SŌSHOKU(KEI) DANSHI:THE (UN)GENDERED QUESTIONS ON CONTEMPORARY JAPAN
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Raluca Nicolae: Technical University of Civil Engineering Bucharest
Romanian Economic Business Review, 2014, vol. 9, issue 3, 66-81
Japanese civilization has been challenged by social, economic and cultural upheavals that caused the young men to question the patriarchal roles they had to play in society. The nowadays generations are slowly losing their sense of masculinity or trying to get rid of the heavy, ostentatious maleness. Consequently, new types of gendered identities have been assumed in the past years: femi-otoko-kun (the smooth skinned, slim, feminine boy who displays growing aesthetic tendencies) in 2000, Akiba-kei (the otaku boys in Akihabara district in Tokyo with a strong interest in fantasy world, anime, manga, idols and games as part of a techno-subculture) in 2005 and the relatively recent sōshoku(kei) danshi (herbivore men/grass eating men) in 2010. The term was first coined by Maki Fukasawa in a series of articles in the Nikkei Business online website in October 2006, but it was not until 2009 that the term really took root. The sōshoku(kei) danshi is a young man (in his 20s of 30s) who earns little, takes a keen interest in fashion and appearance and believes in platonic relations among men and women. This phenomenon is regarded by the Japanese government as a possible cause in the nation’s declining birth rate, motivating the government to provide incentives for couples that have children, including payouts and free health care. Whereas in other foreign countries men might become frustrated or even antisocial, the sōshoku(kei) danshi is the Japanese response to the tremendous social pressures: he chooses not be bothered by romantic relations or work responsibilities, he is not assertive or goal-orientated and carrier is not among his top priorities. In other words, the old archetype of puer aeternus is now restored in the psyche of young Japanese generation.
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