Academic journal article Hagar

Floating Young Men: Globalization and the Crisis of Masculinity in Japan

Academic journal article Hagar

Floating Young Men: Globalization and the Crisis of Masculinity in Japan

Article excerpt


This paper highlights a recent change in Japanese men and masculinities in relation to nation and nationalism, as well as the idea of home and domesticity. The prevalence of non-regular employment in the labor market has drastically increased in Japan since the 1990s. This especially hits younger men. as they find it difficult to establish themselves as breadwinners, in keeping with existing gender norms for men. The article examines three types of newly emerging masculinities in Japanese youth: herbivorous boy (soshokukei-danshi), otaku (maniac or fetishist men) and petit (neo) nationalist. Herbivorous boys are tired of hard work and competition and aspire to the comfort of the domestic sphere; they present a mirror image of the corporate warriors of older generations. Otaku place themselves in imaginary homes, either in cyberspace or in commercial "maid-cafés," and are escaping from a commitment to real others. Petit (neo) nationalists turn to Japan as their home and defend it by using an exclusionist discourse that targets neighboring nations and immigrants from foreign countries. In general, as young Japanese men experience growing distress regarding their social stance, it becomes apparent that they are homebound, seeking a sense of domesticity.


In the process of globalization, men are said to be losing their power and to be in crisis (Chant and Gutmann, 2000). The proliferation of non-regular work arrangements and employment relations have caused many men to experience downward occupational mobility, loss of status and vanishing social power. This masculinity crisis has induced some young men to join extreme movements, where attitudes such as xenophobia, race-based supremacy and violence are commonly expressed and exercised (Kimmel, 2003). Often such movements deploy masculinity as a form of symbolic capital that restores a kind of safe space for men in crisis, where they can perceive themselves as fine and entitled (Kimmel, 2003:605). In Japan, the socioeconomic consequences of globalization have shoved aside the hegemonic image of the corporate man and given rise to new types of masculinity.1 This brief note offers a preliminary observation of these recently emerging representations of Japanese masculinity, with a special eye on how their identity relates to place-making of the home (Blunt and Dowling, 2006; Cresswell, 2004).

Until the 1980s, post-World War Japan was characterized by high, steady economic growth. Japanese men, typically employed in large corporations, worked long hours and commuted long distances. Known as corporate warriors-kigvo- senshi-many spent most of their time in the workplace and in work-related activities (such as commuting), and were largely detached from their families (Amano, 2006; Taga, 2006). This totality of men's engagement in paid work, which even exhausted some to death-karoshi-was complemented by the women's role of sole responsibility for reproduction and homemaking, their unpaid domestic work supporting the wellbeing of children and employed men. The totality of men's work was compensated by a social order that promised stable, life-time employment and was promoted by a welfare policy that advocated the ideological view of the corporation as a family. Consequently, the workplace was a distinctively masculine place, where Japanese men typically constructed their everyday experience, and was virtually the sole source of men's identity and status. In contrast, women's involvement in paid work was limited; they were excluded from labor unions and employed mostly in low-wage, part-time jobs, i.e., with non-regular employment relations.

From the late-1990s, non-regular employment rose dramatically (e.g., from 20.9% in 1995 to 34.0% in 2007;Λ· Further, while the gender gap in non-regular employment is significant in the whole Japanese workforce, this gap has shrunk dramatically among the youngest cohort. …

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