Does Japan Have a Porn Addiction Problem?

Dr R. Y. Langham

Apr 04, 2022

Young Japanese adults are not interested in having real sex. But they are becoming sexually aroused by the things they see on their screens.

The virginity rate in Japan is not high as one may think. According to researchers, this discrepancy may stem from socio-economic factors, especially when it comes to Japanese men, who are heterosexual. These findings are making researchers and experts question the “exoticization” of sexual behavior in Japanese culture.

Young Japanese adults have been losing interest in sex and intimate relationships for decades –an occurrence referred to as “sekkusu-banare” (wandering away from sex and intimacy). Japan’s National 2010 and 2015 surveys indicated that approximately 42% of “never married” Japanese heterosexual young adults, between 18- and 34-years-old, had never had sex.

Moreover, in the past ten years, 50% of Japanese young adults lost their virginities in their early 20s (with only 1 in 10 Japanese still retaining their virginities well into their 30s). Thus, Japan not only has one of the lowest birth rates in the world; it is also the home to an aging population (approximately 30 million Japanese people are over the age of 65). But, even with Japan’s efforts to boost their marriage and childbirth rates, there has been little-to-no change in people getting married, having sex, or having children.

Experts have started to question why young people in Japan are exhibiting little interest in having sex and have hypothesized that this disinterest may stem from Japan’s work culture, economic instability, and/or unorthodox excuses (i.e., a young Japanese man, who is more inclined to seek sexual pleasure from a video game, featuring a sexy heroine, than having sex with his real-life partner). Japanese manga which favors fantasy over reality has also been cited as a probable cause of this lack of interest in having sex with a flesh-and-blood partner.

However, the most probable cause is evolving or changing societal and economic norms, which are triggering an increase in “heavy porn use” and a decrease in real-life intimate and sexual interactions between Japanese men and women. Some surmise that some Japanese heterosexual males, who want real relationships, are afraid to approach women out of fear of being rejected. This fear can cause anxiety so severe that it pushes them towards porn.

But, for the men, who are extremely stressed, anxious, bored, and/or lonely, there are support programs that can help them gain control of their angst and, in some cases, their “porn use.” For instance, White Hands, a Tokyo-based nonprofit, offers nude art classes, where Japanese men, can sketch nude women. The goal of these art classes is to ease the men’s stress and anxiety, so they can become more comfortable and confident in their sexualities.

Surprisingly, however, this is as close as some of these men come to being with a real-life nude woman. And, when you top this off with a growing interest in the fantasy world of anime, especially the ones that feature sexy female characters, it makes sense why single Japanese men are choosing video games and porn, over real love, relationships, and sex.

So, does Japan have a porn problem? Porn is universal, so yes, it does.

Do Japanese People Use Porn?

Yes, Japanese people use porn.

Japan has always had porn. Even before the 20th century, Japan had erotic stories and wooden prints with pornographic images ingrained in them. It was not long before Japanese porn evolved into a variety of subcategories.

Porn, in Japan, has unusual characteristics that are more distinguishable than the typical “westernized” porn. In Japan, sexually-explicit movies and films are referred to as “adult videos” or “adult movies” or (AV), and the Japanese porn film industry is referred to as (JAV). When adapted to English-speaking audiences, animated Japanese films, are referred to as “hentai.” However, Japanese society refers to these “adult videos” and films as “adult anime” or “erotic animation (or ero anime).

In addition to porn videos and films, featuring real-life actors, this form of “adult entertainment” now includes pornographic magazines, manga (comics or graphic novels), video games (eroge), and anime (hentai). And, although Japan’s most common forms of porn involve heterosexual fantasies, other sexual orientations (i.e., LGBT) are steadily becoming more popular in the Japanese culture. Films and videos, featuring sexual fetishes, extreme sex, and BDSM, have also taken off in Japan.

In the early 20th century, the Japanese Penal Code formed certain laws against creating and/or viewing “indecent material,” such as videos or images displaying the “nether regions” (genital areas) of the actors. These laws also extended to sexually explicit manga (hentai), erotica books, video games, and anime. Before the late 1990s, images of pubic hair were also outlawed in Japan.

Now, anuses are only prohibited in sexual images, videos, films, movies, books, manga, etc., when penetration occurs. Ironically, breasts and nipples are not banned in Japan. When illegal forms of porn are created or accessed in Japan, the images are pixelated.

As a way to evade Japanese laws designed to censor porn in the country, especially porn that contains graphic sexual fetishes, writers, producers, directors, and actors have featured porn images, videos, magazines, books, and films rarely depicted in most “Westernized” countries, such as bukkake (i.e., group ejaculation), gokkun (i.e., semen consumption), omorashi (i.e., urination sex acts), tentacle erotica (i.e., bestiality, fantasy, horror, or sci-fi), lolicon (i.e., young girls), shotacon (i.e., sex with young boys), cartoon porn (i.e., sex minors or child porn) – in secret.

Still, these sex genres have been a major issue when it comes to child protection, free speech, and public morality laws in Japan.

Does Japan Have a Porn Problem?

Yes, Japan does have a porn problem.

There are several socio-economic factors at play in Japan – factors that have contributed to serious sex and relationship issues. However, it is impossible to dismiss or ignore porn’s role in these issues in a country where “porn use” is common. The truth is porn is rampant in Japan. You can easily purchase it on the street or in bookstores, and/or you can also view it online – especially if you are an adult. Thus, it would not be a stretch to say that Japan’s porn industry is causing Japanese adults, especially those in their 20s and 30s, to drift away from real-life. Case in point – Japan ranks #12 in a list of countries, whose citizens visit Pornhub the most.

And, now with hentai entering Japan’s porn market, even more people are being exposed to porn. “Hentai seiyoku” is defined as “perverted sexual desire.” In Japanese culture, this refers to bizarre or “taboo” sexual desires, preferences, or acts. Hentai, in general, is also used to describe generalized anime-related porn. The main characteristics of hentai porn are characters, who perform extreme or exaggerated sexual acts, such as cartoons with abnormally large genitals, bestiality or animal fetishes, incestuous relationships, and child porn (usually involving little girls).

Monsters, demons, giant insects, vegetables, and cartoon women, who are sexually assaulted, are also common forms of porn hentai. Hentai girls and women are usually depicted as crosses between little girls and young adult women – with rosy cheeks and big oval eyes. Thus, hentai promotes a “sexy innocence” concept. Childlike expressions and petite, hairless bodies with tiny facial features are often combined with extremely large breasts. And, female hentai characters tend to exhibit “porn star” behaviors.

With these types of “sexual options,” it is not hard to imagine why many young Japanese “porn users” (men and women) do not think that real-life partners and relationships can provide the same type of extreme fantasy and sexual satisfaction as porn. Japanese technological advances have also contributed to Japan’s porn problem by offering Japanese men access to virtual or robotic girlfriends designed to replace their real-life girlfriends and relationships.

What Are the Different “Types” of Porn in Japan?

There are several “types” of porn in Japan, such as:

Dōjin

Sometimes, dōjinshi (self-published content) are pornographic – either as original works or as sexually explicit forms of anime or video games.

Porn Anime

Porn anime, also known as “animated erotica” or hentai, is a popular entertainment genre in Japan. Typically, anime maintains the same animation style as other forms of Japanese animation (anime). Note: In Japanese culture, “hentai,” when used in a sexual context, means “pervert” or “perverted.”

Erotic Video Games

In Japan, erotic or pornographic video games, are often a preferred form of “adult entertainment,” especially among young adults. These video games typically feature Asian characters, who speak Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, or a similar language. Erotic video games, known in Japan as bishōjo games (“pretty girl games” or eroge), are offered to English-speaking audiences in the form of dating-sim games, hentai games, etc.

Porn Fanfiction & The “Web”

Porn fanfiction is not limited to just imaginary characters, it also can involve real people. Dōjinshi writers typically use the Web to advertise their products by offering previews, a secret address where additional porn products can be purchased, and/or samples of erotic video games. New dōjinshi writers also recruit “porn stars” through online websites.

There are also several exclusive adult-oriented search engines to help Japanese people find the porn genres they are seeking. Many forms of dōjinshi can be found on porn sites for free. These sites also offer “seasonal greetings,” usually porn-related, from 3rd party sites. For instance, a holiday greeting card or image may feature a scantily-clad Asian woman, dressed up as “Mrs. Claus.” The card or image may also feature the woman in various stages of nakedness.

Porn Magazines

Porn magazines are also popular in Japan. These “adult” magazines typically contain pornographic pictures or manga. However, these magazines are heavily monitored with strict age requirements for purchase. Many Japanese districts require that porn magazines be sealed when sold outside of Japanese “adult” bookstores. However, it is not uncommon to find non-pornographic magazines, featuring partially nude or completely nude women.

Many Japanese magazines, especially tabloid-based ones, include some degree of nudity – which is generally an accepted form of “entertainment” in Japanese society (among people 18+). Still, non-pornographic magazines with some degree of nudity must not show private areas or sexual acts to be deemed “legal.” Male and female “confessionals” are also often found in porn magazines.

Porn Movies and Films

Porn movies or films have been around for a long time in almost every culture. Japanese movies, showcasing actors engaging in sexually explicit or “taboo” acts in a variety of genres, have increasingly become popular with Japanese people.

Porn Manga

Manga with pornographic content is designed for both male and female audiences. As such, both male and female writers can create porn manga. Male-based porn manga, are known as “eromanga.”

Porn Videos

Porn videos are also skyrocketing in Japan. Because, these videos are easy to access, there has been an increase in porn addiction in Japan. These porn videos typically feature women and men, performing a variety of sexual or pornographic acts, such as BDSM, fetishes, extreme sex, amateur, cartoon, etc.

Virtual Reality Porn

In recent years, virtual reality (VR) porn has also risen in notoriety, largely due to a boost in Japan’s porn industry. Since the beginning of 2020, virtual reality “porn use” has exploded in Japan, mainly because of coronavirus and evolving porn industry.

Is Porn Addiction a “Thing” in Japan?

Yes, porn addiction is a “thing” in Japan.

Japanese people, just like people throughout the world, are becoming addicted to porn at alarming rates. Many Japanese people, especially Japanese men, place their careers first, opting to get married and/or have children later in life. Porn provides an easy alternative for those times when sexual urges arise. With porn, you get sexual stimulation without the other “baggage” (relationships, marriage, and/or children).

In Japan, people work hard because it is expected. Perhaps, you are just beginning your career so you are working long hours each day. You arrive home emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted, however, you still have household tasks to attend to, such as cleaning your home, preparing dinner, paying bills, taking a shower or bath, etc. Socializing and dating in the traditional sense can eat up a lot of your time, especially if doing so does not provide tangible results (i.e., dates).

And, if you have been rejected several times in the past, porn provides a new and “safe” avenue to address your sexual needs. In other words, porn offers a way to “escape” your stress and anxiety, while fulfilling your sexual desires. Because porn provides you with sexual stimulation and entertainment, you keep returning to it – despite the negative consequences (i.e., a loss of friends, social isolation, debt, shame and guilt, etc.)

Porn becomes your “go-to” stress-reliever. However, this new “stress-reliever” causes your self-confidence and self-esteem to plummet, prompting you to “hole up” in your home and withdrawal from society. This provides you with what you want and need, but the results are only temporary. Then, the cycle begins again. You are now addicted to porn.

How is “Porn Use” Impacting Japanese Couples?

The truth is being “hooked on” porn can have a significant impact on relationships. Humans are “hardwired” to interact with, socialize with, and form relationships with other humans – in real-time. People need to feel as if they belong somewhere. However, this is impossible when connecting with others involves watching them interact (i.e., have sex) on a screen. That is not true intimacy and that is not enough to emotionally, physically, or sexually satisfy you indefinitely.

Therefore, Japanese people, who engage in “heavy porn use,” are missing out on developing and cultivating real relationships with real people. Just like in other cultures, “porn use” prevents Japanese people from completely bonding with their real-life partners. Porn replaces a person’s sexual desire for his or her flesh-and-blood partner, causing emotional detachment between partners. Researchers have also found that porn can trigger or exacerbate anxiety and depression – in some people. Japanese people are no exception. This can cause a rift in a previously healthy relationship.

In some cases, “porn use” can cause Japanese porn users to turn away from sex altogether, preferring porn and virtual fantasies over the warm and inviting bodies of real people. “Porn use” can cause real sex to feel boring and repetitive (“vanilla sex”), leading to serious relationship issues and negatively affecting both partners’ sex lives and relationships.

As supporters of real love and healthy relationships, Japan’s porn issues epitomize the very things the country tries so hard to combat. It is important to understand that technology will never be able to fully replace the need for real connections and sexual experiences.

How is Child Porn Viewed in Japan?

Possession of child porn (involving real-life children or teens) has been forbidden in Japan since 2014. And, distribution of child porn to other nations has been illegal in Japan since 1999. Hardcore child porn became illegal after the United Nations, UNICEF, and other international organizations, placed tremendous pressure on Japan to stop distributing it to people in and out of the country.

However, softcore child porn can still be accessed in Japan at media centers and convivence stores. Sometimes, minors are featured in Japanese-made porn films and movies, especially those that feature sexual assaults. However, all porn films and movies must first pass through Eirin, the Japanese film industry’s regulatory body. And, these films and movies must comply with Japanese laws.

Note: If minors are involved in soft porn scenarios, they must be at least 17 years old for it to be legal. Japanese people, who are caught possessing or distributing illegal child porn, may receive jail time and/or be faced with heavy fines.

Are Japanese Sexual Assaults Linked to “Porn Use” or Porn Addiction in Japan?

Yes and no…

Originally, it was believed that the rise in porn (starting in the 1970s) was causing sex-related violence to decline. However, in 2016, Human Rights Now, an international non-profit organization found that “porn use” and porn addiction were causing sexual assaults against women to rise, especially toward female “porn stars.” These women reported feeling like they had to perform “perverse” sex acts (against their wills) for the entertainment of others. As a result, Human Rights Now called for new Japanese legislation to regulate the production and distribution of porn in and out of the country.

Note: “Porn use” and porn addiction are not the only reasons for the rise in sexual assaults in Japan. In other words, not all sex perpetrators watch porn. However, “porn use” and porn addiction do appear to contribute to sexual child abuse, sexual assaults, and rapes in many cases.

How is Porn Addiction Treated in Japan?

Porn addiction is treated in Japan the same way it is treated in other countries with porn addiction therapies, like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, and/or acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). Lifestyle changes (i.e., a healthy diet, regular exercise, hobbies, anti-porn blocking programs, stress-management techniques, etc.) and self-help tools, like Stop Together, an online porn addiction recovery program, can help people from all countries, even Japan, receive the porn addiction help they need to conquer their porn addictions.

Stop Together is a useful self-help tool that can be used alone or with your prescribed treatment plan. With this program, you receive lifelong access to porn addiction content, guidance, and invaluable porn addiction support during and after porn addiction treatment. No country is immune to porn addiction, however, with porn addiction help, you can become “porn-free,” regardless of where you live.