Japan's desperate housewives happy to pay for sexual healing

THE women who flock to Dr Kim Myong-gan’s clinic in a western suburb of Tokyo are desperate. Invariably they are well-dressed, intelligent and from outwardly stable and normal households.

There is, however, something very important missing from their married lives: sex. "Almost all the women who come to the clinic are married, but those marriages have been sexless for five years, 10 years, even 15 years," says Kim, a sexologist whose radical therapy techniques have won him adulation among Japan’s long-suffering female population.

The prescription for their pain is a date with a member of his hand-picked "sex volunteer corps". A team of 40 men, aged between 32 and 60 and chosen for their looks, sense of humour and ability to listen while the woman unburdens herself of the shortcomings of her husband, is operating in six Japanese cities.

After a meal in an up-market restaurant and a couple of drinks in a bar, they retire to a hotel to complete the healing process.

The term "sexless marriage" was first coined in Japan in the early 1990s, when therapists were confronted by a surge in the number of women admitting dissatisfaction with their love lives.

While Japan may be famous for the no-holds barred nature of its infamous "entertainment districts", in its annual sex survey in 2004 by Durex the average number of sexual encounters in 41 countries was 103 each year. Japan ranked last of the 41 nations with just 46 occasions a year. Britain was ninth on the list, with 119 times a year, while the top spot went to the frolicking French, with 137 encounters.

Kim said: "The problem among many Japanese men is that fairly soon after they get married, they begin to see their wives as their mothers, there to cook and clean for them. That makes it very hard to find them sexually attractive again."

About 200 women visit his clinic every year, the majority housewives in their 40s. Many have already turned to doctors or psychologists, who have suggested that they try talking to their husbands, getting a job or a new hobby.

After an initial two-hour interview, costing Y20,000 (100), the women are given a book containing photos and the personal details of Kim’s volunteers, whom he claims are not gigolos and he emphasised that he earns nothing from anything that happens beyond his clinic’s walls.