In Japan almost half of unmarried people under the age of 34 are virgins. Like actual virgins. In fact, the vast majority aren’t in any kind of relationship and it’s actually a huge problem. The population is in decline. The number of kids that were born hit record lows. In fact, it’s such an aging population that the number of adult diapers is about to outsell babies diapers. So, the lack of sex in Japan has been blamed on a whole bunch of things porn, anime, robots. Of course it’s always robots. But what if sex itself isn’t the main issue here. What if it’s just the symptom of a much bigger problem? Oda Ayame is 25, she’s got a good corporate job and today she’s on a hunt. A little bit for handbags… but mostly for a husband. She’s getting ready to go to a kind of speed dating event. Dating is big business in Japan. The government is spending millions dollars to help people like Oda find a partner. There are taxpayer funded dating services and a booming industry of spouse hunting events called Konkatsu. Where applicants can sometimes even be screened on looks and earnings. And then there’s this… This is an all singing, all dancing, all pouting instructional video for women looking to attract a keeper. It shows you sexiest joints to expose. What grade stockings to wear. And even the most mathematically attractive angle to tilt your head. Still, the women do generally get into these events at no cost. Do you think it’s fair? Oda is looking for a serious man. Someone who’s real marriage material. And somehow I question whether bringing a random Australian along as a wing man is going to help but, here goes. Where do the serious men live? Are you telling me you won’t find a serious man playing with a plastic toy at the bar? And so why would you have, essentially a child’s toy at a dating venue? Oh, drinking game. Sorry I’m just keeping up my end of the bargain. I’m gonna step out. You guys keep enjoying yourselves. Food is on the way. So the deal is that girls get in for free and the guys pay about 1000-500 Yen per 30 minutes. So that’s, I don’t somewhere between 15 and 18 Australian dollars. Per 30 minutes. However you get this complete self service bar. Which is not at all a recipe for binge drinking. The best part is this thing. Watch this. Who needs bartenders? Of course. Need an extra hand. It’s a magical place. Magical, expensive place. While Oda had a good time no luck this evening. 60% of young Japanese women, are tonight single and 70% of young men. Ayame remains one of millions of people, tonight sleeping alone. Today we’re having lunch at Nadeshico Sushi. Which is Japan’s first and only sushi restaurant completely run by women In fact, this woman Yuki Chizui. Take me back to 2010 when you started this place, cause understand it was reaction to the recession. Nadeshico Sushi is a reference to the “ideal Japanese female”. Lady of tradition, of feminine grace and domesticity. And despite being a pioneer, a business owner and just insanely talented at making amazing looking and tasting sushi. 31 year old Yuki, also cannot get a date. Several high profile male chefs or ‘itamae’ have argued that women are incapable of making sushi because their hands are too warm or their menstrual cycle ruins their sense of smell and taste. When you hear somebody say that women can’t be sushi makers because their hands are too warm, what goes through your head ? Why is it that Japanese men can’t deal with an independent woman, that can have her own opinions about the world? Yuki is talking about is Tokyo’s Maid Cafes girls in the Aki-habara district where she’s runs her restaurant. Inspired by manga and anime, the girls dress up like these cartoon characters and are paid to fawn over customers. For what it’s worth it seems Yuki is also not that thrilled with the idea of Konkatsu parties and the pressure they put on women to dress and act a certain way. A soft toy instead of an actual person. Japan is famed for it’s kink culture. There’s a multi-billion dollar industry of hostess bars, fetish clubs, masturbation clubs, love hotels and yes sex shops and yet virginity is on the rise. The numbers of people who’ve never had sex with someone else have been growing for the past twenty years. And at the top of this building is a woman that has been tackling this problem, very hands on. Online she’s known as Queen Love Ai Aoyama is a kind of sex therapist. Oh, wow. Tokyo Tower. Oh my goodness, it’s amazing. Aoyama sees men mostly in their 20s and 30s and it’s largely about getting them comfortable with bodies. Theirs… and others. How do they react when you hug them? There’s a lot of men and women that are entering their 30s in this country without having any sexual experience. The population is dropping, the amount of young people getting into relationships is dropping it’s becoming quite a serious problem. Are you worried about the future of your country? Didn’t expect that as an answer. In a previous life, Aoyama was a dominatrix. Her clients were largely stressed-out salarymen who were being yelled at in the office. But they liked being her slave. So you could see the stress that their work-life had on them what do you think that tells you about Japan’s working culture? Is Queen Love right? Is the key to solving Japanese sex about fixing how Japan works? Taiyo Hashimoto is known in Japan as a salaryman. He’s 26, upwardly mobile, ambitious and he would love a date. But, work comes first. Japan is world famous for its work ethic. And the pressure to perform is high. Taiyo says you don’t leave work before the boss. And if the boss wants to go out for a drink, you do too. But for many of these salarymen, it’s not just about the drinking. Shimbashi in Tokyo is one of the top Salaryman after hours hangouts. The food is cheap and the drinks are plentiful. We are in the hub of Salaryman drinking culture right now and the reason there’s so many people behind me is because the last train is about to leave and it’s just coming up on midnight. And there’s a lot of drunk people around. But before that last train goes, I’m curious to find out what these men, and it is mostly men think of the women in their lives or the lack thereof. Women’s participation in the Japan’s workforce hit an all time high last year. The Government’s so called ‘womenomics’ is pushing for more ladies to top up the country’s shrinking workforce. The thing is this culture of overwork has been here for decades but at that time permanent workers who were working very long hours they were offered promotions and they were offered high salaries. But right now there’s no prospect of them having kids or having a family because their salaries are not just going to go up. And among the young more than 50 percent are becoming temporary workers. So they don’t know what they are going to be doing a month from now. So the environment of working conditions is completely changing right now. POSSE is a Labour union for young people. They run a hotline on workplace issues and for eight years now Makoto has been taking calls. Are you getting more calls than you used to or is it improving? It’s not improving. Probably this year we’re going to get more than maybe 5,000. When people call up what sort of things are you hearing what are the biggest complaints? So we get a lot of calls complaining about overwork we have another issue of so-called black companies. What they are doing is treating workers as disposable, so they’re hiring 200 people in one year and 200 quit in one year. and they are hiring 200 other people. How many people are out there actually fighting and taking on these companies? There aren’t very many. It’s very difficult for anybody in Japan to stand up for your rights. But not everyone goes quietly. Workplace bullying and unpaid overtime forced one beauty therapist to fight back against her employer. We are just out here waiting for Miki Tanaka who has oragnised a protest against this company and it turns our in Japan you have to go up and notify the company before you actually do the protest. So she’ll be out here in a second. -Hi.
-Hello. I’m Marc. I’m Miki. How was your meeting? Hi. Hi, nice to meet you. How was the conversation upstairs? It was intense so we asked them to bring their CEO out they said that the CEO is not here nor anyone in charge. Right. So it’s a weekday and saying the person in charge is not there is very weird. Miki found herself working each night till 10:30, without the adequate breaks. What’s the sort of mental strain of doing those kinds of hours? You just cannot think straight about anything, all you are doing is like working like a robot. I understand at a certain point you had panic attacks. Yes. For somebody that’s never experienced a panic attack before, what does that feel like? Horrible. I could not work. The moment I saw my manager’s face I just started breaking down and I just could not work. I started shivering, shaking… Miki says when she finally worked up the courage to quit, her manager didn’t lodge her resignation. She was trapped. To be honest, I kind of felt like giving up with my life. But when I was going through it, my mum was in Japan and she just asked me to quit the job. You don’t need to to die for the company is what she is saying. But that’s just the thing, all across Japan, people are dying for the company. Last financial year, 190 people officially died or attempted suicide from overwork. In fact, Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the developed world. Higher than the U.S, higher than the U.K and yes higher than Australia. Jiro Ito is a psychiatrist. He runs a not-for-profit the works to prevent suicides among young people. By catching those who search the internet for how to die before they go through with it. When Jiro started this organisation in 2013, the phrase ‘I want to die’ was being searched 130,000 times a month. Now, it’s almost double that. This is Dentsu, it is Japan’s biggest advertising agency and three years ago one of their employees took her own life. Her name was Matsuri Takahashi and she was 24 years old and in the months leading up to her death she was clocking around 100 hours of extra overtime a month. Now when the courts ruled they said she literally died of overwork. And in Japan they have a word for that, it’s called ‘karoshi’. Now Dentsu was fined ¥500,000 which in Australian dollars amounts to about six grand, but the crucial thing is this, not one manager, no one was held accountable for her death. It took just 8 months for Matsuri to go from this bright university graduate, to ending it all on the 4th floor of a company dormitory. How does that happen? What could possibly have driven her to that place? Well Matsuri may be gone, but she did leave us some clues. Two hours outside of Tokyo is Susono. This is where Matsuri Takahashi grew up. We now know Matsuri was working up to 7 days and at it’s worst on just ten hours sleep a week. Her division at Dentsu was halved and the workload doubled. And in the midst of it she tweeted. I understand that Matsuri left you a message. What did it say? Does the pain of losing a child get easier? When I heard the news of Takahashi-san I thought will it happen again? That was the third time karoshi happened at that company, Dentsu. The head of Dentsu stepped down, there was a token fine. What would have been a sufficient punishment for Dentsu do you think? Well that’s a difficult question because punishing Dentsu is not going to solve this problem. This is not just a Dentsu problem, this is a problem which is happening in every single workplace Matsuri Takahashi’s death in 2015 refocused Japan’s attention on karoshi. In June this year the government set a legal limit on the amount of overtime staff can work to 100 hours extra a month. But that is 20 hours more than what the government also say will put you at risk of karoshi. It’s just ridiculous, the government is saying you have a chance to die but you can work till this limit. And there is no law that the company has to follow on keeping the actual number of hours that a worker works. So they can just forge timesheets. They can just not record anything. Why do you think the laws that they put in place were so open to interpretation and possible abuse? A lot of companies and business agencies donating huge amounts of money to the Government and the ruling party. The Japanese Government have dedicated millions to try and get more people dating and marrying. But what if the answer to the problem in Japan’s bedrooms can only be solved in Japan’s boardrooms? Tomorrow Taiyo will still want to climb that corporate ladder while others like Yuki will seek to rewrite the rules of Japanese society. Why is it important for you to stand here and talk about this?