Publication Year



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.


Asian Studies