Samurai Fantasies Helping Japanese Women Escape Dating RealityS

In Japan, women are going crazy over "Sengoku Basara, (Devil Kings)" a historical video game featuring sexy samurai warriors. Hiroyuki Kobayashi, creator of the game, wonders if women are reacting to societal shifts surrounding the role of men.

Hiroyuki Kobayashi, the game creator, opines:

From a social point of view, his experience is also interesting. He believes women are partly escaping into fantasy because they cannot find suitably heroic partners in real life. Capcom's samurai groupies may be the corollary of a widely discussed trend in Japan, that of "grass-eating men", who eschew the typical male trappings of cars and big salaries, and may prefer shopping and fashion to sex.

The Economist article refers to "grass eating men" which sounds a bit strange. The more commonly translated term is "herbivore men," (read: meat as a stand-in for manliness) and the Times of London explains why these men who are choosing a nontraditional lifestyle are capturing the attention of a nation:

Two phrases have been coined to describe them: soshokukei danshi or "herbivorous males", and Ojo-man – or "girly men".

Definitions vary, but the new herbivores could be described as metrosexuals without the testosterone. Although most of them are not homosexual they have in common a disdain for the traditional accoutrements of Japanese manhood, and a taste for things formerly regarded as exclusively female. Girly men have no interest in fast cars, career success, designer labels and trophy women. Instead, they hold down humble jobs, cultivate women as friends rather than conquests and spend their free time shopping at small boutiques and pursuing in Japan what is regarded as a profoundly feminine pastime: eating cakes.

(Aside: When Anna N. covered this earlier, some people expressed confusion about the reference to eating cakes as a feminine past time. Now, I'm just a pop culture junkie, not an expert on Japan, but the idea that men don't eat sweets is a prominent one. In addition to Men's Pocky, a less-sweet version of the popular snack, a popular trope is to show a man eating sweets to demonstrate how he is strange, different, or child-like. In the series Ouran High School Host Club, Honey-chan is a male host with a sweet tooth - along with a babyish demeanor.)

The Times continues, noting that this new take on masculinity is starting to impact heterosexual dating:

Japanese women, according to Professor Yamada's research, have not caught up. Two out of five say they wish to marry a man who earns at least 6 million yen (£40,000) a year - but such men make up only 3.5 per cent of the eligible population. The result of such unrealistic female expectations is a generation of men, and women, who may never marry and have children.

About half of men aged 20 to 34, he says, are unmarried and only 20 per cent of them have girlfriends. Thirty per cent, according to Professor Yamada, have never had a girlfriend in their lives. For a country like Japan, which already has a shrinking population, this is a disaster.

So, back to the Economist article. The article shifts focus from the video game's popularity to the larger, societal implications:

The phenomenon may also reflect a bigger issue: young women failing to find marriage partners. Since the 1970s the number of men and women marrying in their 20s and early 30s has fallen sharply, which is one of the main reasons the birth rate has fallen so low. It is largely the result of poor job prospects for men-and for women who marry. It will also have a severe impact on Japanese GDP in coming years.

However, this dynamic has been in play for a few years now. Much has been written about "freeters," a generation of people who are opting out of employment, or who cannot find gainful employment, and how that impacts the romantic and home lives of a generation of young Japanese professionals. In addition, due to traditional structures in Japanese society, women looking for men of means isn't a sign of shallowness - it is a reaction based in the grim job prospects for women, normally low paying temporary jobs or jockeying for a position in a glamor industry.

And with this much stress, can you really blame women for finding an escape in mythical lands with sword wielding hotties?

They Need Another Hero [Economist]
Girly Men Of Japan Just Want To Have Fun [Times Online]
Ouran High School Host Club [Wikipedia]
Youth Employment In Japan's Economic Recovery: ‘Freeters' And ‘NEETs' [Japan Focus]
Young Japanese Women Vie For A Once-Scorned Job [NY Times]

Earlier: Japan's "Girly Men" Choose Cakes Over Consumerism

Related:
Of "Wacky" Japan and the Myth Of The Other
[Racialicious]