When you look at a room full of young people, it’s easy to group certain types of people into stereotypical archetypes. The jocks, the geeks, the glamorous, the hippies etc.
There’s a similar practice in the Japanese culture as well, where they express each archetype by actually using the word ‘type’ or in Japanese ‘kei’ at the end of the phrase. There are many archetypes in the modern Japanese youth culture, and some stick around for a long time and some come and go like trends. Two of the most well-known archetypes of Japan would be ‘Lolita-kei’ or ‘Loli-kei’ for short, as well as ‘Visual-kei‘ – the glam metal subculture that we’ve explored on this blog too.
In the recent years, these archetypes have reached into the love life of the Japanese youths as well. They are now identifying the ‘type’ of partner that a man or a woman may be with archetypes. The two biggest archetypes for men in Japan is ‘Soushoku-kei (herbivore-type)’ and ‘Nikushoku-kei (carnivore-type)’. So let’s see what that means.
The term ‘Soushoku-kei’ was coined by a columnist Maki Fukasawa and it first entered the Japanese social scene in 2006 but was made into a bonafide archetype by women’s magazine nonno in 2008.
The men who fit into this archetype are known to have a rather shy or quiet personality and have a lesser interest in relationships or sex compared to their carnivourous ‘Nikushoku-kei’ peers. The gentle and non-threatening behaviours of herbivorous animals have inspired the term.
Stereotypically, the ‘Soushoku-kei’ men are gentle people who avoid conflict at all costs and value having time to themselves. They are not ones to make the ‘first move’ in most social and dating situations and will often prefer to sit and listen quietly rather than lead the conversation.
Another cliche trait of ‘Soushoku-kei’ men is that they tend to have slender bodies and are not into eating heavy greasy food, but rather small portions of foods like desser and sandwiches. They take care of their appearance with skincare products and follow fashion trends, however, most tend to have their own unique sense of style.
Dating a ‘Soushoku-kei’ man would mean that you are the ‘alpha’ personality of the duo but can depend on the fact that a ‘Soushoku-kei’ man will always be gentle and a good listener who will most likely enjoy things like shopping and cafe-crawling.
You may already have a good idea of what a ‘Nikushoku-kei’ man is like – the opposite to a shy and gentle individual would be an outspoken and outgoing individual… And that is one of the main essense of a ‘Nikushoku-kei’ man.
The typical ‘Nikushoku-kei’ man may also fit into the ‘Taiku-kai-kei’ archetype as well. ‘Taiku-kai-kei’ is one of the oldest archetypes in Japanese culture and to put it simply, it’s the Japanese word for ‘jocks’. The word ‘taiku-kai’ means an atheletic club that people join during school years (whether it be baseball, marathon or even American football).
Just like in the western world, people who are considered to be ‘Taiku-kai-kei’ (whether they were a part of athletic clubs or not) develop a specific set of stereotypical traits such as:
– an optimistic outlook on life
– ability to follow directions well/enjoy sticking to rules
A lot of these traits also stereotypically belong to a ‘Nikushoku-kei’ man as well.
The ‘Nikushoku-kei’ man has a keener interest in pursuing romantic relationships and sex, but it does not necessarily mean that they are overly aggressive people. They enjoy leading the conversation and will typically be the first to ‘make the move’, and enjoy expressing their alpha-male style dominance.
However, since a lot of the times a ‘Nikushoku-kei’ man comes from a ‘Taiku-kai-kei’ background, they have a lot of respect for others and are able to stick to social rules unlike ‘jocks’ in the western world who get referred to as ‘meatheads’.
So we’ve explored what the herbivores and the carnivores of the Japanese dating scene are like, it isn’t all that much different to the archetypes that exist in the western world, however, there is another layer to this that adds to the herbivores VS carnivores story.
On top of the two main archetypes, there are men (and women) who are known as ‘Zesshoku-kei‘. The word ‘Zesshoku’ means to fast or to not eat, which in the Japanese dating context, it suggests that a person is absolutely not interested in dating at all. The ‘Soushoku-kei’ men may want to date but do not pursue it themselves and only respond to calls from a love interest, and the ‘Nikushoku-kei’ men will pursue dating, but the ‘Zesshoku-kei’ men only has interest in platonic relationships and often would only like spending time with others in a group context.
Another unique archetype that fits into this story is the hybrid of ‘Soushoku-kei’ and ‘Nikushoku-kei’ men: the ‘Roll Cabbage‘ men. Rolled cabbage is a western-style Japanese home cooking dish which comes with meatballs wrapped in cabbage and cooked in soup – it is a delicious dish with both veggies and meat in it. This vegetable and meat combination is what symbolises the fact that a ‘roll cabbage’ guy has a good balance of the qualities of the two archetypes.
So there you have it. If or when you decide to enter the dating scene in Japan, be aware of the ‘Zesshoku-kei’ people and remember to strived to be a balanced person like a roll cabbage.