine years of compulsory education, although most Japanese children attend at least 12 years of school. The per capita gross domestic product in 1993 was $20,400.

Japanese is the only language officially used throughout the nation. Nevertheless, in the Constitution of Japan, there is no statement about the language to be used. Regardless of the situation, almost 100 percent of those who hold the Japanese citizenship speak and write the Japanese language in daily communication and in carrying on their social life. Regarding racial problems, which have been the cause of turmoil in many countries in recent times, there are no current serious arguments to endanger the national unity. One 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. These minority people speak and write the Japanese language officially, as well as in daily life.

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 sixth 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 sixteenth and seventeenth 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.

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 two thousand 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 was 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 percent 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 percent of the Japanese women either completely or somewhat agreed with the premise (see also discussion of Figure 36 in Section 5B). 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 percent 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 percent of Japanese firms offer female employees a year’s maternity leave, in most cases without pay, and that day-care 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).

[In ancient times, Japanese women wielded considerable authority. Until the eleventh 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 eighteenth 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 Zimbawee, are twice as likely to be managers. Only 2.3 percent of Japan’s key legislative body are women, compared with 10.9 percent 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 (Kristoff 1996b). (Editor)]

[In recent years, a new phenomenon has appeared in Japan’s vibrant big city night life 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 numbers 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 is not cheap. An evening may cost the equivalent of five hundred American dollars or more. Regular clients may run up monthly bills of three or four thousand dollars.

[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 night life, including visits to the sexual hot spots known as soaplands. Japanese women do not have this freedom (see discussion of soaplands in Section 8B). 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). (Editor)]

B. Sociolegal Status of Males and Females

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 which, 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).

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-m�ch� 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 (Hatano 1972).

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.

Table 1
Trends, Problems, and Issues in Lifestyles as the Result of Primary and Secondary Changes in Societal Modernization

Primary Changes

Secondary Changes

Trends, Problems, and Issues

Technological development

Industrial development

Universal education

Decline of agricultural economy

Decline of patrimonial succession

Mass media development

Freer commuting

Less concentric force in family

Less physical labor

More work outside of the home

Materialism

Longer school life

Emphasis on human rights

More vocational and career opportunities for women

More leisure hours

Conformism

Impersonal society

Leaving hometown

Extinction of the fireside

Happy family circle

Money first philosophy

Longer adolescence

Lessened family concentric force

Less community activities

Children leaving parents

Nuclear family

Less social restrictions

Lack of self-realization

Lack of sincerity

Lonely crowd

Lack of communication

Less emphasis on individuality

Aimless life

Generation gap

Lowered moral code

Family members not supporting each other

Insufficient child care

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 (Hatano 1991b, 1991c; see also Table 2). 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
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 after effects 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 premodern 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 con temporary 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 code of ethics, including sexual behaviors.

2. Religious and Ethnic 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 percent 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 Gods 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 archaeological 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 third or fourth 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 sixth 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 sixteenth 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 fourteenth to sixteenth 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 two thousand 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, when compared with strict and clear-cut moral codes of behavior like that of Christianity.

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 which 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 due to 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 Gods 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 eighth-century collection of ten thousand Waka poems, many of which are love songs, and the eleventh-century Romances of Genji, fifty-four 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 sixth 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 Ukiyoe 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 match-making ceremony takes place only after the parents have chosen the marriage partner (distinctively different from the match-making 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 fifteen 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 fifty 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 fifty 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.

3. Sexual Knowledge and Education

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 sixth 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 thirteenth and fourteenth 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 this 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 Confucianism 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 Confucianism 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 (1941-45). After the 1945 defeat, Japanese education was completely transfigured with the adoption of a 6-3-3-4 year sequence, the first 9 years being mandatory (6 years of elementary school and 3 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 has 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 one to six), 12,000 junior high schools (grades seven through nine), 5,500 senior high schools (grades ten through twelve), 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 percent 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 due to 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 percent of the boys and 96.4 percent of the girls. Advancement to colleges and universities is 36.3 percent for men and 39.2 percent 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 school children 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 view point, 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 school children. This impacts also on a number of cases in which hemophiliac patients have become HIV-positive because of contaminated blood transfusions. [By 1985, about 40 percent 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 percent of Japanese people with HIV. See Section 11 on HIV/AIDS. (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. [An added problem is the great reluctance, especially among elementary school teachers, to mention, let alone discuss, sexuality in their classrooms (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; Figure 1 shows a breakdown in the content of sexuality education by subject (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 percent - three out of every ten - had received no sexual education at all (type 0) while an identical figure of 29.4 percent received an education that covered all three general categories (type III). A little over 20 percent had sexuality education that covered only the physiological and biological aspects (type I), while 13.5 percent and 12.8 percent had instruction that covered the physiological-biological and social (type IIA), or psychological-biological and psychological (type IIB) respectively. In Figure 1, 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.

Figure 2 presents the percentage of each type of sex education actually given to students of different school levels (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.

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 Sex Education

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.)

Figure 1 - Subjects That Were Taught in Sex Education

Figure 2 - Types of Actually Given Sex Education Among Various School-Age Groups

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 (Figure 3; 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. [This may be changing as young Japanese women increasingly reject traditional female roles. (See Section 5C Marriage and Divorce below) (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.

Figure 3 - Cumulative Frequencies of Masturbation Experiences Among Japanese Youths in the 1987 and 1993 Surveys

The teen sex magazines mentioned above in Sections 3C and 8C, which are used primarily by young males as a masturbatory stimulant, pose many societal and cultural questions. [The sex magazines and comics targeted to young females are also popular and raise many controversial questions. (Kaji)]. 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 relate to women on a mature and intimate adult level? (Bornoff 1991,71).

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 Figure 4) (Hatano 1991b, 1991c). 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 breast feeding 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.

Peer-group activities, especially involving play activities among young children, is believed to develop the social aspect of personality. It seems that social development of an individual includes acquisition of communication skills with of hers, 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.

Figure 4
Human Developmental Stages and Assignments of Play and Sexual Behavior and Positions of Sex Education and Education for Parenting

Developmental Stage

Events and Activities

Resultant Effects

Infant

Breast feeding (Kinship)

®

Stimulation of mental activity

Parent-child reliance

¯

Parent-child play

®

Emotional stability and development

¯

Preschool child

Peer group play and activity (Experience of pain, group control)

®

Cooperation, adjustments, and durability

¯

¯

Childhood

Human interpersonal relationships (Social behavior development)

Methods of communication

Human relationship techniques

Group leadership/discipline

Male/female relations

Coping with handicapped children

¯

Puberty

Communication with opposite sex

¬

Sex Education - biological and socio-psychological

Education for parenting

¯

¯

Adolescence

Sexual behavior and interactions

¯

Adulthood

Family life

¬

Family relations

Parent-child Relationships

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. [This tendency for Japanese couples to have fewer children may also reflect the lack of sufficient social welfare and public child-care 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 child-care facilities. (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 the individual single child encounters in his or her development (see the third column in Figure 4).

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 premodern 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 school children 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

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).

According to the 1993 survey report, die majority - 50 percentile ranked, median) - of 12-year-old girls have already experienced their first menstruation, and 14-year-old boys their first ejaculation (Figure 5; J.A.S.E. 1994). That girls start their adolescence one year or more before the boys is evident in Figure 6 (Shimazaki 1994-95). The majority of boys and girls admitted to having an “interest in sex” by age 14 (Figure 7; J.A.S.E. 1994). The majority of 14-year-old boys indicated an “interest in approaching a member of the opposite sex” (Figure 8; J.A.S.E. 1994). The same trend was seen in the “desire of physical contact with the opposite sex” (Figure 9; J.A.S.E. 1994). There is a clear difference between an interest in approaching a member of the other sex and the desire for physical contact, in that the boys are strongly interested in direct physical contact with the other sex while the girls are only interested in becoming closer with the other sex.

Figure 5 - Cumulative Frequencies of Menstruation (Female) and Ejaculation (Male) Events Among the Japanese Youths in the 1987 and 1993 Surveys

Figure 6 - Comparison of Ages of First Experience of Menstruation and Ejaculation Among the Japanese Youths in the 1987 and 1993 Surveys

Figure 7 - Cumulative Frequencies of Development of “Interest in Sex” Among the Japanese Youths in the 1987 and 1993 Surveys

Although these young people, both male and female, seem to start their adolescence with these heterosexual “interests” by age 13 or 14, this interest does not have a concrete outcome in social activity, namely dating, for some years. Actually, a remarkable growth in the dating activities among the girls was observed in the 1993 survey as shown in Figures 10 (J.A.S.E. 1994) and 11 (Shimazaki 1994). 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 (Figure 12 and Table 3; J.A.S.E 1994), while their male counterparts demonstrate a different developmental trend: sexual arousal comes ahead of dating for males and after dating for the females (Figure 13; Shimazaki 1994-95).

Figure 8 - Cumulative Frequencies of “Interest in Approaching the Opposite Sex” Among the Japanese Youths in the 1987 and 1993 Surveys

Figure 9 - Cumulative Frequencies of “Desire of Physical Contact with the Opposite Sex” Among the Japanese Youths in the 1987 and 1993 Surveys

Figure 10 - Cumulative Frequencies of Dating Experiences Among the Japanese Youths in the 1987 and 1993 Surveys

Figure 11 - Age of First Dating Among the Japanese Youths in the 1993 Survey

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 (Figures 14 and 15; J.A.S.E. 1994).

Japanese youths, both male and female, show a remarkably slow development in sexual behaviors in comparison to other societies. There is 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. The cumulative frequencies of petting and intercourse experiences by age progression are shown in Figures 16 and 17 (J.A.S.E. 1994). Figures 18 and 19 compare the cumulative frequencies of kissing, petting, and intercourse experiences for males and females respectively (Shimazaki 1994-95). Table 4 provides survey data on the total number of coital partners classified by sex and school levels (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 percent of the girls already demonstrate a general interest in boys, as opposed to the 14-year-old median 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 Figure 9).

Figure 12 - Cumulative Frequencies of “Experience of Sexual Arousal” Among the Japanese Youths in the 1987 and 1993 Surveys

Table 3
Rate of Desire to Touch Body of Opposite Sex and Sexual Arousal Experiences by School Classification (in Percentages)

Junior High

Senior High

College

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

Desire to touch body of opposite sex

43.8

13.2

81.0

32.3

93.9

53.9

Sexual arousal

47.5

21.2

81.1

30.4

92.5

54.7

Figure 13 - Ages of First Experience of Sexual Arousal and Dating Among the Japanese Youths in the 1993 Survey

Figure 14 - Cumulative Frequencies of First Kissing Experience Among the Japanese Youths in the 1987 and 1993 Surveys

Figure 15 - Cumulative Frequencies of “Experience of Touching the Body of the Opposite Sex” Among the Japanese Youths in the 1987 and 1993 Surveys

Figure 16 - Cumulative Frequencies of Petting Experiences Among the Japanese Youths in the 1987 and 1993 Surveys

Figure 17 - Cumulative Frequencies of Intercourse Experiences Among the Japanese Youths in the 1987 and 1993 Surveys

Figure 18 - Cumulative Frequencies of Kissing, Petting, and Intercourse Experiences Among the Japanese Males in the 1987 and 1993 Surveys

Figure 19 - Cumulative Frequencies of Kissing, Petting, and Intercourse Experiences Among the Japanese Females in the 1987 and 1993 Surveys

Table 4
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

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 - Figure 13), intercourse (boys one year ahead), and dating (girls one year ahead - Figure 10).

The 1987 data were used to construct a developmental sequence model of sexual events and experiences of the Japanese youths (Figure 20; 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.

Figure 20 - 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)

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 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 are shown in Figures 21 (male) and 22 (female) (Hatano 1991), and in Tables 5 and 6 (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 of Table 4 on the number of sexual partners, for example, already indicate that more than 60 percent of male and more than 40 percent of female college students admitted to having multiple intercourse partners.)

Accelerated physical growth is often observed when more favorable circumstances are provided, a good example being nutritional improvement. Japanese Ministry of Education statistics, summarized in Figures 23, suggest a sharp acceleration in physical growth between 1950 and 1980, whereas Figure 24 suggests that this acceleration stopped by 1980 (Hatano 1991b, 1991c). Apparently, the Japanese postwar growth acceleration due to 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 due to social changes and new pressures. Likewise, since there was no particular biological deceleration phenomenon during the past fifty 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 Figure 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 on-going 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 1.

Figure 21 - 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

Contemporary Japan is an overly matured society, and thus certain pathological phenomena may be observed in relation with child rearing 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.

Figure 22 - 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 5
Comparison of Various Sexual Experience Rates Among the Japanese Youths in Four Surveys

Experiences

School Level*

Male

Female

1974

1981

1987

1993

1974

1981

1987

1993

Menstruation

(in females) and 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

* (JHS = Junior High School Students; SHS = Senior High School Students; Univ. = University Students)

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 school work, 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, due to 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.

Table 6
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) (in Percentages)

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

Figure 23 - Changes in Yearly Growth Rate in Postwar Years Among Japanese Boys

Figure 24 - Changes in Yearly Growth Rate in the Past Decade Among Japanese Boys

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.

Figure 25 shows the survey results about the primary initiator of the dating and intercourse behaviors among the Japanese youths in the 1993 survey (J.A.S.E 1994). Between 40 and 49 percent of the male and female respondents reported that dating and intercourse were jointly initiated. In the remaining cases, 46 percent of the males and 35 percent of the women saw their male partner as the initiator of dating, while 44 percent of the men and 60 percent of the women saw their 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.

Circumstances for the first sexual arousal experience in the 1987 survey are shown in Figure 26 (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 percent versus 45 percent respectively. Among university students, on the other hand, 60 percent reported being sexually aroused - and only 11 percent by watching erotic visual material; 41 percent of university men reported being sexually aroused by watching erotic visual material.

Figure 25 - The Primary Initiator of the Dating and Intercourse Behaviors Among the Japanese Youth in 1993 Survey

Figure 26 - Circumstances for the First Sexual Arousal Experience

The main rationales for the first kissing experience are shown in Figure 27 (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.

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 (Figure 28; 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 percent and 85 percent for university males and females, considerably higher than in the United States (Figure 29; J.A.S.E. 1988).

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 percent “loving the person,” while 18 percent were motivated by “curiosity,” 15 percent by “sport,” and 13 percent by “coercion” (Figure 30; 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 (Figure 31; J.A.S.E. 1988). Table 7 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.

Figure 27 - Major Rationales for the First Kissing Experience

Figure 28 - Partner’s Age Classified by Age at First Experience of Intercourse

Figure 29 - Rate of Contraceptive Devices Used Classified by the Time of First Experience of Intercourse

Figure 30 - Rationales for the First Experience of Intercourse

Figure 31 - Rationales for the First Experience of Intercourse

Table 7
Rationales of First Sexual Intercourse Event by School Level of Occurrence (in Percentage; Includes Multiple Answers)

MALES Rationales

Time of Event*

FEMALES Rationales

Time of Event*

JHS

SHS

Univ.

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

* (JHS = Junior High School Students; SHS = Senior High School Students; Univ. = University Students)

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 (Table 8).

Table 8
Relationship Between Attitudes on Marriage and Premarital Intercourse Among University Female Students

Attitude on Marriage

Attitude on Premarital Intercourse

Unacceptable

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

Figure 32 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 percent and 61 percent respectively, and 42 percent and 34 percent 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.

Throughout the four national surveys in these twenty years, sexually active Japanese youth showed a steadily increasing trend in their use of contraceptives (Figure 33; 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 percent agreeing and 40 percent disagreeing, indicating a conservative trend for more-educated males (Figure 34). 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.

Figure 32 - Degree of Concern While Engaged in Intercourse Among the Japanese Youths in the 1993 Survey

Figure 33 - Rate of Contraceptive-Device Usage When Engaged in Intercourse Among the Japanese Youths in Four Surveys, 1974, 1981, 1987, and 1993

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 (Table 9).

Figure 34 - Attitudes about the Hypothesis “Man’s Role Is to Work Outside the Home and Woman’s Role Is to Take Care of the Family”

Table 9
Opinions about Marriage (in Percentages)

Opinions

Junior High

Senior High

University

Total

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

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, due to 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 percent of the men and 23.0 percent 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 percent of the men indicated having had sexual intercourse in the past month. Among these, 55 percent had had sexual intercourse in the past week. Of all respondents, 15 percent had not had sexual intercourse in the past month.

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

In other survey responses, 51 percent of the men indicated that they practice oral sex, and 8 percent replied that they practice anal sex. Twenty-nine percent of the women said that they always experience orgasm when having sexual intercourse, 30 percent replied frequently, 24 percent replied occasionally, and 8 percent 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 Divorce

Dramatic improvement of women’s status in society in the fifty 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 fairy tales. [An additional factor, mentioned in Section 4, may be the slow-fading expectation that a good Japanese woman should always be modest and not initiate any sexual activity. (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.

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.

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 percent of women in their 20s and 30s respectively, and 32.9 and 37.1 percent 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. [Ten years ago, in a survey conducted by the Ministry of Public Welfare in 1987, 91.8 percent of the males and 92.9 percent 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 percent for males and 0.8 percent for females (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 the male/female cooperation,. The majority simply hope that when all the conditions are fulfilled, it is not a bad idea to get married. [Surveys need to be conducted to support or disprove this interesting hypothesis. (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 percent of all marriages were arranged in the manner mentioned above, and 57.0 percent were a freely made decision or love-oriented marriage. The rate of arranged marriage in a 1980s survey dropped to 22.8 percent for arranged marriages and rose to 71.8 percent 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 in these days, particularly considering a 1991 poll by the Asahi Shimbund that reported 60 percent of Japanese women consider Japanese men “unreliable” (Itoi and Powell 1992). (See also the discussion of the “Narita divorce” phenomenon in Section 5A above.)

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).

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. [There are 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 (Kristoff 1996a). (Editor)]

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.

[In a recent survey conducted by the Dentsu Research Institute and Leisure Development Center in Japan, married men and their wives in thirty-seven 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 percent of the fathers spend less that 15 minutes a day on weekdays talking with or playing with their children. Fifty-one percent of the eighth 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).

[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. Women also face serious financial consequences from divorce. 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. Only about 15 percent of divorced fathers pay child support (Kristof 1996a). (Editor)]

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 percent 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 percent in their early 60s, 50.3 percent in their late 70, and 62.6 percent of men aged 80 or older were no longer sexually active. Of those who indicated being sexually active, 60 percent in their 60s, 40 to 55 percent in their 70, and 30 percent 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 a both an official and a private stance when it comes to sexuality.

[Extramarital Relationships

[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), lover’s 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 percent 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 percent of the 680 women sex workers arrested by the police were housewives (Bornoff 1991, 334). (See also Section 8B.) (Editor)]

6. Homoerotic, Homosexual, and Ambisexual Behaviors

[A. Homosexuality in Pre-Modern Japan

[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 piled on top one another within the confines of the shrine in a seething mass exaltation of manhood. Masculinity was also exalted by the samurai and shoguns who kept legions of pretty young pages 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 ne plus ultra 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 insertor.

[For centuries, the traditional Japanese theater, another male preserve, also had an established current of homosexuality 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, 422-33). (Editor)]

[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 non-existent; and
  4. The relationships were formed exclusively among members of the privileged classes.

According to Yanagihashi, homosexuality was understood as a substitute or supplement to heterosexuality in a fundamentally heterosexual and male-dominated society. (Kaji)]

B. Male Homosexuality Today

[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 percent) have ever addressed the issue of homosexuality in their curriculum (National Survey of Sexology and College Education, 1995). Though many lesbians and gay men are suffering 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. (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.

[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 percent 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 percent 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). (Editor)]

[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 two thousand people attended this event, which was co-sponsored by twenty-eight 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. (Kaji)]

[C. Lesbianism

[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, 433-47). (Editor)]

[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 anti-social. A variety of colloquial terms are used for Japanese lesbians, all of them more or less derogatory. (Kaji)] 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 nenne or neko (cat), Çnue, or femme, mark the two ends of the lesbian spectrum.

[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). (Editor)]

7. Gender Conflicted Persons

Except for the practices of certain ethnic groups in the world, cross-dressing, transvestism, gender-crossing, and transsexualism were, until about fifty 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 actors 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 advocate 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.

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.

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 fourth and fifth 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

[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.

[Soaplands

[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 facades arrayed with colorful son et lumi�re, 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 lunge 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 Chateau de Chenonceaux.

...In the interests of mandatory discretion, the showy facades 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 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,” non-coital 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 video game 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 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 (salary men) 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 sixteen months. In the 1986 survey conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office, nearly 10 percent were housewives, another 10 percent office employees, and 4 percent students. More than half cited “making a living” as the motivation, 14 percent were doing it “for the sake of the family,” 11 percent were doing it to pay off debts, while others cited money for clothes, travel, and leisure (Bornoff 1991, 273, 334). (Editor)]

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 due to 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.

[“Ladies Comic Books”

[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 ofAmour, 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). (Editor)]

D. 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 ten thousand 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 night spots 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.

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, etc. Nearly 80 percent 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. [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, approval of the OCP may be expected in the near future (WuDunn 1996). (Editor)]

Japanese contraceptive practices naturally reflect this limitation. According to the latest statistics, 77.7 percent of contracepting Japanese use a condom; one in five, 21 percent, use the Ogino method/rhythm method/BBT method; 7.1 percent use withdrawal (coitus interruptus), 7 percent rely on surgical sterilization, and 3.7 percent on the intrauterine device. The rather high popularity of condom usage among the Japanese people is due to 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.

[B. Unwed Teenage Pregnancy

[Japan has consistently maintained one of the world’s lowest incidence of out-of-wedlock births, well below 5 percent (Lewin 1995). A 1995 study by the Population Council, an international nonprofit New York-based group, reported that only 1.1 percent of Japanese births are to unwed mothers, a figure that has been virtually unchanged for twenty-five years. In the United States, this figure is 30.1 percent and rising rapidly (Kristof, 1996a). (Editor)]

C. Abortion

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 forty 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.

[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 an 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 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 feeling traditional suppressed in the acceptance of abortion (WuDunn 1996). (Editor)]

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 premodern 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. [Similarly, in many regions of China, a newborn infant is not considered “fully born” and human until the whole 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 family and their ancestors. (Editor)]

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 work force 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 and Powell 1992).

[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 child-bearing 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 (Kristoff 1996c). (Editor)]

10. Sexually Transmitted Diseases

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.

11. 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 strait-laced 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 home room 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.

[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.

[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 (see Table 10). 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 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. (Kaji)]

Table 10
Reported Accumulative Cases of Persons with HIV and Persons with AIDS

Source of Infection

Male

Female

Totals

Japanese

Non-Japanese

Japanese

Non-Japanese

Japanese

Non-Japanese

Heterosexual Contact

334

82

477

365

811

447

Homosexual Contact

328

55

0

0

328

55

IV Drug Use

10

8

0

0

10

0

Mother to child

2

1

6

3

8

4

Contaminated blood

1,782

-

21

-

1,803

-

Other

18

6

18

1

36

7

Unknown etiology

132

76

295

285

427

361

Totals

2,606

227

817

654

3,423

881

Source: Ministry of Public Welfare, as of August 31, 1995.

12. 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

13. Research and Advanced 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 this 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 percent 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, PhD, 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. Telephone: +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. Telephone: +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. Telephone: +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-Jinbocho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101 Japan. Telephone: +81-3-3288-5200; Fax: +81-3-3288-5387

Japan Institute for Research in Education, 4-3-6-702 Kozimachi Chiyodaku, Tokyo 7102 Japan. Phone: 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. Phone: 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. Telephone: +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. Telephone: +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. Telephone: +81-3-3475-1789. Fax: +81-3-3475-1789. JSSS publishes the journal Japanese Journal of Sexology (semiannually).

References and Suggested Readings

Asayama, Shinichi. 1979. “Sexuality of the Japanese Youth: Its Current Status and the Future Prospects.” Sex Education Today, 36, 8-16 (in Japanese).

Benedict, Ruth. 1954. The Chrysanthemum and the Sword - Patterns of Japanese Culture. Charles E. Tuttle Co.

Bornoff, Nicholas. 1991. Pink Samurai: Love, Marriage and Sex in Contemporary Japan. New York: Pocket Books.

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

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