Monday, February 05, 2007


Okay, so I was writing a long entry and my computer just shut down randomly so I lost it all. So annoying! I've been really absent minded lately.

Anyway, to give a little re-cap.
Before coming to Japan I heard a bunch of conceptions of Japanese sexuality. It was usually one of two opinions; they are really sexually repressed or they are wild and outgoing, but the one thing that most everyone agreed upon was that they are kinky.

Now, I know that most of you have heard about things like; vending machines that sell used panties and some sort of penis parade or something, however I feel like these things were just passing small obscure phases of which is not ever-present here. You don't go walking down the street and see such things, I just think that people from other countries have an affinity for holding up vast differences found in other cultures from their own.

Yet, that doesn't mean that sexuality is treated exactly the same here as it is in lets say America.
The first encounter most people will have with such a difference is the abundance, variety, and sheer availability of pornography. In most stores that sell books and even some that don't, one can find a variety of pornography; usually a mix of animated (hentai) and regular photographs. Also, there is a fairly large proportion of this selection which is centered around domination and rape, which is an ultra taboo subject in the US.

Another example of difference in sexuality is the sheer abundance of 'love hotels.' These are hotels that rent essentially by the night or hour and are fully automated so no actual personal contact has to be made.

Another example is the way in which youth is portrayed. I noticed this when I watched about 30 minutes of television here.
Firstly, I want to start by saying that I am not a pedophile, never was, don't have any plans to be. Anyway, I started flipping through the channels and came to a show where there were two girls sitting side-by-side against a blue matte backdrop. They looked fairly typical, thin, fairly small breasted, etc. One was wearing fairly up-to-date Tokyo fashion, which is a little skimpier and more stylish than New York, in my opinion. The other was wearing a dress which was cut fairly short, there seemed to be nearly no distance between the bottom of it and the girl's crotch. The dress was also outfitted as a kind of naughty-nun uniform with a mini-version of the hat and a cross danging about her chest to complete the look. Their hair was perfect and they were wearing tons of make-up.
I'll have to admit, I thought they were cute to the point where they were sexually appealing... I mean, I guess I'll just say it, they were attractive.

So the girls were answering questions about their hobbies, likes, dislikes, etc. It seemed like it was a dating type show. Anyway, the camera panned out and the two hosts of the show were sitting across from them. They were two normal looking men, but they were about twice the size of each of the girls. I immediately thought, 'oh god.'
Then on a monitor behind the girls what looked to be their potential dates started scrolling through. The boys looked their age, about 12-14 years old. I fully realized that the girls were in fact quite young and I couldn't help but feeling dirty for gawking at them previously, so I changed the channel.
However, I won't deny that they were portrayed in a sexual way, not to say I get off on kids by any means.

When I changed the channel I found MTV Japan. There was a music video playing. The song sounded fairly poppy which is normal I guess. There was a Japanese girl singing with her face close up against the camera. She had blue contacts in and either had bleached blond hair or it was a wig. The shots would then switch to 1 of 3 men's faces all against a red backdrop. They weren't wearing shirts, so it looked like they were naked. They were writhing around looking like they were struggling with something and sweating profusely. The song continued in the same fashion with brief interludes of rather overweight men doing things like taking showers, doing cardio dance classes in front of their TV's at home, etc. Then later the song hit a break and all the men on the red-backdrop suddenly looked relieved as tissues fell down all around them. Shortly after there was another red wall that had a rudimentary vagina on it where the clitoris was a yellow light. The light turned on and a thin guy in a black and white zentai-suit stepped out of the vagina and started dancing.
Needless to say, culture-shock was starting to set in around this point.

Anyway, these examples would lead one to believe that it's just a super sexual society, right?
Well, it's strange because these things are certainly different than in the US, and to see and hear about these things out of context would lead you to believe this, but it's more complex than that.

While in and around the city, the place where sexuality should be at it's height, you don't see all that much of it in the people. One rarely sees couples holding hands or having any sort of contact whatsoever. Just the other day I saw a couple get onto the subway, the girl kind of grabbed and hugged the guys' arm and he pushed her away. Then she stood a few feet away and that was that. This occurrence seems all too present in the society where couples remain fairly far from one another and it is often difficult to tell that a couple are even at all involved except for the fact that they are traveling in the same direction and speaking to one another.

Also, about the most wild public displays of affection that you are going to observe will be maybe a high school couple tucked away somewhere in the back of a subway station hugging with their faces kept about a foot apart.

A show of actual cultural distance is that it is customary to stand about a foot further away from the person you are speaking to here than it is in the US. This would normally not seem like a big deal, but in a place where there are so many more people and spaces are so much smaller, it is quite noticeable since you have to really struggle for that extra space.
However, at the same time there seems to be at the same time an indifference when in or around train and subway stations. I've noticed there people have no problem being extremely close to me or one another. However, it's not in a social or interactive way.

Also, to give an alternate explanation to the much above listed.
The sheer abundance of pornography I don't think indicates an openness with sexuality, but rather an understood closedness with it. The reason being that it's understood that sex isn't had much, therefore masturbation material is just there for general consumption. Also, in line with a repressed culture, I think it is also consistent to see things like domination and rape being so widely spread. In the sense that it's when you hold back and hold back and hold back, you probably will be fantasizing about exploding out. So it's a generally accepted way of satiating these urges.

With the love hotels. The central intended audience as would be inferred by their policies and title one would believe that they are for younger people to be having sex in. However, it's not necessarily the case. First of all, in the US motels that rent by the night/hour are almost exclusively meant for sex because in the US we're in no short supply of space. However, the sheer mechanics involved in having sex really is facilitated by having a bed.
Yet, in Japan space is a real issue. Everything is made much smaller and even so there are tons and tons of people everywhere all the time. It is nearly impossible to find even an alleyway or corner that is at all private. So if one wants to be intimate in any way with their partner, it becomes essentially impossible unless they own a home or apartment and it's nearby. Furthermore, public displays of affection are even more widely frowned upon in Japan then they are in the US, so it becomes even more of an issue here. So it's just an issue of supply and demand even for privacy and not necessarily sex.
Also! such hotels pull in two other types of clients
1) business men who live far out from the city and just want to take a nap or spend the night closer to work or wherever they are.
2) Foreigners (Gaijin) because you don't have to know how to speak or read Japanese in order to stay at one since it's all automated.

And for the Music video.... well, I can't rationalize that one, it was pretty damn sexual. But still.

It's a fairly interesting place in how it's so vastly different from what I'm used to in most any sense, yet for the purposes of this blog I'm keeping it more to a sexual level. I'd be more interested in delving into the underground of sexual behavior etc. here, but that may take some time.

Anyway, I'm pooped.
blahhhhhh, comments!


Anonymous ClosetMonster said...

Yup, I noticed alot of that too when I was there last. It's very perplexing from an "American" standpoint.

The first thing I noticed was the lack of eye-contact between strangers. In the U.S. it's very common to make eye-contact, and then maybe smile or nod hello. If I made eye-contact in Japan, they immediately looked away, embarassed that they were caught looking. If you've been introduced and are now a known family or friend, then they're very open.

I think that extends to most of the sexual stuff too. Things in public will be seen by strangers, and will then embarass you or your family, so it's kept very private. Once inside private spaces, it can get pretty wild! Many things are acceptable, as long as you don't get caught doing it.

Very confusing, based on what we're used to here, but I'm slowly understanding it. :)

8:38 AM


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