The XX Factor

What’s Up With Japanese Men?

Today’s Wall Street Journal has the latest in a series of articles I’ve been reading the past few years about the bizarre, emotionally stunted lives of Japanese men. In this story, young, romantically inclined Japanese men go for the weekend to what formerly was a popular honeymoon resort, only these guys show up with hand-held devices which contain their virtual girlfriends. This follows the story about the Japanese men who don’t date actual woman, but instead are in love with body-length pillows with images of women printed on them. And the story about Japanese men who wear bras because it makes them feel calmer. And the story about Japanese men who have given up all together and refuse to come out of their childhood bedrooms. In Japan, metrosexuals are called “grasseaters.” These are young men who have turned away from the work-consumed, hard-drinking lives of their distant fathers for something more feminine, more oriented toward personal grooming. That could be fine, except what seems to be missing is the ability to connect with actual females. Japan’s marriage and birth rates continue to plummet, and the country faces demographic doom. (Although there may not be as many old people in Japan as we used to think, since many of them have disappeared or been mummified.)

I wonder if all this has something to do with the lack of a robust feminist movement in Japan. Yes, women get educations and enter the workforce, but then they are supposed to bow out when they marry and have children. Japanese men are expected to put their energy into the office, not help with changing diapers. Young women conclude that staying in the work force provides more satisfaction and independence than becoming a traditional housewife. So the sexes drift apart, and the men fall in love with their pillows.