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Why Japanese Gen Zers are avoiding falling in love

More Japanese people are single than ever before, with new pop-up services and clubs opening to fill the void. Is Japan heading toward a loveless future?

In Japan, about 60% of unmarried women and 70% of unmarried men between the age of 18-34 years are single.

The reason for this is a changing attitude toward relationships among Japan’s young population.

It is custom in South Asian marriages for women to take sole responsibility for household chores, often leading to careers being cut short. As a result, many younger women view relationships as preventative obstacles that can block them from achieving their professional goals.

To avoid the awkwardness of social interactions, some men have turned to cyber girlfriends and ‘paid companions’. The latter usually offer a service where one can date someone dressed as their favourite fictional character.

A lot of people also blame this changing attitude on the emotional trauma that follows a break-up, as well as a rising inability to be emotionally invested in relationships. To many, love seems like a commitment that’s too problematic to make.

Luckily for there are new services and shops catered toward the single and lonely. Here is a quick rundown of a few available, as well as the initiatives currently in development that are attempting to alleviate Japan’s love problem.

What are ‘Cuddle Cafes’ and how do they work?

Ever cuddled with someone you’re fond of? Let me rephrase. Ever cuddled with a stranger?

Whatever your answer, Japan has a service called ‘Cuddle Cafes’ where you can hug a stranger for a fixed amount of time, and offers a variety of other intimate options.

Cuddle buddies caress their client’s head, deeply gaze into their eyes, and even clean their ears with a Q-tip!

Most paying customers are frequent visitors. Part of the appeal is in filling a void caused by the absence of a significant other.

Although sexual activity is prohibited, many simply visit these cafes for the human warmth that a cuddle buddy provides and aren’t interested in physical gratification.

How do ‘Host/Hostess Clubs’ work?

In ‘host clubs’, men entertain female customers by putting on dance or music performances and flirtatiously talking over drinks. In hostess bars women do the same, but mostly for male customers.

This is a major part of Japan’s nightlife, where well-groomed men and elegantly-dressed women set out to please their customers. They complement their clients, flirt with them, and have witty conversations to keep them engaged.

In a VICE documentary, Reiji- the King of Hosts, revealed that it takes about two years for a host to be trained. Some of the best ‘players’ can make over $600,000 every year.

Reiki also mentioned that clients that take a special liking to their host may even gift them luxurious presents such as expensive alcohol and cars!

An important part of their job is to persuade clients to order exorbitantly- priced alcohol, as they receive a commission on each sale. Clients usually give in, and try to spend as much money as possible in an effort to impress them.

The host/hostess that makes the most sales in a month wins the title of the ‘best player’ or ‘host/hostess number one’.

But again, none of these customers go there seeking sexual favours. They merely go with the intention of having someone to talk to and to give them the ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ experience.

The continuance of the pseudo romance culture would mean a lack of the ability to effectively communicate with the opposite or same sex depending on one’s preference; it would also lead to developing unrealistic expectations of what a significant other must be like.

Creating new solutions to solve Japan’s love problem

However, all is not lost. More than 50% of local governments are encouraging single men and women to fall in love and marry through matchmaking seminars.

About 376,000 people participated in these matchmaking events, which led to 6,177 marriages!

A few years back, a Japanese dating app called ‘Pairs’ was launched by Eureka, a Tokyo-based start-up. This app is specifically meant for singles who want to get married.

It has over 10 million users in Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. They received positive stories about matches from over 400,000 of these users.

Hirokazu Nakamura, the chief product officer and chief marketing officer of Eureka, said in an interview to the Japan Times that the young generation isn’t disinterested in love; they just struggle with the process of falling in love.

We’ll have to see if new-age initiatives such as these can help the Japanese population fall back into appreciating personal relationships and genuine intimacy. Perhaps things could change as Gen Z enter adulthood, though we’ve yet to know for certain.


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