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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Kimika Yoshino | No double bed of roses for Japan's newlyweds

Despite being at an age when their libidos are running wild, a whopping 70 percent of Japanese couples in their 20s would prefer to have separate bedrooms, according to Shukan Bunshun (11/10).
It's alarming news for a country with a birthrate so low over the past 20 years that couples haven't even been replacing themselves, let alone making enough babies for the population to increase to the levels needed to pay for the drain the growing number of graying Baby Boomers are going to place on the economy when they retire.
Japan's top-selling weekly notes that the shocking discovery that a vast majority of Japanese couples would rather not sleep together was made by the Marketing Division of Matsushita Electric Works Ltd., which has set up a model showroom complete with separate bedrooms for married couples.
"We found in a survey among men and women in their 50s that a large number of them wanted somewhere they could enjoy being alone," Natsuko Fukuda of Matsushita Electric Works tells Shukan Bunshun.
Fukuda says that about 80 percent of 50-somethings who've visited the company's separate bedroom showroom found the concept "appealing."
"The idea of the man ruling the house simply doesn't work in my place anymore," a 58-year-old man tells Shukan Bunshun. "My wife says my snoring is too loud, so she sleeps in the bedroom our son used to use when he lived with us."
A Baby Boomer housewife also agrees that sleeping separately is the way to go for her, even if she can't actually do so, courtesy of living in one of Japan's typically cramped homes.
"Our home is too small to have separate bedrooms, but it's not like I'm sleeping with my husband because I want to," she says.
An architect says it's possible to make separate sleeping quarters even in the smallest of abodes.
"Even if it's impossible to create separate bedrooms, you can always set aside space for a guy to use as a study, then put a sofa in there where he can go to sleep, too," the architect says.
OK, so perhaps it's understandable for older couples to want to be apart. But more than 70 percent of couples in their 20s who have visited the Matsushita Electric Works showroom with separate bedrooms say they want to sleep by themselves, too.
Considering they're supposed to be in their reproductive prime, the positive vibe younger Japanese have about sleeping separately suggests they're bonkers. Or perhaps, entirely the opposite, depending on how you read the term.
Non-fiction writer Megumi Hisada, who extensively covered the lifestyles of Japan's sexagenarians in her book "Shikusutiies no Hibi (Days of the Sixties)," sees the trend as a worry.
"When researching my book, I met many women who wanted to sleep alone. Older men say they see their wives as offering a breath of fresh air, but the women generally find their husbands as a confining presence they'd rather not have around and at least when they're sleeping they want to relax," Hisada tells Shukan Bunshun. "But, it's a bit troublesome to see that 20-somethings are all for the idea of sleeping alone."

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