Japanese Busy, No Time For Sex

Richard Lloyd Parry

The secret of Japan's exceptionally low birthrate is out - more than a third of married couples do not have sex.

"The situation is dismal," said Kunio Kitamura, director of the country's Family Planning Association, after a government survey suggested that 34.6 per cent of couples had not made love for more than four weeks.

"My research shows that if you don't have sex for a month, you probably won't for a year. This is very bad news for the country's birthrate, and something the Government needs to look into urgently."

The survey of 1400 people, for Japan's Ministry of Health and Welfare, indicated that 39.7 per cent of all Japanese couples aged 16 to 49 had not had sex for more than a month, a 5 per cent increase on the results of the same survey two years ago.

Doctors and anthropologists say that there are a number of reasons why the Japanese are giving up sex. One is the lifestyle of many urban Japanese men, who leave home early, return home late and tired after a long commute, and tend to spend weekends and other free time socialising with work colleagues or catching up on their sleep. Women, too, are more likely to work and have less time to themselves.

Some couples do not expect to maintain a regular sex life after the arrival of a child and small, thin-walled apartments offer few opportunities for privacy.

Poor communication is also cited as a factor, especially among older people, who are constrained from discussing sex, even with their spouses.

The Japan Sexual Science Association defines a sexless marriage as one in which there has been no sexual contact between husband and wife for more than a month, and in which this situation is expected to continue.

Japan also came last in a table of 29 countries compiled by University of Chicago researchers into which had the greatest sexual satisfaction. (Austrians were first.)

It also came last in a survey by Durex, the condom manufacturer, which found the Japanese have sex 45 times a year, compared with an average of 103.

In the past 10 years, Japanese politicians and bureaucrats have become preoccupied increasingly by the country's declining birthrate. The fertility rate, the number of children that the average woman will bear in a lifetime, fell to a record low of 1.25 last year, well below the "replacement rate" of 2.1.

At the same time, Japanese are living longer. A situation looms in which a decreasing number of working taxpayers have to support a growing population of pensioners, leading to budgetary collapse.

Various reasons have been advanced to explain the declining fertility rate, but it may be mainly due to the most basic reason of all - that the Japanese are giving up on sex.

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