Just when I feel jaded about the blogosphere, I discovered a new blog InvisibleGaijin that mixes wicked satire and faux news with a focus on men’s fashion. Swoon.
The above is from InvisibleGaijin’s story about Japanese underwear, which connects undergarment obsession with recession and soshoku danshi (herbivores), and in part reads:
Self-professed gaijin with love/hate relationship with Japan, Fuzakeruna Konogaijinme, commented, “Japanese salarymen always turn inwards in recessions, peering into their navels in hopes no one notices they don’t do shit at work. Underwear that makes your balls feel good always sells.”
(Image from www.pants-ya.com. Almost NSFW).
Reading a 1960s literary book by last century’s most celebrated Japanese to English translator, I was struck by his use of charmingly out-dated English. Famous North American translator describes how famous Japanese Meiji writer turned his attention from geishas to “slatterns.” The setting was the start of the 20th century, and the fiction writer was making the impossible biological transition from young man to middle age.
The context made clear that the “slattern,” lacking the art of the geisha, was a barely obscured word for prostitute. What a now quaint word to denote lack of sophistication, slovenly hair and costume, and inadequate hygiene.
With this delicious new word in mind, what did I see in the JR Metro but white plastic heart-shaped high heels? Yes, the heel itself was in the shape of a valentine’s day heart with the point serving as the base of the heel. Below is the closest approximation I could find on Google images. And, trust me, somehow the white plastic was even more slattern-ish than the lucite model.
My only question is why, even in Tokyo on a hot evening, can men not signal slattern-iciousness the way ladies can and often do? Step it up, herbivores-ladies danshi-gyaruo-otomen!
“Many of the boys I’ve met told me they cannot go out of their house if their hair doesn’t look perfect,” she said. “They have also told me that their self-esteem goes up when their nails look nice.” -Quoting Ushikubo Megumi who invented this new term”soshokukei” (草食男子) or “herbivores” to describe the new generation of men, 20-34.
What a happy day to read a Japan Times article that 60% of young men today can be classifed as “herbivores.” Also called “ojo-man” (lady-like men), this term seems to share many characteristics with the term “otomen” introduced by my online moe sensei Bangin.
Bangin does a great job contrasting the two terms in this recent post, and attributing soshokukei to the recently disgraced SMAP member Kusanagi Tsuyoshi who got drunk and then arrested for public nudity last month.
What makes the Japan Times article so delicious is how they trace this new attitude to the post-bubble gloom generation and highlight extremely unmanly, dare I say “gay” behaviors. The article, of course, goes on to quote a sociologist who claims these girly men are “not gay”: herbivores are “searching for heterosexual love while turning unisex.” Haha.
So here goes the definitions:
- 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).
I love how this new trend is also tied to the internet: Apparently these herbivores do not want to reproduce because they are “too physically tired to have sex, let alone start a family.” Supposedly, they are substituting sex with women with internet porn and “do-it-yourself” gadgets! A supporting quant stat is that condom shipments have been falling since 1999, the start of the internet revolution.
I am surprised that this focus on men’s hair and nails overlooks their incredibly tortured eye-brows. Ah, Japan and your girly men, WE LOVE YOU!