Saturday 13 May 2017

Love Hotels and Disappearing Children

A picture of a love hotel with prices listed outside for long and short stays
One of Japan's ubiquitous love hotels
Love hotels are pretty much everywhere in Japan and despite their seedy image in the West are seen as convenient and practical over here. Rooms are clean, cheap, and often gorgeously decorated, with various services on offer such as wi-fi, room service menu, hot tubs, and costume/game rental. Furthermore, both short stays (up to 3 hours) and overnight stays are possible (as shown in the rates in the bottom left of the picture). They are used by a range of people, from travellers looking for a cheap place to stay to married couples looking for a little privacy. One reason for their popularity amongst the latter demographic is because Japanese houses are often small with thin (sometimes, literally, paper thin) walls; moreover, children often sleep in the same room as their parents well into primary school. Even older kids are likely to stay at home into adulthood, earning them the rather unpleasant label "parasite singles."

The Japanese population itself is in steep decline; newborns numbered under 1 million for the first time in 2016. The declining number of children is known as shōshika (少子化) in Japanese and has become a serious social problem. One reason is that more and more young people are shunning marriage; a recent survey found that 12.9% of women and 21.6% of men in their twenties did not wish to marry. After financial challenges, the reason most cited was that it was easier "to be on my own." Even those who do get married are less likely to have children: the same survey found that 21.9% of those in their twenties did not wish to have a child, more than double the previous survey. In sum, there is a growing feeling among young people, particularly men (so called sōshoku danshi, literally "herbivore men") that romance is "bothersome" and children no longer an automatic choice.