Language | BILINGUAL

It's the season of love: Won't someone please grab hold of my chin?

by Kaori Shoji

Special To The Japan Times

Maybe you’ve chosen not to notice that Sunday was the day of heart-shaped chocolates and blushing confessions of love. If so, you’re in good company: According to weekly magazine “Spa!,” the domestic Valentine market has been 盛り下がっている (morisagatteiru, on the decline) for the past few years, with many companies actually banning the custom of 義理チョコ (giri-choko, obligatory chocolates) among their employees.

That may have come as good news for women who had to shell out an average ¥536 (according to “Spa!”) on those chocolates — a real 手痛い出費 (teitai shuppi, painful expense) for those of us who aren’t exactly enthralled by the 男性社員 (danseishain, male colleagues) and 上司 (jōshi, bosses) in the workplace. ちなみに (chinami ni, by the way), “Spa!” says that while Valentine’s is going out of style, Halloween is on the rise. Either way, the 製菓会社 (seikagaisha, confectionery companies) aren’t bleeding over this — what they lose over February can be retrieved in October.

My personal feeling is that love itself is on the decline, and that no one really cares. Japanese men are notorious for their lack of interest in love and sex, and Japanese women are famed for their deep, dark disappointment in said men. Last year the Fuji TV program “Tokudane” surveyed 3,000 Japanese males between the ages of 16 and 49, and over a third of the youngest segment declared that they were 嫌悪している (ken’o shiteiru, turned off by) or 興味ない (kyōmi nai, had no interest) in sex and relationships. Apparently the 草食男子 (sōshoku danshi, “herbivorous boys”), who waited around for women to rip off their clothes, were no longer around, having been replaced by the 絶食男子 (zesshoku danshi, “fasting boys”), who didn’t need to eat at all. (The term was coined by the same program.)

私たちは男たちのママじゃない! (Watashitachi wa otokotachi no mama ja nai!, “We are not these men’s mamas!”) fumes my friend Manami. Single at 43, she says that these days, she feels increasingly like a mother trying to get her fretting, finicky boy babies to eat. She’s tried everything: sexy lingerie, bottles of champagne, expensive デパ地下のおつまみ (depachika no otsumami, appetizers purchased at department store basement food sections) and even the trendy 低反発マットレス (teihanpatsu mattoresu, memory foam mattress) popular among Japanese athletes. Like a cajoling mom, she’ll exhort them to spoon it all up, but well, they’d rather look at their phones.

On the other hand, another friend, Maki, says she’s had it with sex, and all she wants now is a date with a slim, handsome guy with a strong resemblance to actor Sota Fukushi. Maki has it all planned out: They’ll take the train to the beach like 高校生 (kōkōsei, high school students), holding hands all the way, walk on the sand and look into each other’s eyes.

Maki is rich, sexy and the owner of a condo in Tokyo, but she says she never got to 青春する (seishun suru, do all the youthful things) in high school because she was too busy studying to get where she is today. She feels cheated on a good chunk of what makes life beautiful and now wants to reclaim at least a part of her lost seishun, but any man over 32 is 絶対ダメ (zettai dame, an absolute no-no) as a part of the seishun package. According to Maki, they’re too old, too geeky and often ガツガツしている (gatsu gatsu shiteiru, starving for sex) with no idea how to conduct themselves around women.

Indeed, the Japanese media is full of kōkōsei holding hands and confessing their undying love and having great seishun fun, but everyone else is pretty much left in a hell hole paved with digital screens. At this rate, says Manami, she will die without ever knowing the pleasures of the seishun relationship climax, which consists of such stimulating phenomena as: 壁ドン (kabe-don), where a boy stands a girl against a wall and slams it with his fist to show that he’s all hot and bothered by the mere thought of her; あごクイ (ago-kui), the cupping of the girl’s chin, again to make a statement that she is his, all his and he will never let her go; and おい手 (oite), where the boy extends his hand to the girl without looking at her and she takes it and it’s love forever. My brothers all say they wished someone had told them about this stuff when they were 17 and then maybe things might have been, you know … . Ah, かわいそうな奴ら (kawaisōna yatsura, the poor blokes)!

別件だけど (bekken dakedo, on another note), I was riding the bus and a guy’s arm suddenly shot out from the crowd and banged on the wall just where I was positioned. Let me tell you, my heart raced for a minute before I realized he was an おじさん (ojisan, middle-aged man) who had lost his balance. So much for the month of love.