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Bring On The Men March 26, 2008

Posted by Mitch in Random.
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Gone are the days of Imperialism and the samurai culture, where masculinity wasn’t innate and a guy had to work to prove his abilities as a man. Gone are the days where raging hordes would clash over land disputes and infringements of honour. Ask any foreigner living in Japan about the state of its male population and you’ll see a surprising trend – they’re one of the most effeminate nations. Of course, I can only speak in broad, general terms, but men just don’t seem to be very…well, manly. Most of my male students will happily sit in each others’ laps, maybe even running an odd finger through their friend’s hair. They fool around with each other. They sit in a darkened room together singing love songs on karaoke machines. In England, these kinds of children would be outcast by their peers, but here, walking with your arm around your friend is positively encouraged.

Ironically, the women, despite their lack of breasts, are also ridiculously feminine. Giggling and doubled up with laughter, these women don’t even need to be pre-pubescent to emit high-pitched squeals of delight when confronted with something they find amusing. No longer does one hear the boozy, gravelly belly laughs of a 80-a-day-smoking cleaner from Bolton, but instead a girlish screech or loud exclamations of “kawaii“, an all-purpose word that is, more often than not, issued at something one finds cute.

Japan is facing a crisis. The population is greying and the birthrate is steadily decreasing. The government is so worried that there is now a ministry post tasked with helping to raise the birthrate. If this doesn’t happen, there will be a labour shortage and Japan, in general a fiercely homogeneous country, will be forced to open itself to an influx of foreign workers, rather like postwar Germany had to. One has to wonder if their population is not merely greying, but also becoming more pink.

There are a group of people in Japan referred to as otaku, which, try as I might, I can’t separate from “sad geek who lives in their mother’s basement”. The term applies initially to those who enjoy manga and anime. This, in itself, is far from condemnable. However, some otaku prefer these fictional worlds and characters and play with the figurines, dress up as their favourite personage or even fantasise about them. Just as an aside, I’m not talking about children here. I’m talking about middle-aged men who can get their rocks off to cartoon sex (in some cases).

The reason I mention the otaku is because I have just read a newspaper article about boy-love manga. These are comics aimed at women that deal with the idea of homo-eroticism. So popular are these, that there is now even a cafe dedicated to a classic comic about life at an all-boys boarding school in Germany named Edelstein. The waiters are all chosen for their effeminate appearances and the women who frequent it play the role of wealthy benefactress. The ‘boy waiters’ talk about their fictional homework, extra-curricular clubs they are involved in and serve the ladies tea and cake.

The words “only in Japan” are formulating in my head. I didn’t think it was such a common occurrence for a woman to be turned on by relationships between two men, but apparently Japan has broken the mold. There have been theme cafes aimed at men for quite a while here – mostly the waitresses are dressed, rather stereotypically, as French maids or the like. But this cafe caters only to the women who enjoy the “classic” Edelstein story.

Anthropologists say that the popularity of anime and manga is attributable to the rigid social rules in place in Japan and that, through such cafes, people can escape the extreme social control innate to this country.

But one can’t help but wonder if the birthrate would be in considerably better form if women stopped fantasising about gay men and, in turn, men became, you know…men.

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1. Sound! Euphonium: media consumption and the ‘romance lens’ | HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL - July 9, 2015

[…] that Westerners might find a bit too ‘intimate’ for friends. Trust me, JET teachers are not joking when they say that they’ve seen boys sitting in each others’ laps in the […]


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