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Japan’s industry of love

Welcome to Japan. The trains are packed with people sitting, standing, and generally sandwiched in-between each other. They are texting, listening to music, playing games, reading comics, magazines and papers, and sleeping. Yet one thing is missing…conversation.

Whilst in Japan I learnt to observe the body language of people around. I noticed a severe lack of emotion and communication and this lead me to become more interested in the country’s love industry.

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Shibuya Scramble Crossing. Image credit: Yoshikazu TAKADA

Japan is famous for its aesthetically pleasing landscapes, culture, traditions, masses of people in small spaces and advanced technology. The streets are busy, the apartments are tiny, the food portions are small, and the people are polite. Then there is the love industry.

Why is the love industry in Japan so different to that of Western Culture? Lets break it down.

Hikikomori is a Japanese term which refers predominately to men, as being a recluse or a loner. Or, alternatively, withdrawn and socially awkward as best described in Western Culture. Two of the factors behind this phenomenon include conformity and over protective parenting.

Otaku refers to a group of men who show more interest in manga, anime and virtual girlfriends than having actual physical relationships.

Virtual girlfriends are considered a reality and norm amongst these groups of men. These girlfriends allow for relationships with no strings attached, meaning that these groups are becoming more and more withdrawn from social relationships as demographics continue to change.

Public affection is not common, and it seems that love hotels, cuddle cafes, and host and hostess clubs are a more common way of displaying affection.

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Love Hotel Hill, Shibuya. Image credit: Geoff Stearns

Host and hostess clubs are popular in the entertainment industry of Japan; and in effect, they are featured on just about every billboard or train. The role of these entertainers is to flirt and engage in casual conversation with strangers, without any sexual favours. However, it is too difficult to assume that sex does not sometimes take place.

  Rickshaw Rhythm

Could this be the new age of geishas?

Geishas are known for their distinctive look, couture and demeanour. They have served as hostesses’ to men in the past; however the environments in which they served are not associated with hostess clubs as afore mentioned.

Although rarely seen in public, Gion in Kyoto is the most common geisha district. I was lucky enough to see two at the Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto. They stood out in the crowd, in gorgeous traditional garments and painted pale complexion.

Interesting fact: If you are feeling lonely, you can visit a cuddle café and snuggle with a complete stranger. Are there any erotic favours? Not unless having your ears cleaned with a cotton tip appeals to you.

A love hotel is, without trying to act conservative, a place where people can go to have sex. This is where the factor of over protective parenting comes to mind. Why is it that these places exist in Japan, purely for this reason? In Australia we have hotels, which can be used for the same reason, yet it would be deemed in appropriate to place the title ‘love’ in front of it. My understanding is that a love hotel exists for privacy, a little fun, and a memorable experience. Some rooms have different themes, so if you feel like creating the illusion that you are swimming amongst a tank of fish, try the aquatic theme.

Is the reason that the industry is so different to that of Western society, that Japan is a more disciplined country? If this lifestyle existed in our country would we use it? If we lived with over protective parents for the majority of our adult hood, would we go to extremes and follow the same pattern that occurs in Japan?

Sophia Constantine is an (Almost) 22 year old aspiring journalist from Perth. And a Lover of travel, animals, and anyone with a sense of humour.  

Featured image credit: Japanexperterna.se

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