Exploring Japan's Declining Population- Read from Left to Right
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Cam E's insight:

On this page I'll be exploring the complicated phenomenon of Japan's shifting demographics. This demographic crisis that Japan is facing is a low fertility rate and an aging population, the two of which combine in a perfect storm of sorts to create a declining population. As a brief introduction to the topic, I've included a GIF above of Japan's population breakdown throughout the past few decades, and forecasting current trends into the next few decades. This GIF serves as a good introduction to the topic at hand, as one can distinctly see the "wave" of sorts which shows the current trend of an aged population. Japan's life expectancy is the highest in the entire world for both genders, and it's not a far stretch to say that if this trends continues, it won't be long until there is a centenarian for every newborn child.  At the current rate of decline, Japan is unable to replace the deaths in their country with new births, which is causing the population to drop by the hundreds every day.

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Let elderly people 'hurry up and die', says Japanese minister

Let elderly people 'hurry up and die', says Japanese minister | Exploring Japan's Declining Population- Read from Left to Right | Scoop.it
Taro Aso says he would refuse end-of-life care and would 'feel bad' knowing treatment was paid for by government
Cam E's insight:

The strain that the increasingly elderly population is already putting on Japan is evident in this article. What we have here is a leading government figure telling an entire fourth of the population that they need to hurry up and die as they're putting too much of a strain of the country. There are many cultural and practical attitudes included in  the article which need to be understood though. The major point to take away from this is the ramifications of an elderly population. They are unable to bear more children, and are definitely a drain on the safety nets of the country, but they also make up an entire fourth of the population. This means that they are able to influence votes and policy heavily, and any politician looking for power would be smart to appease them. This is a dangerous fact though, as this large a voting population voting in their own self-interest could cause doom for the country at large as this elderly population will only increase in the coming years. One other thing that needs to be understood is Japan's  cultural attitude on suicide and death. While telling people they should "hurry up and die" might seem absolutely horrendous to us, it may be a bit different for many Japanese people, especially those who prescribe to more traditional values. Suicide in Japan is sometimes seen as a morally responsible decision, and is still seen as noble by many, which is a cultural relic from the days of Bushido where taking your own life was a form of honor after failing. This attitude should be taken into account in Taro's statement, as to many Japanese it can be seen as a suggestion that you should die for the good of society as a whole, and dying quickly may be more honorable than living when living means putting an incredible strain on the next generation. I would not be surprised to see elderly death rates increase from either suicide or choice to refuse medical care. 

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Incredible Shrinking Country

Incredible Shrinking Country | Exploring Japan's Declining Population- Read from Left to Right | Scoop.it
There are “babyloids” and relatives-for-rent in an increasingly childless Japan.
Cam E's insight:

The secret to Japan's declining population lies in the birth rate. The Japanese birth rate is only around 1.3 children per woman, which is far below the generally accepted rate of 2.0 which is required to sustain many countries. This is the most basic issue which demonstrates the decline, the replacement rate of people is just too low, causing a deficit, but most geographers seek to explain the rate rather than just being cognizant of it. This is exactly what I intend to do in the coming posts, and the article above does a good job of outlining a few problems which I will touch upon which can help explain the birth rate, but being a cultural issue, the reasons behind the birth rate are as complicated as they are numerous. I'll first begin my analysis by a look at the trends relating to women. The one this article points out is the conflicting values of Japanese society that are a result of mixing a "grab-bag" of values from traditional Japanese life, and the effects of globalization. Japan is unique from the rest of the world in the intensity that the country accepted and worked with the European and American model of business and corporations. It was a proving grounds of sorts for Globalization. This can be most likely attributed to the United States' assistance in rebuilding Japan after World War 2, but what's left behind is a society at odds with itself. This can be seen quite obviously in the attitudes towards relationships between men and women in Japan. The messages Japanese society is sending women for example, is that it's okay to not be married and pursue a career, and you can fulfill your life this way, yet having a child out of wedlock is still taboo. This causes a tear between lifestyles where it's only acceptable to have some of one, and some of the other. Traditionally in Japan the "masculine" way of doing things was for men to court women aggressively, and the women would usually not resist these advances. Simply put, marriage was extremely linked to a man's pride. These cultural attitudes still pervade to some extent. At the same time, the more "Western" ideas of feminism and female independence are pushed in society, which causes a hypocrisy where women are lauded for being independent while men are shamed and have their pride shot by being turned down by the new independent women who no longer need to rely on them for income. These are just some examples of the trend of conflicting messages, and now I'll move on to exactly how these messages are being sent. To understand the birth rate, we need to understand the environment that the current generation of Japanese children, and young Japanese adults, are being raised in. I believe this intersection of media and culture being consumed by young Japanese citizens, in conjunction with their cultural values of the past is the primary explanation behind their declining birth rate. 

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Things Japanese women love (and hate) about Japanese and foreign guys

Things Japanese women love (and hate) about Japanese and foreign guys | Exploring Japan's Declining Population- Read from Left to Right | Scoop.it
With the majority of the foreigners on extended stays in Japan being male, and more Japanese women than men having…
Cam E's insight:

This article is the perfect segue into understanding the true nature of the declining birth rate, because despite these cultural and media influences, Japanese women actually still want to have children. In fact, statistics from a recent poll by the OECD show that many Japanese women do desire over 2 children on average, which is a large break from the 1.39 children they are actually having. Despite the sudden and intense acceptance of the businesswomen, up to a third of Japanese women would rather just be housewives. The article above is a poll of what women find problematic about Japanese men. You'll notice almost half of the respondents note "Not chivalrous" as a major turn-off. This goes back to the traditional Japanese idea of masculinity as taking care of ones wife and being the true leader of the household. So what can explain this birth rate, and by extension the declining population? The aged population alone cannot cause it, and these statistics show us that despite independent women being a part of it, there are still many women who wish to fulfill the traditional model. The answer lies with something changing about Japanese men, and the issue is one of the most complicated and multifaceted out there. To understand the birth rate, one must understand the phenomenon of the "Herbivore Male"

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The stress of entrance exams

The stress of entrance exams | Exploring Japan's Declining Population- Read from Left to Right | Scoop.it
Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009  Japan Times   EDITORIAL   The cold of exams This coldest time of the year brings the most difficult time of the year for students and parents — entrance exam season. The two-...
Cam E's insight:

To understand a culture, one must understand the messages that the children are sent which develops them with the values that are indicative of any given society. For those who haven't heard of the entrance exam phenomenon in Japan, I believe it is crucial to understanding part of the reason why there are so many men in Japan who seem to have "given up" on the pursuit of traditional masculine goals. In Japan there is a national series of exams which take place to allow students entrance into colleges. Rather than focus on GPA and extracurricular activities, Japanese colleges are looking for high marks on the exams. We make jokes about the SATs deciding our lives, but these exams are the deciding moment for the lives of many Japanese students. In first world countries, a college degree is practically required to reach higher incomes and good jobs, the majority of a year is spent preparing these students for this one exam that will decide their fate, so it can be easily observed that it causes an extremely amount of stress on the students, especially boys. While Japanese women have the option to become housewives and be supported by their husbands as per the traditional model, Japanese men are left to either succeed on the exam, or not advance past the income which a high school degree will get you. Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, and it's the leading cause of death for men aged 20-44 with depression being the primary cause. The lack of desire in Herbivore males to compete in the business world and society in general is likely in part due to the backlash from such a high-stress schooling environment such as this. Those who fail are marked as failures, and no longer wish to compete as they believe themselves to be such. The rigor of these exams is partially why there is such a high number of males in Japan known as "Hikikomori" who are primarily adolescent and adult males who isolate themselves from society and live off of their parents. The entrance exams are just a facet of the Japanese education system as a whole though. The system emphasizes memorization and fitting in, and there is a large issue with bullying on anyone who fits outside of the mold, it's very much in line with the traditional Japanese proverb "The nail which sticks out gets hammered down." It can be seen how this system can turn some Japanese youths inwards and cause them to remove themselves from society, which also removes them from the dating and marriage pool, but it isn't the only factor. Another important thing to understand is yet another hypocrisy in Japanese society on expectations of men which has taken a strong shift lately.

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Japan Is a Woman's World Once the Front Door Is Shut

Japan Is a Woman's World Once the Front Door Is Shut | Exploring Japan's Declining Population- Read from Left to Right | Scoop.it
In the old days that grizzled men remember sweetly, a wife like Noriko Mizuguchi would have been waiting up all night for her husband's drunken stumbling on the doorstep, so that she could fling open the door and kneel down with her forehead touching the floor as she called out, "Welcome home, honorable sir." Instead, when her husband comes home late and drunk, Mrs. Mizuguchi locks him out of the house. Mrs. Mizuguchi, a demure, quiet woman of 48 who at first seems to fit the Western image of a Japanese wife as a docile doormat, ignores his frantic banging on the doors and windows.
Cam E's insight:

The above article outlines a society far removed from the one we normally think of when we think about dynamics between men and women in Asia. The issues contained in the article also encompass what I believe to be the most influential factor in the rise of the Herbivore male. To understand why these Herbivore males decided to break from the norm, we should take a look at the norm. If a man manages to get through the entrance exams, graduate from college, and land a good job. One would think he has much to look forward to, but that is absolutely not the case. The Japanese cultural system of "okozukai" is an interesting cultural model that takes place behind doors. While East Asian women may traditionally follow men around and honor them, they also traditionally ran the entire household budget. This manifests itself in an odd way when mixed with the "western" corporate ideas which were brought into Japan. If a Japanese salary man makes around 125k in US dollars, he gives his paycheck to his wife, who in turn allows him a monthly allowance of as low as $375. This effectively gives the man a 27th of his work, while the rest goes to his wife and the household. This model is practiced in over 50% of Japanese households by some measurements, and it's no wonder men are not interested in relationships because of it. The Japanese workplace itself has a few odd practices. Camaraderie is highly valued as it's such a communal based society. This leads to something which doesn't happen in the US. While work gets done at 5pm or so and then the man goes home to dinner traditionally, in Japan the worker is expected to go out drinking and smoking with his boss and other co-workers late into the night. This practice becomes the norm and expected rather than optional, and it effectively regulates a married man's life to working and sleeping without any ability to spend the money he owns. This cycle surely feels close to a slavery of sorts to many Japanese men, and it makes sense that Herbivore males would rebuke relationships when they could have much more autonomy and freedom without a wife. Interestingly enough there's another effect of the issue which propagates the Herbivore male lifestyle. Due to the Japanese fathers being at work or out all night, many Japanese children are raised effectively in a single-parent household with the mother. This of course brings the complications that many single-parent households do, and is especially dangerous to the young boys who had been left behind with their Bishonen characters in Video Games and their mothers as their primary outlet for learning about society. Many of these boys never had their fathers to teach them about traditional masculinity, and were left to their own devices or influenced into becoming more traditionally "feminine" by their mothers and Bishonen characters being their primary role models. In a way the Herbivore lifestyle came as a counterculture Japanese economic boom in the 1980's when all of these cultural practices became codified and began to take place all at once. I believe this plays a big part in many of the Herbivore male's desire to not spend big on commercial goods, as many of them are likely spiting their father's own behavior which was to spend their money on drink and carnal pleasures after work rather than spend time with their family. These feelings were likely only amplified by the economic crash the Herbivore males grew up in during the 1990's which also contributed to their frugality. This frugality through necessity is likely part of Japanese women's aversion to the Japanese men as seen earlier in the poll, as taking care of the woman financially is highly important in the Japanese idea of chivalry. To put this all in perspective, Herbivore males are finding that their current lifestyle choices can provide them much more freedom than life as a salary-man with a wife ever could, which is likely the largest factor as to why they are lax in finding a wife.

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Elderly at Record Spurs Japan Stores Chase $1.4 Trillion

Elderly at Record Spurs Japan Stores Chase $1.4 Trillion | Exploring Japan's Declining Population- Read from Left to Right | Scoop.it
Unicharm Corp.’s sales of adult diapers in Japan exceeded those for babies for the first time last year. At Daiei Inc. supermarkets, customers can feel Japan aging -- literally: It has made shopping carts lighter.
Cam E's insight:

The number of elderly people over 65 increased to 30 million for the first time, which is around 24 percent of the entire Japanese population. In contrast, children aged 14 and under account for a record low of 13 per cent. As a result, the elderly officially outnumbered children. One of the first sensationalist ways that this was pointed out was in the sale of diapers in Japan, with the elderly sale of diapers surpassing the sale of children's diapers. While this is an opportunity for growth for some companies, it's akin to the toll of a death bell for the country as a whole. The presence of a larger elderly population does not just mean increased diaper sales, it also means increased dependency which will cause the majority of the problems going forward. This trend would not be such a major problem in a country with no social safety nets, but Japan is no such country. Enshrined in Japanese culture is an idea of communal values and family which is much stronger than the general attitude of people in the United States for example. This manifests itself as a "traditional "family system in which grandparents often live in the household with their sons who support them, rather than head to retirement homes. The increasing population of elderly Japanese citizens now only means that this stress on the younger generation will increase drastically in the coming years. Heaped on top of this cultural norm is the Japanese welfare system, which is a European model that provides care and money to the elderly in similar ways to our own. It doesn't need to be stated exactly how dangerous this trend is for the younger generation, who quite literally might be working entirely to support an aging population, rather than for their own benefit.

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Diets of the World: The Japanese Diet

Diets of the World: The Japanese Diet | Exploring Japan's Declining Population- Read from Left to Right | Scoop.it
Thanks to the relatively healthier Japanese diet and lifestyle, Japanese women and men live longer and healthier than everyone else on Earth. Learn how to apply the principles of the Japanese diet to your cooking. Plus, two recipes.
Cam E's insight:

Now that we've explored the main problem and some current and future effects of the problem, we turn to trying to understand exactly why it's happening, in hope to either turn it around, or learn from past mistakes. From this point I'll be taking a look at why Japan's population is declining the way it is, specifically why the life expectancy is so high, while the birth rate is so low. The latter is a more complicated matter which will be handled later. The current high population of Japanese elders came about from reasons not exclusive to Japan. The group of elders we're looking at now is the same group known as the "Baby Boomers" in the United States. Japan itself had a large population boom post World War 2 which is a similar trend in many countries around the world. Japan's impressive life expectancy allows for all these "boomers" born in the late 1940's and early 1950's to have survived until now at a rate greater than that of many other countries. While this explains a tiny portion of the issue, it is only the tip of the iceberg so to speak. Japan's life expectancy is largely a function of the unique Japanese diet which is laid out in the above article. In addition to many other factors which contribute to long life, diet can be 30 percent of the formula to long life. Dr. Craig Willcox, an American gerontologist once studied the diet of the people of Okinawa (one of Japan's islands) and found that "the Okinawans have a low risk of arteriosclerosis and stomach cancer, a very low risk of hormone-dependent cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer. They eat three servings of fish a week, on average ... plenty of whole grains, vegetables and soy products too, more tofu and more konbu seaweed than anyone else in the world, as well as squid and octopus, which are rich in taurine – that could lower cholesterol and blood pressure." He also noticed that "Okinawa's indigenous vegetables were particularly interesting: their purple sweet potatoes are rich in flavonoids, carotenoids, vitamin E and lycopene, and the local bitter cucumbers, or "goya", have been shown to lower blood sugar in diabetics." The Japanese diet is very similar in most places due to it being an island nation which looks to the ocean for much of its nutrition, this large consumption of fish does not account for the trend alone though, there's also the importance of rice as a staple of the Japanese diet to consider. While Japan has very little farmland due to a mountainous terrain, it heavily uses what it has to cultivate rice. This can help to explain their longevity. While this life expectancy accounts for part of the issue facing Japan, it's only a small part of the story. What this covers is Japan's demographics, but not why the population is decreasing. One would think a high life expectancy would do good to sustain a population, but the answer lies in Japan's birth rate, which is next to be explored.

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Around 40 - DramaWiki

Around 40 - DramaWiki | Exploring Japan's Declining Population- Read from Left to Right | Scoop.it
Cam E's insight:

To examine the influences on Japanese men and women which could explain the birth rate, we have to critically look at their media and culture. Japanese women have been increasingly portrayed as independent and career-oriented in Japanese media which was explained earlier. One good example of this phenomenon is the show above, which is a recent popular Japanese drama. The show focuses on a group of women around the age of 40. The women are all independent, career-focused professionals who aren't that interested in love. The show promotes the idea that marriage is not necessary for women’s happiness, and that women can continue their careers and still have relationships without being tied down. Japanese girls are growing up with these images and messages, and young Japanese professional women are inspired by and consuming them as well. Traditionally Japanese culture had women in the household, so the idea of independence and freedom in this way is alluring to many young women. The Japanese Equal Employment Opportunity law was passed in May of 1985, paving the way for this new type of Japanese woman to emerge, but women have become professionals the world over in recent decades without causing the birth rates to plummet in the way Japan's has, so while this is a small part of the explanation, there's something else going on here that's exclusive to Japan. 

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Japan panics about the rise of "herbivores"—young men who shun sex, don't spend money, and like taking walks.

Japan panics about the rise of "herbivores"—young men who shun sex, don't spend money, and like taking walks. | Exploring Japan's Declining Population- Read from Left to Right | Scoop.it
Ryoma Igarashi likes going for long drives through the mountains, taking photographs of Buddhist temples and exploring old neighborhoods. He's just taken up gardening, growing radishes in a planter in his apartment. Until recently, Igarashi, a 27-year-old Japanese television presenter, would have been considered effeminate, even gay. Japanese men have...
Cam E's insight:

The Herbivore Male is the embodiment of resistance to the old Japanese, and by extension East Asian, models of masculinity. They're characterized by their lack of desire to compete, aversion to commercial spending, introverted ways, and most importantly, their lack of desire for sex and relationships as a life goal. This article does a good job of explaining what the Herbivore male is, but not why the Herbivore male exists. It's one of those mysteries where there is no clear cut universally accepted theory, only a barrage of guesses as to the primary cause. I believe that there is no true primary cause to it, and instead a large amount of factors came together to cause social strain on young Japanese men and create a perfect storm which resulted in the Herbivore male that we see today.

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The "Bishonen" Ideal and the Girls and Boys Who Love it.

The "Bishonen" Ideal and the Girls and Boys Who Love it. | Exploring Japan's Declining Population- Read from Left to Right | Scoop.it

 

 

Cam E's insight:

If I asked what the difference was between the pictures on the left, and the pictures on the right, would you be able to guess it? Every picture is of a Japanese man, and every picture is of important figures which young boys in Japan grow up with as role models. The first picture is a shot of one of the main characters from Seven Samurai, an old Japanese film by Akira Kurowsawa which impacted generations for ages. It's one of the most highest ranked Asian films in the world, and it shows the traditional idea of masculinity in Japan. Just to the right we have Cloud Strife, also a swordsman, and the main character of a Japanese Role-Playing video game called "Final Fantasy 7" which also was extremely influential and won many awards for being the best game of all time. If the hint hasn't been caught yet, I'll outline two more examples. The American series "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers" which took the United States by storm in the 90's was adapted from a long running series in Japan known as "Super Sentai." The picture to the left is the "Red Ranger," Tsuyoshi Kaijo of the first Super Sentai series; Himitsu Sentai Gorenger. The picture to the right is the "Red Ranger" of the most recent Super Sentai installment; Ressha Sentai Tokkyuger. What we can see in these pictures is a distinct change in how Japanese males are portrayed as of recently, and the images on the right are the type which the Herbivore males were growing up with. It isn't only in appearance though, both of the characters on the left are hardened warriors, a samurai and a special operations soldier in the military respectively, but the characters on the right are portrayed as softer, more emotional, and with traditionally feminine traits. It should be noted that often media will reflect what a society looks like, but in this case it was the change in media that effected the society. This phenomenon in portrayal of Japanese men is known as "Bishonen" and is integral in understanding the disposition of Herbivore males, and the attitudes of Japanese women which explains the declining birth rate. Bishonen literally translates as "Pretty boy" and Bishonen characters are often shown as extremely sexually ambiguous, or even outright bisexual. The idea is of a man's beauty transcending the boundary of sexual or gender orientation and are often very emotionally open. Bishonen characters make up the primary demographic found in widely popular Japanese pop culture such as Manga, Anime, Idols, Video Games, and even many musical bands. Also of note is that Bishonen traits are by no means taboo, young women make no attempt to hide their attraction, while more traditionally masculine men take no issue with recognizing them as potentially fearsome rivals with enviable traits. Unlike in certain Western cultures, there is no social stigma involved. Bishonen characters are often portrayed with extreme martial arts skills, leadership, and high intelligence, giving them all benefits and no downsides that their frail body type might suggest. Simply put, these male characters appear and act traditionally feminine in many ways, but also have all the positive traits associated with manliness. Young women and old women alike overwhelmingly are attracted to the Bishounen male in Japan. One can start to understand the situation that's happening with this in mind. Earlier we saw that Japanese women have complaints about Japanese men, especially that they aren't chivalrous, and here we can see why this likely is. The Japanese males are being portrayed increasingly in traditional Japanese female roles, and once again there is a split in society between the expectation to be masculine, and the expectation to live up to the Bishonen ideal. Suffice to say this also plays a major role in young boy's self-image in Japan. Boys grow up with these Bishonen images primarily as well, and it is not a stretch to say that many young boys are raised by Bishonen characters in the media, and attempt to emulate the traits and emotionality of Bishonen men while at the same time being told to be stoic and masculine by the traditional portion of Japanese society. This stress of two worlds, and lack of clear signals from females is a major part in why the Herbivore males are not interested in relationships. The females are not the only ones with expectations too high though, among the primarily male fans of Japanese popular culture, there exists many examples of ideal females as well, much like Bishonen characters, there are many girl characters which are completely pure and innocent, which real Japanese women cannot live up to, and which Japanese men expect in turn. 

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05_article_4-20.gif (492x265 pixels) | Exploring Japan's Declining Population- Read from Left to Right | Scoop.it
Cam E's insight:

In summation, the declining birth rate and by extension, population, truly comes down to the pressure on the Japanese man. Expected to provide for an aged population, as well as their wives, they are isolating themselves from a society which is rife with double standards for both genders. A non-compatible mix of values from the west clashed with their traditional Japanese values while a massive industry rose on feminizing men and masculinizing women while still expecting them to act within their gender roles. These factors came together all at once like a powerful tsunami to obliterate the birth rate and cause the population to being to decline. In this society at odds with itself, Japanese men raised by only their mothers and Bishonen characters in media, armed with a new sensitivity, were pushed to act stoically and never falter in the face of all of this, and the enormous pressure to succeed in the school and corporate world. They were pushed to gain wives when wives expected an ideal of them due to media images, and they in turn expected ideal wives for the same reasons. If successful in those endeavors, they only had a life of work and sleep to look forward to, many of them unable to even spend their own money on what they desired. If they failed, they'd be shamed as unmanly, and lose their will to compete as well as their honor.  Under these circumstances it's no surprise that the Herbivore males rose. They desired a freedom in their own lives, and found relationships to just be a burden which inhibited their own happiness. They didn't care to seek out their own enslavement, when put in more harsh words. With an arrangement of media stronger and than ever before in history to be consumed, and a healthy frugality they gained from being raised in an economic downturn, they are able to stay content alone by consuming massive amounts of Video Games, Anime, Manga, and generally by living their lives isolated from the expectations of society as a whole. The Japanese men are most likely to blame for the decline, but one would be hard pressed to actually blame them when these circumstances are understood. Regardless of the justifiability of their lifestyle, the problem stands. Japan's population is falling, and the problem is cultural. Fixing a cultural problem is much more difficult than a financial or economic one, but if Japan does not act soon, they will lose their position as a first world country as their population and available labor force decreases. Japan's current ideas of masculinity have become so stressful that Japanese men need incentives to be "men" again. That's a situation which a society never wants to find itself in, and the best explanation for the birth rate and population decline of Japan. 

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