Inside The Sex Lives Of Japanese College Students

Dating and sexual relations can vary from culture to culture. Some of the aspects of how people view sex, particularly in Japan, can be considered differently depending on how cultures and society approach the topic. However, when evaluating age ranges, it is important to realize that what is expected and what occurs can be vastly different.

It should be noted, however, that a fair amount of this article is based on conversations that I have personally had with my fellow Japanese students in Tokyo. Therefore, a significant amount of information that will be presented will be based on the accounts of people who are in their early twenties.

“News” on Sex and Relationships:

According to a survey that has been referred to by many different news platforms, around half of the Japanese population between the ages of 18- and 34-years-old “admitted” to being virgins. That does appear to be a significant amount, but it is important to realize that this is what seems to be a single survey done by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.

While it is a reputable source, it is valuable to realize that there should always be some concerns with statistics. For example, the survey did not consider same-sex couples in their analysis of people in committed relationships. It should also be considered that as a culture where the personal relationships and sex is not a largely discussed topic publicly, when answering a survey, even anonymously, citizens would perhaps be more likely to lie.

University “Circles” and Sex:

The Japanese college atmosphere is perhaps more sexually charged than one would expect. There are considerable amounts of college students who are having sex, though it should be noted that a significant amount of this is casual, rather than within a committed relationship. This might largely have to do with both in-school clubs (also known as “circles”) and outside events such as going clubbing and to bars.

Within many Japanese universities there are clubs referred to by the students as “hook-up” and “dating” circles. While these may be a sort of front (as the official focus of the circle may be something sports related), for some, there is a particular focus on dating and sex.

What makes it unethical is that within the context of “dating” circles, there has been a growing number of rapes; particularly at club functions such as drinking parties. Numerous cases of young women becoming drunk and being taken advantage of exist and often go unreported.

There are also similar cases of college students going to popular clubs, becoming increasingly inebriated, and being coerced into sex. Unfortunately, since such acts go unreported, the perpetrators often go unpunished and the cycle continues.  Even worse, when rape within college campus affiliates is reported, generally the university tries to downplay the abuse.

Contraceptives and STDs:

Of course, there are a significant amount of college students who desire and are having consensual sex. However, one issue that is very relevant throughout Japan is the usage of contraceptives and protection, and their impact on STDs. Contraceptives like birth control pills, IUDs, etc. are rarely used by females. Even condoms, which are extremely easily accessible (you can even get two for less than one U.S dollar at the ¥100 store) are not as commonly used as they are in Western cultures.

Even when college students are knowingly going to have sex, often they are unprepared and neither party brings any sort of protection. This inevitably leads to STDs and other health issues. What is even worse is that many Japanese people don’t partake in regular sexual health checkups to get tested for sex related health issues and then consciously or unconsciously spread STDs to their partners.

One reason given for this is that employers have access to medical records of applicants and employees, and there are many social stigmas against those who may have an STD. One particular case concerns HIV as it still being considered a “gay” disease in Japan. Since much of Japan remains discriminatory towards HIV, if a person is diagnosed with it, as it appears on their medical records, they are unlikely to get hired for their desired job. As such, many people avoid the issue all together by not getting tested.


While I have mentioned quite a few issues concerning sex and college students, this is not to say that there are not people who are having sex responsibly. Having sex should be a pleasurable and secure act. Being safe and understanding the consequences of not using protection are both important factors. You can have safe sex in any environment, whether be casual or long-term. However, being safe should always be a priority and knowing the specific dangers than can occur in certain situations is important.

Perhaps the biggest issue surrounding sex in Japan is the huge number of Japanese citizens who are unaware of sexual concerns due to Japan’s societal lack of conversation about sex. Students at university are often “free” from their parents for the first time in their lives. That is definitely a universal concept.

However, since many students have been so sheltered, they are often unprepared to navigate sexual situations. For some, the topic is so awkward to talk about with a health care professional that they turn to the internet or porn for information. While there are some reputable sources on the internet about sex, there is nothing more informative and safe than asking a professional.

Always make sure you are using protection, even if your partner says they are clean or get regular check-ups, as you can never know for sure. This is especially important when in Japan, as many Japanese citizens do not visit a healthcare professional for sexual-related issues due to social stigmas. Never be embarrassed for wanting to be safe and secure. If a potential partner is not respectful, then they are not mature enough to be having sex.

So, really, for anyone planning on having sex (whether in Japan or elsewhere) just make sure to do your research and be safe and prepared for any situation!

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Sam Schommer

Sam is an International Affairs student at Northern Arizona University. Currently, she is studying abroad in Tokyo, Japan at Waseda University for the duration of her third undergrad year. As an international affairs major, she feels it her duty to be up to date about culture (particularly memes), politics, and social issues both in her home and abroad. An Arizona native, Sam has lived in America her whole life and her year in Japan is the first time she has been out of the country more than a few days. To see what she’s been up to in Japan as well as some other interesting places, check out her Instagram and Twitter!

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