Sunday, August 26, 2012

Fictitious Love

One of my friends wrote on his Facebook wall, wondering "I don't see the sex industry in NYC …." He is a father of a pre-teen daughter, and favors a strictly regulated sex industry in NYC over that of the laxly regulation in Japan. I wrote in response, "I think many Americans aren't satisfied with only a fictitious love. They want a real thing. I guess that's why divorce rates are high as well."

In Japan, men enjoy fictitious love at a Kyabakura, cabaret type entertainment for men which charge customers hourly, a Soapland, a sort of high-end prostitution house, or other sex industries. There are fundamental differences of services in Kyabakuras and Soaplands, for instance, but men go those places looking for emotional fulfillment rather than simple act of sex. In the real world, a man may be rejected by a woman or have conflicts, but if they go to one of those places as a customer, they treat you with hospitality.

From the supply side perspective, this type of work involves intensive emotional and physical labor. In order to make the clients believe that they are sincerely favored and keep them coming back, the girls blur the line between work and private intentionally. The more clients she gets, the higher income she earns. Many Japanese men play the game by the rules, but some inexperienced customers confuse the sales pitch with real love.

Traditionally in Japan, work division between men and women have been strict. The influence of America and other Western cultures changed Japan significantly, but still men tend not to contribute to housework, and women tend not to go to social gatherings with spouses. Some men can't even cook a fried egg, and many social gatherings don't require bringing a significant other. Throwing a house party and inviting colleagues and clients with their spouses is against the traditional Japanese model, because it requires a house wife to work as a host.

Even though most of Japanese women are not equipped to organize and host such parties, women who can entertain guests with well versed conversations and sophisticated manners are greatly sought after by politicians. Many Japanese politicians and industry leaders use professional women for that purpose. Those women were geishas in the past, and hostesses of high-end clubs in more recent history. Some of them ended up as wives of those powerful men and kept contributing to their husbands' social successes.

While high-end clubs are not affordable by regular folks, Kyabakuras are within their reach. In both places, professionally trained women come to the table, join conversation while lounging with a drink. When a marriage turns sour and work is not rewarding, those professional women provide temporary emotional refuge to a man. This serves as an escape valve and is one of the reasons why Japanese divorce rate is low, even though they have significantly less frequent sex compared to the rest of the world population.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Japanese Marrying Problem

I've mentioned in my blog from time to time that Japanese people are not good at verbal communications. Many of them expect the other person to read their unspoken feelings. They are waiting to be understood- very patiently.

Younger people are particularly more prone to these types of verbal communication deficiencies. Their natural shyness derive from youthful insecurities, which is helped by a widely spread digital culture that tends to prevent people from going out to mingle with others. Therefore, it is difficult for young people to find significant others.

Until around the 1960s, there were many matchmakers in Japan, just as the system is still practiced in India and other parts of the world. Every one in Japan used to have at least one matchmaker in their extended family. A typical matchmaker was a middle aged woman who was extremely talkative and proud of producing many married couples. My parents and one of my aunts married using this method.

As Japanese people's lives westernized through 50s and 60s, young people felt arranged marriage by matchmakers was outdated. They wanted to fall in love and eventually find someone to marry on their own without the direction of parents or relatives. It's a sort of free market in love and marriage without regulation. As a result, by the end of 70s matchmakers were almost gone.

On the other hand, young people gradually figured out that it wasn't so easy to find a significant other on their own. They need to invest their time, energy and money to meet someone and get to know that person. Some people can do it without a problem, but for some it was an impossible task. Years passed by quickly for those shy people, while waiting for someone to show up.

Now people who seriously want to get married use online matchmakers, paying thousands of dollars. Just like the old matchmakers did, online matchmakers consider age, height, family circumstances, financial situation, education, etc., in order to find a perfect match even before two people meet for the first time.

But those people who use online matchmakers are in the minority. Most single Japanese people are still waiting, waiting for someone to come. My husband labels the Japanese "an endangered species."

There are many aspects to this problem and it would require a very long post to cover them adequately. Look for my future postings for my further reflections on this topic.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fair Skin Conceals a Thousand Flaws

Every year I go back to Japan in summer, I see some women covered from head to toe in extremely humid over 90℉ temperature rays. These ladies are not acting under religious obligation, but simply want to shield their skin from getting tanned. So when I saw The New York Times article with photographs, describing a similar Chinese trend, I immediately remembered their Japanese counterparts.

Many Westerners who don't know the history of the Asian preference for fair skin, mistakenly thinking that Asian women want to look like Caucasian women. In fact, the preference came from the desire to appear wealthy, because traditionally women who had to labor physically under the sun were tanned and poor. It's the opposite in Western culture, where the fit and well tanned upper leisure class has most of the wealth.

While a Chinese sun shield mask looks more like a Mexican pro-wrestler' or bandits', Japanese women's sun shield gear looks   more benign but sterillized. There are UV ray absorbing umbrellas, hats, long sleeves, gloves, masks, etc., but the well clad sun fearing lady still looks out of place in the hot humid sun. I see them walking outside, riding bikes, on public transportation, etc. I always wonder when do they show off their treasured fair skin, if they are covering it up all the time?