Mixed bathing is a distinctive feature of Japan. It has a history of at least 1,300 years. It's outrageous that some mindless people are destroying this tradition. -
Haven't you ever wondered what changes entrenched social norms into outdated, even taboo ones?
That is what seems to be happening in Japan, with the torpid decline of the custom of kon-yoku, mixed hotspring baths (called onsen, generally).
For over a thousand years, as Tadanori Matsuda of the Japan Hot Spring Research Institute, said, men and women bathed together naked without any qualms.
The Japanese attitude was that it was a time to relax, get clean, and latterly, to socialise without prudishness.
-- Although it is deeply taboo in Japanese society, then and now, to show a certain hirsute region of the human body --
But since the 1990's, something has changed.
It can't be explained away by recent scandals which have surrounded the onsen, such as fraudulent claims of purifying qualities to their natural spring waters, when it was found they were merely heating up tap water.
Nor can it be dismissed as fallout from a recommendation from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in 1991, which asked resorts to avoid mixing men, women and children over the age of 10, together, in onsen.
It's impossible that suddenly an activity which was innocuous, is now seen as wholly lecherous. There's something else afoot here.
Such guys, he says, see mixed bathing as nothing more than an opportunity to gawk at naked women.
"Some will position themselves facing the exit of the women's changing room and some will sit in the bath all day, carrying water bottles so they don't dehydrate," Matsuda says.
That's male desperation:
The traditional outlet for a man who feels unable to deal with women on an interpersonal level, and merely gawps at them from afar, as objects.
And I'm very sad to say, that I think it's because of the rise of the otaku culture.
Otaku is the word given to mostly male gamers, and computer geeks, who spend countless hours paying games online, as well as reading manga, and watching anime.
With its overemphasis on online porn, and lack of personal contact, this is not just a Japanese phenomenon, but in a very formal, ritualistic society where social barriers are greater than in the West, it simply encourages it more.
That's right. They're Japanese nerds.
It is this growth of the otaku, which has been threatening to take over a whole youth culture since the 1970s, which might go a long away to explain the sad demise of a previously unthinkingly natural custom.
As certain Western cultures transform themselves or continue their custom of co-ed toilets, like in France, other even more ancient Eastern cultures seem to be losing what makes them truly unique.
All one can say is, watch out Finland.