In the eighties, Japan’s economic boom was fueled by macho, hard-partying salarymen who put in 70-hour workweeks and consumed status symbols with abandon. As its economy declined, Japan was hoping that its youngest generation of male workers would help usher in a resurgence by following in their fathers’ footsteps. But instead of a nation of hungry T-Rexes, the Washington Post says the country finds itself overrun with a new breed of “mild, frugal, sweet-mannered” herbivore, so called for its “gentle and cautious” nature.
“Some media accounts of the transformation note the extremes of behavior: how one in four engaged men now opts for a pre-wedding spa treatment; how young men host dessert-tasting clubs; how, given a hypothetical $1,000 to spend and a list of possible purchases, a lot of young men would choose a high-end rice cooker.”
How do you know when you’re in the presence of a herbivore? Well, like metrosexuals, herbivores are particular about the way they dress, displaying “a preference for flannel-patterned shirts, bought first-hand but made to look second-hand.” Perhaps to protect the added value of said garments, they are less prone to excessive drinking than their predecessors. “Our generation, we don’t spend money to the max and we don’t drink to the max. We feel the need to save. At the same time, it’s not cool to be throwing up on the street after you’ve been drinking.”
Also like metrosexuals before them, their willingness to embrace behaviors not traditionally associated with their gender has led to public scrutiny about their sexuality, but “this isn’t about sexual orientation,” explains the Washington Post. “No matter their sexual preferences, herbivores tend to be less overtly sexual. Many say they do not prioritize physical relationships. They’re more likely to buy gifts for their mothers than for their significant others.” Huh. This sounds less like the Western metrosexual plague has infected Japan and more like Japanese radio just discovered Morrissey.