Pity the young Japanese male. For him, it’s shock piled upon shock. No wonder he’s reeling.
The monthly magazine Nikkei Woman (November) lists what career-oriented men have had to contend with over the past 20 years. 1990 brought the bursting of the so-called bubble economy, the beginning of the end of opportunity as we knew it. 1993 saw in the “hiring ice age” -- firms hit by the recession froze hiring, condemning all too many college grads to drudgery as part-time “freeters.” One glimmer of light over the next few years was the venture firm Livedoor, fronted by flamboyant celeb-entrepreneur Takafumi Horie, aka Horiemon, symbol of commercial imagination and path-breaking derring-do. His arrest on fraud charges in 2006 doused the flicker of hope he represented. Then in 2008 came the Lehman shock. Japan’s economy didn’t quite die, but doesn’t quite live either.
In this climate, is it surprising that today’s young men tend to be listless, wary, anxiety-ridden and insecure? That’s how Nikkei Woman characterizes them, based on a survey of 300 concerning their attitudes and expectations toward work and love -- twin spokes, it seems, of the same wheel.
An instant portrait emerges from the survey responses. “Q: What does your job mean to you?” A livelihood pure and simple, shrug no fewer than 67%. Only 8.3% see their work as a means of achieving dreams and personal goals; a mere 5.7% say it’s a reason for living.
“Q: Do you have confidence in your work?” Yes, say 34%, versus 32% who say flatly “No” and an additional 34% who reply they can’t say one way or the other.
Work confidence, at least, is higher than love confidence, which only 13.3% claim to have, as against 57% who say they don’t have it.
“Men now in their 20s and early 30s are of the generation that grew up under the banner of respect for individuality,” explains marketing writer Megumi Ushikubo. “They have little experience of the triumph of outright victory in all-out competition. Consequently, they don’t know their own potential, which is why they have no confidence.”
The term “soshoku danshi” (herbivorous male, as distinct from the carnivores of earlier generations) has grown widely current since being coined in 2006 to describe the timid, emotionally stunted specimens now on the threshold of the prime of life. It’s hard to blame them. As consultant Takao Maekawa points out, with salaries stagnant and jobs, if you’re lucky enough to have one, insecure, “it’s enough to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm for their work.”
Herbivorous -- more or less passive, that is to say -- attitudes toward courtship are a direct result. “Young men don’t have the confidence their fathers had that they will be able to support a family,” says Ushikubo. “That tends to drain a man’s romantic impulses.”
Adding insult to injury, women, with less vested interest in the way things used to be, are adapting better than men to the way things now are. “Seeing women emerge stronger than themselves,” observes Maekawa, “has further undermined many men’s confidence.”
Nikkei Woman presents all this for the benefit of women at a loss to deal with their increasingly dispirited sexual partners. The magazine’s advice smacks of child psychology; it recommends generous doses of praise, encouragement, and understanding. For most of the postwar period, men have been bred to be single-minded breadwinners in a system that worked. It no longer does. Adjustment will take time.© Japan Today