Following the big earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan last March 11, one part of the news I read each day is about the conditions, developments and ongoing problems many Japanese continue to struggle with in overcoming the destruction and loss in that catastrophe. Tremendous progress has been made in providing those affected with basic necessities and a place to stay, and from what one can gather the lack of this or that need grows smaller week by week. There has also been a big effort by professionals to help the victims deal with stress and the mental pressures that follow such overwhelming loss.
Clicking on first one link and then another this morning led me to a CNN based story that surely anyone would describe with a variety of adjectives—strange, obscene, nutty, obsessed, lascivious, funny, practical—and yes Japanese. At first, aid for the tsunami victims took the form of food, blankets, clothing and essential toiletries. But three months later and little hope of a return to home in sight, one man at least believes there’s need for a new sort of aid. Most would have thought the very last thing on anyone’s mind in the earthquake-tsunami stricken areas would be sex toys. Apparently we would have thought wrong. One shrewd good Samaritan has also given consideration to hankering of another sort.
According to volunteer Shinichi Motoyanagi, life in a shelter means living in close quarters with other couples and families, and can become stressful for some of the men in an unexpected way. Motoyanagi returned in late March to his home prefecture of Fukushima to assist in recovery efforts. He discovered that the shelters were full of healthy males with no outlet for relief of sexual frustration. That’s where a company called Tenga comes in.
According to the tabloid Tokyo Reporter, Japan’s top sex toy manufacturer has created a sensation in recovery efforts by donating hundreds of its most popular product to Tohoku shelters. Tenga’s can-shaped, lubricant-filled and totally ergonomic synthetic “girlfriend” has already made a splash among young men and loners in forty countries around the world. Now, we’re told, they’re doing their part to ease tensions in crowded shelters up north.
It all began with Motoyanagi’s observations and conversations with a few of the males living in Fukushima shelters. Using his own money he purchased and donated several dozen of the Tenga products to shelter residents in Iwaki City. Word of Motoyanagi and the Tenga ‘aides’ spread quickly and it wasn’t long before Tenga Co., Ltd. stepped in to provide their devices to residents free of charge.
My personal feeling is that we shouldn’t be too quick to pass judgement on this kind of assistance. After all, masturbation is hardly a practice that is Japanese specific. We may not like to talk about it (and neither do the Japanese in my experience) but it’s there, always was and always will be, no matter the saints, Sunday school teachers or any amount of repressiveness. In the thoughts of some, the only less than altruistic part of this story is that Tenga has in mind something more than community aide, and that is surely a profit motive stemming from the free advertising and likely recommendation of its product. After all, among the 2.53 million Tenga customers worldwide one satisfied user commented, “Tenga don’t talk back at you.”
WARNING: The Tenga product commercial advertised in the YouTube clip below is a very frank explanation of its Tenga Cup series. Viewer discretion is advised.