Here
and
Now

kuchikomi

One-third of men destined to be lifelong singles

43 Comments

“Mr Fukuyama” is 43, reasonably well-off and single. It’s not that he doesn’t want to marry — he can’t, or at least hasn’t been able to so far. Why not, since he’s employed full-time and earning ¥5 million a year? Because he’s in a situation common to more and more middle-aged single men — he has a parent dependent on him for care. Prospective marriage partners see that and run.

Fukuyama’s parents divorced late in life and Fukuyama, then in his 30s, set up housekeeping with his father. Girlfriends came and went. By the time he felt ready to marry, his father had begun to decline. Marriage, whether you’re young or not-so-young, means embarking on a new life. An aged and infirm parent casts a long shadow.

Marriage is not what it used to be. What it used to be is nearly universal. There always were, and always will be, individuals determined to go their own way, or temperamentally unmatchable — but marriage until very recently was almost as inevitable as growing up. How far Japan has traveled from that presumption is indicated by a 2010 health and labor ministry survey classifying 20.1 percent of men, and 10.6 percent of women, as “lifetime singles.” By 2020, the figure for men is expected to be 29 percent — nearly one in three.

Spa! (June 21), pursuing the subject, does some polling of its own. Surveying 200 men aged 35-44, it finds 122 of the 200 — 61 percent — want to marry at some point, though not necessarily soon. Only 15 — 7.5 percent — express no desire at all to marry, ever.

The most common bar to marriage is poverty, real or imagined, but Fukuyama’s case shows that poverty is not always measurable in terms of income, or the lack of it. Five million yen a year is not princely but it’s not poverty either, as the word is generally understood. Perhaps that general understanding needs to be broadened. Fukuyama, though living with his father and paying no rent, leads a life of extreme constraint. Repaying what’s left of the home loan his father took out decades ago is now on his shoulders. Even that’s relatively minor compared to his main concern. What if his father needs to be institutionalized? It’s an eventuality that must be planned for, and extinguishes in his own mind — if not necessarily in fact – any hope of marrying and raising kids.

Care issues aside, today’s young adults who grew up during the decades of economic shrinkage see their own prospects as shrunken in proportion. They say to themselves, reports Spa!, “If I have kids, I’ll never be able to give them the advantages my parents gave me.” And so they don’t have kids.

Then there are people like “Mr Tanaka,” a 40-year-old management consultant who spent all his free time up to now building up his professional portfolio. He had no time for courtship. Now, however, he does, and he’s looking forward to it. He’s established, and can offer his future family the security and ease he feels is their due.

“Mr Egawa,” 42, is handsome, friendly and successful. He earns ¥6 million a year. If popularity comes easily to anyone, it should to him, says Spa! — and in fact, it does. He’s got lots of friends, and enjoys convivial get-togethers. But romance? It leaves him cold. “I can’t bear constraint,” he says. “With my friends I have a good time. But love brings nothing but trouble.”

He doesn’t drink, doesn’t gamble, has never bought sex. He enjoys cooking and doesn’t mind if it’s for himself only. He works for the same publishing company he entered out of college 20 years ago, and is happy there. He saves 50,000 a month and is far from poor. With his modest wants, he can look forward to a prosperous old age.

Why ask for more? What can marriage give him that life hasn’t already given him? Love, maybe — but he doesn’t feel he needs it. He is quite possibly the most contented man Spa! has portrayed in years of specializing in portraits of varying degrees of unhappiness. He’s found his own way to it. It wouldn’t suit everyone, but from his point of view, that’s no drawback at all.

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

43 Comments
Login to comment

Another kuchikomi article to stir up the anti-this or that crowd.....I'll pass on this, it's a personal choice issue my opinions do not matter.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

Fukuyama's case is rather emblematic of society as a whole. The old have replaced children as the dependents of priority. This is a positive feedback cycle and can only get worse.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Society's as a whole, are experiencing the WORST of both worlds, and this article is a fine example.

BEFORE governments started their crazy pension ponzi schemes, it was expected that kids would eventually take care of their parents. Everybody did. Because governments were so much smaller, their impact on the economy was negligible. Having a large family WAS your retirement plan.

Then governments came along and started to tax the crap out of everybody. Which worked fine when the economy was expanding AND there enough tax payers to support the pensioners (tax receivers).

Now the demographics are upside down. Not only can the government NOT AFFORD to pay pensioners an adequate wage, adult children of pensioners can't support their parents either without significant financial hardship.

This will continue to get worse as Japan's economy gets worse along with her demographics.

10 ( +20 / -11 )

gaijinfo,

The time you are talking about was when Japanese worked mostly on farms. Is that what you think is appropriate now?

You libertarian types live in a fantasy world where people perform surgery on themselves and roads repair themselves. Where firemen come after the fire burns itself out. It is a nice piece of fiction that most grow out of in their teens. The world just simply does not work that way for reasons too numerous, and in most cases also too obvious, to explain.

Japan is a rich country that can easily afford to pay for it's elderly to live decent lives. Instead we have bridges to nowhere and huge corporate subsidies. Ask yourself why that is. If you cannot figure it out try looking in a mirror. All you Ayn Rand types are simple stooges for corporate interests that want to steal as much as they can from society without any oversight.

8 ( +20 / -11 )

I agree with gaijininfo.

-1 ( +11 / -13 )

My single coworker packed in his job a few years ago and went to Africa to help with construction projects. He loves it and feels he's doing something worthwhile with his life. I often think about the freedom I lost when I think of him despite the fact I'm in a happy relationship.

What a dysfunctional weirdo. He should be visiting his in-laws or going to Disneyland.

Marriage is on its way out anyway. It won't be a great loss when it finally lands on the scrapheap.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Fukuyama dated the wrong women who saw only his old father, their chores related to the father, and ignored completely anything about Fukuyama himself. Was he nice? Cheerful? Organized enough to take care of his father and work full time?

If the women he dated were that selfish, no first-born son in Japan will ever be able to get married.

9 ( +15 / -7 )

I really HATE articles that begin with an anecdote about one person meant to be representative of literally millions. Its a red flag for crap really.

10 ( +11 / -2 )

I really HATE articles that begin with an anecdote about one person meant to be representative of literally millions.

Jack@Then probably you shouldn't read anything translated from a Japanese weekly magazine (which is what this column is all about).

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Because he’s in a situation common to more and more middle-aged single men — he has a parent dependent on him for care. Prospective marriage partners see that and run.

The problem is not that Mr. Fukuyama has his father to look after. The problem is that his prospective wife would be instantly cursed with burden of looking after him. Women here are just culturally expected to do those sorts of things.

No wonder 1/3 of men cannot marry. Cultural expectations are way too high. Everything so high maintenance.

9 ( +9 / -1 )

I can't understand people like "Mr. Egawa", who think that women/dating/romance are a troublesome burden.

A life without the company of women is no life at all.

Charles Aznavour put it best:

She may be the beauty or the beast

May be the famine or the feast

May turn each day into a heaven

Or a hell

Without that, life is just a barren desert of boredom...

-4 ( +8 / -11 )

@choiwaruoyaji

I'm not so sure. I'm the same age as Mr. Egawa and if I'd managed to avoid marriage, I couldn't see myself doing it now. The hormones aren't as active as they once were and peace and quiet is the thing I value most these days.

Give me a good book/footy on the TV, a nice cup of tea/shot of Scotch and I'm happy. I'm afraid any lady would have to wait until the final whistle for conversation or anything else these days.

Middle-age is a great time to be single.

8 ( +13 / -5 )

@Jimizo

Get those comfy slippers on mate!

Well, good luck to you... each to his or her own.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Fukuyama-san reminds me of my wife's cousin. There are two houses one one plot in Chiba, one occupied by his mother, the other by him. Mid 40s salaryman with decent means, not married and very little prospect of getting married.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

You libertarian types live in a fantasy world

You know nothing about libertarianism if you think it means building roads by ourselves and performing surgery on ourselves. People would pay to have those things done, as they do now, but with far less waste. The bridges to nowhere and the corporate subsidies you complain about are enabled by overly large governments. If you think you can trust a large government to look after old people, then that's a fantasy world.

5 ( +9 / -5 )

And lifelong women will be 2/3rds.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@zucronium: Japan is a wonderful place but it definitely is NOT rich.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I didn't notice this was a kuchikomi article when I clicked, but the following goes beyond that anyway.

Surveying 200 men aged 35-44, it finds 122 of the 200 — 61 percent — want to marry at some point, though not necessarily soon. Only 15 — 7.5 percent — express no desire at all to marry, ever.

I got married at 34. I can only speak for myself, but I felt like the window of opportunity to start a family was starting to close. I doubt that many men who are single at 40 will end up having children. I think if I had hit 40 and still been single, I would have been so into doing my own thing that I wouldn't have wanted to give it up.

Good luck to the 122!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

One of the side benefits of having a military is having veteran's benefits. Congress would go up in smoke if it starting messing ith veteran's benefits. I actually had no idea that despite only putting in 3 years in the U.S. Army in the seventies, that with a fairly low social security income, I would be qualify for free medical care and free medication at the V.A. Hospital in my city. And that includes surgeries, emergency, etc. Tnere's just too much guilt that goes along with sending Americans into battlefields, and the sheer number of veterans the U.S. pumps out. So, if Japan gets a military again....who knows? It's quite a supermarket.

-1 ( +2 / -2 )

Organized enough to take care of his father and work full time?

Superman ? Nobody can do that. The problem is with 5 millions, he can't afford the help. Maybe some omiai should match singles that have parents with the same condition (2 Alzheimers, 2 veggie-state...) so the couple could keep working and share the cost of a nurse.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Japan has a boy to girl birth ratio of about 1:1. For every boy born there is a girl. So for every man in the population, there exists a woman. This is a fact.

Indeed, more women marry foreigners than men, but nowhere near 33% of women marry non-Japanese.. its actually about 7 or 8% of new marriages at best for women (and still about 5% for the guys).

So this article main statistic, that one-third of men are destined to be single, goes both ways. About 30% of women will never marry either.

I've met them. I know them as friends. I've seen them in middle age. Women are alone too.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Indeed, more women marry foreigners than men

In Japan? Way more international marriages are between Japanese men and foreign women than the other way around.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

A very good friend of mine is 43, has is successful, adventurous, had several (pretty hot) girlfriends through his life, but he is a man who cannot compromise. Not really. Everything in his life is done on his terms. He requires girlfriends that 'understand' him, which is really code for letting him do whatever he wants and doing everything on his terms. He just isn't suited to marriage, he's too selfish, too self absorbed.

Which is the exact opposite of Mr Egawa. I admire his selflessness. It's a shame for him.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I can only feel sorry for Japan. No focus. No leadership. No dreams outside money. Then again, who has good leaders and a clear future?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

In Japan? Way more international marriages are between Japanese men and foreign women than the other way around.

Stranger is right on this one.

Out in the sticks, lots of Japanese men married to Chinese, Filipinas etc...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

In Japan? Way more international marriages are between Japanese men and foreign women than the other way around.

Actually, I got my stats flip-flopped. You're right. (I just saw how in 2013 its about 4% of new marriages to foreign spouses, with foreign women 2 to 1 over foreign men).

But then, that means that with the marriage to the extra non-Japanese women compared to foreign men, the boy-to-girl ratio goes beyond the 1:1 baseline. So if its 33% of men not getting married, then it must be even higher for women. Ouch!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I praise this man. Working hard, taking care of his Father who raised him. If all the women he has met so far, don't want to be with him, because he is doing an honorable thing, then screw those women.

I mean if the woman's parents suddenly became ill and needed care, wouldn't you want to a spouse who was going to be fully supportive and understand the situation?

Sad world we live in today.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

A very good friend of mine is 43, has is successful, adventurous, had several (pretty hot) girlfriends through his life, but he is a man who cannot compromise. Not really. Everything in his life is done on his terms. He requires girlfriends that 'understand' him, which is really code for letting him do whatever he wants and doing everything on his terms. He just isn't suited to marriage, he's too selfish, too self absorbed.

If he wants to get married, and isn't able to do so because of this, then it's a problem he needs to fix. But if he isn't interested in getting married, then it sounds like things are working fine for him.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Give me a good book/footy on the TV, a nice cup of tea/shot of Scotch and I'm happy. I'm afraid any lady would have to wait

I was assuming your age was 62, then I learned you are talking about 42. That's way too young. You have a lot of good years left, I hope you can enjoy them. There will be a time, soon enough, when the flag no longer rises in the morning. If that time is now, a visit to the doctor could help.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

As usual, this type of article is male-centric. Simple math will also tell you at approximately 1/3 of Japanese women will also stay single for their life. Basically, if people don't want to get married that their business. If they want to be married and can't because of society money problems, that is an issue to worry about. The main problem though is the falling birthrate OR low numbers immigrants - immigrants presumably in sufficient numbers to make up for this shortfall.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Indeed, more women marry foreigners than men.....

As others have pointed out, this is wrong. "International marriage" involving Japanese nationals is overwhelming Japanese male marrying non-Japanese female. I haven't seen any really recent statistics, but it was running about 80% Japanese male vs 20% Japanese female. Most of the non-Japanese women are Asian where Asia includes the the far eastern regions of the Russian Republic.

There are numerous Japanese language Internet sites that offer match making between Japanese males and foreign females. Some provincial governments are also involved in match making.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

"I was assuming your age was 62, then I learned you are talking about 42. That's way too young. You have a lot of good years left, I hope you can enjoy them. There will be a time, soon enough, when the flag no longer rises in the morning."

No problems there yet. Sorry for lowering the tone to the vulgar level of a GOP presidential debate.

The point I was making is that some people in their early forties just don't have the motivation to go dating. I know women my age who feel the same. If I became single again, I'm not sure if I could be arsed dating. Friday night? Just knocked off work? I'd rather go home and put my shorts on with a large Scotch for company.

There's nothing wrong with this. It isn't weird. I'm certain some people, I don't mean you, think things like Sex and the City represent real life. If that cast is anything to go by, I'd definetly go home rather than sit in a restaurant with an anorexic trout. I'm a bit tattered round the edges myself, by the way.

It's harder and more disappointing trying to look good for a date in your forties.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

He doesn’t drink, doesn’t gamble, has never bought sex. He enjoys cooking and doesn’t mind if it’s for himself only.

I just wonder how a healthy 42-year old man like Mr. Egawa can cope without a female companion.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Just because he don't have a steady woman don't he mean goes without.

Myself now 48 and haven't a steady relationship since my Wife died 9yrs ago, right now I am happy. Get plenty of offers for doing the horizontal fandango.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

If he wants to get married, and isn't able to do so because of this, then it's a problem he needs to fix. But if he isn't interested in getting married, then it sounds like things are working fine for him.

I think it's both Stranger. He wants to get married (I think) but can't really compromise when he is in the position to. A number of girls have wanted to marry the guy, (and many guys would do ANYTHING to marry the birds he has dated) but he just can't get his head around it. He's a weird cat.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I have a friend, younger though, mid-30s. He's quite successful (a good bit more than me), good looking, and a genuinely nice guy. But he'd rather be single than compromise on the girl he will marry.

To be honest, I think that's the right way to go, for him at least.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Even with a solid career and a wife-to-be, I just got tired of life. At the age of 25. After having as many experiences as we could have, the weekends weren't just as awaited as before. Shopping, travels, eating out. That's it. No prejudices here but my question is: how could someone survive a whole life without kids?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

gaijinfo

I agree in principal with you but the governments had to assume increasingly, responsibility because of the culture of greed that has come to plague so many societies since the 1970s. My own here in the US leading the "storm of Greed". But that is changing despite the de-humanizing effects of social media,et al. The growing movement is "Back to Community"

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Saving 500 a month gets you 6000 bucks for the year, which after 40 years is 360,000 which is not very much.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

TBH, what woman would want to marry a guy who has to look after his dad all day? She can probably look forward to taking over those tasks the day after their honeymoon, so I can't really blame her for not wanting such a bleak life

0 ( +1 / -1 )

a 2010 health and labor ministry survey classifying 20.1 percent of men, and 10.6 percent of women, as “lifetime singles

How to explain the discrepancy?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It's high time for Japanese judicial to recognize concubine relationships. Marriage makes it like a contract, a burden on both partners.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What the hell is wrong with these guys. If you earn enough, hire a nurse/elder-care person and then go find mrs.right.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites