In Japan, the number of unmarried people or people with no partner has been rapidly increasing. This indicates an overall waning interest in romantic relationships and sexual activity.
Japanese society faces not only a “marriage crisis” but also a “relationship crisis”. It is estimated that there are over 10 million adults without a spouse or a partner; many of these continue to live with their parents late into their working lives, often termed ‘Parasite Singles’. How are these people’s feelings of intimacy and relationship satisfied? Increasingly, people are taking to their parents, their friends, or pets to fulfil these needs.
But what about romantic feelings? In Japan, there are many kinds of virtual relationships that may meet the romantic needs of singletons. According to a survey conducted by the Cabinet Office (2010), 30.2% of women and 14.6% of men without partners responded affirmatively to the question “Have you ever fallen in love with a character in an anime or a game?” The development of the virtual romance industry in Japan reflects the existence of a growing number of people who have no “real” partner.
In this talk, Professor Masahiro Yamada and Professor Adrian Favell will discuss the rise of unmarried adults, and how these relationship crises have led to the development of virtual relationships in Japan.
Masahiro Yamada is a Professor of Sociology at Chuo University. Born in Tokyo in 1957, he completed his doctoral studies in sociology at the University of Tokyo in 1986 and has been teaching at Chuo University since 2008. He specializes in family sociology, the sociology of emotions, and gender issues. His works include Parasaito shinguru no jidai (The Age of Parasite Singles), Shō shi shakai Nihon—Mō hitotsu no kakusa no yukue (One More Gap in a Japan with Few Children), and Kazoku nanmin (Stranded Singles).
Adrian Favell is Chair in Sociology and Social Theory at the University of Leeds and Academic Professorial Associate of the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, Norwich. He is the author of Before and After Superflat: A Short History of Japanese Contemporary Art 1990-2011 (DAP/Blue Kingfisher 2012), and is currently writing a book about utopian and alternative creative responses in Japanese contemporary art and architecture to economic and social decline since the Bubble, with support from Toshiba International Foundation. Website: www.adrianfavell.com
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