More men with women's touch in beauty and cooking

Kondo Yohdi and his makeup bags.
PHOTO: The Japan News/ANN

"Cakes that taste like melon soda are the best," said Akira Suzuki, 24, at a Tokyo branch of Sweets Paradise, an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant specialising in confectionery.

He placed several cakes on his plate with finesse, an indication that he is used to doing this many times.

Suzuki, a company employee in Saitama Prefecture, has a major sweet tooth and visits the restaurant at least once a month.

He even goes to a cafe by himself to eat his favourite cakes. He can bake apple pies, which he takes to his workplace and shares with his colleagues, and cooks up a fair stew.

Suzuki never fails to apply daily care products to his skin, and he is now looking for a high-performance hair removal equipment.

"I'm just doing what I like," he said softly. "This is normal for me."

These days, men like Suzuki are called "joshiryoku danshi" - literally boys with girls' skills. Women use their skills to become more attractive and fulfilled. Men who possess such skills are becoming the centre of attention of late.

Some of them are interested in beauty care, while others frequent popular pancake restaurants, for example.

Model Kondo Yohdi, 22, has been introduced on TV as having a high level of "girls' skills." He always carries a parasol with him and puts sunscreen lotion on his skin a few times a day when he's out and about.

He always has five or six makeup bags that contain skin lotions, perfumes, perspiration deodorants and the like.

"When I find some kind of cosmetics that works well, I recommend it to my mother," he said. He goes shopping with his mother and sometimes chooses clothes for her.

"I've been going out with her since I was a kid, so I don't feel embarrassed at all," he said.

Young men are highly conscious about beauty care. In 2011, Tokyo-based Kao Corp.'s Lifestyle Research Center conducted an online survey on 1,032 men in their 20s.

Forty-eight per cent of respondents said they used skin lotion, skin milk or beauty essence.

"Men with a high level of feminine skills have always existed, but the number of such men has been growing in recent years, mainly among those in their 20s," said Yohei Harada, who coined the term "joshiryoku danshi."

He is a leader of Hakuhodo Youth Life Lab, an institute of the Hakuhodo Brand Design.

How are these men different from "soshoku-kei danshi," or herbivorous boys, a recent term meaning men in their teens or 20s who are timid about romance?

"Unlike soshoku-kei danshi, joshiryoku danshi have relationships. Some of these men acquire feminine skills to be popular among women," Harada explained.

Both Suzuki and Kondo emphasise that, although they don't have a girlfriend right now, they are willing to go on dates if there is a woman they get along well with.

The markets are quick to respond to the needs of such men.

Culinary school ABC Cooking Studio used to accept female students only. In spring last year, however, all of the school's 135 studios began accepting men as well.

As of June, about 10,000 of the school's 280,000 members were men, more than 60 per cent of whom are in their 20s or 30s.

"We are surprised because when we started accepting men at selected studios in 2006, most of the men who came to us were in their 40s or 50s," said the school's publicist.

Why are there more younger men?

"As more and more women are participating in society, the differences between men and women are not felt as strongly as in the past. For example, boys learn home economics at school now," Harada said.

Their emergence is also thanks to the widespread use of social networking services.

In the past, men had no means of learning about cosmetics or the latest trends in food other than through women's magazines or from their girlfriends.

Now, however, you only have to access Twitter or other social media to find such information naturally - there are many comments like, "I just bought these sweets that have just come out," posted mainly by women.

The evolution of the consumer society is yet another reason for their rise, according to Naoko Kuga, a chief researcher of think tank NLI Research Institute.

"Consumers' preferences have shifted from the purchase of an 'object,' such as a car, to the purchase of an 'act' - the act of eating great meals or receiving a massage, for example," she said.

"This kind of consumption is possible in many genres women are interested in, and I guess men also naturally started paying more attention to those genres."

Types of 'joshiryoku danshi' and their traits

Healthy danshi

Health-conscious men who buy healthy goods. When purchasing food or cosmetics, they check whether the product contains any additives.

Cafe danshi

Men who like fashionable cafes that have character

Shojo-manga danshi

Men who love girls' manga. They refer to the ideas they get from girls' manga for their own relationships. They also enjoy feeling emotionally connected to the girls' manga characters.

Aroma danshi

Men who incorporate scents into their lifestyle by using perfumes, scented fabric softeners or other products that are easily available. Some of them really like aromatherapy.

Nuigurumi danshi

Men who like stuffed toys.

Some of them have small stuffed toy mascots dangling from their bags.