“You tell your boyfriend, if he says he’s got beef That I’m a vegetarian and I ain’t scared of him”

Apparently there are some changes in Japan regarding gender roles, creating the modern social phenomenon of  草食男子 soushoku-danshi or “herbivore men” (the tendency for young Japanese males to have less ambition in life and to prefer a quiet evening in front of the computer to pursuing girls) and 肉食女子 nikushoku-joshi or “carnivore women”(more aggressive about getting what they want and more than happy to ask a man she likes out).


One woman describes this : “Men of our generation are terrible…more interested in reading men’s fashion magazines and working part-time jobs than dating. They have no drive, no hunger.”

In September 2010, 36% of Japanese males, aged 16-19 surveyed described themselves as  “indifferent or averse” towards having sex, although an astounding 59% of females aged 16-19 stated the same feels towards sex. In a country already struggling with low birth rates, this is not bode well for the future. It is seen as the men breaking free from the pressure to be “manly”. It is assumed this change has occurred because  Japan hasn’t been in a war for over 60 years now. This is compared to the United States who has been in and out of wars since 1945, and has a steady supply of ‘manly’ war veterans. Although, the erosion of sexual boundaries, isn’t necessarily a new thing, Japan had a group of herbivorous men in the Edo Period, when the peace lasted 260 years under the Tokugawa Shognate. Image

The soshokukei boys are described as having the following characteristics:

• They are not as competitively minded about their jobs as men in older generations.

• They are fashion conscious and eat sparingly so they can stay thin and fit into skintight clothes.

• They are chummy with their moms and often go shopping together.

• They are not interested in dating girls, having relationships, or even having sex (choosing from a plethora of “self-help” toys instead).

• They are very tight with their money and often carry several retailers’ “point cards” around, declaring that those who don’t pinch pennies are stupid.


Mr. Kunio explained these findings by stating, “The findings seem to reflect the increasing shallowness of human relations in today’s busy society.” A hairstylist sees it a bit differently, “It’s not so much that men are becoming more like women. It’s that the concept of masculinity is changing…Back then (1980’s), Japanese men had to be passionate and aggressive, but now those characteristics are disliked. Our members have very mild personalities. They simply enjoy what they like without prejudice. They are not limited by expectations”.

This shift in personalities is even more apparent in their ‘Sex in the City’ style show called Otomen (Girly Guys), where the lead character, a martial arts experts, secretly sews, bakes, and crochets clothes for his stuffed animals. Image

Amy Chavez from ‘Japan Times’ is full of advice for these herbivore men to change them back to the old ideal of ‘men’.  “When duty calls, they leave their computers for a few hours, chase some female lions, fight for one who is really hot, and goes home with them to live happily ever after.”

She even has advice to increase they’re manliness: 

-“Gain some weight. A lean look is fine, but not that lean! Don’t leave your women saying where’s the beef? Eat manly stuff — hamburgers orchanko nabe. Eat till it hurts — because you can. You’re a man!

-Gain some muscle. Japanese guys are not big on muscle, which is fine, but you should still be able to move furniture and get the lids off of jars.

-Grow some hair. If you are one of the fortunate ones who can, I recommend you grow a beard. Beards will at least distinguish you from women.

-Change your stance. Stand up straight, for god’s sake. Then swashbuckle a bit. Swagger.” 

Any thoughts on how this will affect Japan in the future?

Listen to this NPR story on herbivore men







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