Posts Tagged ‘soshokukei’

Some Japanese women crave a rougher cut of man

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

Young, fresh faced and ripped, the nikushokukei danshi is the dish du jour for the modern Japanese woman, according to some media outlets.

Young, fresh faced and ripped. The new ideal guy?

Young, fresh faced and ripped. The new ideal guy?

The word refers to beefy guys who do a physically demanding job and is a reversal of sōshokukei danshi (grass-eating men), a term popularized in 2008 that describes the new breed of gentle, passive men emerging in Japanese society. While sōshokukei reflected an emerging social reality, nikushokukei reveals an a female fantasy that is in part a reaction against the grass-eating males.

It all got started in August when “Sagawa Danshi,” a photo book featuring 51 cute young Sagawa Express delivery guys was published. The book was a surprise hit, going into its second print run in a matter of only two weeks. Excite News reported that a meet-and-greet session last month was attended by more than 100 fans, both male and female, who came to take snaps of their favorite pin-ups.

In September, nikushokukei danshi were featured on Fuji TV’s “Tokudane” show. The show highlighted the success of the Sagawara book and also mentioned the Okinawa Firemen’s Calendar 2012, which sold its first print run of 1,000 copies in just two weeks and a further limited-edition run of 3,000 on the web after a flood of media interest. Profits went to an NPO that raises money for Okinawa’s first-aid helicopter, and they are already taking orders for 2013. Though such news wouldn’t have much impact in the West, where calendars of ripped hunks are nothing new, in Japan it was somewhat of a new phenomenon.

So what, exactly defines a nikushokukei danshi apart from a nice bod? There’s a big clue in the word itself. Shoku can mean either profession or type of diet, depending on the Chinese characters used in the word. It sounds like an antonym of the “grass-eaters” that these guys tower over. But it’s a pun — in this case, the reading of the characters is “physical laborer.” Fuji TV’s show highlighted the fact that nikushokukei danshi get their muscles not from the gym but from doing a job that requires manual labor, hence the popularity of the Sagawa Men and Okinawan fire fighters.

The second important feature of these new pin-ups is that they are wholesome, fresh faced and bright eyed. Journalist Kiriya Takahashi, in an article for Happyism, expanded on this point by stating that their character should come through in their sparkling eyes, and that any hint of lechery or violence is a definite no-no. Takahashi goes further and suggests that what Japan needs in these turbulent times is not weedy sōshokukei danshi but more nikushokukei danshi who can make decisions and emerge as tomorrow’s leaders.

Another word that sums up the nikushokukei danshi physical aesthetic is hoso macho, or slender macho, a term that was popularized back in 2009 with Suntory’s Protein Water ad. Hoso macho refers to guys that are ripped but not obscenely so and is used to describe hunky celebrities, like Hidetoshi Nakata, who work out but still stay svelte. If the term nikushokukei danshi takes off, it will be used to refer to guys who exemplify not just the hoso macho aesthetic but who take it to another level with their fresh-faced charm. Whether the grass-eating types will give up their desk jobs and try to transform themselves into rippling upstanding citizens remains to be seen.

Businessmen come out smelling like roses

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

The Otoko Kaoru Fragrance Shirt emits a subtle scent of menthol and roses

Some Japanese men will be smelling of roses just in time for Valentine’s day. The Otoko Kaoru (good-smelling man) Fragrant Shirt was released for sale in Japan just last month and is attracting a lot of attention from retailers who have snapped up the first run of these sweetly smelling garments. A tie-in with Otoko Kaoru chewing gum, the collar of the shirt releases the same rose and menthol fragrance as the gum when rubbed against the skin.

Rose-scented micro-capsules are embedded in the shirt’s collar and if they’re rubbed or put under pressure they explode, releasing a liquid that evaporates into the air around. The scent is designed to be subtle rather than overpowering and can only be smelled when the shirt is worn. It will also gradually lose its potency over time and manufacturer’s claim its good for around 10 washes, after which the smell fades completely.

Part of the buzz around this product is down to the original Otoko Kaoru gum made by Kracie. The rose and menthol fragrance of the gum was said to be absorbed through the mouth and digestive tract after which your skin allegedly secretes the same delectable scent. Yum!  Launched back in 2006, the limited-edition gum proved so popular that it sold out and had to be slowly re-released region by region to prevent shortages. Kracie stopped producing the gum in August 2010 and has since been working with textile manufacturer Shikibo to produce the shirt. If all goes well they’re planning to produce a polo shirt and pajamas with the same properties.

The range of shirts, which cost around ¥3,000, could well prove a hit. Deodorizing shirts and suits have been popular in the last decade with middle-aged businessmen worried about subjecting others to their bad BO. We’re also thinking that the menthol rose smell will appeal to the new breed of herbivorous men who take personal grooming and hygene extremely seriously.

Bento boys rock the lunch box

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Bento boxes for men now stack vertically

Bento boxes for men now stack vertically

Nestlé have recently launched a cute new site called “Bento Danshi Park” (Lunch Box Boys’ Park) that allows visitors to take a peek inside the carefully prepared lunch boxes of the nation’s salarymen. Feeding off the bento danshi trend that exploded last year, the site allows male users to upload photos of their packed lunches, which are then rated by other users.

The trend began with a string of media reports that stated modern men were more likely to bring a packed lunch to work for economic and health reasons. Proving that this wasn’t all hot air, BP Net reported that Tokyu Hands saw a significant rise sales of bento boxes specifically designed for men and that publishing companies also done well with recipe books for simple bento lunches. For example, last spring the publication of “Bokuben” (My Lunch Box) by Matsuki Kamizawa (Goma Books), a how-to book aimed at male readers, proved to be a big hit.

A homemade bento, prepared with the right ingredients, can cost as little as ¥200, and some male workers have managed to slash their daily budgets even further by joining the new tribe of “suitou danshi” – men who take drinks to work in a thermos.

Many men, however, have reportedly been drawn to making bento simply out of a desire to learn how to cook. Attractive and healthy bento were matched with herbivorous men (yet another media catchphrase used to describe Japan’s version of the metrosexual) and Nestlé’s site is clearly aimed at that niche market. And what’s the link between bento and Nestlé, you might rightly ask? Turns out that it’s all to promote more soshokukei danshi (herbivorous men) eating airy Aero chocoloate.

At the time of writing, however, the top-ranked box lunch on Bento Danshi Park was a simple Chinese-style fried rice, accompanied by a piece of fried chicken, which perhaps indicates the site is frequented by guys who rate speed and economy over acquiring complicated culinary skills. Maybe the campaign isn’t exactly hitting the herbivore target after all.

One of the coolest innovations to accompany the trend is the rise of the vertically stacking lunch box, which is specifically designed to fit into briefcases. The theory being that flat-bottomed lunch boxes will just get upended if they’re put in alongside documents. This one from Metaphys is particularly cool and shows that the simplest bento can still be eaten with style.

Trends in Japan 2009: changing gender roles

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

New man? Otomen's main character is in touch with his feminine side

New man? Otomen’s main character is in touch with his feminine side

You’ve probably seen them, preening  in front of station mirrors in public, teasing their hair until it looks just so. Or maybe you’ve seen the beauty products available to them, including foundation and eyebrow tweezers.

No, not the gals; we’re taking about the much hyped new breed of man known as soshokukei (herbivorous). According to the talking heads and pop psychiatrists, the herbivore is more interested in his appearance, less interested in his career and increasingly passive with girls. The phrase was coined by writer Megumi Ushikubo back in 2007 and has caught on so much that some men now proudly describe themselves as herbivores without feeling any social shame. Typical herbivore pastimes include such things as cooking, clothes shopping and eating sweets, and naturally the older generation of carnivorous skirt-chasing careerists are appalled by this new tribe, seeing them as lazy and unwilling to take on the responsibilities of an adult man.

This year a popular TV series was launched depicting just such a man in crisis with his public identity and private desires. “Otomen” tells the story of Asuka Masamune. Adept at judo and karate he appears to be the toughest guy in high school, but behind closed doors he loves sewing and romantic manga. The manga that inspired the TV series was extremely popular, showing perhaps that the character struck a chord, albeit with the young girls at which the drama was aimed.

Continue reading about changing gender roles →

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