Friday, April 15
Japan's virgin wives turn to sex volunteers
Justin McCurry in Tokyo, The Guardian, April 4, 2005,
Like many Japanese women, Junko waited until her early 30s to get married. When she and her fiance, an employee of a well-known firm, decided to tie the knot, she set her sights on making a home, putting away some money and starting a family.
Fifteen years later, Junko and her husband are childless. It is not that they cannot have children; it is just that they have never had sex.
The sexless marriage is one of several reasons why experts fear Japan is on the verge of a demographic disaster.
In 2003 Japan's birthrate hit a record low of 1.29 - the average number of times a woman gives birth during her lifetime - one of the lowest rates in the world, according to the cabinet office. The population will peak next year at about 128 million, then decline to just over 100 million by 2050.
The 200 women a year who seek help at a clinic in the Tokyo suburbs have not had sex with their husbands in up to 20 years, and some never, according to Kim Myong-gan, who runs the clinic.
"The women who come to see me love their husbands and aren't looking for a divorce," he told the Guardian. "The problem is that their husbands lose interest in sex or don't want sex from the start. Many men think of their wives as substitute mothers, not as women with emotional and sexual needs."
Mr Kim's short-term solution is unconventional. After an initial 20,000 yen (£100) counselling session, he produces photographs of 45 men, mostly professionals in their 40s, with whom the women are invited to go on dates and then, in almost all cases, arrange regular assignations in hotel rooms.
Mr Kim dismissed charges that his service was little more than a male prostitution ring. "The men volunteer and pay half the hotel and restaurant bills, so legally there is absolutely nothing wrong with it," he said.
He had rescued hundreds of women from despair, he said, but his "sex volunteers" would do nothing to cure the malaise that afflicts the institution of marriage in Japan.
... "We are sort of room-mates rather than a married couple," one 31-year-old man, who had not had sex with his wife for two years, told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
The government has introduced several measures to lift the birthrate. Fathers will be encouraged to take more than the 47% of annual paid leave they currently use, and their employers will be told to provide more opportunities for them to stay at home with their children.
Local authorities, meanwhile, are devising novel ways to increase fertility. In the town of Yamatsuri women will receive 1m yen if they have a third child, and in Ishikawa prefecture families with three children will get discounts at shops and restaurants.
The absence of children in so many homes is having an impact. Fun parks are closing and there are signs that the "exam hell" teenagers go through to secure places at top schools and universities is less of an ordeal because the competition is less fierce. [...more]
Wednesday, April 6
I hate facing media, says Charles
BBC News, March 31, 2005
Prince Charles has voiced his dislike of facing the media at a photo call during his annual skiing holiday at Klosters in Switzerland.
As he posed with sons William and Harry eight days before his wedding, the prince muttered: "Bloody people."
The assembled microphones picked up his comments, mumbled to his sons, which included: "I hate doing this."
Aides said Charles had been angered by paparazzi photos in the UK press of William and girlfriend Kate Middleton.
When BBC Royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell asked Prince Charles about his feelings in the run-up to his wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles on 8 April in Windsor, he was given a terse reply.
"I am very glad you have heard of it, anyway," the prince said.
He added quietly to Prince William and Harry:
"These bloody people. I can't bear that man.
I mean, he's so awful, he really is."
The BBC has emphasised that Mr Witchell was at Klosters at the invitation of Clarence House.
"He is one of our finest. His question was perfectly reasonable under the circumstances," a BBC spokesman said.
The royals traditionally stage one photocall during their annual spring break in Klosters in return for peace and quiet while skiing on the slopes.
This year, photographers managed to secure images of Prince William and his girlfriend relaxing despite aides' attempts to make sure the holiday remained private.
Charles's communication secretary Paddy Harverson said the prince had not been looking forward to the photo call.
"He prefers it when he skis and he just wanted to get up into the mountains.
"He doesn't have contempt for the media. A few paparazzi yesterday got the holiday off to a bad start.
"I think the prince was a little bit upset about that."
Prince Charles' fiancee cannot ski and has not accompanied the royal party on holiday
... [... more]
Pictures of Prince William and Miss Middleton, both 22, relaxing with Charles, Harry, and other friends were splashed across several UK newspapers on Thursday including the Daily Mirror, Daily Express, Sun and Daily Mail.
The couple, who share a cottage at St Andrews University, in Fife, Scotland, were photographed together by the paparazzi a year ago during his last trip to Klosters.
It is the second time Miss Middleton has accompanied the royal party on their winter trip.
Thursday's official photo call was held in the village of Monbiel, 2km from the centre of Klosters, after poor weather forced the cancellation of the traditional mountain staging.