Cool but not Sexy: "Cool Japan" and Demographic Crisis

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The popular image of Japan overseas is laden with sexual imagery, from neo-traditional geisha to surreal hentai erotica. In contrast, popular culture in Japan has lately been dominated by figures such as the undersexed sôshokukei danshi, and, according to government statistics, one in four women in their early thirties remain virgins. Japan’s population crisis is, arguably, the result of a number of cultural and social structural factors that make it difficult to envision affording a future with a romantic partner or children, but here I want to suggest that it may be having effects beyond the demographic. In this paper, I ask whether it constitutes a break in Japan’s façade of coolness. Japan’s post-war economic miracle and technical innovations throughout the latter half of the twentieth century seemed to locate it firmly in a definitely cool, slickly corporate future full of confusingly attractive cyborgs. However, can Japan be Cool if it isn’t also Sexy? Although the structural transitions in gender norms and sexual practices that are presently taking place make sense in the current Japanese political economic context, in the world outside I describe how they play into Meiji-era discourses of Japan as a topsy-turvy, strange, and uncool nonsense land.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventCommunicating with Cool Japan: New International Perspectives on Japanese Popular Culture: International Communication Association Preconference - Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan
Duration: Jun 8 2016Jun 8 2016


ConferenceCommunicating with Cool Japan: New International Perspectives on Japanese Popular Culture
Internet address


  • Japan
  • Communications

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Anthropology


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