‘Herbivore’ men shun sex, work
Hotel worker Roshinante has no interest in actively pursuing women, is nonchalant about a career and finds cars a bore — and he is not alone in opting for a quiet, uncompetitive lifestyle.
Roshinante, 31, who prefers the anonymity of his online handle, is one of a growing group of men dubbed “herbivorous boys” by the media, who are rejecting traditional masculinity when it comes to romance, jobs and consumption in an apparent reaction to the tougher economy.
Forget being a workaholic, corporate salary-man. These men, raised as the economic bubble burst, are turning their backs on Japan’s stereotypical male roles in what is seen as a symptom of growing disillusionment in their country’s troubled economy.
“Since I was a child, I hated people telling me, ‘Behave like a man’,” said Roshinante, who runs a forum on popular Japanese social network site Mixi for frank discussion about herbivores.
For decades, Japanese men were expected to work full-time after graduating from high school or college, marry and support their wife and children. Roshinante, a university graduate, has no plans to follow that path. “I don’t think my parents’ way of life is for me,” he said.
Almost half of 1,000 men aged 20-34 surveyed by market research firm M1 F1 Soken identified themselves as “herbivorous,” defined literally as grass-eating but in this context as not being interested in flesh or passive about pursuing women.
The media hype has sent marketing experts scurrying to see if there is money to be made from herbivores, many of whom are spending more time and money on their appearance. “We cannot ignore herbivorous boys because they are almost a majority,” said Shigeru Sakai, a researcher at M1 F1 Soken.
The mindset appears to be a reaction to the end of Japan’s late 1980s “bubble economy” of soaring asset prices, when everything looked rosy, and a subsequent economic slump. “Herbivorous men always existed,” said columnist Maki Fukasawa, who is credited with coining the term. “But the bursting of the bubble and the collapse of lifetime employment contributed to their increase.”