Intersections: Globalisation and the Bodily Performance of 'Cool' and 'Un-cool' Masculinities in Corporate Japan
Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific
Issue 23, January 2010

Globalisation and the Bodily Performance of 'Cool' and 'Un-cool' Masculinities in Corporate Japan

Romit Dasgupta

    The corporate male body in fin-de-siècle Japan
  1. One aspect of globalisation, particularly noticeable since the 1990s, is the ways in which its processes are expressed through the lived experiences and the bodies of individuals across the globe. Increasingly, bodily ideals of desirability and health, as represented, for instance, in popular culture texts, have been progressively commodified and drawn into transnational circuits of consumer capitalism.[1]
  2. Historically the female body has been (and to a large degree, still continues to be) the site where these discourses of commodified body ideals are played out. From the 1990s, however, the male body also started to be drawn into these processes, both as a visible object of commodification, and as a focus of study.[2] These globalised discourses of the male body are played out in a variety of socio-cultural spaces, one such site being the workplace, in particular the world of white-collar executive corporate culture. This is a corporate culture increasingly characterised by what Australian sociologist Raewyn Connell has referred to as a 'transnational business masculinity,'[3] a discourse of masculinity hinging on globalised, neo-liberal notions of the world. This transnational business masculinity intersects in sometimes quite complex ways with locally specific managerial masculinities. Emerging from these engagements is what may be termed a glocally hegemonic discourse of transnational corporate masculinity.[4] It is 'glocal' (as opposed to merely 'global'), in much the same way that the concept of 'glocalisation' has been deployed in the context of globalisation—an underlying globally standardised ideology (of management, of gender and sexuality, of the body) which at the same time, has the capacity to incorporate aspects of pre-existing, locally-specific practices and ideologies.
  3. This 'transnational business masculinity' is expressed through embodied practices. The ways in which the male executive walks, talks, grooms and maintains himself, conducts business, and even the ways in which he carries out his private sexual and emotional life, are intertwined with his success at matching up to the expectations of the discourse.[5] This may be in contrast to earlier models of hegemonic masculinities, where, at least on the surface, the bodily appeal of the male (as opposed to female) employee was not acknowledged as being a consideration in gaining access to the dividends of power. Transnational business masculinity, however, emerged within the context of, on one hand, the growing attention to the male body as an object of commodified consumption (as referred to above) and on the other, the linking of this attention to the body with (seemingly irrefutable) discourses on health and well-being, in particular the equation of an 'unhealthy' look and lifestyle with a lack of efficiency and productivity in the workplace. Specifically, this is a discourse that encourages, indeed privileges, the self-disciplining and 'micro-sculpting' of the body as an ongoing project, requiring an investment of both time and financial resources. Not doing so—for instance, not going to the gym on a regular basis, or not using the right kind of personal grooming products, or not eating correctly, or smoking, or drinking too much, or simply putting on weight—translates to a lack of self-discipline and is seen as being reflective of a similarly sloppy and unprofessional attitude to work.[6]
  4. Despite its global reach, most of the discussion and analysis of transnational business masculinity from a perspective of gender has tended to focus on Western (Euro-American and Australia/New Zealand) contexts.[7] This article, however, looks at the ways in which these new assumptions of transnational hegemonic corporate masculinity intersect with pre-existing, locally specific hegemonic masculinities in a non-Western setting—Japan at the turn of the twenty-first century.
  5. In the context of Japan, the influence of this discourse of transnational business masculinity on local configurations of corporate masculinity is best articulated through the ways in which the white-collar 'salaryman' (sarariiman, in Japanese) is represented in spaces of popular culture. Over much of the second half of the twentieth century the figure of the urban, middle-class, white-collar 'salaryman' loyally toiling away for the organisation in return for an implicit guarantee of life-time employment stability, came to signify both Japanese corporate culture, and more generally, Japanese masculinity itself. Indeed, the salaryman could well be considered to have been what Vera Mackie has referred to as 'the archetypal citizen' of postwar Japan.[8] In this sense, the discourse of masculinity embodied in this salaryman/archetypal citizen figure was, in many respects, the hegemonic discourse of masculinity in Japan over these years.
  6. However, as the Japanese economy slid into recession from the mid-1990s, entering the period which came to be known as the 'Lost Decade,' the model of corporate masculinity embodied in the salaryman started to unravel and lose its hegemonic hold. Rather, in the context of over a decade of corporate re-structurings and down-sizings, a discourse of masculinity associated with a Euro-American dominated global transnational masculinity became the new corporate ideal and the ideal form of masculinity. This shift to a 'global cool' was (and continues to be) performed through the body, or more specifically, through a 'micropolitics of body control.'[9] Body sculpting practices, healthy lifestyle habits, styles of personal grooming, and the projection of a (hetero)sexualised body image were all highlighted as integral to being a successful salaryman, in ways which had not been associated with the earlier discourse of salaryman masculinity.
  7. In this article I look at the ways in which these newer discourses of transnational business masculinity intersected with older ideals of salaryman masculinity, and how these collisions and intersections were played out through the body and represented in spaces of popular culture. In particular I discuss the ways in which magazines targeting younger salarymen were instrumental as conduits of the 'micropolitics of body control' referred to above.
  8. The particular timeframe for my discussion is the years leading up to and immediately following the new millennium. The reason I focus specifically on this period is twofold. First, these years, roughly corresponding to the period between the end of the Cold War and the start of the so-called 'War on Terror,' were particularly significant years in the historical narrative of globalisation. The early 1990s saw the fragmentation of the Soviet Union and the ideological alternative to capitalism it had offered. The global retreat of Japanese economic influence through the 1990s, in the wake of the bursting of the 'bubble economy' also worked to highlight the triumph and global power of the political-economic system embodied in US-style neo-liberal capitalism, over all alternatives.[10] This ideological shift was played out through the everyday experiences of individuals across the globe, often through channels of popular culture. It was over these years that many of the icons of US capitalism such as MTV, McDonalds, and Nike—and the discourse of youthful, beautiful, healthy middle-class bodies embodied in these names—became a visible part of citizens' everyday experiences even in places like India, Russia, and China, previously largely outside the orbit of American youth and consumer culture. The globalising ideals of the body, such as the increasingly standardised ideals of health, fitness, beauty, and sexual appeal referred to above, were in many respects manifestations of this global ascendancy of Euro-American neo-liberal capitalism.
  9. Second, in the specific context of Japanese corporate culture, it was during these years in particular that the juxtaposition of the two discourses of corporate masculinity referred to above—the traditional salaryman of the 1950s to 1980s versus the newer, slicker, globally 'cool' executive—was most apparent. As highlighted above, in the wake of the corporate re-structurings and bankruptcies of the mid- to late-1990s, the view that for Japanese corporate culture to become reinvigorated, the body of the individual salaryman needed to be re-sculpted and worked on started to become increasingly prominent in management literature and in popular culture. Over the period of Japan's global economic ascendancy, particularly through the 1970s and during the glory days of the 'bubble economy' through the 1980s, it had been Japanese corporate culture, best embodied in the ideology and practices of salaryman masculinity, that was held up as an example of corporate managerial success to the rest of the world.[11] This period coincided with the relative decline of US global power and prestige in the years between the end of the Vietnam War and the end of the Cold War. By the mid- to late-1990s the situation had turned around and Japan and the United States appeared to have exchanged places. Japan's economic might was no longer seen as a threat by the United States, and Japanese corporate culture was no longer regarded as worthy of emulation. Rather, in the new post-Cold War global geo-political and economic climate, it was the neo-liberal, market-driven, economic-rationalist approach of a newly resurgent US-style corporate culture that was seen — in Japan specifically, and more generally globally — as setting the standard for managerial and corporate ideology and practice, in the years leading up to, and immediately following the new millennium.
  10. Finally, there is an additional consideration underlying the timeframe of discussion in this paper. In the context of the current global financial crisis of 2008/9, with the world appearing to be on the threshold of a new chapter in the narrative of globalisation, there is arguably an urgent need to revisit and reflect upon the earlier years of globalisation covered in this discussion.

    The salaryman and hegemonic masculinity in Japan
  11. As flagged above, the figure of the white-collar salaryman came to be regarded as something of an 'everyman' of Japan's postwar social landscape, the 'corporate soldier' (kigy ō senshi) for 'Japan Inc.,' the government-bureaucracy-private industry collaboration which was seen as the driver of the country's industrial success from the 1950s through until the 1990s. Although only a minority of men would have fallen within the strictest definitional parameters of the category of 'salaryman,' the discourse surrounding the salaryman and his lifestyle was far more extensive and pervasive in its reach.[12] It was in this regard that the masculinity associated with the salaryman could have been considered the hegemonic form of masculinity in Japan over these decades.
  12. At the same time, even during the heyday of the 'Japan Inc.' paradigm in the 1960s and 1970s, the discourse of salaryman masculinity had been subject to contestation — for instance, by the very vocal student activists of the 1960s, who were the antithesis of the diligent, respectable middle-class salaryman. This interrogation and problematisation became more visible over the 1980s, during the 'bubble economy' years, as the prevailing socio-economic conditions allowed for more public challenges to the discourse of the salaryman. Specifically, some of the costs associated with salaryman masculinity started to be highlighted over these years. As a consequence of growing media attention, terms such as karōshi (literally, 'death from overwork'), kitaku-kyohi ('fear' of returning home, partly due to a lack of communication between the salaryman and his family), tanshin funin (employees forced to live away from their families, sometimes for years, due to job transfers), and madogiwa-zoku (literally, 'window-sill tribe'—middle-aged salarymen automatically promoted up the corporate escalator to junior management, but due to personal inefficiency or a lack of commensurate work, relegated to desks by the window) entered into the lexicon of everyday discourse.[13] At the same time, shifts in the industrial structure away from those sectors traditionally associated with the salaryman masculinity, towards areas (such as fashion, media, services) with an emphasis on youth, individuality and creativity, meant that for growing numbers of younger Japanese, including younger men, there was now a greater range of lifestyle and work options available than had been the case in their fathers' generation.
  13. As Japan entered the 1990s, the bursting of the speculative 'bubble,' which had driven the prosperity of the 1980s, accelerated this weakening of the hegemonic grip of conventional salaryman masculinity. As the confidence of the managerial culture of the 1970s and 1980s shifted into the corporate re-structurings and financial institution collapses of the 1990s, the earlier smugness about the global superiority of Japanese corporate culture gave way to a sense that there was a need to radically overhaul and reinvigorate both the corporate culture and, by extension, the salaryman who embodied this corporate culture. The cohort of salarymen who had entered the workforce in the 1960s and 1970s and were now on the threshold of middle-management were most affected by these developments. Under the assumption of continued economic expansion which had prevailed until the 1990s, these men would have been assured of almost automatic promotion and salary increase within the framework of the permanent employment/seniority system. However, in the context of the abrupt downturn, corporations found themselves with a costly excess layer of 'fat' around the middle. The very men who had previously embodied the ideal of archetypal citizen—middle-class, middle-aged, middle-management husbands and fathers—were now increasingly equated with a lack of efficiency, in terms of both work and self-management (including bodily management). These changes were manifest in increasing rates of unemployment for men in their middle years. Unlike in the past, even large élite corporations were less reticent about laying off salarymen who had been with the organisation for decades, but now were too costly to maintain. Consequently the unemployment rate for men in the 45–54 age group climbed from a mere 1.1 percent in 1990 to 4.3 percent by 2003.[14] One consequence of this was a marked increase in the male suicide rate, particularly among middle-aged men.[15] For growing numbers of men, the ones who had previously exemplified the ideals of salaryman masculinity, there was a heightened sense of anxiety and stress, as well as a sense of being discarded by the very corporate ideology and system that had shaped their masculine identities.
  14. For younger men, those who became salarymen in the new realities of the recessionary 1990s and early 2000s, the expectations they had about being a salaryman, and the expectations on them about being salarymen, had definitely shifted compared with pre-1990s salarymen. Many of these men had observed at first hand the toll salaryman masculinity had taken on their fathers' generation. Consequently many of the inducements associated with the salaryman masculinity of an older generation were now less appealing, and indeed, far less of an expectation. Instead, for many young men (and women) coming into the corporate sector in the 1990s and 2000s, a corporate culture revolving around individual ability, efficiency, risk-taking, and conditional loyalty was the new ideal. The new corporate hero seemed no longer to be the kigy₍ senshi/corporate warrior type salaryman of earlier decades. Rather, drawing upon the new global realities of a world increasingly dominated by transnational capitalism, it was a more entrepreneurial, 'no-nonsense' economic rationalist figure that came to represent the hegemonic ideal.[16]

    Globalisation and the shaping of 'cool' and 'un-cool' salarymen
  15. In the late-1990s and early 2000s, there was a shift from the earlier pre-recession salaryman masculinity to a discourse associated with the newer global transnational masculinity. I term this 'Cool' versus 'Un-cool' masculinity. The tensions in the old and new models of masculinity were played out most visibly through the body of the salaryman in spaces of popular culture. Popular culture, as I have discussed in more detail elsewhere, was (and is) an important channel for the dissemination and reinforcement of hegemonic 'ideals.'[17] Magazines and manga targeting the salaryman, advertisements, television dramas and serials revolving around salaryman characters, and 'pop-management' self-improvement guides and manuals all worked to instruct consumers in the 'proper' ways to 'perform' salaryman masculinity.
  16. While all the above media have been equally effective in terms of disseminating and representing dominant (and, to a lesser extent, alternative) discourses of masculinity, I focus in particular on magazines in this discussion. Magazines, as Merry White noted in her 1990s study of Japanese youth culture, play a vital role as a conduit for communication and in disseminating information (including the transmission of hegemonic ideals and expectations) in a sophisticated, information-permeated society like Japan.[18] This was especially so prior to the widespread diffusion of the internet from the late 1990s to the early 2000s. Keiko Tanaka notes, for instance, that between 1980 and 1992 over 2300 new magazines were launched.[19] Over the period of the late 1990s and early 2000s (and indeed, continuing into the present) there were numerous magazines of varying quality targeting a salaryman readership across various age groups.[20] Publications such as Gainer and Big Tomorrow were geared towards a younger salaryman readership in their twenties and thirties. They were (and are) distinct from magazines targeting an older salaryman readership—a generation that would fit more comfortably within the parameters of the stereotypical, pre-1990s salaryman. Such magazines—Shūkan Daiyamondo and President, for instance—focus primarily on the more 'serious' aspects of management and political economy.[21] In contrast, publications like Gainer, Big Tomorrow, or Brutus, targeting the younger salaryman demographic, while also addressing more 'serious' topics related to politics or the macro-economy, tended to devote considerable space to disseminating information and instruction about lifestyle-related aspects of being a young salaryman. In this regard, these magazines combine the features of the business newsmagazine-type publications targeting an older age cohort, and the glossy lifestyle/fashion magazines aimed at a younger, late-teens/early-twenties male readership.[22] While the various salaryman publications had different styles of approach and presentation, there are also certain common themes that cut across them. For instance, one common aspect has to do with the representation of particular styles of masculinity associated with the hegemonic 'ideals' of salaryman masculinity at that particular point in time. Thus, by the late-1990s, the 'ideal' salaryman masculinity was increasingly depicted in terms of such attributes as exercising regularly, being well-groomed, having hobbies outside of work, self-motivation, and even the possession of skills traditionally associated with 'femininity,' such as the ability to cook, or being seen to be taking an active interest in child-rearing.[23]
  17. This ideal was contrasted with the more 'traditional' image of salaryman masculinity—the dowdy, cigarette-smoking, alcohol-loving, middle-aged salaryman with a bad haircut, who did not exercise, have interests outside of work, and who did not know how to treat women in the workplace with respect. A perfect example of the juxtaposition of these two faces of salaryman masculinity is a feature in a February 2003 issue of Big Tomorrow, based on a survey of 'seventy-six female beauties' (bijo), comparing a 'desirable man' (iketeru otoko) with an unappealing 'old man' (oyajikusai otoko).[24] The 'attractive male' is characterised by such attributes as being fit and healthy as a result of attending the gym regularly, paying attention to his personal grooming (including such things as polished shoes, and attention to belts, socks, and other finer details), the ability to visually show different sides of his 'at-work' and 'after-work' personality (for instance, by switching from glasses to contact lenses after work), and wearing just enough of a light, fresh (sawayaka) fragrance to 'tickle a female heart' (onnagokoro o kusuguru). Conversely, the unattractive oyaji is characterised by 'an old man smell that wafts into the nose' (oyaji-nioi ga hana ni tsuku). This includes the smell of hair-oil, breath smelling of jintan (a type of mint drop dating back to the prewar period), and cigarette-odour-permeated suit. The oyajikusai salaryman also has bad dress-sense wearing worn-out, crumpled suits and still carrying a hand-pouch, an accessory long out of fashion. This is compounded by poor personal grooming (dirty fingernails, discoloured teeth, 'five-o'-clock shadow' from not shaving properly). Finally, his outdated, unhealthy attitude to health and bodily discipline is signified by his fondness for drinking alcohol ('cup-sake' rather than a can of beer) on the train home after work, with no concern for what others might think.[25]
  18. These shifts and contentions were not just restricted to representation. There is also a very noticeable element of inscription and inculcation through visual and printed instruction and guidance, extending across all the magazines. Also included were hints about personal grooming and appearance (choosing appropriate suits, ties, bags, accessories, and the proper way to 'dress for business') and instruction about workplace conduct (the correct way to exchange business cards, the proper way to talk to clients over the telephone, how to be more time-effective at work). The instructions were often extremely detailed, with copious visual support. Big Tomorrow, for instance, often carried (and still carries) a tear-out supplement on being more efficient at work. The supplement in the May 1998 issue, for example, covered a day in the life of a young salaryman, giving hints on everything from massaging your face first thing in the morning (in order to look fresh), to various tips on being more efficient at work, English expressions you need to know in case you had to take a call from overseas in the new globalised workplace, quick exercises you can do at your desk, and even tips on avoiding a hangover after drinking with colleagues or clients.[26] The February 2003 issue of the same magazine carried a visual step-by-step guide to various ways of exercising and physical toning while commuting to work, and while at work. This included such tips as bending your knees while brushing your teeth in the morning, using the handrail or pole in the subway train to do exercises, stretching your neck inside the elevator (if you are alone), through to various exercises to perform while seated at the desk.[27] Another issue ran an illustrated article featuring the contents of the briefcases of salarymen who had a reputation for being efficient and productive, another sign of the growing importance of the sort of economic rationalist, 'efficient' global masculinity mentioned above.[28]

  19. The contours of hegemonic masculinity in Japan are being re-shaped, not just in response to internal demographic, socio-economic, and cultural conditions, but also in response to wider global flows of capital, technology, people, information, and images. This shift, while an ongoing process, was particularly pronounced over the years that I have focused upon in this article—the late 1990s through to the early 2000s. It was during these years that the ideals (including the bodily ideals) represented by the discourse of transnational business masculinity—the emphasis on individual efficiency, the 'micro-sculpting' of the body, for instance—started to figure prominently in spaces of popular culture, as a counterfoil to the conventional attributes of salaryman masculinity associated with the 'Japan Inc' model of the 1950s through to the 1980s. Quite clearly, within the new shapings of salaryman masculinity the figure of the (apparently) unfit, workaholic kigyō senshi ('corporate warrior') who finds emotional satisfaction through his work identity and homosocial interactions with colleagues is becoming increasingly passé. Rather, as popular culture representations like the 'cool' versus 'uncool' salaryman discussed above suggest, the new 'ideal' is someone who defines himself (and crafts his body accordingly) by increasingly grafting globalised hegemonic standards onto local culturally-specific ideals. What will be worth looking out for, in the coming months and years, are the ways in which these dynamics may change, in the wake of the crisis in globalisation at the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century. These dynamics—both what occurred during the time-period discussed in this paper, and what may occur in coming years—underscore Connell's assertion of hegemony being a 'historically mobile relation' with its 'ebb and flow…a key element of the picture of masculinity.'[29]


    [1] One example is the way in which discourses of body image and bodily discipline relating obesity to both bad health practices (lack of 'self-discipline') and a lack of sexual appeal have rapidly diffused across the globe through the medium of popular culture spaces like lifestyle and fitness magazines such as Men's Health, or television shows along the lines of The Biggest Loser. See, for instance, Jana Evans Braziel and Kathleen LeBesco (eds), Bodies Out of Bounds: Fatness and Transgression, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001; Alice Julier, 'The political economy of obesity', in Food and Culture: A Reader, ed. Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik, New York: Routledge, 2008, pp. 482–99; Lee F. Monaghan, 'Big handsome men, bears and others: virtual constructions of "fat male embodiment",' in Body and Society, vol. 11, no. 2 (2005):81–111; Monaghan, 'McDonaldizing men's bodies? Slimming, associated (ir)rationalities and resistances', in Body and Society, vol. 13, no. 2 (2007):67–93; Laura Spielvogel, Working Out in Japan: Shaping the Female Body in Tokyo Fitness Clubs, Durham: Duke University Press, 2003, pp. 88–95.

    [2] See Susan Bordo, The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and Private, New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1999; also Tim Edwards, Men in the Mirror: Men's Fashion, Masculinity and Consumer Fashion, London: Cassell, 1997; Frank Mort, Cultures of Consumption: Masculinities and Social Space in Late Twentieth Century Britain, London: Routledge, 1996.

    [3] R.W. Connell and J. Wood, 'Globalization and business masculinities', in Men and Masculinities, vol. 7, no. 4 (2005):347–64.

    [4] Hegemonic masculinity, as various writers (e.g. John Beynon, Masculinities and Culture, Buckingham, UK: Open University Press, 2002) drawing upon Connell's work on gender and power have noted, is the discourse of masculinity which at a given time in a given society has the greatest ideological power, both in relation to women and femininity/ies, and in relation to other coexisting and intersecting masculinities. Thus, hegemonic masculinity may be regarded as the cultural 'ideal' or 'blueprint' that has a powerful (and often unarticulated) presence in the lives of men and women. However, at the same time, as Connell stresses, it need not be the most common form, nor the 'most comfortable.' See R.W. Connell, The Men and the Boys, St. Leonards: Allen & Unwin, 2000, p. 11; also R.W. Connell and James W. Messerschmidt, 'Hegemonic masculinity: rethinking the concept', in Gender and Society, vol. 19, no. 6 (2005):829–59.

    [5] Linda McDowell, 'Performing work: bodily representations in merchant banks,' in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, vol. 12, no. 6 (1994):727–50; Robyn Longhurst, Bodies: Exploring Fluid Boundaries, London: Routledge, 2001, pp. 91–122.

    [6] McDowell, 'Performing work,' p. 740.

    [7] For instance, Connell and Wood, 'Globalization and business masculinities'; Christine Hooper, 'Masculinities in transition: the case of globalization', in Gender and Global Restructuring: Sightings, Sites and Resistances, ed. Marianne H. Marchand and Anne Sisson Runyan, London: Routledge, 2000, pp. 59–73; Longhurst, Bodies; McDowell, 'Performing work.'

    [8] Vera Mackie, 'Embodiment, citizenship and social policy in contemporary Japan', in Family and Social Policy in Japan: Anthropological Approaches, ed. Roger Goodman, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002, pp. 200–29, p. 203.

    [9] Spielvogel, Working Out in Japan, p. 91.

    [10] The 'bubble economy' refers to the period from roughly the mid-1980s until the early-1990s when the Japanese economy was characterised by a largely real estate and stock market speculation-driven boom. By the late 1980s, the Tokyo Stock Exchange was bigger than New York's, and the ten largest banks and four largest security firms in the world were Japanese. It was during these years that Japan's position as a global economic superpower became established. Low interest rates, coupled with an appreciation of the yen led to a surge in Japanese capital moving offshore, particularly in the form of investment in real estate (including resorts and golf courses) in places like Hawaii, Australia, the mainland US, and Asia. Japanese firms were able to acquire 'iconic' Western corporations (Sony's purchase of Columbia Pictures in 1989, for instance). This, coupled with the growing trade surplus with its trading partners (in particular, the United States), led, on the one hand, to a growing fear of Japanese economic domination, and on the other hand, to a (somewhat grudging) acknowledgement and admiration for the kind of management style and corporate culture which supposedly underpinned this success. The 'bubble' burst in the early 1990s, as stock and land prices started to plummet, thus triggering more than a decade of falling real estate prices, corporate bankruptcies, and increasing unemployment. Consequently, over a short span of a couple of years, the global economic threat Japan had represented in the Western (particularly US) media was effectively neutralised. For a discussion of these years, see, Richard Katz, Japan: The System that Soured, Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1998, pp. 7–9; John Nathan, Japan Unbound: A Volatile Nation's Quest for Pride and Purpose, New York: Houghton Mifflin, pp. 17, 18; Elise Tipton, Modern Japan: A Social and Political History, London: Routledge, 2002, pp. 195, 196 and 214, 215.

    [11] This was a corporate culture characterised by such practices and attributes as corporate paternalism, de-emphasis on individual risk-taking, an emphasis on generalist rather than specialist skills—all, comparatively speaking, 'softer' feminine qualities vis-à-vis the individual entrepreneurial, hard-hitting managerial style typically associated with North American corporate culture.

    [12] A narrow definition of the term would encompass those men who were/are full-time white-collar permanent employees of organisations offering benefits like lifetime employment guarantee, salaries and promotions tied to length of service, and an ideology of corporate paternalism characterising relations between the (permanent, male) employee and the organisation. In reality, though, the application of the term has always been a lot looser, with any full-time salaried employee of an organisation, including technical and blue-collar staff, applying the term to refer to themselves. Indeed, for a while in the 1950s the term joshi sarariiman (female salaryman) became visible in the media, although it never caught on. See Tomochika Okamoto and Etsuko Sasano, 'Sengo Nihon no "Sarariiman" Hyōshō no Henka: "Asahi Shinbun" o Jieri ni,' Shakaigaku Hyōron, vol. 52, no. 1 (2001):16–32, p. 24.

    [13] See Itō Kimio, Danseigaku Nyūmon, Tokyo: Sakuhin-sha, 1996, pp. 51–54 for a discussion of some of these issues—in particular lack of communication with families—as represented in the media in the early 1990s.

    [14] Japan Institute of Labour, Japanese Working Life Profile 2003, Tokyo: Japan Institute of Labour, 2003, p. 44.

    [15] James E. Roberson and Nobue Suzuki, 'Introduction,' in Men and Masculinities in Contemporary Japan: Dislocating the Salaryman Doxa, ed. James E. Roberson and Nobue Suzuki, London: RoutledgeCurzon, pp. 1–19, p.14, n. 7. Roberson and Suzuki, drawing upon Ministry of Health and Welfare statistics point out that the number of men killing themselves in 2000 was over 2.5 times the number in 1970. Also, whereas in 1970 the sex ratio for suicide had been weighed towards females, by 2000 the ration was 71.6 percent male versus 28.4 percent female. For men in the 40–49 age category suicide was ranked second as cause of death in 2000. See also Taga Futoshi, 'Tsukurareta otoko no raifusaikuru,' in 'Otokorashisa' no Gendaishi, ed. T. Abe, S. Obinata and M. Amano, 2006, Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Hyōron-sha, pp. 158–90, pp. 179–80.

    [16] This new ideal, drawing upon a global (rather than national) corporate ideal, was exemplified by Carlos Ghosn, who took over as CEO of Nissan Motors in 1999, when the organisation merged with French automobile manufacturer Renault. Ghosn's radical 'take-no-prisoners' approach to corporate restructuring was instrumental in turning around the profits of Nissan. Consequently Ghosn became both a corporate hero and a popular culture icon. His autobiography became a bestseller, and his exploits at Nissan formed the basis of a manga. See Roberson and Suzuki, 'Introduction', p. 9. See Carlos Ghosn, Runessansu: Saisei e no chousen, Tokyo: Daiyamondo-sha, 2001; Tadokoro Shin, Karurosu Gōn Monogatari: Kigyou saisei no kotae ga koko ni aru!, Tokyo: Shogakukan, 2001.

    [17] Romit Dasgupta, 'Performing masculinities? The "salaryman" at work and play', in Japanese Studies, vol. 20, no. 2 (2000):189–200.

    [18] Merry White, The Material Child: Coming of Age in Japan and America, New York: The Free Press, 1993, pp. 114–123.

    [19] Keiko Tanaka, 'The language of Japanese men's magazines: young men don't want to get hurt', in Masculinity and Men's Lifestyle Magazines, ed. Bethan Benwall, Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2003, pp. 222–42, p. 224. However, survey data published by the Japanese Magazine Advertising Association indicates that even after the entrenchment of the internet, magazines continue to be read by a significant proportion of the population; in 2007, 83 percent of the population read magazines (90 percent among younger-age cohorts), Japan Magazine Advertising Association, 'Magazine penetration,' in Magazine Advertising Data, n.d., online:, site accessed 27 March 2009.

    [20] Data from recent readership demographic surveys conducted by the Japanese Magazine Publishers Association support this. The majority of Big Tomorrow readers fall into the late-twenties/early-thirties categoriey. Gainer readers encompass a wider age-span, but nevertheless are concentrated in the mid-twenties to mid-thirties range. The readership of both magazines is overwhelmingly male (94.8 percent for Big Tomorrow and 90.7 percent for Gainer), unmarried, company employees (hence, salaryman). By contrast the readership of publications like President and Shūkan Daiyamondo is concentrated around an older age-cohort—above forty-five in the case of the former, and late thirties to late fifties for the latter. See JMPA (Japanese Magazine Publishers Association), Dokusha Kōsei Dēta, URL:, site accessed 27 March 2009.

    [21] See Saitō Minako, Dansei Zasshi Tanbō: Zasshi de Yomitoku Nihon Danji no Uruwashiki Seitai, Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha, 2003, Ch. 1. It should be pointed out, though, that these years also saw the emergence of 'lifestyle' magazines like Serai, Men's Club, Leon, Brio and Obra targeting an older (40s– and 50–plus) male readership. See Junko Sakai. 'The emergence of "men's" magazines,' in Japanese Book News, no. 38 (2002): 4, 5; also Saitō, Dansei Zasshi Tanbō, pp. 152–212.

    [22] For discussion of this genre of fashion/lifestyle magazines over the corresponding time-period (1990s), see Tanaka, 'The language of Japanese men's magazines.'

    [23] See Yumiko Iida, 'Beyond the "feminization of masculinity": transforming a patriarchy with the "feminine" in contemporary Japanese youth culture', in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, vol. 6 no. 1 (2005):56–74, and Laura Miller, 'Male beauty work in Japan', in Men and Masculinities in Contemporary Japan, ed. Roberson and Suzuki, pp. 37–58, for a discussion of the shift in notions surrounding male beauty and (hetero)sexual appeal, as represented in popular culture spaces.

    [24] 'Iketeru Otoko vs. Oyajikusai Otoko Tettei Hikaku: Bijo 76-nin ni Kikimashita,' in Big Tomorrow (February 2003):144–45. The expression, 'oyajikusai,' would quite literally translate as 'with an old man's stench.' Oyaji is a colloquial/slang term that can either be used to refer to (usually one's own) father, or a man in his late middle age or older (usually with slightly negative, derogatory connotations). Kusai, the adjectival suffix that translates as 'smelly' or 'stinking,' can also be attached to certain nouns and adjectives such as inaka (coutryside, rural) or binbō (poor) to convey a sense of negativity.

    [25] 'Iketeru Otoko vs. Oyajikusai Otoko,' p. 145.

    [26] 'Shigoto no Dandori-jutsu Omoshirosugiru Nana-jū-san no Kotsu,' in Big Tomorrow, (May 1998):93–99.

    [27] 'Otoko no Nikutai Kaizō Kōza: Ueisuto ga 85 cm Ijō ni Naru to Shinzō-byō no Kiken ga!', in Big Tomorrow, (February 2003):146–50.

    [28] '"Shigoto ga Dekiru to Hyōban no Otoko-tachi no Kaban no Nakami o Sō-chekku": Saishin Mobairu-ki kara Sutoppu-uocchi made…Sono Igaina Tsukai-kata to wa?' in Big Tomorrow, (January 2001):150–55.

    [29] R.W. Connell, Masculinities, St. Leonards: Allen and Unwin, 1995, pp. 77, 78.

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