• They are not as competitively minded about their jobs as men in older generations.
• They are fashion conscious and eat sparingly so they can stay thin and fit into skintight clothes.
• They are chummy with their moms and often go shopping together.
• They are not interested in dating girls, having relationships, or even having sex (choosing from a plethora of "self-help" toys instead).
• They are very tight with their money and often carry several retailers' "point cards" around, declaring that those who don't pinch pennies are stupid.
Ushikubo has even gone so far as giving these types a new label: ojo-man (ladylike men).
"Many of the boys I've met told me they cannot go out of their house if their hair doesn't look perfect," she said. "They have also told me that their self-esteem goes up when their nails look nice."
Ushikubo estimates that 60 percent of today's men aged 20-34 fall somewhat into the soshokukei category. Sounds exaggerated? Of the 500 single men in their 20s and 30s surveyed in March by Lifenet Seimei Life Insurance Co., 378 — or 75.6 percent — replied that they regarded themselves more as herbivores than nikushokukei (carnivores).
What is most troubling to a growing legion of young women, however, is that soshokukei men are also extremely noncommittal in their relationships with the opposite sex. Many are not interested in the act of koku-ru (confessing their love to girls), out of fear that doing so would make them psychologically disadvantaged, Ushikubo says. Furthermore, being cynical about the generation above them, in which nearly half of marriages are shotgun weddings, young people — and young men in particular — are very wary of making lifelong commitments "by accident," according to Ushikubo.
Likewise, they tend to have little interest in reproducing, often even being too physically tired to have sex, let alone start a family, according to Ushikubo. The young men's tendency not to have real sex — apparently counterbalanced by their growing reliance on Internet porn sites and "do-it-yourself" gadgets — is a big headache for the nation's condom makers, whose shipments have been falling since 1999, the very year that marks the beginning of the Internet revolution.
Meanwhile, a few other phenomena are underscoring the trend for some men to defy their sexual stereotypes. A 2007 survey by a major toilet-seat maker found that half of Japanese men sit on the toilet to urinate, while bras designed for men have been selling briskly since they hit the market last November.
But are women becoming like men as well? Are they more manly than they used to be?
He attributes the soshokukei trend to the postwar peace Japan has enjoyed for the last six decades.
"The most 'manly' men, I think, are soldiers on the battlefields," Morioka said. "But the pressures for men to act manly have gradually faded over the last six decades. As a result, the (per capita) rate of murders committed by men in their 20s in Japan is now the lowest in the world.
"Behind all this is the fading of social values that have driven men into violent acts. Men don't have to be violent any more, and that's why they can be herbivorous."
... most Japanese men are "searching for heterosexual love while turning unisex."
I fear that this is a problem of prolonged peace, for which the solution is obvious.