Where Do Japanese Babies Come From?

So where do Japanese babies come from? It sounds like I'm setting up an off-color joke, which I'm certainly not above, but in this case, it's more of a trick question. The real answer is they're not coming from anywhere because Japanese people, more and more often, are just not having sex.

At least, that's the conclusion of recent research as reported by the Japan Times.

Talk about a shrinking population. A survey of Japanese people aged 18 to 34 found that almost 70 percent of unmarried men and 60 percent of unmarried women are not in a relationship.

Moreover, many of them have never got close and cuddly. Around 42 percent of the men and 44.2 percent of the women admitted they were virgins.

The government won’t be pleased that sexlessness is becoming as Japanese as sumo and sake. The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has talked up boosting the birthrate through support for child care, but until the nation bones up on bedroom gymnastics there’ll be no medals to hand out.

Far from getting together and getting it on, the sexes are growing apart. There are now many more virgins than in 2010, when the last study was conducted and when only 36.2 percent of men and 38.7 percent of women said they had never had sex.

The study, released Thursday, was conducted by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.

The reasons aren't clear. The Independent did a story on this suggesting that Japanese men are just afraid of women. The Independent likes the notion that men are just afraid of women. For evidence, they quote Ano Matsui:

Comedian Ano Matsui, 26, told the BBC: "I don't have self-confidence. I was never popular among the girls.

"Once I asked a girl out but she said no. That traumatised [sic] me.

Of course, Matsui is a comedian, and from the looks of his picture the Independent may have found the Japanese Woody Allen.

There are a number of other theories to explain the problem: lack of self-esteem, fear of rejection, and internet porn. But the Guardian suggests another reason: economics.

Marriage has become a minefield of unattractive choices. Japanese men have become less career-driven, and less solvent, as lifetime job security has waned. Japanese women have become more independent and ambitious. Yet conservative attitudes in the home and workplace persist. Japan's punishing corporate world makes it almost impossible for women to combine a career and family, while children are unaffordable unless both parents work. Cohabiting or unmarried parenthood is still unusual, dogged by bureaucratic disapproval.

In Japan, buying a home is extremely expensive, and for people in their 20s, the economy has been stagnant for most or all of their lives. Once a woman marries, the social pressures to be a stay-at-home mom are extreme. So, people just don't marry, and they just don't have children. It's become too mendokusai, too troublesome.

Which is troubling indeed.