Periodically, I like to look at some popular slang terms in Japan. They may not necessarily increase your knowledge of the Japanese language in a meaningful way, but I think they provide some interesting or funny insight into the culture.
Today's term is
草食男子 (そうしょくだんし）soushoku danshi
The 'danshi' part means boy/boys or man/men. (Alternate: 草食男 (そうしょくおとこ) soushoku otoko) The 'soushoku' part has sometimes been translated as 'vegetarian', but the more accurate meaning would be 'herbivore'. Here are some herbivores in the animal kingdom:
While this would be your typical carnivore:
(Lion photo credit: Arno and Louise)
In Japan, a lot of credibility has traditionally been given to the concept of "you are what you eat", (and for UK readers, I don't mean in the Gillian McKeith way). A person who eats a lot of meat is supposed to be more stereotypically masculine and aggressive, while a person who eats a lot of vegetables and non-meat foods is supposed to be gentle and compliant, like a well behaved donkey or cow.
So, a 'soushoku danshi' is the approximate Japanese equivalent of a metrosexual; someone who is gentle, refined, concerned about his appearance, kind or respectful to the females in his life. He might be more inclined to be perfectly okay with doing the dishes, or babysitting the kids. A soushoku danshi is typically in his teens to 30s - the younger generation, in other words.
Sounds like the perfect modern man, no? Well not really. In that paradoxical way that females want their men to do the dishes but still be 'in charge' and 'manly' and all that, the soushoku danshi is also seen as weak, indecisive, spineless, and just not Man Enough. This past Valentine's Day, there were even 'soushoku otoko' chocolates, for female bosses to give to their spineless underlings to tell them to get a...um, spine. (see Valentine's Day in Japan).
An even more derogatory term for this modern Japanese man is
お嬢マン (おじょうまん) ojou-man
An お嬢さん (おじょうさん ojou-san) or お嬢様 （おじょうさま ojou-sama) is a refined, sometimes spoiled, young lady. 'Ojou-man' is the male version of a young spoiled lady - in other words, a refined being who is passionately interested things like his appearance and fashion.
The soushoku danshi is alternately seen as the doom of Japanese society, or its future, mainly depending on the age of the person talking about them.
Incidentally, the current Prime Minister, Mr. Hatoyama, is seen as being somewhat of a soushoku danshi for his so-far general inability to get much done.
A modern Japanese man really has it tough. He's supposed to be kind and considerate, but still be manly and take-charge. He's supposed to be masculine, but woe on him if he smells bad.
See also: Himono onna.