No Sex Please, We're Japanese

No Sex Please, We're Japanese

2013, Society  -   74 Comments
Ratings: 7.38/10 from 244 users.

Located in northern Japan, Yubari used to be a bustling coal-mining city with over 100,000 residents. Today, its schools are shuttered, its amusement park abandoned, and its population reduced by 90 percent. Surprisingly, this troubling transformation is the result of modern Japanese views on sex and procreation. This is not an isolated occurrence; in fact, it's emblematic of what's taking place throughout the remainder of the country. The documentary investigates the root causes behind Japan's historically low birth rates, and how this distressing trend places the country's future in peril.

During the course of their investigation, the filmmakers make a stop in Tokyo, and discover that even Japan's most populous epicenter hasn't been immune to the crisis. Although the city welcomes close to a quarter of a million new births each year, that figure has undergone a steady decline as the average age of new mothers continues to rise.

The film does an exceptional job of detailing the ramifications of this multi-faceted dilemma. Diminished birth rates spell disaster for the longevity of any country. Workforce and economies dwindle, industries crumble, and entire populations eventually die off. This may sound like a far-fetched post-apocalyptic scenario, but it's an entirely probable fate for Japan.

This potential large-scale catastrophe has its origins in the most intimate of circumstances. A new generation of Japanese men no longer possess the level of ambition to date, marry and reproduce as they once did. Either they're too committed to maintaining a tireless work ethic, or they prefer the risk-adverse comforts of dating virtual girlfriends from role playing video games. Women, meanwhile, are making amazing strides in the work field. They are fearful of lacking a balance between the responsibilities of motherhood and the growing demands of their careers. Even those who wish for families of their own have difficulties finding a suitor with similar interests.

No Sex Please, We're Japanese could have been a fluff piece containing a titillating series of observations on modern sexual attitudes and cultures. To its credit, however, it's a thoughtful sociological study that carries far more profound implications for all of us.

Directed by: John Holdsworth

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74 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Bill Farley

    I believe the narrator has missed the point. There's a huge difference between "sex" and not wanting to have children. Surely sex is not on the decline only birthrates.

  2. SAMI


  3. Droidin

    Just add that comment of that woman saying that she wants a husband with a nice revenue, to the male economic anxiety problem, there you go, zero babies for life.

    There are many many nice people in this country, but a lot of them are victims of their own self perception (as other people are in their respective countries) they have economic liberty (mostly) but with a high price (for some), there is no proper notion of freedom (besides economic freedom) and no philosophical plurality, it is sad if you understand and live among a diverse culture. But it works (mostly), and yes, it feels fake when they try to reproduce western culture without weed.

  4. Al ikram

    when they said "meet may may n wrinko"
    me -face palm face palm

  5. ANon

    "What is wrong with Japanese guys?" Well, why doesn't she also ask about Japanese women? Men can't make babies on their own, afterall. There are two sides to the equation.

  6. ANon

    For a documentary narrator, she could have done a littler better in hiding her disapproval of the two Otaku men. She claims that they are part of generation "that never had to grow up" but I think that's overreaching. They have jobs, they have families, one of them is married, so clearly they are capable adults. She says they're part of the problem... for not having children? So what does she expect them to do? Go out and procreate? Again, Japan's problem is not as simple as this documentary makes it out to be. There are many other aspects that it totally ignores.

  7. ANon

    The documentary also ignores the fact that the shortage of laborers is due to 40% of Japanese women being housewives. Out of the 60% of women who work, over half work part-time.
    The government and companies could start to unwind this problem by supporting women who want to join the workforce. This is done by offering more childcare services and resolving the excessive work culture that keeps mothers away from the workforce. The issue is more complex than just low birth rates.

  8. ANon

    I can't stand the narrator's commentary. She's so tactless and dramatic in the way she describes the situation. "Could there be anything sadder than rusty unused swings?" "This is so weird," "this is like a post-apocalyptic wasteland," "what a dark place," and so on. One would think that all of Japan is a rusty dump by the way she's describing it. She should realize that she's looking at the most extreme examples of population decline in Japan. There are similar towns in the US and other countries. In fact, one town in West Virginia is identical in that it was a coal mining town that essentially became a ghost town. Migration from low-opportunity areas to the cities is not a problem unique to Japan.

    Also, I think this documentary assumes that because children aren't being born at higher rates, it must mean people aren't having sex. I beg to differ, the love hotel and sex industry in Japan are thriving. People are definitely getting it on, they're just not having kids, due to many economic and social factors.

    1. Droidin

      This is a bbc documentary, she was describing what she saw and learn through an european perspective. Don’t take it personal, japan is indeed like this portrait, and also much more if you make a 10 hours long documentary. Even japanese people complain about their way of live and all problems that are part of the country. For example, we all know that Chinese migrants are exploited altough they are fundamental to the economy.

  9. paco

    One things sprang up very clearly in this video, japanese are extremely westernised, but because they had to, It looks to me after this video japan is a defeated country, they are still living under the dawn of the second world war, they feel like the losers of the conflict, though heavely influenced by the west, but in a forced way. And I feel like the real reason they are not letting in many immigrants is because from deep inside they still truely hate the westerners, mostly, the americans, because of dropping the atom bomb. But they are cant express there anger or sadness because they feel like, and have been told that it was their own fault because they started it. The real problem is this I thinkt, just like in the movie ''the last samurai'' Japan has neglected its own unique ''real'' culture and adapted, while being forced, the western one, so it doesnt really suite them. They are role playing as europeans but they just arent, and therefore are not playing it right. They miss the proportions, they excagerate it. They try to duplicate something(unconsiousely unwilling) but are just not able. What will save japan is to get there own culture back and their proud, not living in the shadows of the united states

  10. paco

    I have a comment to make on the lady explaining why immigration is difficult in japan.
    She sais it will be hard because japan has a very unique culture and language. What I want to add to that is this: I am a hundred and fourty percent convincent that a marokan immigrand coming to england, or for that case whole europe would think the same thing at thirst glans, there is a unique language and culture. But over time is whill be overwonn, and this is a fact, because it happened everywhere, almost at least,

  11. masaharu

    she did not talk about the labor system. is very important

  12. Im a Happy Single

    20:40 Since when resignation from the things you like is a part of growing up? That second guy is married, has a job, takes care of his house, first guy seems like a person, which favorized, living as a single in his youth. I know a lot of mature women, which likes to play that stupid online farming games or Sims. Ohhh sorry i forgot, when it consideres males its immature and for woman its ok, ohh yeah, sorry, my bad. SINGLES RULE!!!!

  13. Randall

    The less people there are the more resources there are to go around.

  14. doc

    critter and jordan are right 100%

    stop greed. 1 child worldwide policy.1st step

    wanna know whats next?

  15. Assaf Koss

    I find that the presenter, Anita, looked increasingly attractive, when compared to the Japanese women. I bet that they would be reproducing much more enthusiastically, if the women looked more like Manga characters. :=P But, that might just be my bias

    1. Marie

      I’m half-Japanese and found your comment is extremely offensive. If the interviewer came to the average American midwestern town, I’m certain you’d find your fair share of ugliness. And wouldn’t the U.S. overall look soo much hotter if the dudes resembled Disney princes or for that matter, manga characters?

  16. Chris

    I find it interesting that the presenters only solution is immigration. Immigration in the UK has created vast problems. Currently, 70% of people polled put immigration as their second most important subject, after the economy. The present immigration levels in the UK have supressed wages, caused a generation of young to be unable to find a job, created a housing shortage, stretched the national health service to breaking point, increased crime rates, caused every green space in the southeast to be concreted, caused endless traffic jams and created a lot of inter ethnic tensions.
    With the worlds resources dwindling, increasing a popullation further is just kicking the can of popullation control further down the road. What should be happening is globally we should be reducing popullation levels to save the planet. We should be working on new technology to care for the old and we should should reform our financial systems to remove the need for endless growth. Will it ever happen? No, because the rich need growth to get richer.

  17. Hypathia22

    Could someone help me out here with remembering a film title? Over 20 years ago, I saw a Japanese film (at an art-theater) set in rural, mountainous Japan in the late 1800s. Life was hard and harsh, including the custom of throwing off a cliff the old people who no longer had teeth (meant they were now in decline and "helpless") Spoiler here: The main character's mother ends up smashing her teeth on a huge stone, so that her son will be compelled to "throw her off the cliff" thus lessening his burdens in this difficult life. Is anyone out there familiar with this powerful film? The TITLE please?

    1. Be Bright

      It is called "The Ballad of Narayama"

    2. Be Bright

      Originally filmed in 1958 and then remade in 1983

    3. Hypathia22

      Thank you so much! Your brightness is brilliant!!

    4. Be Bright

      I have read a few of your posts and enjoyed them...

    5. Marie

      Wow - I’m intrigued and horrified by the premise of the film. Torn between wanting to watch and not wanting to.. what a sad end for the mother, but of course maternal love knows no bounds.
      thankfully, in this era, Japanese people revere their elderly.

  18. Terry Chambers

    I won't live in a world with one culture.

    1. Francisco Sá

      But one single culture, mainly with leader's manipulation and low level education, can destroy you and your country.

  19. jaberwokky

    The doc is a good overview of an interesting phenomenon that currently seems specific to Japanese society. It contemplates the current state, and spells out some of the future consequences, for a culture whose insular nature and steadfast adherence to old social norms have taken it to a precipice.It doesn't quite get deep enough into the causes of the phenomenon but there's a really meaty Guardian UK piece on the Google called "Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex?" for those that are interested. Trust me, it's got nothing to do with small penises.

    Of note in the comments here: People who think dwindling population sizes are a good thing, regardless of the method. Personally I find this very saddening.

    1. bringmeredwine

      I saw this doc awhile ago, somewhere else I guess.
      May haps these young Japanese would be very surprised by the "hook-up" culture in North America.
      Sex on demand, via cell phone or the computer, with a living, breathing person but devoid of any responsibility or concerns about the other's feelings.
      Women in Japan may be lonely, which is unfortunate, but at least they have not given away their dignity.
      (except if they have acted in Japanese porn, but that's an entirely different topic).

    2. jaberwokky

      Good point on the dignity thing. Also on the Japanese porn thing (very weird interests indeed). I wonder if they are lonely though, it's not the impression I've gotten from the guardian article which I linked earlier and from one or two other sources.

    3. bringmeredwine

      the statistics show an increasing rate of singles who've never been in a sexual relationship. Possibly some wish they were? (as usual I have no evidence!)
      Aside from their own busy life styles and careers, maybe their parents were extremely unhappy in their traditional roles?
      They don't want history to repeat itself.

    4. jaberwokky

      Well that does seem to be a huge part of it, the tradition thing. If a woman does get married she's expected to stay home, raise kids etc etc. Game over. It's a very male dominated culture still and even though it's taken on a lot of the modern western trappings nothing at the core seems to have changed.

      If you haven't already read it then I'd recommend that Guardian article. It fills in all the gaps in this documentary. And saves me a lot of typing :)

    5. bringmeredwine

      I did read it, and I found it both funny and sad.
      I totally understand not wanting to be in a serious and sexual relationship if you've been burned.
      But to not even have the desire to try one is alien to me.
      But that's just me.

    6. jaberwokky

      I hope you got more out of it than you did my last recommendation :/

      Funny and sad yes, and very informative. And also depressing, worrying, confusing and disconcerting. But how different would our perspective be if we were Japanese?

      There's a different weight to sexuality in Japan because of their culture and the pressures that come with it but yes I agree with you as a westerner.

      Also I'm fairly sure it's not just you. It might be all of us.

  20. junior347

    I guess when there are no young ruffians on the street, old people tend to pick up the slack. Somebody has to go out there and raise some hell, eh?

  21. shafawn

    The same can be said of Caucasians in America. Fewer white babies are born than any other race. Researchers quoted on NBC report claim census: white majority in U.S. gone by 2043.
    By the way the laws are being changed right now I expect it to be sooner.

    1. jaberwokky

      It seems to be a phenomenon that relates to how educated and wealthy a social class are apparently. I don't have any stats that I can point to but I wouldn't be the first to claim this. The director Mike Judge made it a central part of his 2006 satire "Idiocracy".

      If it really is the mechanism then the implications for intelligence are woeful. Depending.

  22. GreenTea

    The problem is half of the population will be over 65 in the near future. Who will feed them and change their nappies? They have finally "started" a discussion about legalizing euthanasia, but they are so slow in deciding on anything. I'm a Japanese woman permanently living abroad with two children, and I'm quite pessimistic and sad. Their mentality on social issues hasn't changed much since the WWII. Japan still ranks around/below 100th in any international gender equality surveys. I found this poor woman who has two children with two different fathers out of wedlock (not due to adultery, but still "legally" discriminated as illegitimate) was bombarded by abusive comments in a moderated message board. I defended her as an expat abroad and I was also bombarded by "This is Japan." and "Her children should immigrate to a country with no prejudice/discrimination such as France." Japanese people may be kind to you, but they are so rigid (nasty at times) among themselves, and what they call "Japanese values" are actually destroying the country. If they like to drive BMWs and drink Jack Daniels, why do they resist adopting possible/feasible solutions from the West?

  23. windship

    It's bizarre in a way that population decline is considered such a 'crisis" in a country that is grossly overpopulated, if you look at Japan's overall ecological and energy footprint which stretches well beyond the archipelago. Yes, the transition to a more sustainable state may be difficult, but surely things will be better for future generations if there isn't so many people. We can only hope this population "problem" reaches the whole world before every other edible species on the planet is eaten, every other natural resource is mined into oblivion..

    1. Sophia Washington

      The point of the film is that there is a lack of "future generation" because of the lack of population replacement growth (2.5 children).

    2. Assaf Koss

      A decline in population is only a problem, if you farm humans, for a living; like politicians.

      The concerns presented, and otherwise, are nothing more, than the expected backlash of previous over-populating practices, in urban areas. It is not surprising, at all, that this is now reverting.

  24. bionara

    The adult nappies outsell the baby nappies in Japan...or in that shop that's geared towards the old folk? This Doc' is littered with conjecture! It's a good doc, but I feel that if it wasn't set in the far off and exotic lands of Japan it wouldn't have a gram of interest in it.

    1. jaberwokky

      I tried to ad a link here for you but links are at the mercy of the TDF admin (PBUH) ... :-) I referenced a Guardian UK article in my comment above which states that the switching trend in nappy sales are an overall national figure and not just a local anomaly.

      Forgive me if I am wrong here but I think you may be missing out if you are flippantly overlooking Japanese culture. It's a window into a strain of society that you don't see anywhere else.

      Hence all their unique problems I suppose.

  25. Travis Sichel

    I think the guys are just under stress & give up, they feel insecure about their financial situation & cant live up to the standards they expect of themselves & think woman expect of them too, So they just avoid woman.

    Comparing your success to the baby boomers is silly. People born in that generation were not only born in a baby boom but an economic one too.

    The generation of now lives in a very competitive economy and in a culture where a stable boring job is simply not good enough.
    In order to gain your peers respect you have to get that cool car, be fashionable have the latest phone & I believe it is getting worse. Though that might not be true, we just tend to think it is so feel insecure and pressured, perhaps social media, TV & movies etc is to blame.

  26. Lisa

    As being Japanese, I agree and it's true, but they should have mentioned that Yubari is the most famous city which experienced the financial collapse as city because of the fail in their business. It doesn't represent the rural side in Japan. Maybe it was just a nice exaggerated example though. It's wired to me that Yubari seemed to represent Japan.
    And no matter how big population of Otaku, of course they are still not a reason for the low birth rate. Besides, Akihabara is only small part in Tokyo. Young people's work and life style and attitude should be changed because the decreasing population is truely coming.

  27. Sun Zoo

    Japan is a great place to send hipsters that are crowding new york city.

    1. TheDanishViking

      First Hiroshima and Nagazaki and THEN waves of photoshopping freelancers!? That would constitute a war crime.

  28. englishjakes

    awesome but crazy. To think that guys would rather have a virtual girl friend is crazy but on the other hand a population decrease is awesome. poor japanese girls though they must be really pent up.

    1. Jack1952

      I think I would get it if his virtual girlfriend was like on the holo-deck on Star Trek, but this is a little much. The sexual aspect is a little creepy, too.

    2. oQ

      The movie HER takes this to a whole different dimension.

    3. jaberwokky

      It actually ads something of value I think.

  29. Bob Dole

    This brings me hope, not sadness. Industrial decline, less energy consumption, fewer mouths to feed, sounds like a garden of Eden to me...

  30. ghpacific

    Wow, just wow! Great job, very enlightening.

  31. Jordan

    I agree....Decreasing the amount of people on the planet might save the earth after all

  32. mscritter

    I think women in all countries should follow Japan's example. Then maybe we could save the planet.

  33. oQ

    Everyone would agree that Japanese babies are the cutest in the world?
    I disagree.

    1. jaberwokky

      Also "Could there be anything sadder than rusty unused swings?"

      No! No there could be nothing in the world sadder than rusty swings ... ever!

    2. oQ

      What about walking sticks makes being a pensioner cool in her eyes, she even wants one for herself and one for her granny.

    3. jaberwokky

      Well unless her granny carries her own weight it's just "Tough sheep granma!".

      And no! Never! Walking sticks are not sadder than rusty swings! Damn you and your implications oQ!

    4. oQ

      What's really sad to me is rusty wings.

    5. jaberwokky

      You've got a poetic touch to your warble.

      I'll take your rusty wings and raise you one blank diary.

    6. oQ

      after 20 minutes, I'm still scratching my head wondering what that means "Raise you one blank diary", hope you're not talking about nappies and diarrhea

    7. jaberwokky

      hahaha. no certainly not. I was using card player talk.

      I'll see your 20 dollars and raise you 30.

      I'll see your rusty wings and raise you a blank diary.

      See? It was a lot more humorous when I didn't have to explain it :/

    8. oQ

      when in doubt shoot it in French, I normally get it faster that way, just don't go for Japanese

    9. jaberwokky

      That's funny actually because my favourites films are a fairly equal mix of French and Japanese. And then there's Fellini.

      Ah Fellini you crazy crazy guy.

      D'accord. jusque la, en francaise.

      Edit: Godard would have got my blank diary reference.

    10. Marie

      That makes me very sad, particularly for that woman you mentioned. As a “hafu,” I’ve experienced my share of discrimination as well. I would have no qualms against marrying a Japanese man, but they seem so uninterested in women of any race.

  34. Diego_Garrido

    Behold the future, western folks. Anyway, what's so catastrophic about negative growth? Stark reminder about this dysfunctional infinite-growth-based economy. Juts throwing thoughts out there

    1. Alexandru Matei

      Nothing is wrong. Just make sex not babies.

      The situation is similar in many countries around the world, maybe not as in Japan, but with the busy life-style today most adult become parents around the age of 38 - 40 in Europe and many women never give birth to a child because of the poverty that in the Balkans.

    2. pdlussier

      The repercussions of a negative population growth can be extremely catastrophic for an economy, which in turn is a near guarantee of very bleak, hard times for all the younger, emerging, heavily-indebted generations within that economy; Japan's decline presents this very real and serious risk. But I agree with you in that this is yet more proof of our present economic model's dysfunctionality, and the finest argument I can think of as to why we desperately need to move towards a restorative, circular economy asap, thus lessening such impacts, eventually avoiding them altogether...