Interview with Rieko Saigo (西郷理恵子): We got professional advice on your sexless marriage

Sexless Japan Interview - Rieko Saigo
Sexless? We interviewed a professional Japanese relationship consultant for some ideas on what could be the cause
At the beginning we thought it was just us. But as the number of comments grew on our “Sexless Japan” article we started to realise that not having regular sex – compared with how things were before marriage at least – seems to be a common issue for the I’m Married to a Japanese crowd in our readership. Could that really be the case? While we’re no match for Mino Monta, we decided to get to the bottom of things and track down a specialist on couples, sex, and the general state of sexlessness in Japan.

Marital advisors, Couple consultants, pre-marital counsellors, and the like are extremely rare in Japan. Sex specialists/therapists are even fewer and further between. Through some good fortune however, we were lucky enough to meet Rieko Saigo (西郷理恵子), one of Japan’s most prominent experts on sex…less marriages. During our three hour interview we learned more about the psyche of the Japanese wife (both in and out of the bedroom) than we ever expected and hope to share some that insight with you here.

Rieko Saigo (西郷理恵子) – Background:
While she dons a different sword to Takamori Saigo, her great, great, great uncle, it might be fair to describe her as the first female samurai fighting for female sexuality. Rieko Saigo - Couple ConsultantSaigo has been interested in sex (academically!) since her days as a student studying Law at Waseda University. A self-proclaimed major in “Adult Videos”, she realised she would “never be able to learn the truth about sexuality” while studying in Japan and went to America to further her studies. Not to miss an opportunity to learn how to express herself, one of her highlights during her time in the US was performing in the Vagina Monologues. As an active member of Japan’s Society of Sexual Science (日本性科学会), she has been answering the needs of sexless Japanese men and women since 2006 and was generous enough to share some insights about the sexless couples that she has been involved with in Japan.

Her clients are all ladies!:
What surprised us more than anything else was to hear about her typical client. Diametrically opposite to our typical reader at, her typical sexless client is female! In fact 90% are. Before you ask to be introduced to these Japanese women (whom mostly are disappointed/desperate about their lack of a sex-life) let me tell you that their stories sound desperately similar to our readers. The majority of her clients are married and have suffered a downhill trend that started after marriage. (On an interesting – or depressing – side note, there is also a significant minority of single Japanese women out there who are unsure if they should get married to their current boyfriend because he refuses to have sex with them!).

A common theme amongst many of Saigo’s patients is a feeling of loneliness and an inability to communicate with their husbands about sex and the quality of their relationship in general. How easy do you find it to broach topics like this with your Japanese partner? Has she ever asked you to sit down to discuss the quality of your relationship? Maybe our generation (X) of Japanese spent too much time watching how their parents “love” each other by staying out of each others way. I don’t think it is any coincidence that it was as recent as 1986 that the phrase 「亭主元気で留守がいい」 (teishu genki de rusu ga ii, or “a husband who is healthy and always absent is ideal”) was coined. It isn’t exactly a concept that is really going to encourage couples to try and get over their difficulties in communicating now is it.

A few of her clients acknowledge that they are the reason behind being sexless as even if they do have sex they don’t enjoy it. However, the vast majority of her patients are desperately seeking sex with their disinterested (male) partners and hitting a brick wall. Sound familiar?

Reasons why even Men are not interested in Sex
There is actually a pretty long list of reasons why the men aren’t interested in sex but the most common is being “too tired.” (heard that before?!!) Apparently statistics imply that the incidence of ED is increasing in Japan as more and more men are over worked at their jobs and come home without the energy to get it up at night so perhaps there is some truth to the matter.

What is perhaps a little more worrying are the stories that Saigo relates about men who just “don’t feel it is right” to have sex with their wives. Apparently some of the men suggest that sex with your wife is like incest. Others can no longer look at their wives as women after they give birth and Saigo notes that the common Japanese custom of calling your wife “Okasan” (Mum) only makes matters worse. (If that strikes you as strange, here is the proof – a whopping 49% of married women call their husbands “papa” or “otosan”, too!).

Enough said about men. Following are some reasons for Japanese women not to be interested in sex (and Saigo’s advice on how to possibly alleviate this in your afflicted partner!)…

The importance of masturbation and understanding ones sexuality?
One reason for Japanese women and their uncomfortableness with their own sexuality is the taboo surrounding female masturbation. Masturbation is much less common in Japan than in the West and when they do it they definitely do not talk about it. Saigo points out that the reason why Sex and the City was so popular in Japan was that Japanese women wish that they could be outgoing and self-confident in such a sexual manner but in reality can only do it vicariously through television. Can you imagine Sex and the City being re-filmed in Japan with only a cast of Japanese women?

While it might not surprise you to learn that a lot of Japanese women don’t realise that they might have a libido, it will definitely shock you to hear that “many Japanese women have never even looked at their vagina!” We are talking very uncomfortable with sexuality here. It hits home. How could your wife ever tell you how to make her feel good if she doesn’t know how to do it herself. I guess that explains why Japanese women are always waiting for you to “lead.” The very fact that a Japanese word exists specifically to describe a women who lays down in bed and does absolutely nothing during the act (maguro) does say something about the anthropology of the Japanese, and project their perhaps subconscious expectations of sex. One of Saigo’s recent focuses is on removing the perceived barrier around masturbation by discussing it in public and encouraging Japanese woman to get to know their downstairs selves better.

But we had great sex before we got married…
So what about those of us who are puzzled about how sex could have dried up to nothing, when it used to be so great before marriage. How could it be true that our wives don’t know how to enjoy good sex if they were so frisky and experimental before we got married? Saigo suggests that many of those wives are just good actors. Especially when they are in the courting stage, it is natural for women to want to raise the excitement in the relationship. They want to make their time together with you enjoyable so put in an effort to make you happy – which means including some great sex. They aren’t really reaching orgasm but they don’t want to sour the mood by letting on. They have mastered faking their climax to make you feel like an alpha male. These girls don’t really know why women sometimes moan during sex but they’ve seen it on the late night ero-channel, and so feel inclined put on “a pout or a moan to try and make the experience feel more authentic”. But the reality is that unless your wife is a Grammy award winner then she’s not going to be able keep up that act year after year. The sad reality is that she probably wasn’t enjoying it before you got married either. She might not have been consciously using it as bait to get you hooked but it is no surprise that she doesn’t have the energy to keep up her acting forever, especially when kids come along.

Cultural backgrounds:
“Without being able to ask their friends, or their mothers for advice about sex, Japanese women have been forced to “learn” by copying the passive actions portrayed by women in Japanese porno movies”. In fact due to totally inadequate sex education in Japan (both in school and at home), porn flicks are the only guide that most Japanese men and women have about sex. This has created a self-perpetuating and extremely negative spiral that we are now paying the price for. Think about it. How often do you see a woman playing an active role in a Japanese adult video? It’s basically just male masturbation but using a female body instead of his hand. Do you see where I’m leading to with this? In fact Saigo was pretty blunt about it. Japanese men just don’t know how to fulfil a woman sexually. The flip side of that razor edged coin is that Japanese women never get the chance to realise that sex can actually be enjoyable. Men don’t enjoy it. Women don’t enjoy it. No wonder everybody seeks it outside of the home.

On Fuzoku:
So what about the oft quoted Japanese wife who doesn’t want her husband to have an affair but is totally happy with him going off to fuzoku (風俗, brothels) to satisfy his sexual needs. While I’m sure there were more than a few readers out there hoping that this was just a sign of the overly generous nature of Japanese women, Saigo offers a sobering explanation. The tribe of wives out there that send their husbands off for “happy endings” are a lot more calculating than we would have hoped and are suffering from a lot more than just being sexless. They’ve “lost all love for their husbands and are just doing the best to hold their families together” for their children, or to avoid the embarrassment of divorce. They know that if their hubbies get too involved in a love affair then it could well lead to divorce. Ironically, the whores that their husbands are using are doing the wives a far greater service than the desperate salarymen. The wives are able to keep their families together without having to “service” their husbands. Most of these wives “don’t even want to touch their husbands any more”, let alone tell them that they love them or have sex with them. If you’re wife is encouraging you to visit fuzoku then perhaps you need to start with marriage counselling before you sign up to slow sex classes (see below).

And what about the Anru-style virtue of necessity?
One of our readers specifically asked about Saigo’s view on the strategy of coming clean to your wife about your “fling” in order to try to win back her affection through jealousy. While it worked for Anru, she reckons that he was extremely lucky. Saigo regularly receives calls from women who are totally repelled by their husbands when they learn of their affairs, and struggle even more with any physical contact with them, feeling that they are “dirty”. In addition to the double edged sword of jealousy it can also destroy what little self-confidence your wife might have which could take years to rebuild.

Yeah, so what does all this mean for a gaijin trapped in a sexless marriage? Give me some specific advice…!

The fact that you are worried about being sexless means that there is more than just something missing between the two of you. There is a good chance that your partner will be sensing a problem, too. The only way to get over this is to talk it all out and the best way is to hear your partner out first. Odds are that they are just as frustrated (maybe not about the same thing) as you. Saigo points out that the more and more she speaks to her patients, the more and more she realises that the problem isn’t just being sexless. Being sexless is just a symptom. The bigger problem is in the communication – or lack their of – between the couple. If it is too embarrassing to do it in person then she recommends that you write it down. All women have a soft spot for letters. It is also very hard for them to ignore something that they have read in a letter.

Perceptions of sex and one’s sexuality?
Saigo recommends that you try to redefine your Japanese partner’s perceptions of sex. The worst thing you can do is abuse her (or him) for not giving you sex. She recommends that you start by re-educating yourself. The more fun you can make it for your partner, the more likely she will be willing to try it more regularly. Saigo’s golden words of wisdom: “Sex isn’t just about ejaculation. Try making it all about exploring your partner and finding out how to make her feel good.” For those of you who can’t even get your partner in bed to change her perception, she recommends that you change your tactic from “You’re so selfish to hold back sex from me!” to “I’d like the opportunity to try a whole new method of sex that is more enjoyable for you”.

Adam Tokunaga - Slow Sex Courses
Adam Tokunaga - Slow Sex Courses
Some tools to help:
But I can hear you saying it now. I’ve tried that but it didn’t make a difference. How can I get my wife to get on-board (emotionally)? Saigo’s favorite educational tool is a school run by Adam Tokunaga (アダム徳永). After physical research on over 1,000 women, Adam Tokunaga developed what he calls “slow sex.” It is all about making sex enjoyable for the female and he has taught this to over 6,000 people at his school in Roppongi. (If you’ve ever seen Monty Python’s “Meaning of Life” then this takes the Sex Ed class skit one step further!). Famously, Tokunaga provides real models to each and every one of his students so that they can practice the various techniques that he teaches them. Without going into too many details, apparently the most common realisation by the men who take part is how roughly they have been touching their partner’s clitoris up until now. Thanks to Tokunaga, you can get first hand direct feedback from a woman who is on your side.

If you don’t think that you are quite up to signing up for one of his classes (he has various “introductory”, “practical” and “advanced” courses at approx 40,000 yen a session) or perhaps you don’t think your partner would be too understanding, the good news is that you can buy the DVD. Link on Amazon here.

Despite my original scepticism, what makes me think that this guy may really be the answer to our problems is the fact that he has released a copy of his book – a manual on how to perform “slow sex” in both English and Japanese. Thank you Adam! If you find that the English book strikes a chord, you can get the Japanese version for your partner:

“Slow Sex Secrets: Lessons from the Master Masseur” by Adam Tokunaga, English version and Japanese version.

Additional tools
Finally, we’d like to share a couple of additional books with you that Saigo recommended to us. Two of the three come in both English and Japanese so both you and your partner can comfortably read them and compare notes. Each of them focus on increasing the quality of your sex by giving you ideas on how to please your partner first.

“For Women Only: A Revolutionary Guide To Reclaiming Your Sex Life” by Jennifer and Laura Berman sisters (バーマン姉妹のWOMEN ONLY―心もからだも満ちたりる愛しかた愛されかた), English version and Japanese version.

“Mars and Venus in the Bedroom: A Guide to Lasting Romance and Passion” By John Gray PhD (ジョン・グレイ博士の愛が深まる本―「ほんとうの歓び」を知るために), English version and Japanese version.

女医が教える 本当に気持ちのいいセックス (“Really Satisfying Sex As Can Only Be Taught By A Female Doctor”) by Miyon Son (宋 美玄), Japanese version only.

You can learn more about Saigo by reading her:
Regular column at All About
New column in the magazine Chakra

We would like to thank Saigo-san for graciously spending the time with us, and letting us hurl your questions at her. She certainly was great fun to interview, and gave a fresh new aspect on our sexless debate.

While we’d appreciate it if you could leave your general comments about the sexless debate to our main Sexless Japan article, if you have any specific comments about this interview or questions that you would like us to ask Saigo in any follow up interviews then please let us know by contributing in the comments below here! We would love your feedback on the interview, and any angles you took on it.

19 thoughts on “Interview with Rieko Saigo (西郷理恵子): We got professional advice on your sexless marriage”

  1. This article confirms something which I have suspected since hearing about the relationships foreign males of my acquaintance in Japan have told me. I am not Japanese, nor is my husband (both of us are American), but most of the foreign men I have known have told me that their Japanese girlfriends reach orgasm within about a minute of intercourse having been initiated. This is something I’ve heard from many men (and secondhand through some women) throughout the 21 years I’ve lived in Japan and I figured that one of two things must be happening: Japanese women have a very different physiology than women of other genetic heritages or they fake it (unrealistically) quickly.

    The statements in these articles would seem to support my guess that the women simply fake it as quickly as possible. The sad part is that so many of the men in these relationships who I have spoken with are ignorant of how unlikely it is that a woman would be gratified so incredibly rapidly. Some have said, “I’ve never had a problem with satisfying her” with a smug sense of confidence in their prowess. Most women and men with sexual experience would know that a woman who says “ike” (“I’ve gone/come.”) a minute or so after penetration is almost certainly faking it. This surely starts the sexual component of the relationship off on the wrong foot.

    It takes two to screw up a relationship, and the woman faking it is the first half of the equation. The man blithely accepting it because it makes him feel more accomplished sexually completes the deal.

  2. This was an extremely illuminating article and I’m glad Stippy took the time to follow up to the original and get professional insight into the sexless situation. It seems that more than anything then, the key is open communication between couples. But the problem of perceived lack of communication is deeply rooted in other parts of Japanese society and likely not so easily changed. Still, it is encouraging to know that it is a problem that can be solved :). Perhaps in these comments we ought to think about methods that might encourage better communication in relationships, especially between couples where one or both of the partners is Japanese.

  3. Michael,
    I think it is going to take at least another two generations of Japanese to learn what a “marriage of love” means. Let’s face it, our generation were brought up by their parents who had marriage through omiai introductions. Marriage to them is a convenience that serves a purpose. It is all about “me” – it isn’t about “you” or “us”. Our wives have grown up seeing that tug of war between their selfish parents and so – rightly so? – assume that marriage is all about squeezing as many benefits for themselves as they can. When you give them some rope, they take it. When you slip up, they go in for the kill.. There is no going back. It is particularly bad when the hubbie is Western. At least Japanee males are used to it so they just get on and do their own thing (see the first article about sex OUTSIDE of the home). Western guys don’t get it so they spend too much time and effort trying to make the Japanese wife feel loved but at the end of the day she just sucks that all up, too.
    Perhaps after our grand children look at the mistakes that our children make, they might finally work out that you get more out of a marriage when you give more.

  4. I have known about this from many young married students of mine over the years. (female) Most of the older males I talked to lost interest in their wives years ago. Luckily when I first came to Japan I fell in with girls who were looking to avoid boring sex. There is also a slew of married women willing to get real orgazms. The problem is they think every blond white guy is the answer and when they find out some of them are clueless maybe they give up. So many guys run around thinking they are the king to Japanese women, when in fact they are just another trinket to keep from getting bored.
    On the other hand, many girls I know stopped having sex with Japanese guys because they are selfish in bed while some of the more enlightened foreign guys are willing to go all out. Probably because where we come from we won’t get a second chance if we don’t do all the foreplay/afterplay/go down “south” for extended periods and the like. It is strange to see a girl so appreciative when you do these things. It can feed your ego. But then you have to realize that the ego is what gets Japanese guys in trouble in the first place and you need to check yourself. But the appreciation she shows goes miles and miles and she can end up taking care of you until that ego causes you to be an ass. Then when she wants to get serious you are too used to being the king to 2-3 girls and you lose the best one.
    After all that the Japan/western marriages that seem to work out best in my observations, are ones where the Japanese partner is a little less Japanese. Quirky or too independent by Japanese standards. They are willing to be different while their friends and family tell them how marriage should be, they are willing to see things a little from our perspective. Many of these people had a good western experience like several years abroad at an influential time in their lives. When a Japanese partner is always saying “we Japanese” or “in Japan” I would consider running for the hills.

  5. I was just about to write this comment on the other sexless article but thought I’d leave half of it here as for me it really hit home after reading this article. I was out with some good Japanese friends the other night (all who I’d known for a long time) and we got onto the conversation of our sexless marriages (the vast majority there agreed). An interesting comment was from a girl. She claimed that she was actually keen for it but her husband was always “too tired” and so they were sexless. It surprised me until I read this. I guess she is one of the girls who rings Rieko. Why didn’t I marry her…

  6. Many thanks to Saigo-san and to Blue for the interview write-up. We had to wait a while, but it was good. No easy answer of course, but there’s some comfort in knowing someone is concerned and working on marshalling ideas and tools to address the problem. Many thanks again.

  7. My Japanese wife has a man she sees to satisfy her needs, We kind of have a don’t ask don’t tell policy with this but it seems to work for us.
    I wonder if this is common or the woman will self sacrifice her physical needs?

  8. I would like to say as well that I know my wife loves me very much.
    I her words sex outside the marriage is a little like “sport” It is fresher and feels easier for her.
    In comparison sex between my wife and I was always stilted, awkward and not really enjoyable for both of us so the fake orgasm thing was so true for us before marriage.

  9. Thanks for publishing the articles, they really hit home for me. With 2 kids and a Japanese wife, my current plan is to endure it until the kids are 18 (12 more years on the youngest) and then split. Has anyone else ever had this idea, or known anyone who tried it? How did it go?

  10. “In fact due to totally inadequate sex education in Japan (both in school and at home), porn flicks are the only guide that most Japanese men and women have about sex. ”

    I don’t understand a lot of this article.

    Who on earth learns about sex from some old geezer in a classroom!! We just took the mickey out of the adults who tried to teach us sex education.

    What about going behind the bikesheds when you’re 13 and 14 and experimenting with other kids your own age? What about parties when your parents are out, inviting classmates over… for lots of fun *without* intercourse? *This* is how most women learn about their sexuality, *not* from porn [shiver] or the older generation.

    Honestly, I’m just really confused about the idea that *any* female would look at porn for clues on sex. Porn is made by men for men and has nothing to do with female sexuality. At all. Women just act out male fantasies in exchange for cash to feed their kids or buy some clothes.

    In my experience, there is a correlation between a man’s ability to please a woman and the amount of porn he watches. The man who watched the most porn was the worst fuck I ever had. Men lose the ability to *feel* and *empathize* if they’ve gone all porn sick.

    Perhaps that’s the problem in Japan. It’s awash with porn and if a girl leaves it too late to get with a guy, chances are he’s already watched porn and thinks THAT’S what female sexuality is all about… and she thinks “well he’s a guy, he must be right and I’m wrong” and that’s how the slippery slope starts of her subsuming her own sexual needs for his. BY the time she meets the man she wants to marry she’s long ago forgotten about her authentic sexual needs. The body never lies though… a few years into marriage her authentic needs will surface, and she will resent the man who does not understand them

  11. For a moment, I was very scared with that sexless Japan article, but after reading this I can quite understand how women would act the way they do in Japan. It is good to see it from the point of view from the women, because if all we see is from the male’s point of view, we will only see problems without being able to solve them. This has certainly been quite enlightening. Not to say I am terribly experienced in this regard (far from it, actually), but let’s hope this article will keep me from making a lot of mistakes I would have made otherwise.

  12. The porn issue seems to be a real problem. In my oppinion it is doing some kind of brainwash to you, similar to drug abuse.
    But again, looking at myself, it is sooo fucking easy to get used to it, because it is quite easy to get and quite convenient, really like eating fastfood.

    That’s why my decision is from now very clear that I have to quit it or to lower it to an absolute minimum (like controlling your alcohol consumtion or any kind of drug).
    From a nearly daily use I will cut it straight away down!

    I’m really glad that I found the will and the clearness to face my own problems/behavior and the will to change it.

    Don’t feed your inner animal with crap, get some real shit for it. The girls (of course your wife, because she is knowing you the best) and feel that you are satisfied with “fastfood” and so there is less attraction to your hunter instinct which is obviously weaked very much!

    Since I found that blog, I really got new power and new will to change things in my life.
    So, I really hope that some of you guys can also get some kind of similar power and may can gain some positive apsects out of that whole messy thing you’re probably into.

    Regarding my situation, I know that it will be hard to change my attitude towards porn consumption, as it seems to me like some kind of a mental cold turkey.
    So, honestly I’m quite affraid but more than willing to face and overcome it!

    The laws about porn issues are not useless, porn should not been watched by teenagers. Never got that point actually until today (luckily i watched my first porn much later than i had my first girlfiend, as it was really not as available on the internet as it is today)

    So, guys also have a look at your behavior, maybe there are some fellows how can see themselfes in my post

  13. When she told me, I found it interesting that my partner had never masturbated herself and feels no need to touch herself when she is away from me.

    Also, it takes quite a considerable amount of time and energy to make her reach orgasm; once through intercourse, oftentimes stimulating the clitoris with fingers, and a handful of times with the tongue. Though, with the latter, I’m aiming to increase the count.

    I do hope that we don’t fit the stereotypes. As I told her, “sex or I should say, making love is part of a healthy relationship.”

  14. Saigo is giving awful advice. What else would you expect from a feminist, though? Vagina Monologues, Sex and the City, etc.

    “Saigo recommends that you try to redefine your Japanese partner’s perceptions of sex.” Right – change someone else’s philosophy of life. Good luck with that.

    Instead, try spanking your ‘maguro’, ravaging her, throwing her on the bed, and animalistically taking charge of your sex life.

    Spank her at other times, not just before sex. Feel free to enjoy it, too.

    Be a dominant man she can feel attracted to again. If you care about her feelings, you should be lifting weights and acting dominant (in your own way).

    After all of that, feel free to get her off with a toy or whatever. But only AFTER you have cemented your dominance and her attraction in the marriage.


  15. Burnt Bruce –

    You said once she takes ground / walks over you, there’s no going back. Not true if you wield a spanking hand.

    Women really do want male dominance, from their man.

    Don’t shield her from ‘the violence inherent in the system’, i.e. your male power and potential dominance.

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