Watching Japan's demographic suicide
Writing in the Wilson Quarterly Nicholas Eberstadt makes an insightful and thoroughly chilling analysis of social trends in Japan, where fertility rates have plummeted for years and annual deaths now outnumber births. Among the most bizarre manifestations of a culture approaching self-destruction:
- Rental "relatives" are now readily available throughout the country for celebrations when a groom or bride lacks requisite kin.
- "Babyloids"-small, furry, robotic dolls that can mimic some of the sounds and gestures of real babies-are being marketed to help older Japanese cope with loneliness and depression.
- Robot pets and rental pets are also available for those who seek the affection of an animal but cannot cope with having one to look after.
- In a recent government survey, one-third of boys ages 16 to 19 described themselves as uninterested in or positively averse to sexual intimacy.
- Young Japanese men are, however, clearly very interested in video games and the Internet: In 2009, a 27-year-old Japanese man made history by "marrying" a female video game character's avatar while thousands watched online.
- Japanese researchers are pioneering the development of attractive, lifelike androids. Earlier this year, a persuasively realistic humanoid called Geminoid F was displayed in a department store window, appearing to wait for a friend.