unable to provide many young people with the necessary opportunities to practice these skills. With a vast army of older people and an ever-dwindling younger generation, Japan may become a "pioneer people" where individuals who never marry exist in significant numbers, he said. What does all this mean for the future of our democracy? Japan's punishing corporate world makes it almost impossible for women to combine a career and family, while children are unaffordable unless both parents work.
Getting back to basics, former dominatrix Ai Aoyama Queen Love is determined to educate her clients on the value of "skin-to-skin, heart-to-heart" intimacy. Inside, she takes me upstairs to her "relaxation room" a the Major causes of the Civil War bedroom with no furniture except a double futon. I asked the association's head, Kunio Kitamura, why. Official alarmism doesn't help. You end up being a housewife with no independent income. The number of single people has reached a record high. Ai Aoyama is a sex and relationship counsellor who works out of her narrow three-storey home on a Tokyo back street.
The sense of crushing obligation affects men just as much. Emi Kuwahata, 23, and her friend, Eri Asada, 22, meet me in the shopping district of Shibuya. Japan's under-40s appear to be losing interest in conventional relationships. World Economic Forum consistently ranks Japan as one of the world's worst nations for gender equality at work. The phenomenon emerged a few years ago with the airing of a Japanese manga-turned-TV show. Aoyama, 52, is trying to cure what Japan's media calls sekkusu shinai shokogun, or "celibacy syndrome". "It's too troublesome says Kishino, when I ask why he's not interested in having a girlfriend.