Japanese women have a fertility rate of about 1.4 compared to 1.7 for potentially pregnant American people (some of whom identify as “men”). The Rise of Modern Japan is a lecture series in which Emory University professor Mark Ravina explains his theory that the fall in Japanese fertility is due to the declining number of highly secure jobs. Women in Japan practice sexual selection, in other words, and select against men whose next 20 years of paychecks are not guaranteed. Japan neither valorizes nor financially encourages “single moms” to the extent that we do here in the U.S., so it isn’t practical for 2-5 women to mate with 1 attractive (financially or physically) male.
Separately, the lecture series covers what happened when a lot of guys in their 50s were sent into early retirement in the 1990s following the bursting of the Japanese asset bubble. Their wives referred to these unexpected all-day home-dwellers as “Sodai Gomi” (oversized garbage, requiring a sticker to be hauled away by the city) and “nureochiba” (wet fallen leaves, sticking to one’s shoes and tough to shake off).
(Why don’t the irritated wives avail themselves of no-fault (“unilateral”) divorce and take the house, cash, etc.? “Under the Japanese laws, a spouse cannot divorce at his/her sole discretion. Basically a mutual agreement between spouses are needed to divorce in Japan.” (source))
The lecture series also talks about the long-term effects of “3/11” (the Fukushima nuclear plant failure) on the Japanese psyche. Although the series is new (the professor mentions COVID-19), it might be out of date. Inflation in the price of fossil fuels has finally generated (so to speak) some renewed enthusiasm for nuclear power among the Japanese public. Bloomberg says that only 10 out of 33 possible plants are currently online.
Another interesting observation is that Japanese competence works against political and economic reform. Everything in Japan works reasonably well and therefore it is difficult to motivate voters to demand political change. Japan thus muddles through with its massive conglomerates that are cronies of the ruling parties.
From a 2004 trip to Japan, my rental car (maybe not the best idea if you can’t read kanji) next to a hill that has been concretized and a traditional Japanese garden ornament that I would desperately love to have for our own backyard!