The prevailing wisdom in Japan is that women are the arbiters of consumer culture. Traditionally, men were thought — or thought themselves — to be above the petty considerations of how to spend money. But the lingering recession and its negative effects on the employment situation have changed everything. Young men are no longer automatically expected to pay for dates, if, in fact, they ever actually go on dates. Even salaried male employees are openly anxious about their pocket money, counting every last yen and budgeting their output. It’s not just their wives’ or girlfriends’ jobs any more.
The popular promotional scheme known as Ladies Days are implemented by retailers and service providers to lure women to their businesses. On certain days of the week, month or year, women receive discounts from hotels, movie theaters, restaurants, etc., as a means of getting more of them interested in what they offer. Such promotions were never offered to men, and not just because of male pride. Men, after all, are believed to run the world. As the advantaged gender, why should they get a break?
Well, a number of businesses think it’s about time men did get a break. Mainichi Shimbun recently reported on the trend for Men’s Days, mainly centered on eating establishments. The article talks about a Portuguese restaurant in Ginza where every Monday male patrons’ first glass of beer is free and only men get to order the pudding for dessert. The manager of the establishment, a man, told the paper, “There are lots of Ladies Days, and I thought that was strange.”
His response is sort of strange, too. We have more faith in the comment from a female manager of another restaurant with a Men’s Day special in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture. Her restaurant on designated days offers extra helping of pasta and rice to men for free, not to mention free side orders of soup. Why? Ninety percent of their patrons are women, and men normally eat more than women do, which means they potentially spend more. “We want repeat business.”