Japanese Studies

In Japan’s time-honored practices, gender binary was pretty much imposed on its culture.
According to the Japanese traditions, men exhibited hegemonic masculine traits, such as family
breadwinners, excessive tobacco and alcohol consumption, while women exhibited feminine
traits of subordination. Men were expected to assume manly role, visit seedy nightclubs, and
splurge on opulence goods. Their women are expected to assume subservient roles domestic as
well as public life according to the housewife emphasized femininities (Fukasawa, 2009). If
Japanese women were not fulltime housewives, they worked in offices and their roles involved
taking notes in boards and meetings and serving tea.Thus there was clear demarcation between
expectations and roles of the two genders. This binary is, however, rapidly changing with the
increasing boom of young men who are less determined and willing to assume the breadwinner’s
role. They care called herbivore men. The number of herbivore men is increasing due to change
in the gender norm in Japan. The concept of herbivore man does not support the idea of
salaryman masculinity that formed a system of male dominance and female subordination. This
essay will examine gender practices that constitute herbivore masculinity, particularly,
considering the degree to which such practices lead to gender equality. It will also examine the
effect of herbivore masculinity on the demographic problems in Japan.
Gender Equality and Herbivore Men
Fukasawa (2009) coined the term herbivore men (Soushokukeidashi) to describe
heterosexual Japanese who engage in feminine consumption practices, lack ambition and shun
relationships with opposite sex; who pursue lower salaried, less demanding jobs rather than
pursuing corporate careers (Morioka, 2013). A key characteristic of herbivore men is their
femininized consumption practices, such as shopping, fine dining, and beautification practices.

Rather than forming relationships with women, they like being alone playing computer games
and surfing the internet.
Although salaryman masculinity are in the condition of upheaval, the rise of alternative
masculinies (herbivore masculinity) is in no way a signal that gender relations are increasing
becoming more equal in Japan. Rather, herbivore identities signify a context in which long
cherished and traditional masculine gender practices are presently unavailable. In rejoinder to
this socio-cultural landscape, herbivore masculinity involves a travesty of alternative gender
practices which might equalize the relationship between masculinity and femininity.
While herbivorization appears to subvert numerous aspects of salaryman masculinity, it fails to
considerably weaken the superior status of masculinity over femininity (Charlesbois, 2013).
Herbivore masculinity expands to sectors of wage labor, interpersonal relationships, body
grooming, and sexuality. Material wealth and professional success are not core elements of
herbivore as they are vital to salaryman masculinity (Tokuhiro, 2010). While herbivore men are
unwilling to show total commitment to a corporation, most of them are not opposed to steady,
permanent employment. The major difference between the salaryman men and herbivore men is
that work performs crucial function of supporting herbivore man’s lifestyle, whilst they delineate
their masculinity via alternative social practices.
Since the achievement of material wealth and professional success are practices unrelated to
herbivore masculinity, herbivore men occupy a less prevailed class
Herbivore men are more aesthetically-oriented than salaryman men because herbivore
masculinity is associated with body management practices of hair styling, dieting, adherence to
skincare regimes and eyebrow grooming (Ushikubo, 2008). Even though an investment in

personal appearance and personal grooming are becoming part of modern salaryman masculinity,
these practices are more pronounced in herbivore men.
The establishment of intimate relationships with opposite sex is another herbivore
practice that strengthens herbivore masculinity and undermines salaryman masculinity.
Herbivore men enjoysconnecting with their female friends via negating in mutual activities like
dining out, cooking, and shopping (Fukasawa, 2009). The formation of intimate associations
counters the idea that herbivore men are emotionally inexpressive and therefore unable to
establish emotional bonds with females. Herbivore relationships, by contrast, reach an echelon of
intimacy that indisputably equals physical intimacy and defies a hegemonic heterosexual
assumption that heterosexual desire is the structuring agent of most male-female bonding
(Charlesbois, 2013).
Herbivore masculinity moreover defies salaryman masculinity in relation to romantic
relationships and sexuality. Herbivore men take a more passive role in romantic bonding (Chen,
2012). Accordingly some herbivore men redirect the leadership role to females and allow women
to act as decision-makers concerning matters like location of dates and venues. Nevertheless
herbivore behavior is a heterogeneous category, in that some herbivore men find it hard to ask
females to go out on a date, experience their feelings of romance, whilst others are engaged in
steady monogamous relationships (Charlesbois, 2013). Moreover, there are women who desire
more masculine men and thus find the herbivore men not up to the task.
Effects on the Demographic Problems
Herbivore men have become the topic of moral panic since they are less interested in
forming intimate relationships, are going against gender roles, as well as contributing to
decreasing birth rate. Japan has one of the lowest birth rates in the world and with the increasing

herbivore men, the country is going to plunge in the near future and thus cause a national
The increasing number of herbivore men is raising an alarm for Japan because of its
growing problems of an aging population, economic stagnation, and declining birth rates. The
progressive herbivorization of men of productive ages might lead to total lack of assertiveness
and competition in relationships, as well as other aspects of life. Unmarried young men are
increasingly more than their female counters in Japan. Research shows that 18-34 year-old males
who do not have a female partner is about 60 percent. Additionally, 20-30-year old males would
rather be unmarried all their entire life. In addition to informational employment, unmarried men
are increasing everyday due to gender and partner norm.
Herbivore men possess low echelons of disposable income. This poses a challenge to
marketers in Japan in their effort to stimulate the stagnant economy of Japan because a
considerable percentage of men are frugal in its spending.
Increase in gender equality in workplace has also led to an increase of independent
women, resulting in a change in the balance of power between men and women. Despite the
persisting conservative attitudes in workplace and at home, women in Japan have become more
ambitious and independent. Yet the punishing corporate world in Japan will make difficult for
women to blend a family and career. Moreover, men will feel no attraction for independent


Various socio-cultural transformations have influenced the rise of nonhegemonic,
oppositional masculinities. Herbivore masculinity represents a nonhegemonic masculinity which
has surfaced due to changing social landscape and therefore, goes against salaryman masculinity.

While herbivore masculinity appears to subvert numerous aspects of salaryman masculinity, it
fails to considerably weaken the superior status of masculinity over femininity. The social
pressure to be conventional to the anachronistic family approach of a salaryman husband and
housewife for women still remains.



Charlesbois, J. (2013). Herbivore masculinity as an oppositional form of masculinity. Culture,
Society & Masculinity, 5(1): 89-104
Chen, S. (2012). “The rise of soushokukeidanshi masculinity and consumption.”In contemporary
Japan. In C. Otnes& L.T. Zayer (Eds.), Gender, culture, and consumer behavior(pp. 285-
310). New York, NY: Routledge.
Fukasawa, M. (2009). Soushokukeidanshi no sedai[The herbivore generation]. Tokyo, Japan:
Morioka, M. (2013).A Phenomenological Study of “Herbivore Men.The Review of Life Studies,
Tokuhiro, Y. (2010). Marriage in contemporary. New York: Routledge.
Ushikubo, M. (2008).The herbivorous ladylike men are changing Japan. Tokyo: Kodansha.

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