pearls around the neck • 97
An article about sexuality in Japanese married couples.
Had it not been for Book magazine
publishing an article dedicated to sexuality in Japanese
couples, I might have folded into origami figures all the pages of notes I had taken about the
topic while living in Tokyo.
I am not a sociologist in the making but certain secrets shared by my Japanese friends caught
me so off guard, I made entries about them in one of my notebooks. The blatant contrast
between the revelations of these intimate secrets of the bedroom and the tangible physical day-
to-day reality of Tokyo seemed irreconcilable.
But those who live in Tokyo are quick to unmask topics and understand that the Japan of the
Geishas is history.
The extreme feminization of young men, the role playing at the “maid cafés”, the porno
“manga” magazine that are openly read on the subway, the adolescents -kyabajo– whom
sell themselves sharing only a beer with 50 year old men –mizu shobai–, the young male
“prostitution”–gyaruo– (there is no physical contact): none of the above can be a parameter in
the equation of the lovemaking in a married couple.
And yet, the explanation of this sexual enigma–or rather its absence – is simple. Fundamental.
Here are some of the confessions I have collected, as they where whispered to me.
“Having a hobby in Japan is very important. I met my husband at the university. We are
both architects, but it was our hobby that brought us together: he likes to take black & white
photographs of squalid buildings. I thought that was fun and “kawaii” (cute). I too like to
spend hours walking the streets of Tokyo or Yokohama, camera ready.
We spent many months like this: dating, taking the train or the metro, and making random
Later, one evening, we were at my place developing film together. We made love. We really
did not talk about it; time kept passing just the same, and we got married. A year later, we no
longer made love regularly, sometimes months would go by. And yet, I am very happy, my
husband and I spend as much time as possible together. I am married, this is important to me”.
“I married my best friend. We laugh together, go to the park together on weekends, he likes to
go shopping with me, especially to fashion stores. We give each other advice: what to wear and
the colors that match, the prints on a top, a new haircut. And yet, I do not know that we have a
strong physical attraction towards each other, like in the movies…no!”.
“Ever since we have two children, we no longer make love more than once or twice a year. I do
not know how we reached this extreme... But that’s the way it is. We have quiet lives. Do you
have to change a peaceful life for a sexually active life? We work very hard and our professional