Herbivore men

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Herbivore men (草食(系)男子 Sōshoku(-kei) danshi?)[1] or grasseaters are a social phenomenon in Japan of men who shun marriage or gaining a girlfriend.[2] They are characteristically described as frugal, and interested in personal grooming.[3] Under this categorization scheme, men and women are either herbivore type (草食系 sōshoku-kei?) or carnivore type (肉食系 nikushoku-kei?). As of September 2010, 36% of Japanese men between the ages of 16 and 19 perceived themselves in this way.[4] Additionally, two surveys of single men in their 20s and 30s found that 61% and 70%, respectively, considered themselves grass-eating men.[5] This phenomenon is viewed by the Japanese government as a leading cause in the nation's declining birth rate, prompting the government to provide incentives for couples that have children, including payouts and free health care.[6]

The term was first coined by Maki Fukasawa in an article published on 13 October 2006, and became a buzzword in 2008 and 2009.[7][8][9][10]

This phenomenon has also created a shift in the Japanese economy. Men have been buying products such as cosmetics and sweets in greater quantities than before, and marketers have begun to shift to target this growing population. Products typical of the Japanese salaryman, such as cars, have shown a notable decrease in recent years; products geared toward family life, typically shunned by salarymen, have seen an uptick among fathers, as well.

According to Fukasawa, sōshoku danshi are "not without romantic relationships, but [have] a non-assertive, indifferent attitude toward desire of flesh". Later, philosopher Masahiro Morioka redefined sōshoku-kei danshi as men who are "the nice guys of a new generation who do not aggressively seek meat, but instead prefer to eat grass side by side with the opposite gender."[11]

Potential causes[edit]

Many social and economic factors are cited in playing a role in this phenomenon. The decline of the Japanese economy is often cited as a root cause as disillusionment in the economy has also caused Japanese men to turn their backs on typical "masculine" and corporate roles,[12] with over 2,500,000 freeters and between 650,000 and 850,000 NEETs living in Japan between the ages of 19 and 35.[13] Some professionals see this response ingrained in Japanese culture—while Westerners voice displeasure with hardships, the Japanese instead turn inwards.[14][15]

Many of these causes, however, may be enhanced by Japanese women and male perceptions of them. Many women refuse men that do not have steady jobs (such as freeters and NEET).[16] Other women feel that self-proclaimed soushoku-kei danshi (herbivore men) are weak and not masculine.[17] Additionally, some men have considered themselves intimidated by more independent women, while others show little to no interest in the opposite sex.[6][18] However, a poll of 16-19 year old women found that 59% were uninterested in sex, considerably higher than the male poll.[4]

This phenomenon has yet to be officially documented in other Asian nations. In China, the first report on Japanese herbivore men appeared in the state media Xinhuanet on December 1, 2008, and Masahiro Morioka's book Lessons in Love for Herbivore Boys was translated into Traditional Chinese in 2010 in Taiwan.[19]

Further reading[edit]

  • Masahiro Morioka "A Phenomenological Study of “Herbivore Men”", The Review of Life Studies, Vol.4 (September 2013):1-20
  • Chris Deacon - "All the World's a Stage. Herbivore Boys and the Performance of Masculinity in Contemporary Japan", in Brigitte Steger and Angelika Koch (eds) Manga Girl Seeks Herbivore Boy. Studying Japanese Gender at Cambridge 2013

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "From carnivores to herbivores: how men are defined in Japan". japantoday.com. Feb 16, 2012. Retrieved 31 March 2015. 
  2. ^ Yang, Jeff (2011-03-23). "After the end of the world". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-01-15. 
  3. ^ "Herbivorous men, where's the beef?". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2012-01-15. 
  4. ^ a b Tomikawa, Yuri (2011-01-13). "No Sex, Please, We're Young Japanese Men". The Wall Street Journal. 
  5. ^ Harney, Alexandra. "Japan panics about the rise of "herbivores"—young men who shun sex, don't spend money, and like taking walks. - Slate Magazine". Slate.com. Retrieved 2012-08-20. 
  6. ^ a b "Young Japanese 'decline to fall in love'". BBC News. 2012-01-11. 
  7. ^ lifestudies.org Special Report: Herbivore Men
  8. ^ "Japan's "herbivore" men shun corporate life, sex". Reuters. 2009-07-27. Retrieved 2012-01-15. 
  9. ^ "Blurring the boundaries". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2012-01-15. 
  10. ^ "Dude Looks Like a Lady in Our Recessionary Times: William Pesek". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2012-01-15. 
  11. ^ 『最後の恋は草食系男子が持ってくる』 (Translated: Herbivore Men Bring the Final Love) Masahiro Morioka. July 23, 2009
  12. ^ "Japan's "herbivore" men shun corporate life, sex". Reuters. 2009-07-27. 
  13. ^ "Youth Employment in Japan's Economic Recovery: 'Freeters' and 'NEETs'". JapanFocus. Retrieved 2012-08-20. 
  14. ^ "Unmasking Japan, Episode 2 "The Last Days of Pompeii?"". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-08-20. [dead link]
  15. ^ Teo, Alan. "Modern-Day Hermits: The Story Hikkomori in Japan and Beyond". Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  16. ^ "They need another hero". The Economist. 2009-10-29. 
  17. ^ "The last person out of the closet? The bisexual male". CNN. 2010-06-28. 
  18. ^ Harney, Alexandra. "Japan panics about the rise of "herbivores"—young men who shun sex, don't spend money, and like taking walks. - Slate Magazine". Slate.com. Retrieved 2012-08-20. 
  19. ^ "Lesson of Love for Herbivore Boys (Herbivore Men), 2008". Lifestudies.org. 2008-07-18. Retrieved 2012-08-20.