Women in Japan reportedly find two kinds of men to be particularly attractive: ones with "soy sauce faces" (narrow eyes, thin lips, narrow chin, and chiseled Asian features), and ones with "Western sauce faces" (round eyes, long eyelashes, and European features). A study in the June 1999 issue of Nature found that Japanese women prefer men with masculine features when the are ovulating and men with softer features when they are less fertile.

Sumo wrestlers have traditionally been considered sexy in Japan. They often have beautiful wives, legions of screaming schoolgirl fans, and generally fit the Japan stereotype of the strong and silent type. But this is the less the case now than it used to be. Many young girls now like boys that look like girls.

The ideal male for many Japanese females is often not a stoic, stubble-cheeked masculine man like those favored in the West but rather is smooth-skinned, slender androgynous boy with an elaborate dyed hair. One student told Reuters, “Girls’s like guys to be “kawaii”—“cute.”

The androgynous-looking singer-actor Takuya Kimura, or Kimitaku, of the J-Pop group Smap, routinely tops popularity polls among women and was named the most popular male talent eight years in a row.

Catering to the new kind of Japanese man are new magazines with titles like “Men’s Precious,” “Little Flowers for Men” and “Men’s Fudge” and articles on cooking, raising children and the latest hairstyles. One issue of magazine called “Men’s Lee” had the articles entitled “Gathering at a Men’s Pasta Cooking Club,” “Men in Your 30s Your Hair Should Float, Not Be Set Solid,” and “Raising Kids by a Pro-active Father.” [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, October 2010]


Good Websites and Sources: Male Beauty in Japan ; Herbivorous Males ; Chosing Cosmetics Over Careers ; Male Hair Styles in Japan ; Tattoos in Japan ; Tattoo Gallery ;Tattoos and the Yakuza

Herbivorous Males and Girlish Men

Some young Japanese men are called “ soshokukei danshi” (“herbivorous males”) because they don’t like to go out drinking, are happy to keep their relationships with women platonic and generally display unmacho behavior. A survey conducted by the research company O-Net in 2009 seemed to indicate these young men are fairly common. It found that 80 percent of men turning 20 did not have girlfriends and one third didn’t want one, saying things like “being single is fun” and “I want to spend my time and money on something else.”

“Herbivorous males” contrast with “ nikushoku” (“carnivorous”) males who chase after women and like macho things. “Ojoman” (“girlie men”) is a more specific kind Herbivorous male, describing men that have little interest in sex, like to cook and sew and prefer kawaii (cute) things over cool ones. They are generally in their twenties to mid thirties and became adults after the bubble economy. “ Rekei-kum” (“men who study or work in the math or science fields”) are regarded as a kind of sohiku-kei.

An increase in the sales of male cosmetics and sundries and sweets among men and a decline in sales of alcohol, cigarettes, flashy cars and meals at restaurant where one takes a date to impress her has been attributed to the rise in the number of “herbivorous men.” Some retailers have begun making products aimed at such men such as sweets that one can eat with one’s mother.

“ Otome” refers to the girlish side of even the most macho and handsome men. The brisk sales of the Wishroom line of men’s bras in Japan is an illustration that this side of Japanese men is alive and well. In feedback to Wishroom satisfied customers have said the bras make them feel more relaxed and at ease and as a result they are nicer and more gentle to the people around them.

Men in Women's Clothes in Japan

Sailor Moon
Japanese men sometimes wear fashions usually associated with women: belly-button-exposing, mini-T-shirts, tight shorts, and cute accessaries. Some even wear feminine style sandals and purses to match their lipstick.

An editor at the men's magazine Brutis told the International Herald Tribune, "Boys are actually shopping in girl's boutiques for smaller size pants and bring colors. Sharing clothes with their girlfriends is prerequisite of any relationship."

The trendy brand 20471120 has introduced a line of mini skirts for men that are designed to be worn over pants and are available in 100 colors. One man who wore a skirt while his wife wore faded jeans told the International Herald Tribune that before they got married, "Our first fight was over who should wear the wedding dress."

Role models for young men include pretty boy singers like Smap and Kinki Kids and glam rock stars like Izam who appear on stage in platform shoes, sequined tights, carrying a teddy bear.

Men’s Handbags and Jewelry in Japan

Many men carry purse-like handbags. Some regard them as symbols of their success and spend quite a bit of money on them. Gucci, Burberry, Louis Vuitton and other companies have introduced men’s handbags aimed specifically for the Asian market.

The owner of man’s purse, a 25-year-old construction manager, told the International Herald Tribune: “It’s perfect when I’m not carrying too much stuff. I have a lot of bags, but this one is the most convenient. You don’t have to dig around — just open it up and everything is right there. A 31-year-old man said, “It’s comfortable. I can fit everything I need in here, and I know I won’t lose things.”

More and more men are wearing diamond jewelry and accessories.

Men-Only Beauty Parlors in Japan

More and more men-only beauty parlors are opening all the time in Japan. Places like the Dandy House in Tokyo offer body hair removal, eyebrow sculpturing, pore-cleaning treatments, manicures, body piercing, skin treatments, and make-up classes. Among the salon's most popular procedures are mud-pack facials, leg hair removal, eyebrow trims and potbelly treatments.

Men's magazine are filled with articles about beauty care; cosmetic companies have set up special counters of men; travel companies sponsor day-long “Transformation Into a Beautiful Man” tours in Tokyo that cost about $100. In the early 2000s, around 300,000 Japanese men visited “esute” (?aesthetic”) salons, spending around $150 million, almost double the amount spent in the mid 1990s.

Men go to esute salons to get facials, manicures and pedicures. A manicurist at barber shop told the Daily Yomiuri, “there seems to be three reasons who men get manicures — to look clean, to make themselves look younger and because its fashionable. Manicures for men became popular in the early 2000s. They were particularly popular among salesmen who worried about the appearance of their hands before their customers.

Visit to a Men-Only Beauty Parlor in Japan

Describing a two-hour, $140 facial at a men-only beauty parlor in Tokyo, Julain Ryall wrote in the Japan Times, Yukiko, the body technician "rubbed the initial concoction of lavender and hot pepper onto my face and worked it into every square millimeter of exposed flesh, leaving the skin warm and slick...After the first preparation has been removed, and my temples squeezed until I see stars, Yukiko turns on a contraption comprised of revolving bristles and works it slowly over my face.”

“Next comes a suction pump that drags more of the dirty debris off my face with a satisfying “pop” each time. A scaled-down version is used on either side of my nose; Yukiko clearly finds this happy hunting ground and shows me a clear glass vial. When she is finished it is one-third full of a gray liquid and what appears to be particles of skin." This was followed a neck massage, a lavender and hot pepper shoulder treatment, a bamboo-paste cool pack that was left on for 10 minutes and peeled off like a mask. Ryall said afterwards that the facial made his face "feel quite nice" and "sort of tingly."

More and more men are getting inward-curling eyelash permanent, A beautician ay one Espirits for Men in Tokyo told the Daily Yomiuri, “Some customers say that getting their eyelashes permed has given them very attractive eyes and a more toned-looking face.”

Male Cosmetics in Japan

The market for men's cosmetics in Japan increased 70 percent between the mid 1980s and 1990s and reached the $2 billion a year mark in the early 2000s. Cosmetics for men include skin lotions, whitening agents and anti-aging beauty creams made especially for them. One of the hottest items is an "eyebrow designing kit" for men with a tiny comb, scissors, tweezers and eyebrow pencil.

A 21-year-old owner of an eyebrow kit at Kobe University told Reuters, “I shave the tops and bottoms of my eyebrows to make them look cleaner.” He said of his classmates shave off their eyebrows and pencil in new ones Some young men treat their complexion every morning with a face scrub, toner and face cream and then go to a local salon to get their hair done. The daily routine costs a $100 a day but is necessary, suers say, to maintain their style.

Shiseido and other Japanese cosmetic companies have released a number of skin car products such as face wash and lotions and high-priced item like moisturizers and anti-aging cream for men. Some men are also beginning it walk around with parasols in mid summer to protect their skin from the sun’s rays. The Tobu department store in Tokyo offers a special line of parasols designed for men. One user, a professor of social psychology and licenced weatherman told the Yomiuri Shimbun , “We should start thinking of parasols as everyday items like the umbrella, We need to stop thinking of them as something only women use.”

Young men are not the only customers for this kind of stuff. Middle age men buy “Moving Rubber” hair wax, get injections of hyaluronic acid and botulinum toxin to get rid of their wrinkles and read artciles like “To Become a Beautiful Man” in the popular men’s magazine Popeye.

A survey by Shisedo found that 85 percent of the men used face cleansing cream, 54 used deodorant spray, 32 percent used mud masks. About 30 percent of high school and university age males shape their eyebrows. Some use foundation to cover their acne.

The Dandy House sell things like "Miss Paris" skin cream and girdle-like underwear that hides flabby butts. The number of men's skin products they offered increased by 40 percent between 1998 and 1999. One of best sellers was a skin lightening agent called Power Whitening.

Estee Lauder, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Clarins have introduced cosmetics, skin care products, moisture gels, foundations , concealers, and under eye serums for men in Japan.

Reasons for Male Cosmetic Use in Japan

A spokesman for Shisedo said young men today have few fixed concepts about manliness. According to one survey, 30 percent of 177 young men interviewed in the Tokyo said it was "all right" for men to wear make up. Only 30 percent said they were "somewhat opposed" to men wearing make up.

In the late 2000s, department stores began noticing that men were increasingly buying women’s skin care products. One male 32-year-old company employee told the Yomiuri Shimbun, “There are only a few kinds of skin care products for men. I’m glad there are products for women that suit my skin.”

Yoko Shimada, a sociologist at Hosei University, told the Yomiuri Shimbun, "The era when men were expected just to earn money and not care about their appearance is over...Today's women expect men to be sensitive, clean and sexy rather than wealthy. Men are expected to look after their own health and nutrition as well. I think beautiful men are symbol's of these women's preferences."

A survey by the Shiseido cosmetics company concluded that Japanese men born between 1971 and 1974 "have a strong tendency towards narcissism." About 58 percent of the men surveyed said they wanted to look good for personal satisfaction and only 16 percent said they did it to attract women.

'Manly' Men Skin Care in Japan

In June 2012, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “The belief that beautiful skin can help a person lead a wonderful life is no longer exclusive to women. Parasols, cosmetics and skin-lightening products are now popular with Japanese men as they aim to stand out at work and in love by obtaining beautiful skin. Takashimaya department store in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, created a section that exclusively sells parasols for men at the end of April--three months ahead of the usual parasol season. Men's parasols are rarely sold this early in the year, but are selling well, according to the store. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, June 8, 2012]

“The parasol is resistant to ultraviolet radiation and prices start at about 4,000 yen. Solids, checks and striped patterns are popular. Men's parasols have enjoyed good sales over the years, with last year's sales jumping to five times that of 2008, when they were first introduced at department stores. "They are bought by young businessmen in their 20s and 30s who spend a lot of time working outside the office, as they worry about sunburns," a Takashimaya employee in charge of the section said. At Tobu department store in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, sales of men's parasols jumped 30 percent last year compared with those of 2008, and store staff believe sales will increase this year too.

“Men's cosmetics are also popular. In February, Rohto Pharmaceutical Co. released the Oxy White Series skin lotion and serum. The products contain an ingredient that increases the skin's ability to absorb vitamin C. Kobe-based apparel company World Co. in March released Cool UV Protect sunscreen, which offers strong protection from UV rays. "Many men say they want to have smooth skin just like popular actors," a Rohto spokesperson said.

“Hotel Niwa Tokyo in Chiyoda Ward introduced an aesthetic plan for men in 2010. Customers can receive face and body massages in a hotel room, with prices starting at 22,000 yen. The hotel said it regularly receives reservations from new customers, mainly salespeople, every month. Mitsubishi Research Institute, Inc.'s head researcher Toshihiko Kataoka said, "The idea of 'manly' has changed over years, and more people today consider smooth, un-tanned skin as cool and smart. "They may believe that having smooth skin is an advantage in love, job-hunting and business activities," Kataoka added.

Male Hair and Body Hair in Japan

In the old days, samurai wore top knots like sumo wrestlers and many high-ranking men shaved their hair so they looked as if they were balding.

The Shiseido survey mentioned above reported that 65 percent of the men it surveyed had died their hair, 43 percent had long hair, 24 percent had a pierced ear, 11.5 percent got a tan to look "wild,” and 17 percent were obsessed with trimming "excessive hair."

Men pluck their eyes brows and shave the hair on their arms legs and chests. About 60 percent of the Japanese who buy a popular palm-size leg shaver are men. One man of Beauty Tour of Tokyo told Reuters, "I used to play basketball, and my former girlfriend use to tell me I was unclean. Since then, I've started shaving my arms and legs."

Visits to the barber shop are often slow and time-consuming, and often include a neck and shoulder massage. Many busy salarymen view such a visit as chance to unwind and relax.

Bald Men and Hair-Loss Remedies in Japan

Panasonic nose hair trimmer
The percentage of bald or balding men increased from 15.1 percent in 1988 to 23.7 percent in 1998 (compared to 41.2 percent in Germany). This meant that the number of balding Japanese men almost doubled in that period from 6.2 million o 11.37 million (or about one in four Japanese men).

It is believed that bald Japanese men are teased and made fun of more that bald men in other countries. Combing hair over a bald patch, known as the "bar code" look, is the object of numerous jokes made by one of Japan's most famous comedy duos.

Hair loss remedies grew from a ¥3.2 billion business to a ¥5.5 billion one in Japan between 2003 and 2004. Most major drug companies have released some kind of drug or tonic — each with different ingredients and marketing strategies. A tonic made by Shiseido use a adenosine, a substance found in the human body said to affect hair papillae, a key to hair production. Kao uses an extract from St. Johns Wart that is said to stimulate hair growth. “One’ produced by Tsumara uses the Chinese herb swertia, which is said to help hair grow through improved circulation and the generation of synergy. There are even such products marketed for women.

Japan's first minoxidil-containing air tonic, RiUO, recorded sales of over $300 million the first year it was on the market. The company Propia uses the so-called hair-contact technique to apply wigs, toupees and false hair to the skin. The contact is a thin sheet of breathable film that is only 0.2 millimeters thick and can be worn continuously for five days.

Beards, Mustaches and Facial Hair in Japan

Facial hair on men is not as common a sight to Japan as it is in some other places. One reason is that Asian men do not grow as much facial hair as men in other parts of the world. Another reason is that beards and mustaches are discouraged in the workplace and do not fit the salaryman look. Some employers are very strict about facial hair. You don’t see much of it in baseball or sumo — other than a few days growth kept by wrestlers who don’t want to shave during a winning streak — or at convenience stores or post offices. One post office employee had his salary cut for having a beard.

The facial hair issue drew some national attention in May 2010 when the municipality of Isesaki, Gunma Prefecture banned all male staff from having beards on the grounds that public servants should have a neat appearance. The municipality took action after some citizens complained about bearded workers.

The social critic Mitsuru Yaku told Kyodo, “Most say that growing a beard is a matter of personal freedom up to the individual to decide. But organizations don’t function well if they lack a certain degree of discipline...A beard represents something that is the polar opposite of the virtue normally associated with serious-minded adults. Many people equate beards with decadence or moral laxity. Beard bans will probably continue even if young people grow beards to be stylish.”

Male Wigs and Fake Beards in Japan

An estimated 700,000 Japanese men wear hair pieces. About 60 percent of the customers for new hair pieces are men in their 20s, compared to 35 percent in 1990.

The market for products for bald and balding men is much larger than in Europe even though Europe has a lot more balding men. This is probably because Japanese men ten to be more self conscious and embarrassed by their baldness.

Adrenas, Japan's largest producer of toupees, does about $400 million worth of business every year. An Adrenas custom-made wig costs from $600 to $6,000. The price usually depends on the amount of area covered.

Many companies prohibit men from growing facial hair. Some men buy false mustaches and beards to wear when they go out after work. The owner of one shop that sells false beards in black, brown and salt and pepper for between $18 and $35 told the Daily Yomiuri, “Many of our customers say they want to show off to their family and friends by wearing it on the weekends.”

Image Sources: 1) xorsystem blog 2) Hector Garcia 3) Tokyo Pictures 4) and 6) Andrew Gray Photosensibility 7) Japan Visitor, 8) British Museum, 9) Visualizing Culture, MIT Education

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated July 2012

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