Shut-ins, Parasite Singles, and Herbivore Men: An Exploration of their Causation

Publication Year



hikikomori, herbivore men, parasite women, Japan, birthrate, shut ins


Asian History | Asian Studies | Ethnic Studies | Experimental Analysis of Behavior | Labor Economics | Political Theory | Regional Sociology | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Social History | Women's Studies


This piece consists of research conducted based on my experience in Japan. During the six months that I lived in and attended Nanzan University in Nagoya, I became aware of three subcultures and researched them. This piece will research three youth subcultures: shut-ins (hikikomori, 引き籠り), parasite singles (parasaito, パラサイト), and herbivore/androgynous men (sōshoku-kei danshi, 草食系男子). Though these subcultures seem unrelated, during the course of my research, it became apparent that they are a reflection of a larger societal issue. I argue that women’s empowerment is acting as a challenge to the traditional ie (家) system. This research is conducted through multiple lenses and disciplines but chiefly from a women and gender studies/feminist perspective.

Firstly, I present an overview of these phenomena. Secondly, I situate these subcultures in the context of significant socioeconomic aspects of contemporary Japanese society: salaryman culture and related gender issues; the “Lost Decade;” the abstention of Japanese youth from sex and relationships; the rise of NEET (ニート) and freeter (フリーター). I then summarize four explanations drawn from academic literature and popular literature that comment on these social phenomena: cocoon mentality; individualism; counterculture; the Lost Decade. Lastly, I present my own interpretation of the rise of these three youth subcultures, based upon a synthesis and analysis of primary and secondary sources and my own ethnographic field research conducted in Nagoya, Japan.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status

Asian Studies

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