Edited by Allison Alexy, Emma E. Cook Contributor(s): S. P. F. Dale, Laura Dales, Kathryn E. Goldfarb, Yukari Kawahara, Kaoru Kuwajima, Elizabeth Miles, Shana Fruehan Sandberg, Diana Adis Tahhan, Beverley Anne Yamamoto, Chigusa Yamaura



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How do couples build intimacy in an era that valorizes independence and self-responsibility? How can a man be a good husband when full-time jobs are scarce? How can unmarried women find fulfillment and recognition outside of normative relationships? How can a person express their sexuality when there is no terminology that feels right? In contemporary Japan, broad social transformations are reflected and refracted in changing intimate relationships. As the Japanese population ages, the low birth rate shrinks the population, and decades of recession radically restructure labor markets, Japanese intimate relationships, norms, and ideals are concurrently shifting.

This volume explores a broad range of intimate practices in Japan in the first decades of the 2000s to trace how social change is becoming manifest through deeply personal choices. From young people making decisions about birth control to spouses struggling to connect with each other, parents worrying about stigma faced by their adopted children, and queer people creating new terms to express their identifications, Japanese intimacies are commanding a surprising amount of attention, both within and beyond Japan. With ethnographic analysis focused on how intimacy is imagined, enacted, and discussed, the volume's chapters offer rich and complex portraits of how people balance personal desires with feasible possibilities and shifting social norms.

Intimate Japan will appeal to scholars and students in anthropology and Japanese or Asian studies, particularly those focusing on gender, kinship, sexuality, and labor policy. The book will also be of interest to researchers across social science subject areas, including sociology, political science, and psychology.



Publication Date

Fall 10-31-2018


University of Hawaiʻi Press




Asia, Japan, social science, gender studies, anthropology, cultural anthropology, social anthropology, human sexuality, psychology, marriage & family, intimacy, sociology


Community-Based Research | Family, Life Course, and Society | Gender and Sexuality | Other Anthropology | Regional Sociology | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Social Psychology | Sociology of Culture


  • "The contributors to this volume offer refreshing portrayals of Japanese people’s intimate relationships in the context of social and economic changes over the last few decades. Through the theme of ‘intimacy,’ they give us a thorough picture of the new normal in everyday life in Japan. How, where, with whom, and why do people form or end relationships? How do they communicate and express their emotions toward each other? What stresses do people feel from social norms as they craft their own paths to intimacy? Allison Alexy and Emma Cook have put together a highly readable, well-researched, current, and fascinating book on an under-studied topic."
    —Glenda S. Roberts, Waseda University

Intimate Japan: Ethnographies of Closeness and Conflict