Exploring The Inquisitive Lifestyle And Grim Underbelly Of Japan

CULTURE | 7 minute read | | 0 Comments | 852 Likes

cosplay in japan

Anime and cosplay would have never received widespread popularity throughout the world without the existence of manga - a term used to describe Japanese graphic novels and comic books.

Even though the origins of manga date back to the 12th century, they only gained recognition in the 1900s.  Unlike common perception, manga comprises of diverse genres which includes content ranging from history, romance, sci-fi, to profound themes about life. So despite Pokémon, Naruto, Full metal Alchemist having a wide fan base, amongst kids, teens and adults, manga/anime also comprises of complex storylines which caters to adults like A Lollipop or a Bullet, Pluto, Monster etc. The influence of “otaku” (geek culture) is so profound in Japan that it’s a common sight to see adults in suits reading thick comic books on their way to work.

Although Japan has the repute of being extremely diligent, it is meshed in intricacies of tradition and rich culture. They birthed anime and manga to the world, but this seemingly conservative society not only takes otaku to another level, but also has a grim underbelly with the bizarre fetishes and a raging sexless culture which needs addressing.

men reading manga in japan

Café meets library at the manga kissas

A manga cafe is every nerd's paradise. For a measly fee, you get access to thousands of manga and the leisure to read them, while enjoying a drink or a snack. These cafes are a strange amalgamation of a library and a retro pub. Manga kissas are so popular that they can be found in most cities in Japan. In fact these existed long before internet cafes became mainstream and are still thriving as they have adapted to latest trends and technology. Their growing demand has led to the launch of 24/7 cafes which allows visitors to spend the night. Over 50 percent of manga café visitors are businessmen followed by teens and tourists who prefer these cafes as cheap accommodation during their stay in Japan.

studio ghibli

Ghibli tours

I grew up on Ghibli masterpieces like ‘My Neighbor Totoro’, ‘Kikki’s Delivery Service’, ‘Spirited Away’, ‘Porco Rosso’, which makes me brazenly biased towards their work.  But there’s no denying that Japan gave the world exemplary anime and manga, some of which were arguably created by Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli. Even though there are many animation companies that create stellar movies, it was Studio Ghibli’s success to intrigue international interest and arouse curiosity in both children and adults that led to their triumph.

Studio Ghibli dared to make inimitable movies at certain periods of time that made fans and critics love their eclectic movies. These feature films are etched in Japanese eccentrics and tradition, making them an indispensable part of the Japanese culture. In fact Studio Ghibli tours are so popular around the world that it’s best to book your tickets for the tour first and then book your flights to Japan.

hentai in manga and anime

Eroge and Hentai fascination

Hentai and erotic games have their origins in science and psychology, but in this portion I am referring to the perverse fantasies which is legendary to Japan and anime/manga.

For those of you who are completely unfamiliar with the word hentai, it refers to dwelling on sexual fantasies, sexually uncharacteristic behaviour and/or achieving a metamorphosis.

Japanese artworks are the first example of hentai, representing pornographic style manga which was revolutionised and grew in the 1980s. The conjoint denominators in anime hentai are fetishes, which have their own sub-genres. One extreme genre deals with penetration by the tentacles of bizarre monsters. This style became increasingly popular after the government banned depiction of pubic hair and penetration so tentacles became the popular stand-ins.

To some it can be shocking that a seemingly reserved society celebrates the fantasy nature of hentai, but to the Japanese this is an arguably reasonable outlet for desires which might otherwise be completely shameful in the minds of the viewers, not to mention illegal.

maid cafes in japan

Fetish cafes

The Akihabara district in Tokyo gained a lot of popularity for the maid cafes. It sounds crazy, but maid cafes are a real thing. The women dress as maids and the customers are treated like their 'masters', some might even call you 'master'. I’ve been told this is all very visual and there’s no sex. It’s just a café where women are dressed as maids, serve food and either compliment, grovel or go full dominatrix on the customers, without it being physical. But the most popular cafes have perky maids who use high-pitched voices, kneel to take your order, and draw cute designs on your food. If you pay extra, some might even play board games with you and allow you to take pictures with them. This concept could possibly be odd for most people, but maid cafes are so strongly embedded in the Japanese fetish culture that most tourists and locals cannot imagine Tokyo without these.

Decline of sex and increasing human-machine romance

Another crazy thing taking the Japanese by storm is the increasing fascination with dating simulators and the interest in having a virtual girlfriend. 

It painfully reminds of me of the film “Her”, where Theodore falls in love with his operating system with artificial intelligence. I feared the existence of a human-machine romance, but now this has come to a pass with the increasingly busy lifestyle and endless work hours in Japan.

On forums many LovePlus players candidly speak about how they are aware that their girlfriend isn’t real. Some even use this as a replacement till they find an actual girlfriend.  But majority of the players agree that they feel emotionally connected to their digital girlfriend. Digital girlfriends can virtually kiss, cuddle, send flirtatious text messages and do everything a physical girlfriend can do without the ‘physical' sex.

“A survey by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in 2010 found 36% of Japanese males aged 16 to 19 had no interest in sex, a figure that had doubled in the space of two years”, as mentioned in a report published by BBC.

Clearly injection of the digital world has alluded itself into everyday life in Japan. Since anime and virtual characters cannot turn you down, it is leaving an imprint on a growing sexless lifestyle in the country. Even though Japanese people are raised to have a traditional, honourable outlook towards life, love and sex, you cannot expect everyone to think alike.The pressure Japanese children get from their parents often turns teens into neets and increases their desire to indulge in reclusive behaviour. Albeit traditional, Japan is also the most advanced, so there's a radical split between the two – making people release pressure through extreme hentai, eroge games, virtual girlfriends and lack of sex, all in one country.


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