Carnivorous Women, Herbivorous Men

It’s no secret that Japan is full of quirky and funny amusement. Just watch two minutes of a Japanese game show, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. However, when it comes to dating and relationships, this quirkiness goes to a whole other level. In Japan they even coined the term to describe how a growing movement of relationships work. They call it, “Herbivorous Boys, Carnivorous Women.” I had a good laugh the first time I heard this too.

The term, herbivorous boys refers to young Japanese men who are redefining what it means to be a man. It is estimated that 20% of men age 20-30 fall into this category. You might say that the 20% is characterized as metro, but that wouldn’t accurately describe the whole bunch. The men were raised after the bubble economy burst in 1990, so they follow the motto, “The nail the sticks up the most gets hammered down first.” Thus, these men are okay with settling for less, and do not go out of their way to buy nice cars, etc. Instead, they are content with just doing things they want to do, even if that means playing video games. And they don’t mind sacrificing what many people would say materially characterizes men, like strong bodies. In fact, some herbivorous boys do not even want to eat much, because it saves them money.

These men are also pretty passive when it comes to women. Which in my opinion can be a good thing because it promotes regular friendships with no pressure to date. Whereas with previous generations, it was nearly impossible to have a close friend of the opposite sex, and not have that person be your girl/boy friend.

However, some critics argue that this can be harmful to Japan’s society because there are a lot less people getting married, and even less babies being born. Consequently, there is declining population in Japan.

If you didn’t guess, the term, carnivorous women describes women who take the initiative, and make the first move when it comes to dating. After all, with more and more men concerned with fashionable handbags instead of dating, someone’s gotta pick up the slack.

Awaji JETs and friends outside the restaurant

Before knowing about this carnivore/herbivore business, I experienced it first hand last weekend. It all happened at a Halloween party in a little restaurant that was turned into a club for the night. There was a DJ and all you can eat/drink, so everyone was having a good time. As I was making my way across the room, I was stopped by a Japanese guy and girl. Their English was just bad enough, and my Japanese was just equally bad enough, for us to have a small conversation. What happened next completely surprised me.

After only about 30 seconds of talking, the woman looked at me and said, “I’m interested in you. Are you interested in me?” At first, I thought I misunderstood her, so I had her repeat it. I was surprised by her forwardness. Adding to the awkwardness was that I thought she was already with another guy. Oh, and she was also probably 10 years older than me.

While still trying to grasp the situation, the lady proceeded to take out a pen and paper. In broken English she said, “Please, give me your phone number.” I wasn’t into the idea of giving my number to a random older lady, so with no other excuses coming to my head, I just said, “Sorry, I don’t have a phone.” Then I walked away. And that was my first encounter with a carnivorous woman.

9 thoughts on “Carnivorous Women, Herbivorous Men

  1. You have a really great blog documenting your JET experience. Love the photos from Kyoto. I lived in Japan for a year as a very young kid and have been going through old slides…really old slides from the 1953-4, trying to identify them. Your images have been helpful. Thanks!

  2. Pingback: Japan’s Carnivore Women and Herbivore Men | Sexy Science

  3. Great blog, looks like you stopped writing posts after you left JET though which is a bummer. I was raised in Japan and then studied abroad in Tokyo for a year during university and I definitely saw a lot of what you’re talking about. It’s definitely surprising how forward Japanese women are, but I guess they have to be when guys aren’t making the move. Interesting though because pretty much the rest of the world thinks Japanese women are quiet and submissive.

    • You’re right, I stopped writing after JET 😦 But thanks for checking out my blog! The forwardness definitely took me by surprise. Like you said, it’s definitely a stark contrast to the common view that women are quiet and submissive.

      • Did you ever go back to Japan after JET ended? I actually found your blog after doing a Google search on Awaji Island for a client wanting to visit next month. Your recommendations were great so I’ll definitely be using them to plan their itinerary. Thanks!

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