From the Wall Street Journal:
TOKYO - Having trouble getting married?
Maybe you aren't doing enough pole dancing in your living room.
That is the idea behind
one Tokyo real estate company's plan to solve the woes of Japan's lonely singles with konkatsu, or "marriage
The project's mastermind, Rintaro Kikuchi, says living
in the airy pads makes people more relaxed and social, leading to new encounters. He isn't shy about explaining some features,
like a pole smack in the middle of his latest model's living room. "You can't ignore sex and make a house," he says.
Konkatsu is the word du jour both for Japanese singles and government officials trying to improve
the nations' aging demographics. There are konkatsu bars, konkatsu bus tours and konkatsu events
for right-wingers, farmers and other groups. Local governments often pitch in funds to sponsor events, hoping to encourage
marriage and the procreation of future taxpayers.
The percentage of unmarried people ages
30-34 jumped to 47% from 21.5% for me and to 34.5% from 9% for women in the three decades through 2010, according to government
Since birth out of wedlock is uncommon in Japan, those figures translate directly
into a lower birthrate, with the average woman having about 1.4 children in her lifetime.
Yamada, a Chuo University professor who coined the term konkatsu in 2007, says the problem is many young
men nowadays don't have secure jobs because Japan's "lifetime employment" system is fraying. Young women still hold
out for a husband who can support the family on one salary, and men who know they can't live up to that expectation are less
active in searching for a mate.
Other researchers cite busy work schedules for both men
and women, and some young people's reluctance to leave comfortable lives with their parents.
Mr. Kikuchi, the konkatsu apartment developer, the real problem is housing - cramped rooms, dinky kitchens and
little natural light. With settings like that, he says, it's no wonder many Japanese don't wnat to bring anyone home.
His latest model, a one-bedroom apartment, fulfills all of his seven rules for a konkatsu apartment,
including a spacious kitchen and shower room, so couples can cook and bathe together. The home has plenty of windows to let
in natural light and was remodeled with natural construction materials such as earth with fossilized algae.
"You sleep better, you wake up feeling refreshed, and you become more active," he says about the
home's construction. "You smile more, and your skin looks better, and you are making lots of pheromones."
Mr. Kikuchi also consulted a Japanese "total adviser of sexuality" who goes by the name Olivia and
frequently appears in local media. She suggested adding a roomy bathtub in the living room as well as soundproofing and the
pole, which looks as if it could have been transplanted from a local strip club.
who declined to give her real name, said the pole could be used to entertain a male guest or to keep fit to better enjoy sex.
"A lot of Japanese women are shy and bad at using their sex appeal," she said. "By becoming their boyfriend's
'private pole dancer'. I wanted them to be able to playfully enjoy their sex life together."
41-year-old Mr. Kikuchi, who isn't half-bad on the pole himself, thinks amenities are needed not only to get couples hitched
but also to keep them enjoying each other's company. A January survey by the Japan Family Planning Association found about
45% of married couples had not had sex in the last month, up 3.3 percentage points from the last survey in 2012.
When couples stop having sex, their relationship soon turns sour, Mr. Kikuchi said.
has impact on children when they see the relationship between their parents deteriorate," he said. "They don't see
marriage or making a family as something happy," accelerating the vicious of failing marriages and birthrates.
Akino Kanno, 34, moved into one of Mr. Kikuchi's konkatsu apartment north of Tokyo in late 2012
after a divorce. The property, completed in 2010, has six private apartments. Mr. Kikuchi designed the property so that residents
will interact. They get together a few times a year for barbecues, and there is a common bulletin board for notices.
Ms. Kanno happened to see a notice from the building's owner on the bulletin board recommending a local drinking
hole. She went with a friend and was introduced to Masaru Kanno. The two bonded over manga and food. They later married.
Mr. Kanno remembers the first time he saw the apartment. "It was so fashionable. I was very surprised,"
he said. "I knew this was someone who I wanted to be family."
Mikako Tokuda moved into the same building about two years ago and found a boyfriend less than a half a year later on a social-networking
site. The two have since broken up, but she said that moving from her dark, one-window apartment helped her relax and find
the energy to think about dating. In her old apartment, she said, there was only one electric burner, which forced her to
give up cooking, one of her favorite hobbies.
And does Mr. Kikuchi need a konkatsu apartment?
Sorry ladies, he's already married with two children.