Japan needs the love doctor, pronto.

Japan needs the love doctor, pronto.

I have to admit that this is one phenomenon that has intrigued and confused me thoroughly in Japan. During my daily commute in their subways, I “people-watched” a lot, and I noticed something disconcerting. Absurd in many ways and perhaps you can call it an anomaly, really. Men don’t check women out (I’m talking about straight men). Seriously disturbing. I think I counted just about five men over different days, throwing furtive glances at someone who caught their eyes before looking away. Serious what the fu*k.

I explicitly looked out for men checking women out (or vice versa), totally sacrificing my fascination with the Japanese fashion! Pffft. I gave up fashion-watching for couple-spying instead so to speak. I was there for only ten days and I know it isn’t the greatest sampling, but from my mere observations during the trip I saw less than 10 dating couples.  I’ll say it again; this isn’t based on a 3-month stay based on the study of relationships/courtship between a man and woman. But if a visiting outsider like me made a startling observation such as this, it’s really proof of how pervasive the issue is.  Japan also happens to be facing a population crisis. No prize for guessing why. No one is dating, or no one is interested in what follows after dating…that is probably (hopefully) falling in love, getting married and having a family.

The ones holding hands and acting all lovey-dovey? The Taiwanese/Chinese tourists in Japan.  It’s easy to identify them, trust me. I’m an Asian living in a country with 75% of its population made up of local Chinese (but of course now I have to factor in Chinese from China and it’s all blurry). Point is, it isn’t so hard to tell that they’re not Japanese.  

Someone call the love doctor, please!

Satoko-San was telling me how Japanese men are stuck in their own little comfortable bubble. Playing games, reading comics, indulging in hentai and what have you. They rather be staring at their phones with games, chatting with cyber friends or staring into oblivion with glassy-eyed expression (seen this a few times there), than going on dates with the opposite sex. Nothing wrong if it’s a handful of shy men and women, right? Uh, yes, but when the statistics (courtesy of the guardian) point at a staggering 61% unmarried men and 49% unmarried women, then Houston, we have a problem. Oh, did I add that 45% of Japanese women (16 -24 years) aren’t interested in sexual contact. When I was 16, I was dreaming of Nick Carter, from the Backstreet Boys, confessing his undying love to me. I’m not embarrassed about this at all. Nope.  I also had long drawn out plans about my first kiss and how to get the boy to kiss me. Thank you, Disney. 

Ok, maybe as a future (but unlikely) parent, I may be glad that my teenage daughter isn’t in a hurry to have her legs up in the air, but what does this all mean?! When did everyone start thinking this way?

What, why and how did it become so wide-spread and… normal? On hindsight, the government should introduce this overly successful plan to India… (kidding, it won’t work there for obvious socioeconomic reasons, yet). But I’m blaming rapid technological advancements for the lack of boy-girl relationship and intimacy. If more men and women knew how to draw clear boundaries, and not get sucked into the abyss of technology, they’d be doing the horizontal mambo instead!

The men in Japan can even go without sex, learning how – as they put it – to live without sex. As a single female, this spells trouble for me if their secret gets out of Japan. Nothing wrong there if you’re an aspiring catholic priest, nun or monk. But we know they’re not the most religious either. In fact, that percentage is also dwindling. So what went wrong and where did it go wrong? I’m rambling about this because a friend shared an article with me from The Guardian earlier, and it cemented my unprofessional-ethnographic observation during my trip. He’s also planning to visit the sexually-starved girls there. What a Samaritan.

And I won’t be surprised if Singapore follows suit. But hey, at least my facebook page will stop flooding with friends’ baby pictures detailing their every facial expression in a span of 30 seconds. 

 

Future of publishing

Future of publishing

 

I grew up around books; walking into a bookstore filled with tomes of books has a calming effect on me. I love the smell of old books. You know that smell. It’s the smell of autumn (if autumn had a smell, I cannot imagine anything except that of sweet old books). 

I like the idea of e-books. For one, it’s lightweight. And could possibly carry the entire collection found in the Library Of Congress. But it’s cold to touch and loses the warmth that books provide.

Books are a haven for lost souls, tired wanderers and jaded minds. Something about holding a book close, the sound that comes from turning a page and the satisfaction or sense of despair you get, when you’re down to the last few pages – these multi-sensory experiences are irreplaceable. An e-book reader serves its perfunctory role as a device, but falls flat on its screen on an emotional level; it doesn’t embrace me in its e-pages.

And the future of publishing is moving rapidly into the cold, sterile arms of digital. 

 

Of getting lost and finding myself

Of getting lost and finding myself

I wish I had enough guts to do what this man did. To quit my job, sell off my possessions (which I don’t really have, apart from my books – and let’s face it, those are no longer considered anything of value to many now) and find myself in a country far removed from developed countries, skyscrapers, materialism and to get lost without a destination in mind. Like Lewis Carroll said, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” I’m sure I’ll also eventually find myself. 

If I could leave everything behind without guilt, I would pack my essentials and go in search of the most beautiful sunset or trek across China, Nepal, India. I’d go back to Sri Lanka’s beautiful Hill Country for a hiking trip and immerse myself with the people and culture; which I didn’t get to do last time. I’d love to stargaze without having to sneak out like the last time, explore the different tea plantations stacked side by side, with all the shades of green coming together to create a sea of greenery.

My Japan trip in October will be a small step toward my goal. And to do everything the travel guidebook says not to do. I refuse to conform to a few writers’ experiences. I’ll make my own.