HISTORY OF SEX AND SEXUALITY OF YOUTH AND ADULTS IN JAPAN

EARLY HISTORY OF JAPANESE ATTITUDES TOWARDS SEXUALITY

Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki wrote in the Encyclopedia of 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. 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. [Source: Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 1997 hu-berlin.de/sexology ++]

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. ++

History of Pornography and Erotica in Japan

Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: 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. [Source: Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 1997 hu-berlin.de/sexology ++]

“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. In the 1990s, 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. ++

Later History of Japanese Attitudes Towards Sexuality

Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: 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. [Source: Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki, Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 1997 hu-berlin.de/sexology ++]

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. ++

Child Development and Sex in Japan

Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: “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. [Source: Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki, Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 1997 hu-berlin.de/sexology ++]

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. ++

Sexuality of Japanese Adolescents

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). [Source: Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 1997 hu-berlin.de/sexology ++]

Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: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. 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. The majority of 14-year-old boys indicated an “interest in approaching a member of the opposite sex”. The same trend was seen in the “desire of physical contact with the opposite sex”. 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. ++

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. Further analysis of these statistics suggests that the girls do not necessarily pursue real love-seeking activities, but prefer spending some time with a friend of the opposite sex. As a matter of fact, they are slow in becoming involved in sexual arousal experiences, while their male counterparts demonstrate a different developmental trend: sexual arousal comes ahead of dating for males and after dating for the females. ++

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. ++

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. ++

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

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

Surveys on Sexuality of Japanese Youth

Rate of Desire to Touch Body of Opposite Sex and Sexual Arousal Experiences by School Classification (in Percentages): A) Desire to touch body of opposite sex: Junior High Male (34.8 percent), Junior High Female (13.2 percent), Senior High Male (81 percent), Senior High Female (32.3 percent), College Male (93.9 percent), College Female (53.9 percent). B) Sexual arousal:Junior High Male (47.5 percent), Junior High Female (21.2 percent), Senior High Male (81.1 percent), Senior High Female (30.4 percent), College Male (92.5 percent), College Female (54.7 percent). [Source: Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki, Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 1997 hu-berlin.de/sexology ++]

Total Number of Partners Engaged with Intercourse Experiences (in Percentages): A) one partner: Junior High Male (52.6 percent), Junior High Female (43.3 percent), Senior High Male (49.7 percent), Senior High Female (48.7 percent), College Male (31.3 percent), College Female (50 percent). B) two partners: Junior High Male (5.3 percent), Junior High Female (16.7 percent), Senior High Male (15.9 percent), Senior High Female (19.6 percent), College Male (18.1 percent), College Female (17.9 percent). C) three partners: Junior High Male (5.3 percent), Junior High Female (13.3 percent), Senior High Male (10.3 percent), Senior High Female (8.9 percent), College Male (14 percent), College Female (8 percent). D) four partners: Junior High Male (0 percent), Junior High Female (0 percent), Senior High Male (2.1 percent), Senior High Female (2.5 percent), College Male (6.6 percent), College Female (8.5 percent). E) five partners: Junior High Male (5.3percent), Junior High Female (0 percent), Senior High Male (4.1 percent), Senior High Female (3.8 percent), College Male (6.2 percent), College Female (4.2 percent). F) Six or more partners: Junior High Male (21.1 percent), Junior High Female (6.7 percent), Senior High Male (9 percent), Senior High Female (6.3 percent), College Male (16 percent), College Female (5.2 percent). G) Don’t Know: Junior High Male (10.5 percent), Junior High Female (20 percent), Senior High Male (9 percent), Senior High Female (10.1 percent), College Male (16 percent), College Female (5.2 percent). ++

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): A) Kissing: Male: 45.2 percent in 1974, 53.2 percent in 1981, 59.4 percent in 1987, 63.4 percent in 1993; Female: 38.9 percent in 1974, 48.6 percent in 1981, 49.7 percent in 1987, 68.5 percent in 1993. B) Petting: Male: 29.7 percent in 1974, 40.3 percent in 1981, 53.3 percent in 1987, 57.0 percent in 1993; Female: 17.9 percent in 1974, 29.9 percent in 1981, 34.1 percent in 1987, 45.7 percent in 1993. C) Intercourse: Male percent 23.1 in 1974, 32.6 percent in 1981, 46.5 percent in 1987, 52.7 percent in 1993. Female, 11.0 percent in 1974, 18.5 percent in 1981, 26.1 percent in 1987, 44.9 percent in 1993. ++

Rationales of First Sexual Intercourse Event by School Level of Occurrence (in Percentage; Includes Multiple Answers): A) Liking: Males: 52.2 percent in Junior High School, 61.9 percent in Senior High School, 62.1 percent in University; Females: 56.6 percent in Junior High School, 66.0 percent in Senior High School, 61.7 percent in University. B) Loving: Males: 34.1 percent in Junior High School, 28.4 percent in Senior High School, 32.9 percent in University; Females: 39.5 percent in Junior High School, 31.0 percent in Senior High School, 53.0 percent in University. C) Aroused: Males: 45.6 percent in Junior High School, 48.1 percent in Senior High School, 48.6 percent in University; Females: 6.6 percent in Junior High School, 7.6 percent in Senior High School, 6.1 percent in University. D) Curiosity: Males: 37.9 percent in Junior High School, 32.2 percent in Senior High School, 34.3 percent in University; Females: 18.4 percent in Junior High School, 21.8 percent in Senior High School, 13.0 percent in University. E) Being sport: Males: 23.6 percent in Junior High School, 13.5 percent in Senior High School, 11.4 percent in University; Females: 10.5 percent in Junior High School, 3.0 percent in Senior High School, 0.9 percent in University. F) No reason: Males: 14.3 percent in Junior High School, 8.7 percent in Senior High School, 5.0 percent in University; Females: 14.5 percent in Junior High School, 10.7 percent in Senior High School, 5.2 percent in University. G) Forced: Males: 11.5 percent in Junior High School, 2.4 percent in Senior High School, 0.7 percent in University; Females: 17.1 percent in Junior High School, 14.2 percent in Senior High School, 10.4 percent in University. Got drunk: Males: 8.8 percent in Junior High School, 8.0 percent in Senior High School, 5.7 percent in University; Females: Got drunk: 10.5 percent in Junior High School, 5.6 percent in Senior High School, 2.6 percent in University. ++

Relationship Between Attitudes on Marriage and Premarital Intercourse Among University Female Students: A) Earlier the better: Unacceptable (11.1 percent), Marriage Premise (25.8 percent), Love Premise (31.7 percent), Agreement Premise (36.1 percent). B) When time comes: Unacceptable (9.5 percent), Marriage Premise (19.3 percent), Love Premise (29.4 percent), Agreement Premise (41.7 percent). C) No desire: Unacceptable (14.8 percent), Marriage Premise (11.1 percent), Love Premise (37 percent), Agreement Premise (37 percent) D) No idea: Unacceptable (13.5 percent), Marriage Premise (14.9 percent), Love Premise (20.3 percent), Agreement Premise (51.4 percent). ++

Sexuality of Japanese Adolescent Boys

Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: 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. [Source: Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki, Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 1997 hu-berlin.de/sexology ++]

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. ++

Sexuality of Japanese Adolescent Girls

Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: 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. [Source: Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki, Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 1997 hu-berlin.de/sexology ++]

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. ++

Changes in the Sexuality of Japanese Adolescents

Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: 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. 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. [Source: Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki, Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 1997 hu-berlin.de/sexology ++]

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. ++

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. ++

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. ++

Thoughts and Attitudes Behind the Sexual Behavior of Youth

Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: Certain data in the 1987 and 1993 national surveys suggest changes in the sociopsychological background of various sexual behaviors. 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. [Source: Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki, Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 1997 hu-berlin.de/sexology ++]

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. 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. 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 . ++

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”. 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. 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. ++

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. ++

In a survey on 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: 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. 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.

Masturbation and Autoerotic Behaviors in Japan

Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: 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. 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. ++

Teen sex magazines. 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). ++

Marital Sex in Japan

Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: 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. [Source: Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 1997 hu-berlin.de/sexology ++]

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. ++

Sexuality and Older Persons

Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki wrote in the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: 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. [Source: Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 1997 hu-berlin.de/sexology ++] 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). [Source: Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 1997 hu-berlin.de/sexology ++]

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). ++

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Yoshiro Hatano, Ph.D. and Tsuguo Shimazaki Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 1997 hu-berlin.de/sexology ++. Plus New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated December 2013

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