The Japanese are clueless about online dating, and that won't help their population problem

Japanese girl reading


A fear and misunderstanding of how to date online is keeping Japanese singles from connecting.

For a country that excels in technology, Japan hasn't mastered "swiping right."

In the face of a serious population decline, the country hasn't got a clue when it comes to online dating.

According to a 2012 report by Japan's National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, the number of Japanese people will fall from 127 million to around 87 million by 2060.

To add to that, a 2014 survey by the Japan Family Planning Association found that 49% of all respondents had not had sex in the past month, and 18% of men said they had no interest in sex at all.

"The Japanese are legitimately worried about running out of Japanese people," comedian Aziz Ansari writes in his new book, "Modern Romance" target="_blank">Modern Romance," co-authored by sociologist Eric Klinenberg.

Ansari notes that Japanese culture and the fear of being perceived as "charai" (or "a sleazy player") may explain why online dating hasn't exploded in Japan.

He also cites a problem with profile photos: "In Japan, posting any pictures of yourself, especially selfie-style photos, comes off as really douchey."

"The Japanese feel like [selfies are] so narcissistic," a 29-year-old Japanese woman named Kana told the comedian-turned-author. So instead, they use photos with two or more people, or no people at all. Kana mentioned that a lot of people just post photos of their cats, or, oddly, a rice cooker.

rice cooker


According to one Japanese woman, it's not uncommon to see a photo of a rice cooker on someone's online dating profile.

But peculiar profile pictures aren't the only reason online dating is floundering in Japan.

As a recent Fast Company article points out, many Japanese still view online dating as a scam. That perception dates back to the '90s, when pseudo dating sites required men to pay per message and had their employees pose as female subscribers.

And in present day, scam sites prevail. This past June, The Daily Mail reported that eight executives were arrested in Japan after allegedly fake dating sites they created in 2004 were exposed. As in the '90s, the executives allegedly paid their male employees to act as women and required subscribers to pay money to talk to the "girls."

Out of the 2.7 million members on the site, only one was female, and the sites generated over £34 million (approximately $53 million), The Daily Mail reported.

From the '90s to today, the stigma toward online dating lingers.



Almost 50% of participants in a 2014 survey by the Japan Family Planning Association said they hadn't had sex in the past month.

One bright spot for online dating in Japan is the rise of social media.

In the aftermath of 2011's Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, LinkedIn's then-managing director, Arvind Rajan, told Bloomberg that social sites like Facebook assisted parents and children to post and look up personal information about missing persons. Over the next year, Facebook users increased from 6 million in 2011 to 13.5 million by February 2012.

Many dating apps now require a Facebook login, which helps reassure users that the person they're speaking with is real. But even if more people are using online dating in Japan, they'll need to do better than a group photo or a picture of their cat to find love.

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