Wow. Thanks to a very heterosexual Japanese internet business person on Twitter, I heard about a website (and probably mobile app) that allows you to find restaurants and bars in Tokyo by searching for attractive staff. It’s called Kanaban Danshi for male staff, and Kanban Musume for female staff (Japanese only). Has anyone tried this out?!
“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!
Over the Golden Week holiday (May 1 to May 5), I am going with the ceramics senseis and some students to a small town in Shizuoka to make bizen pottery in a wood-fired kiln that will be heated for five days. We will take turns staying up all night to keep the fire lit.
Bizen pottery is very special. It is the oldest form of Japanese pottery, and can only be done in special kilns. Bizen uses no glaze, but instead organic materials like rice straw and pine ash placed on the ceramics produce red and brown markings and spots. The effects are often unpredictable, and they are called “yohen” or kiln accidents.
My first pieces include the four vases above, modeled on the one on the right. My line is still not very good, but I like the trick of turning a round shape into a twisted five-sided shape. I also made four rectangle plates, ten tiny bowls, and five vases that include ceramic lattices for arranging flowers. Two of the lattices are in the shape of steep inverted bowls that sit on top of shallow bowls; three are flat lattices that sit on cylinders and an octagon.
I am curious how they’ll turn out in the oven. We are leaving two weeks from today, and I may make a few more pieces before we go. I’ll post more pictures from the trip and the finished results.
Apparently the bizen town we are going to is super small, and I was warned that there would be no internet. Fortunately one of the students has a nation-wide mobile internet provider for his laptop. I also confirmed with the senseis that while the town is small, they are well stocked with conbinis (convenience stores).
On Monday, I had the supreme pleasure of helping my internet friend Bangin, the master teacher of otaku vocabulary for the English-speaking world, cosplay Kyon from The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi.
Bangin’s idea was to have Kyon, the narrator, provide a tour of Otome Road, the fujoshi (female geek) world capital in Ikebukero. My role was to take hundreds of photos. It was great fun since I’ve long admired Bangin’s blog, and I’d watched seven English subbed episodes online between the time he asked me and when we did the cosplay.
A brief summary of the manga and anime story: Kyon, the narrator, is a high school freshman who is trying to grow up. He falls under the spell of a dominant female classmate who organizes the SOS Brigade to make contact with extraterrestrials, time travelers, and ESP experts. Basically, she’s looking for magic in the mundane world, a lovely concept. The story has plenty of otaku moe (school girls in uniform, including one who is used as sexual bait to gain a computer, new members and attention), and a slash fan story of Kyon’s romance with the “mysterious (male) transfer student Koizumi.”
My National Science Foundation and Fulbright-sponsored university research with Rio de Janeiro drag queens in the early 1990s only partly prepared me for the role of cosplay photographer. Make-up, costume, fantasy, role-playing, utter seriousness, a depth of knowledge and passion– all to be expected.
What surprised me was the concern to not be “too loud” or too noticed while performing. I had thought it would be fun to interact with the butler cafe doorman, or the many fujoshi pulling their wheelie bags full of manga and doujinshi (fan slash manga). This was not Bangin’s idea at all. And, oddly, no fujoshi approached us to ask about Kyon.
Here you can read Bangin’s post about Otome Road. It’s even funnier than I anticipated because Bangin writes the whole travelogue in Kyon’s voice– being “forced” by Haruhi, and warned by Koizumi about the catastrophe of closed spaces. His introduction ends with, “Today is going to be my worst day in all of my life. Will you follow me? I will show around.” There are many photos, observations and explanations!
The finale of the tour is very amusing. Across from the dozens of shops catering to fujoshi is a small, somewhat uncared-for-park, where the young customers open up their purchases (and homeless people make their home, which reminded me of San Francisco).
The photo at the top of the post shows Kyon’s shock and horror that he is the subject of a Koizumi x Kyon doujinshi. Bangin provided the quote, “How come I am uke?!”