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Chewing the Cud: Herbivores

Emergency Message to the MSM
June 1, 2009

From the desk of The Reporter Generalissimo

To Japan correspondents:

Please go and write an article about Japan’s soushokudanshi: the so-called herbivore men.


We don’t care that this is an old story in the Japanese media.

The Reporter Generalissimo

CNN – “Japan’s ‘herbivore men’ — less interested in sex, money” (June 8, 2009)

Independent UK – “Japan’s Generation XX” (June 13, 2009)

Slate – “The Herbivore’s Dilemma” (June 15, 2009)


Marxy sez: I will have some deeper thoughts on this soon…

W. David MARX
June 18, 2009

13 Responses

  1. morphine Says:

    Story created by the Japanese media arbitrarily and artificially coining a term and presenting it as news.

  2. Adamu Says:

    As regulator of the Japanese language, the Cultural Affairs Agency should have the power to fine Dentsu for Japanese terms and trends that demonstrably harm the Japanese public, this being one of them.

    That said, this is kind of an apt description. Even before there was a term to describe it, we’ve been seeing this trend away from alcohol and lavish spending, which is partly explained by macro developments such as the worsening employment environment and lower wages. Also, this is the generation that grew up with the massive popularity of SMAP and other boy groups to the point that Kimutaku is the ubiquitous symbol of manhood. Imagine if in the 1990s Joey Lawrence lost 20 pounds, had 2 primetime shows on every channel, 5 number one hit singles a year, carried a handbag, and wore his hair like a 1960s housewife (that part he almost had covered).

  3. M-Bone Says:

    “That said, this is kind of an apt description.”

    Ex-militarists were making the same kinds of claims about postwar pansies in 1947.

    Seriously, this is the same Japanese media (mostly Fuji and NTV) that’s claiming that Japanese young people (right up to 30ish freetas) are a bunch of random stabbing, uyoku, gang raping, baseball bat bashing thugs. Which is it going to be? Depends on which they have a good lead-in clip for I guess.

    As for why so many foreign stories – I have a feeling that it has something to do with the crap standard of Japan reporting in the mainstream English media….

  4. Marxy Says:

    The economic system has not gotten rid of seniority wages in any meaningful way, does not pay a lot for creative work that benefits young people, and has knocked most labor out of the white collar wage growth category. Everyone is dirt poor, and the only form of social action was “consumption.” So everyone is now “passive” in that they are not adequate consumers compared to a now-impossible level. People hate the Soshokudanshi as a proxy for their frustration with the economic system. It has castrated the men.

  5. M-Bone Says:

    This is interesting.

    My feeling is that Japanese public talk about the “new poor” (working poor, freeters and whatnot) focused on 自己責任 for most of the decade. Most television reportage, etc. would be accusing young people of being lazy, unrealistic, not willing to work. There were hit books like 下流社会 that blamed everything on the young. It has only really been in the last year or so that the Amamiya Karin / Sekai view – that it is because the deck is stacked against them – has come to the front of press coverage.

    In the same time, we see the increased circulation of the Soshokudanshi idea. This seems to me to be the dreaded 自己責任論 under another name, giving older male commentators and daytime talk uber-housewives a chance to bash the young (have their cake) and still maintain the currently sexy “working poor” structural criticism (and eat it too).

  6. Aceface Says:

    Media guy here.

    When I talked with Hasegawa Mariko of Waseda Univ,who had done research on youth murder in Japan and came to the conclusion that today’s Japanese youth kill less than they did in the past.

    She also blamed the media for sensationalizing youth murder.

    This Todai prof came to the same conclusion.

    “Story created by the Japanese media arbitrarily and artificially coining a term and presenting it as news.”

    Perhaps.But at least there are some stats to back up the argument this time.

  7. M-Bone Says:

    “today’s Japanese youth kill less than they did in the past.”

    Yeah, the statistic peak for rape, robbery, and murder is right around the “Always – 三丁目の夕日” time.

  8. bendall Says:

    Has this led to any sort of uptick in the awareness of actual vegetarianism? Cause one of my least favorite things in Japan is having to shepherd vegetarians around.

  9. W. David MARX Says:

    They can’t afford to be vegetarians.

  10. Adamu Says:

    Overall I would say vegetarianism is slightly up in Japan, led completely by the influx of Indians into Tokyo :P

  11. Aceface Says:

    BTW,did any of you watch the late night anime from Fuji called “Eden of East東のエデン”?


  12. M-Bone Says:

    That’s the new Kamiyama Kenji one, right? I’m still watching Moribito so I have been holding off. Is it good?

  13. Aceface Says:

    I only saw one episode and thought too much info and social criticisms being loaded.However,I must admit it is something I’ve never seen anything like that since Evangelion.