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What is the cheating culture in Japan really like?

38 Comments
By Whitney Hubbell

For people in many cultures, cheating on a partner signifies the ultimate betrayal. However, a lot of online content has made it easy to be convinced that cheating is common in Japan. But what is the cheating culture in Japan really like, and how does cheating compare to those of other countries?

Before diving in, two terms are used in Japanese to refer to different types of cheating. The word uwaki (浮気) refers to situations like drunken mistakes or cheating as a quick way to end a relationship. The second word, furin (不倫), refers to an extramarital affair. Based on the language, it is already apparent that uwaki, or “floating spirit,” is not always treated as a big deal.

On the other hand, it seems that furin, which can best be translated as “adultery” or “immorality,” is taken very seriously. However, this has not always been the case.

History of Cheating Culture in Japan

iStock-Grafissimo-Geisha-Ukiyoe.jpg
Geisha were high-class entertainers of men. Image: iStock/ Grafissimo

In many cultures, cheating on a partner is a serious crime. However, historically in Japan, marriages served to form alliances between families and secure the production of heirs. Romantic love played no role, with one proverb stating, “Those who come together in passion stay together in tears.” Instead, desires for passion and romance were typically satisfied outside one’s marriage, a common practice for both men and women.

In a patriarchal culture, there have always been more opportunities for men to cheat than women. For centuries, concubines and geisha, a word that literally means “artist” and describes traditional female performing artists, catered to wealthy men and held a respectable position in society. Even lower-class prostitutes did not receive as much stigma as they would in other cultures.

In the 20th century, perspectives shifted. Cheating came to be seen as common and inevitable husband behavior. Men worked to earn money for their families, while women were expected to stay home with their children. The reasoning was that the men deserved to relieve their stress however they saw fit, and yet a woman who cheated was considered to be disrespecting her husband and children.

Hostess Clubs and Sex Work

iStock-aluxum-Shinjuku-Kabukicho-night-life-club.jpg
Kabukicho is Tokyo’s red-light district. Image: iStock/ aluxum

Japan’s nightlife culture is more secretive today, but the attitudes are similar as long ago. Activities that many cultures would consider cheating are not deemed as such in Japan. These activities are not only semi-legal but prevalent in larger Japanese cities.

After work, groups of businessmen often frequent various establishments catering to them. The tame options are kyabakura, or hostess clubs, “girls bars,” and “snack bars,” where female workers provide male patrons with drinks and flirty conversation. The same is true of host clubs catering to female customers. Other businesses, such as pink salons, soaplands and “delivery health,” offer more direct sexual services, even though prostitution is illegal in Japan.

Japanese law defines prostitution as sexual intercourse with a stranger, so these places find loopholes, such as giving the customer and sex worker time to “become acquainted” before having sex. Other private services, some that cater to women as well, are also becoming more popular, offering boyfriend or girlfriend experiences.

Because these are paid services that involve no emotional attachment, they are generally not considered cheating by some people in Japan.

Most People Consider it Cheating

Click here to read more.

© GaijinPot

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

38 Comments
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The bazillion love hotels are the first clue.

8 ( +12 / -4 )

Pretty rampant, if you take off the blinkers.

-3 ( +8 / -11 )

Well, Japan is one of 2 or 3 or 300 countries in which people cheat. My estimate might be a little low.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Not so sure about now, but when I was in Japan in the early 2000's it was widespread and not really even frowned upon. This article doesn't really use the more commonly used expression. I always heard the word aijin or lover. This was used more often than the words in this article.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I mean if your attitude towards it is “well shoganai” then yeah you’re welcoming cheating. If you make it known it’s a no go in your relationship by you know, saying it or actually leaving the other person if it happens.

It’s not as common as it feels it’s just that people are more obvious about it here imo haha.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This is a well-written article and hits on the topic pretty accurately.

Japanese seemed to be a lot more promiscuous when I was here in the 70s. My older friends often used to talk about yobai (night crawling) being quite common until the 80s or 90s.

An older woman student of mind used to talk about it in a nostalgic light. She seemed to have enjoyed it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Romantic love played no role, with one proverb stating, “Those who come together in passion stay together in tears.”

Yeah, because marriage without love and emotions is so much better. Thankfully the young Japanese are changing and following their feelings more nowadays.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

What is the cheating culture in Japan really like?

Not that much different to other places, seems to be the article's takeaway.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

One word. Rampant.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

One word. Rampant.

Agreed 100%.

And I believe basic selfishness is one of the main reasons.

-4 ( +6 / -10 )

What percentage of Japanese have affairs?

According to 2020 statistics, around 20 percent of the Japanese population report having cheated on their spouse in the past.

https://metropolisjapan.com/why-does-84-percent-of-women-in-japan-think-cheating-is-healthy/

What percentage of Americans have affairs?

"Respondents who have admitted to infidelity in the United States 1960-2021. In 2021, around 21 percent of respondents in the United States admitted to have cheated on any partner, current or previous. This is an increase compared to last year, when 20 percent admitted to the same."

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1367073/us-reported-to-infidelity/#:~:text=Respondents%20who%20have%20admitted%20to%20infidelity%20in%20the%20United%20States%201960%2D2021&text=In%202021%2C%20around%2021%20percent,percent%20admitted%20to%20the%20same.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

What percentage of Brits have affairs?

1 in 5 Brits have had an affair. 

https://www.scribbler.com/Blog/Infidelity-Statistics/

20%!!

I have more faith in the UK and US polls than the Japanese polls. I put Japanese cheating rates for married couples at least 40%.

-12 ( +1 / -13 )

I put Japanese cheating rates for married couples at least 40%.

Based on your involvement and experience.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

I have more faith in the UK and US polls than the Japanese polls. I put Japanese cheating rates for married couples at least 40%.

Unless you can bring a poll (from the UK or the US if you trust them more) about the rates in Japan the only valid reference is the Japanese poll already provided, a personal opinion based on your personal experience is not a valid counterargument against this evidence.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Adultery is not legal and can mean the adulterous parties are sued by their partners.

"Cheating, known as "uwaki" in Japanese, is frowned upon and seen as a breach of trust and commitment in a relationship and the majority of Japanese people value monogamy and loyalty in their partnerships. Interestingly, in Japan, married or unmarried couples have a legal obligation to remain faithful to each other."

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Unless you can bring a poll (from the UK or the US if you trust them more) about the rates in Japan the only valid reference is the Japanese poll already provided, a personal opinion based on your personal experience is not a valid counterargument against this evidence.

Where is the source for that supposed rule?

Regardless, you are relying in the poll done more than 5 years ago by a hair-removal salon.

https://soranews24.com/2018/11/17/survey-shows-more-japanese-married-men-single-japanese-women-cheating-on-their-romantic-partners/

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

I would presume that the actual figures are higher than the published figures because it is immoral to cheat and many/most people would not admit it unless caught in flagrante delicto. Many stay together for the benefit of the children and that is a hard fact.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I would presume that the actual figures are higher than the published figures because it is immoral to cheat and many/most people would not admit it unless caught in flagrante delicto.

That is why the polls usually report their results not as a hard number of people that cheat (or steal or disobey some specific law) but the number of people that report/accept/confess having done so. It is still indicative of the frequency of the actions even if not to 100%

Where is the source for that supposed rule?

What rule? that hearsay is a terribly bad excuse for evidence compared with an official poll? that should be basic knowledge. The poll at least have some methodology that can be revised, just saying that you feel it is wrong has nothing in comparison. It is as valuable as someone else just saying the real number is 0% because people like to lie about cheating to brag.

*Regardless, you are relying in the poll done more than 5 years ago by a hair-removal salon.*

And that is much more valid than just a feeling from an anonymous account in the internet. For the poll at least one company is putting their name behind the results.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I prefer a more objective metric to measure things. Perhaps the rise in syphilis and other venereal diseases sheds some light on this. People lie to high heaven.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

What is the cheating culture in Japan really like?

My guess would be pretty boring. A fair chunk will be narcissists or conversely people with a lack of self-worth and needing validation getting off with each other.

A minority will be people who are really into sex having sex, or will actually be romantic, people finding the one when married to the wrong one, but most of it will be pretty mundane. Some normal looking woman in your office doing it with some normal looking bloke in the office.

It won't sell any tabloid newspapers or weekly magazines, but it is actually possible to be happily married and still be cool.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Because these are paid services that involve no emotional attachment, they are generally not considered cheating by some people in Japan

Just recently I have rewatched a Japanese youtuber video where he asks random people in Tokyo about cheating and how often Japanese cheat and what is cheating and if prostitution is cheating. Guess how many answered what. So its not 'some' people it looks like 90-95% of people is okay with cheating if there's no emotion involved(yeah tell me about having intercourse with someone with no emotions) and that visiting a prostitute is not cheating (and the women said the same too).

Thankfully the young Japanese are changing and following their feelings more nowadays.

It seems like the younger generation is just continuing 'the tradition'.

Its kinda hypocritical that cheating is acceptable but when they learn that some public figure has a furin they fire them or sue them or whatever. so, what's the difference?

I'll take my bet and say that resorting to satisfy passion with another person in Japanese society has to do with the fact that a wife (for whatever historical cultural reasons) is only seen as a socially approved figure to take care of household and produce children and not a person to be intimate with both emotionally and physically thus all inner desires are hidden and suppressed and can be realised on the side only.

However, young Japanese people nowadays cheat a lot too which cannot really be explained with the cultural thing theory. only by submission to carefree promiscuity and lack of integrity, complete disbelief in qualities of high order and desire to fill the inner emptiness with fleeting shallow experiences.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

People who commit adultery are vermin in human form and that includes people that go to hookers.

Ive known people who have bragged of having a mistress or paying toms for sex. I would never trust them, if the can act so immorally against a person they say they live how could I trust them with anything?

Adultery should be a criminal offence and those paying for sex should be named and shamed publicly.

-9 ( +0 / -9 )

Ive known people who have bragged of having a mistress or paying toms for sex. I would never trust them, if the can act so immorally against a person they say they live how could I trust them with anything?

It’s,the dishonest,who play around ,Steve.

If you have a relationship with an understanding of fidelity, breaking that is dishonest.

You made a good point. The dishonest can’t be trusted with anything. You can’t trust or respect anything they say.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Jimizo

Dishonesty has degrees, irnos one fiddles their income a little for taxes I’d think they are a bit dodgy or in money problems for instance. If they scammed an old lady out of cash that’s a much more extreme level, in fact it’s the level I would say about those who cheat on their partners, especially married men or men with partners with children, wasting the family money for their own pleasure without giving a hoot for their supposed loved ones.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Dishonesty has degrees

I find that dishonest people tend to be dishonest in many aspects. Can’t be trusted in any sense, let alone in a marriage.

These are the types undeserving of respect. As the old saying goes, you’d trust a thief over a liar.

The good thing is that you can almost always see these people coming a mile off.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Jimizo

A thief is dishonest so your comparisons are mute

Never judge a book by its cover, stereotyping people by their appearance or by their apparel etc is a trait I learned is wrong many years ago, even if at times the judgment was in fact correct some of the time.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

A thief is dishonest so your comparisons are mute

Mute?

Anyway, as you said, dishonesty has degrees.

Both are dishonest, but I’d trust a thief over a liar.

I remember my wife telling me about married men trying to hit on her pretending to be something they are not.

Pretending to be something you are not - how pathetic and dishonest. A lack of self-respect and self-esteem as well as a broken personality.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Adultery should be a criminal offence and those paying for sex should be named and shamed publicly.

i think you are too extreme

also calling someone a vermin is not a good choice since all are equally succeptible to sin, its just you were lucky to be born more resilient and they were not. Many things also come from unloving failed family systems as well as spiritually more negatively loaded generational cycles. God blessed you if you are not aware how hard it is to break them.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

falseflagsteveToday 12:22 am JST

People who commit adultery are vermin in human form and that includes people that go to hookers.

Ive known people who have bragged of having a mistress or paying toms for sex. I would never trust them, if the can act so immorally against a person they say they live how could I trust them with anything?

Adultery should be a criminal offence and those paying for sex should be named and shamed publicly.

I know you hate sex, but nobody dies or is physically injured by adultery or sex work.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Yuuju

Self discipline and empathy is something we learn as we age, some don’t and remain selfish like a child taking and wanting things without repercussions. To me they are vermin in human form, they lack self respect and respect for their loved ones.

Taiwan

You don’t know what I hate or like. Families are destroyed by adultery and sex work. There is collateral damage when people do this stuff especially if they have a family.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

falseflagsteveToday 03:34 am JST

Families are destroyed by adultery and sex work. There is collateral damage when people do this stuff especially if they have a family.

That's great and all but doesn't mean the government should get involved. Also sex work is a public service.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Taiwan

Im not part of the public that part takes in that service and the vast majority worldwide agree with me. You like to say it’s ok, but how many people say for example to their workmates “ went to a great hooked last night?

Reason being most disapprove and the vast majority of people shun those activities.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

falseflagsteveToday 04:17 am JST

Taiwan

Im not part of the public that part takes in that service and the vast majority worldwide agree with me. You like to say it’s ok, but how many people say for example to their workmates “ went to a great hooked last night?

Reason being most disapprove and the vast majority of people shun those activities.

Every country has sex work and in most countries it is a misdemeanor. In some countries it is legal.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

falseflagsteveToday 04:17 am JST

You like to say it’s ok, but how many people say for example to their workmates “ went to a great hooked last night?

And I'll bet most men don't brag about it because it seems unmasculine. Nothing to do with your kooky moralizing keeping them in the closet.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Are couples married in another country still covered by the Japanese rules on adultery?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I'm single and I don't distinguish between paying for sex and not paying for it (where it is legal). I'm OK with either. Apparently one makes me 'adulterous' and 'vermin', and the other doesn't.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Steve

Self discipline and empathy is something we learn as we age,

those people just dont have the ability to understand the importance and value of empathy and selfdiscipline. Forever stuck to be slaves of their instincts. I dont say I excuse their behaviour but its better not to be so judging. As one person once said ‘it could be we in their stead’.

as for me, Japanese or not, in case of cheating Id rip their hairs out of their head(or shaved them bold)) and file divorce but lets not call them vermin, okay?:)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

 I don't distinguish between paying for sex and not paying for it (where it is legal). I'm OK with either.

you okay with having sex for money if you are married and you okay for having free sex with a married person as well? Is that ehat you mean?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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