Japan Today



How the nation's love life is evolving under the stress and challenges of COVID-19


A deadly pandemic seems a toxic backdrop to love. The “social distancing” it imposes, the fears, stresses and strains it generates, are doubtful allies of eros and a decided challenge to marriage. “Corona divorce” may or may not mean literal, legal divorce, but it certainly does describe heightened domestic tension under the pall of the COVID-19 corona virus.

Spa! (June 23) surprises us with a contrarian picture. What’s corrosive to marital love can be just the thing for extra-marital love. One never knows.

“Akihisa Emoto” (a pseudonym, like all the names in this story) is a 42-year-old transport company employee. He’s married and has three children.  For two years he’s been seeing a part-time convenience store worker 11 years younger than himself. She’s married too. They met via social networking, chatted online for a time, met for dinner one evening, and the relationship blossomed.

Far from blighting it, the epidemic has made it more intimate. They see each other less often – once a month now, down from twice, the epidemic having increased rather than decreased their respective work loads; but find they love each other more. A typical date used to begin with dining out. Now they stock up on food and drinks and go straight to their love hotel, where the bill – for six hours , 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. – comes to 4,980 yen, tax included.

“Many people are stressed and irritated over this corona virus,” says Emoto. “My wife is one of them.” He doesn’t blame her – “she has three kids on her hands, after all.

"My love affair,” he adds, “gives me the strength to face it.”

 “Naoki Tajima,” 32, is under different stress – corona unemployment. He’s in the “event” business. We’re not told precisely what he does, but with most events canceled he’s temporarily furloughed. His wife of three years is working, but at home rather than at the office. Being idle under the critical eye of your busy spouse is uncomfortable. A woman he met online in April via a matching app is in similar straits. Their common plight drew them together.

Convincing his wife it had something to do with prospects for work, he met the woman at Shibuya. Among various other unexpected side-effects, an epidemic simplifies seduction. With everything else closed, they went straight to a love hotel, to give each other comfort neither perhaps would have needed under normal conditions. They continue to see each other once every two weeks or so.

“Naoto Soda,” 38, credits the epidemic with making his girlfriend of three years love him more. She’d been a somewhat noncommittal partner before, it seems, consenting to see him no more often than once every two or three months. She’s a nurse. Her hospital doesn’t treat coronavirus patients, but she feels herself at risk all the same. She’s worried. She needs reassurance. He’s reassuring. “Now,” an exuberant Soda tells Spa!, “she calls me. She was always so strong. I want to be with her as much as I can.”

 “The ‘social distance’ between us,” he adds – one can imagine the twinkle in his eye – “is zero.”

© Japan Today

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I'll never understand those idiots.

The pandemic was a god send to me. I got to stay home and spend more time with my family. What I miss the most about working from home is waking up and playing with my 2 toddlers with my wife without even getting out of bed. I will treasure those mornings, but we are back at the office full time now. Damn.

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