Saturday 10 December 2016

The rise and rise of Japan's middle-aged male virgins

Danielle Demertriou in Tokyo

Published 10/06/2015 | 02:30

Scene from the 40-Year-Old Virgin
Scene from the 40-Year-Old Virgin

The trials and tribulations of being a 40-year-old male virgin were famously immortalised in a hit Hollywood film.

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But in Japan, with its well-publicised decline in marriage and birth rates, the existence of middle-aged virgins is so prevalent that a specific term - "yaramiso" - has been coined to refer to them. A growing number of tailor-made activities have now sprung up, such as Virgin Academia, which offers the sexually uninitiated lectures focusing on how to establish healthy relationships. Set up by the non-profit organisation White Hands, it also offers activities such as nude life drawing classes.

Among the "virgin" students at a recent art class was Takashi Sakai (41), a heterosexual male who, with his respectable job and charming smile, appeared to be a far cry from the stereotypes of social misfits.

"I've never had a girlfriend," he said "It's never happened. It's not like I'm not interested. I admire women. But I just cannot get on the right track."

Mr Sakai is clearly not alone. As many as one in four unmarried Japanese men aged 30 and above were virgins, according to the latest statistics, compiled in 2010.

The issue of men not having sex is the tip of the demographic iceberg in Japan, home to a population that is famously shrinking and ageing at a rapid rate due to a decline in marriage and birth rates. At first sight, the lack of sexual activity among a growing number of male Japanese may appear at odds with a society saturated with sexual images, from television and manga comics to city billboards.

However, a string of deep-seated social issues appear to have fuelled the rise of the male virgin in recent decades, according to experts. A shift in traditional family structures, the rise in single person households and the loss of the "salaryman" security enjoyed by older generations of male workers have all left their mark on the self-esteem of the Japanese male.

Mr Sakai takes part in life classes where he can sketch naked women in order to gain a better understanding of the female body. He said: "The first time I did this, in autumn last year, oh . . . I was so amazed. Their bodies are incredibly beautiful."

He added: "There is no need to be so pessimistic. After all, being a virgin isn't fatal."

Irish Independent

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