July 27, 2009
Have Japan's men become too feminine? It's become a subject of national debate in samurai country, and it has many worried. According to one Japanese insurance company, 75% of the 1,000 twenty- and thirty-something men it polled consider themselves "grass-eating men"—young male herbivores who have opted out of the rat race that characterized the the boom of decades past. Companies now fear that their "effeminate" ways threaten to further undermine Japan's long-troubled consumer economy. As Slate's Alexandra Harney has it:
Japanese companies are worried that herbivorous boys aren't the status-conscious consumers their parents once were. They love to putter around the house. According to Media Shakers' research, they are more likely to want to spend time by themselves or with close friends, more likely to shop for things to decorate their homes, and more likely to buy little luxuries than big-ticket items. They prefer vacationing in Japan to venturing abroad. They're often close to their mothers and have female friends, but they're in no rush to get married themselves, according to Maki Fukasawa, the Japanese editor and columnist who coined the term in NB Online in 2006.
It's a far cry, Harney writes, from the expectation that Japanese men "live like characters on Mad Men, chasing secretaries, drinking with the boys, and splurging on watches, golf, and new cars." Nowadays, young men are more apt to be like Ryoma Igarashi, who
likes going for long drives through the mountains, taking photographs of Buddhist temples and exploring old neighborhoods. He's just taken up gardening, growing radishes in a planter in his apartment.
Maybe they're just Buddhist. Or gay, as their detractors fear. Anyway, this all sounds pretty ordinary to me, but then, I live in lower Manhattan--not terribly far from Goldman Sachs--and grass-eaters sound sensible enough.
You can read the rest of Harney's piece here.