According to a survey by the Japanese Association For Sex Education, the percentage of young men and women going out on dates and having sex is the lowest it has been since the data started to be collected in 1974.
Where there’s a void in physical and real human interaction, the Japanese look to make up for it through virtual means. Japanese virtual girlfriends have been around for a few decades, and the technological advancements have only made it easier and more accessible for more young men to pursue.
Why do some men prefer a “Japanese digital girlfriend” to the real deal? We talk about the many ways in which young men find themselves with their anime brides and the possible reasons for the allure behind the growing culture.
What’s The Reason Behind The Japanese Virtual Girlfriend Trend?
As mentioned above, the percentage of young adults going out on dates and having sex is the lowest it’s ever been, at least according to the data collected in 2017. According to the findings, 19.9% of male students and 17.6% of female students claimed they had never been on a date in 2005.
In 2017, the numbers shot up to 28% and 30%, respectively. On the other hand, research by the Japanese government signified that 15% of single men and 30% of single women had claimed to have fallen in love with a fictional character.
Whether the two pieces of research have any correlation with each other depends on a myriad of factors. But the highlighted point remains clear: there’s a very clear lack of human connection and emotional intimacy.
It is also stated that the dating culture in Japan is often not as prevalent as in other countries. According to studies, the rate of children born in Japan outside of wedlock rests at 2.3%, compared to 40% in the United States.
Stressful long work hours coupled with limited opportunities to meet new people and a changing worldview when it comes to marital age have all contributed to a lack in the number of people dating.
Of the 30% females and 28% male students who had not been on a date or had sex, 70% claimed that the reason was the lack of a partner. And where there’s a need, there’s going to be monopolization of it.
The Rise Of The Japanese Digital Girlfriends
The onset of “Cuddle Cafes” in Japan highlights the glaring lack of real human affection that people are yearning for. The concept of “Maid Cafes” has grown in popularity as well, where young women treat customers like “masters” or “princesses”.
What’s more, the “Boyfriend industry” in Japan is booming as well, where single women often rent out boyfriends for what’s known as the “Boyfriend experience.”
There’s even a slang term, “moe”, for those who fall in love with fictional characters. Another word, “Otaku”, describes those who have a consuming interest in anime and manga culture, often where people develop crushes on their “Waifu” (a fictional female character people have romantic feelings for).
Coming to the world of AI girlfriend robots, the popularity of games that revolve solely around a girlfriend that players can interact with has been on the rise. For example, LovePlus, a game that features three “girlfriends,” has sold over 600,000 copies worldwide.
The characters in the game react to expensive gifts given as an act of love or react negatively when the supposed “boyfriends” (the players) do something that the AI girlfriend robots do not like.
Another manifestation of the Japanese robot girls finds its way into the lives of people through GateBox. Essentially, it is a “simulation development system” that aims to provide a real-life interactive experience in a three-dimensional manner.
In other words, it’s a cylindrical object, much like Alexa, that provides a holographic image of a fictional girlfriend robot who interacts with the user as his/her girlfriend. Think of it as a device that turns your house into a smart home, but one that also acts as your girlfriend.
It seems like something that’s straight out of the movie Her, where Joaquin Pheonix’s character falls in love with an artificial intelligence system.
Gatebox also gives its employees who are married to a 2D virtual AI girlfriend robot a monthly stipend among other perks. And if you’re thinking that marrying virtual girlfriends is an absurd idea, think again.
Japanese game studio HibikiWorks developed games with realistic robot girlfriends and decided to send out a contest, allowing people to marry their virtual partners. They received multiple inquiries, and it wasn’t really a surprise that many took them up on the offer.
Granted, the Japanese virtual girlfriend experience isn’t uniquely exclusive to Japan alone, owing to the fact that LovePlus and Gatebox have multiple users across the world. But there’s no denying the fact that a changing social view toward dating and marriage has affected Japan’s birthrate, which may signal more economic problems as well as social ones.
A 2016 study found that 70% of unmarried men and 60% of unmarried women are not in relationships. Perhaps they’re enjoying the benefits of being single, or they’re finding love in the comfort of their own cylindrical boxes. Maybe they’ve found love through Rinko in LovePlus, who promises to be by their side.
At the end of the day, as long as no laws are being broken and the mental and physical health of people is intact, there’s no harm in the growing popularity of girlfriend robots. With the rise of virtual space technology like Meta and “realistic” Japanese virtual girlfriends like the one available with Gatebox, perhaps it’s just the way of the future that we’re witnessing.