Japan’s rather tepid sex life of late has drawn considerable attention, not so much prurient as anxious. What does it mean when young people in their sexual prime are bored by sex or can’t be bothered with it? The implications are various: psychological (has life grown too virtual to be real?), economic (can a sexless nation muster the energy for global competition?) and demographic (no question mark here — the aging, declining population in which childhood and youth are increasingly under-represented is apparent to everyone).

Last November the health ministry’s National Institute of Population and Social Research (NIPSR) released a report, much cited since, compressing the situation into a statistical nutshell: 61 percent of unmarried males and 49 percent of unmarried females aged 18-34 have no sexual partner. Nor, by and large, do they feel the need for one. True, 86 percent of men and 89 percent of women say they want to marry “sometime,” but sometime can be anytime and suggests the distant rather than the near future.

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