I’ve had the idea of writing this post ages ago, but I haven’t been able to assemble the information I needed to make a sound analysis. But now, I have what I think is sufficient to discuss an ongoing problem which the general public may not know of Japan – Japan is suffering and we have moe to (partially) blame. In fact, if left unattended, Japan may possibly suffer death by moe and I’m not talking about “moe-betes”, which in my lexicon is defined as “that sugar rush you get when you see a character that is oh-too sweet”.
Just a heads-up though, I won’t be talking mainly about anime but also games because the two are closely related to the issue. And besides, a lot of games make it to the screen like Persona 4: The Animation. So, in this THEORY, we shall discuss how anime (and also games) contribute to Japan’s population decline. More importantly, could Indonesia fall into the same trap?
Understanding Japan’s Population Decline
Now, those living outside of Japan may have only heard good stuff (by “good” I also mean “weird”) about Japan, like their advances in robotics, their economy, or just their entertainment industry. Or maybe not since the government decided to ramp up anti-piracy measures, push for constitutional reinterpretation, and continue hostilities with China.
Anyway, those aside, there has been one ongoing problem which may seem trivial now, but could impact the country’s overall well-being. That problem is Japan’s fertility rate.
After World War II in the 1950s, Japan had a booming young population due to the wartime “Beget and Multiply” campaign by the government. Sixty years later in 2010, those young people grew up… but they didn’t give birth to enough children. Fifty years in the future in 2060, it is estimated that Japan’s young population will reach a dangerously low levels. Check out the following population pyramids.
You may say “So what? People are supposed to grow old and then die!” Here’s the problem. The population pyramid is akin to a real-life pyramid. It stands strong if its foundation is strong. Imagine a pyramid that is heavier at the top or the middle without a strong base. It would collapse. And that is exactly what would happen in Japan – a demographic collapse.
Once the productive (middle) age range has entered the non-productive (upper) age range, who will be there to work and support the upper part of the pyramid? Of course their children. But what happens when the “productives” do not give birth to enough children? You then have a population crisis on your hands.
It’s not just about supporting the aging population. When a country doesn’t have enough productive people, its economy suffers. Less young people means a dwindling workforce, leading to less productivity. As the population ages, the government would need to increase the social security budget. If all of the budget goes into social security, what’s there left for development and defence?
Yuriko Koike, a member of Abe’s conservative, nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, warned that, as of 2012, the average fertility rate for Japanese women amounted to only 1.41 children, well below the replacement rate of 2.1 needed to sustain a stable population. Japan’s birth rate has not been above 2 level since 1974. At present trends, by 2050 there will be only 1.3 workers to support each senior, from 2.6 workers currently. By 2026, social security costs are expected to climb to 24.4 percent of GDP, up from 22.8 percent in fiscal 2012, the country’s welfare ministry projected. (International Business Times, March 2014)
Now that’s just the general overview. Check out these graphs that list population growth per prefecture.
As you may have noticed, there are two prefectures experiencing population decline. And they’re in the top ten highest.
Here’s the top ten lowest growth rates.
Aomori and Akita are experiencing a 1% decline in population. Now, if that wasn’t enough, consider that the bottom three prefectures are top rice producers in Japan. Japan may not only face a population crisis, but also a looming food security problem.
But what about immigration?
Japan has a stringent immigration policy. This is because the country is bent on protecting its citizens and overall economy.
Among the core supporters of LDP lawmakers, including Abe himself, are nationalistic voters opposed to welcoming large numbers of unskilled foreign laborers, who are now barred from Japan. They fear that bringing in such people would increase the crime rate and deprive Japanese of job opportunities in the still-sluggish economy. This concern seems to be shared by a majority of Japanese. According to a poll by the daily Yomiuri Shimbun in April, while 74 percent of the 1,512 polled said they believe population decline will hurt Japan’s economy and contribute to its decline, 54 percent said they opposed bringing in more foreigners versus 37 percent who backed the idea. (Japan Times, 2014)
A cultural allergy to diversity, as well as negative impressions of the experience of other countries, have combined to make Japanese authorities and the public wary of immigration. Xenophobic voters on the Internet have amplified those concerns, making conservative politicians even more reluctant to address the topic. (Japan Times, June 2014)
Even if Japan suddenly decides to become a second United States, they would need at least 650 000 immigrants per year to sustain the population pyramid. That’s a tough thing to do, especially considering the homogeneity of Japanese society and the rigidity of their customs.
So, we now understand Japan’s population decline… or at least WHAT it is. We still need to understand the REASONS causing it.
What Causes Population Decline?
Ho ho, now it’s time to get to the roots of the problem. There are two major reasons to Japan’s population decline and they’re both closely related.
Reason number one is that people are just not interested in marriage, or even dating, anymore. In a survey conducted by the Japan Family Planning Association in 2012, 36 percent of males aged 16 to 19 said they were not interested in sex. If that’s not bad enough, 59 percent of females in the same age group were also uninterested in sex.
Why does this happen? How can you not be interested in sex? It’s probably the greatest thing ever! Ahem… There are socio-cultural and economic reasons behind this.
Let me start with the cultural view of marriage. In Japan, when a woman gets married, society pressures her to maintain the traditional maternal role. This means the woman becomes a stay-home wife: she has to quit her job and spends her time raising her children. Basically, for a working woman, being a mom is a career-killer. Japanese employers highly stigmatize women with children and with Japan’s grueling 50-hour per week workload, a woman just can’t handle the burden of having a child and coming to office. Childcare is also expensive in Japan, not to mention scarce.
Also, more on the customs of marriage in Japan. Being married in Japan, a wife is expected to stay home all the time, doing housework and tending to the children, while the husband works all day long and gets wasted with his colleagues after work. Yeah, the comics like Kariage-kun and Crayon Shinchan explain this pretty well. As Japanese women become more progressive and educated, they see this lifestyle as unfulfilling. Yoko Haruka, the author of Kekkon Shimasen (I Won’t Get Married!), explains that she will not get married if she was expected to uphold the traditional jobs of a housewife. It’s just too much work for the women.
Which leads me to parasitic singles.
Another cultural reason is the trend of women being “parasitic singles”. The term was coined by sociologist Masahiro Yamada. Basically, a “parasitic single” refers to a woman who decides to live off their parents, like staying at their parents’ house so she does not have to deal with the expenses of a rented apartment and the household chores she would otherwise have to manage alone. She then spends disposable income on designer goods, excursions with friends, going to the mall, etc. So, basically like most young women in Jakarta.
And because they are accustomed to such a lifestyle, they expect a man to be able to support her financially so that she doesn’t have to do housework. Sadly, not all Japanese men are stinking rich.
Stop accusing me of being sexist, I’m just getting to the male part.
Being a country with a patriarchal culture, men enjoy alpha status in Japanese society. They are expected to work and support the family by working long hours. They expect their wives to stay at home and take care of the kids while they work grueling hours at the office, which entitles the men to a night of getting wasted with their work-buddies.
But that has changed, ever since the economy changed and living standards increased. It is not that Japanese men don’t want sex, it’s just that they don’t want a girlfriend.
Having a girlfriend is a hassle; let alone marriage. For a Japanese man, he grows up believing that a male should be able to support his woman and children financially. With the wife automatically disqualified from work (thus eliminating a source of income), the male has to do all the work. This means working long hours at minimum wage with a miserable prospect of getting a promotion as a salaryman. So, why bother getting a girlfriend and settling down? If I wanted sex, I’d just pay a hooker! In sum, Japanese men don’t want be committed because when he gets married, his standard of living (read: income) will be slashed by more than half.
Also, similar to “parasitic singles”, “hikkikomori” is a term used to describe a shut-in; a person who shuns human contact and spends their days cooped up in their rooms playing games, watching anime, or doing God knows what. They rely on their parents, especially the mother, for food and essential amenities. This is not a shock, since in Japanese society, the mother-son relationship is symbiotic.
But there’s a group of men who don’t want sex. Known as “herbivore men”, a term coined by Maki Fukasawa in 2006, these men shun relationships and prefer to masturbate to virtual girls on their computer screens. Herbivore men are being targeted as the main reason for Japan’s population decline by the government because not only are they unwilling to chase women, but are settling down for virtual relationships.
So, you see now that both men and women have played a role in shaping the population crisis. Women are becoming more assertive, while men are becoming more passive. This reversal of roles causes a shock to Japan’s longstanding gender roles and results in a society that is confused and not willing to procreate.
The Role of Moe in the Crisis: Synthetic Relationships
Which now brings me to reason number two: flourishing synthetic relationships. Ever since the Moe Uprising back in the 2004s or so, we have seen an increase in moe female characters in anime. Heck, their numbers increase by more than Japan’s population per year! And they also get even crazier. I mean, it’s one thing to “moe-ify” battleships, but castles and even cockroaches? Seriously Japan, what the hell!? What’s concerning is… males (and even females!) are settling down to synthetic relationships compared to real ones.
Now, what is a synthetic relationship? Put in simple terms, it’s a relationship with a human and a non-human object. To be more specific, a synthetic relationship is when a guy dates his dakkimakura and soils it with his semen, takes it out on romantic dinners, and acting as if it is his real partner. Also applies to women too, just adjust the words to fit the biological appropriates.
But why are synthetic relationships harmful?
To paraphrase Gaijin Goombah, here’s a question for both you guys and gals. If you had a partner who is visually flawless, has your ideal physical requirements, does not nag nor argue with you, will cater to your every wish and needs, and even service you sexually in any lewd way you could imagine, would you still pick a real person?
Let me give you time to think on that.
It’s all right to have bizarre fetishes, but synthetic relationships are just… ugh. Check out Gaijin Goombah’s video on Dating Sims and Synthetic Relationships below.
What’s interesting about synthetic relationships is that they are becoming more and more acceptable in Japan, to the point that the entertainment industry and even the tourism industry is actually trying to make money off it. If you watched the video till the end, there’s that part when Tech Arts 3D make a masturbating peripheral to synthesize sex. That’s bringing self-pleasure to the next level. And there is now a way to do the honka-honka on an anime girl’s boobies too! And there’s also Ohnoya Hotel which caters to synthetic couples by providing them with the help of augmented reality.
As more and more anime females pop up to cater to every man’s idea of an ideal woman, more and more males are becoming uninterested in real-life women. Also, the anime females make males set really high standards for real-life females. Yes, I’m looking at you, Love Live! and every other harem romance comedy anime ever released. Same goes for the females. As more and more anime hunks appear, female standards increase until no male in real-life could match their high standards. I blame Kuroko’s Basketball and Free! and all those other boy’s love crap for this.
Now, it’s fine and all for people to have weird fetishes and so. That’s why hentai exists. But, from a demographic perspective, the idea of accepting synthetic relationships is unacceptable and potentially dangerous. Japan needs people having sex and procreating, not making out with their handhelds and groping unreal boobs. The most concerning part is… it may be too late to reverse this trend.
So, synthetic relationships with moe females are causing Japan’s population to spiral into demographic oblivion.
But, as Indonesians, why should we care about this? It’s Japan’s problem, not ours. Besides, we’re a developing country with a large fertility rate, unlike Japan. Our population is booming!
I do agree that Indonesia still has ways to go before it reaches Japan’s state. But still, there are potential danger signs that Indonesians need to pay attention to. Free anime downloading has made anime available to any Indonesian with Internet access. The “otaku” culture is arguably widespread in Indonesian youth. While I still consider it to be benign, I have seen signs (a lot) of people embracing the “waifu” concept, a concept which you may or may not have heard on the Internet. Basically, a “waifu” is the Japanization of the word “wife”, meaning, well… “wife”. Except the wife is an anime character. You might know where this is going…
And also, don’t let me get started on the delusions of male “otakus” whining about how girls in real-life can’t match the flawless ones in anime. We’re already seeing males ramping up the standards on females. And females are doing the same thing. They want a male that is as perfect as… I don’t know, anybody from Free! or Kuroko.
So, let me just close this post with this. Japan is indeed facing a serious case of death by moe and they’re pouring millions to fix the problem. We don’t want to be next, because frankly, the government would just corrupt the money and we’ll die from moe anyway.
But hey, it’s just a theory. An ANIME THEORY! Thanks for reading!
- The Week – Everything you need to know about Japan’s population crisis
- The Economist – Japan’s demography
- Huffington Post – Japan’s population drop (for numbers and statistics)
- National Institute of Population and Social Security Research (IPSS) for more numbers