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The surprising truth about cheating on one's partner in Japan

By Mujo, grape Japan

Have you seen the Netflix series called “My Husband Won’t Fit”? A happy Japanese couple’s marriage slowly decays because of their troubled sex life.

Spoilers Ahead

After numerous failed attempts at having intercourse, Kenichi begins frequenting a soapland. He purposefully leaves his point card (might as well get a discount) where his wife Kumiko can easily find it. Kumiko follows him to the massage parlor and from afar bows deeply, reluctantly accepting the fact that they are providing Kenichi a need that she herself is incapable of fulfilling.

Both Kumiko and Kenichi refuse to talk about the subject, not wanting to burden the other with their sexual troubles. Kenichi continues frequenting the soapland, telling his masseuse sex is purely physical and has nothing to do with love. Meanwhile, Kumiko falls into a deep depression, meeting random men at love hotels, going through the motions of adultery while deeply frustrated she fails to make love to Kenichi, the only one who she ever truly felt a connection to.

Infidelity in America

Kumiko’s reluctant acceptance of her husband’s actions as necessary, as well as Kenichi’s reasoning that sex and love are not connected, struck me as quite foreign.

I confess to being a millennial conditioned by Hollywood’s romanticization of marriage and family life. Ironically, the USA also has the world’s third-highest divorce rate, according to a U.N. study.

professor at the University of Utah found that over the last 30 years, the number of Americans who have had extramarital sex has held steady at 16%. However, he found cheating was significantly higher in married Americans over 55, at 20%, compared to 14% of those under the age of 55.

This only seems to highlight the transition from a culture dominated by men to a surge of feminism and trend toward gender equality. As far as adultery is concerned, Dr. Sweeny, Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Louisville, found that while men have historically held mistresses, many states had (as of 2013, 18 states still do have) strict infidelity laws, often prejudiced against women.

In 2020, if your partner found out you were frequenting a massage parlor to treat more than stiff shoulders, in most cases, having it swept under the rug is not a likely outcome.

Of course “My Husband Won’t Fit” is just a fictional drama, but does Kumiko and Kenichi’s relationship resonate with Japanese?

Overtime at Kyabakura

I was watching the Netflix series with my Japanese friend and asked her if Kumiko’s reaction made any sense to her. This is what she said:

"I don't care if my boyfriend goes to a soapland as long as I don't know about it. It’s not cheating, it’s just what Japanese guys do."

Japanese woman, 29, Osaka

These sentiments were echoed by another Japanese woman I asked:

"I’ve told my boyfriend not to play around with shiroto 素人, (respectable women; i.e. not a prostitute or hostess). It’s okay if he goes to a soapland. I think cheating is when you get emotionally attached. Paying for sex from a professional is just a service. But I know I’m a bit lenient in my thinking."

Risako, 26, Kyoto

Considering that many businessmen in Japan, and other Asian countries too, frequent hostess clubs with their clients to seal a deal, perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that some Japanese women think this way. These women are paid to drink alcohol and sing karaoke with their clients, and in some cases even perform sexual acts, albeit illegally.

Unlike in the United States, where strippers and prostitutes are generally looked down upon, hostesses tend to be more respected, with some even appearing on Japanese variety TV shows.

How much do the Japanese cheat?

In the YouTube video below by Asian Boss, posted in May 2016, Japanese people were asked to share their thoughts about cheating.

The interviewees believed men were unfaithful about as often as women.

In a survey conducted by Rize Clinic, a chain of hair removal salons, in October 2018, 531 men and women between the ages of 20-49 were asked about their experiences with adultery.

Although according to the survey men were found as likely to cheat as women, the numbers were nowhere near as high as some of the Asian Boss respondents had estimated. Married men were more than twice as likely to cheat as married men, 38.5% to 18.1% respectively. Unmarried women were more likely to cheat on their boyfriends, with rates spiking as they reached their 40s.

And even though the survey revealed that married women who cheated were more interested in sex (27.6%) than appeasing their loneliness (26%), several respondents in the video felt that it's men who mostly cheat to satisfy a physical urge, while women are more emotionally invested and perhaps already looking for an end to their current relationship. This led to some of the men’s conclusion that women who cheat are worse.

Similar to the people I spoke with, it appears many Japanese find prostitution to be more forgivable as it is a service paid for and lacking any emotional attachment.

In the end, opinions vary. Everyone has their own idea of where cheating begins and how to handle a partner who has cheated on them. And as for Kumiko and Kenichi, I suppose their unique solution and views on sex and love aren’t so strange after all.

Read more stories from grape Japan.


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-- Exploring Miyazaki Prefecture: The Beauty of Takachiho Gorge

© grape Japan

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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"I don't care if my boyfriend goes to a soapland

Jesus. Must be STD hell in their bedroom.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )


-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Even with married people, there are big differences between couples. Adultery in a functioning marriage is much worse than in a non-functioning one, just as cheating on someone you are dating twice a week is much worse than cheating on that "boyfriend" you meet for coffee once every two months.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

"My Husband Won’t Fit is a fiction but really pathetic!

I know several couples married since decades and as long as husband do not bring woman at home, do not let things such as coupon for love hotel etc...and assume his "family" responsibilities (paying rent etc..), it's okay. There isn't involvement, that's just "play."

And some womens are doing the same too once kids are at school.

This is sad but it is a reality in Japan.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I think an interesting question to ponder is this: if you don't mind your partner going to sex workers, then is it cheating? Isn't it just a form of non-monogamy?

There's no magic relationship formula that guarantees success. Monogamy works for some, but not for others. As long as the people involved are in agreement, then it's not an issue.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Hostesses aren’t prostitutes.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

So after the kids are born and the wife shuts the husband off the bedroom, what is he supposed to do?

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Personally I think the western “off with his or her heads”, cheating is the worst crime ever mentality is the backward one.

Men and Women that are adults can work this out on their own reasoning

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

I dont understand what "single men and women " means here.. if you single you are not cheating on anyone..

oh and hostesses are prostitutes, just tiny bit more expensive and you have the luxury of talking to em before taking em to bed.

in addition, I would absolutely bet that the actual married cheating women number is much much much higher.. atleast on par with men.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

With this, of all topics, statistics are TOTALLY meaningless. Why bother with them?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

You're not single if you have a bf/gf! It's such a weird distinction and not the first time I've seen it from Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

not suprising. Japanese women are notorious for shutting turning off the sex tap once the kids are born.

so the guy goes to a more attractive and sexier woman, or he goes and pays for it.

can hardly blame him.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

a court in Osaka ruled if a married man pays a woman for sex it is not considered adultery.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

no morals weaklings

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Read The Tale of Genji (源氏物語, Genji monogatari), for a little insight into this, then come back and comment.

0 ( +0 / -0 )


"Married men were more than twice as likely to cheat as married men, 38.5% to 18.1% respectively."

Married or Unmarried? Which is which?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

People don't tell the truth in surveys. Researchers have found that even those who are asked to keep food diaries do not record actual food consumption. Anyone who has lived in Japan for years knows that infidelity is high among both men and women, and it simply isn't talked about.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I thought the Japanese had stopped having sex. Any number of articles on this in major newspapers including the Guardian, the Washington Post, and the New York Times as well as the Daily Beast. The BBC had a special, "No sex please, we're Japanese."

Are there two Japans, one where everyone is going at it, and one where everyone is celibate.

Or, is anything about Japan and sex just good clickbait?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Seems to me that the younger one is when marrying, the more likely one is to cheat. If one doesn't get married until 30 or so, there is perhaps less "need" to cheat. Also, when one is more mature, one tends to realize that fooling around may not be worth the loss of one's partner and family. This scenario might apply to the majority of people.

However, I have heard stories about some seriously rich people who have had many sex partners, while staying married. The quid pro quo seems to be that 1.) what is good for the gander is also good for the goose, and, 2.) all cheating must be kept on the down-low, so the public semblance of respectability can be maintained.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Wtf is wrong with people, cheating just destroy families. And how can someone be ok with their partners having sex with someone else, you love that person and they are fcking someone else, I can't wrap my head around it, just reading this made be feel sick

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Do you know it is now possible to get remote access to your unfaithful partner's device remotely.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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