Herbivores: the Men in Japan Who Don’t Want a Girlfriend

  • In large parts of the world, men are seen as the go-getters when it comes to relationships. When you ask around, it often turns out that the guy in the relationship was the first one to make a move, or at least he was very receptive when his other half hit on him. Also, when it comes to casual flings, there will not be many men who would say ‘no’ to a beautiful woman propositioning them.

    Not so with Japan’s ‘soshoku danshi’, often translated as ‘herbivores’ or ‘grass eaters’. This term refers to men who are not interested in marriage or even having a girlfriend (and are also not gay), and was introduced by writer Maki Fukasawa in 2006. Of course, there are men like this all over the world, but in Japan, this group seems to be a lot larger than average. What would be the driving factor behind this?

    Birth Rate on the Decline

    With a world population that is ever-growing without enough resources to give everyone a comfortable existence, it seems like it is not such a large problem when people decide not to procreate. In Japan, however, this is happening on such a large scale that it is going to cause major trouble for future generations to sustain their elders and themselves. As Japan is a bit wary of mass immigration, with immigration laws being some of the strictest ones in the world, the government sees ramping up the birth rate as one of their most important tasks.

    This is one of the reasons why it is important to find out what puts so many people off getting into a stable relationship, and having children. Many research studies have been carried out on the subject, and very often the unstable Japanese economy is blamed for the unwillingness of (especially men) to start a family. It is harder than before to find a steady job with good income, and at the moment there are many so-called ‘freeters’, people who get by working part-time jobs with usually abysmal pay.

    Japanese women often only want to get married to men with stable, full-time jobs and a good income, making it very difficult for freeters to find a marriage partners. This is easy to see on Japanese dating websites like match.com, where besides their age and picture, only their yearly salary is displayed in the introduction. The reaction of many men is to pull out of the dating game altogether, often in order not to get disappointed.

    Gentle Men

    However, there are also men that call themselves grass eaters, but say that they are not completely opposed to the idea of dating rather, they just don’t feel like going out there and feeling vulnerable. They don’t like to get hurt, or hurt other people, which is something that unintentionally happens anyway when people join the dating game. They find it both emotionally and financially safer to stay (happily) single.

    Some social scientists think that this is where many developed countries are headed as well, with dropping birth rates as a result. What do you think, is this happening all over the world? Is there any solution, or is it not such a problem after all?

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    1. Brooke Adams says:

      In America it’s a problem because the people that don’t work and get free money and free stuff from the government reproduce like rats. So basically our population is being replaced by fecal matter.

    2. Anonymous says:

      Now, it seems like the quantity is a lot much higher than quality of the person in every corner. Whereby the quality of a person is reducing ~

    3. Xian C. Ting says:

      The natural solution to overpopulation!

    4. Siamerican says:

      It (mating) is not such a problem in Thailand, in lower income communities, young kids have kids and often split up, whereas the grandparents often end up raising the child, whereas the single parent (usually mom) works to help support the kid. Marriages are often social arrangements, and the extended family often plays a part in raising kids. As for Japan’s aging population, I saw a short documentary of how robots are poised to be one solution to care/company with lonely old ones…

    5. Pierre says:

      I’ve had the experience of having very little job stability in the last several years and I can say that this is a big factor in self confidence and self worth. I had to move back with my parents it’s been so tough to find work in my field and it’s so very competitive. I think this may be the situation with these men in japan. If you cannot have a steady and decent income how can you think about taking a girl out or raising a kid like that. Worse for them even if they did, it would mean trading any personal life working 80h weeks. So in this case you adjust to the situation and try to enjoy your own life. If you are in the position to just be able to take care or yourself, what else are you left to do but just that? Really Japan should offer financial breaks and support for people like this in the case of marriage and raising children to give more incentive, and try to enforce a more balanced work week with living hours, or perhaps try to facilitate more full time work scenarios for people. I think if you asked many of these men if they wanted families they might actually say yes given more means to raise one.

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