From ‘Carnivore’ To ‘Herbivore’: 5+ Types Of Men You’ll Meet In Japan

Introducing male popularity trends in Japan over the years

By Hilary Keyes
November 15, 2017
Lifestyle, Relationships

The “carnivore,” “herbivore,” and “soy milk” guys in Japan explained.

Though I’ve covered the eight types of men found on dating sites before, it’s time to head offline to discover an even wider spectrum of guys you might encounter in the Japanese dating landscape. Typical for Japan, these types of men have been labeled under some kind of category over the years depending on their characteristics. In this article, I take a look at those trends, introducing the five most common types of men (and their sub-trends) you’re likely to meet in Japan. Know the signs before it’s too late!

1. Nikushoku-kei: The “Hunter”

Nikushoku-kei danshi (肉食系男子) or “carnivore man,” is a term which became popular quite a few years ago and refers to a man who is traditionally “masculine” in nature, one that is a flirt, sexually driven, very confident, and a “hunter” by nature. He usually has quite the experience with the ladies and knows how to sweet talk someone. But he is also considered likely to cheat and to possibly be emotionally unavailable and unable to have a steady or serious relationship.

Within this type, you’re likely to meet guys that consider themselves to be Gasshiri-kei (がっしり系, well-muscled or stocky body types), or Hosomacho-kei (細マッチョ, thin but well-muscled body types), and many men who work in high powered, aggressive fields such as construction, sales, and PR for example, who count themselves as Nikushoku men.

They can be fun to date, and not all of them are cheaters, but because they tend to work in very driven industries, you might not get to see them that often. So if you’re looking for someone to see on a regular basis, you might want to steer clear of Nikushoku-kei men. 

2. Soshoku-kei: The reserved type 

This term was coined in 2006 when I arrived in Japan, so I can vividly recall hearing it on the TV for years afterward. Essentially, soshoku-kei danshi (草食系男子) refers to men who are generally quiet, not very experienced, and somewhat appear to have lost their “aggressive manliness.” This category is now considered to be one of the widest, simply because there are so many different ways they may present themselves. Some subtrends are the Nettobenkei-kei (ネット弁慶系, guys obsessed with the internet and social media), others are Sabukaru-kei (サブカル系, obsessed with some form of subculture), or Otaku-kei (オタク系, extreme fans of anime or manga).

Generally speaking, soshoku-kei men like to do indoor activities, are big foodies or really into sweets, not all that interested in fashion or going out and spending money in general, and most likely will still live at home, simply because it’s the easiest option for them. They don’t have any problems relating to or interacting with women, but are often not actively pursuing a relationship. Yet, due to their quiet nature, many women believe they are less likely to cheat and cause dramas, so often they are the preferred “marriage material” type in Japan.

This type of men can be great friends and good people to explore new bars or restaurants with, but if you’re looking for an adventure and like to have regular sparks in your relationship, you may find this type boring.

3. Combined Types: Chicken, Fish & Soy Milk

After the above two types were first discussed, it wasn’t long before other combinations came out. In 2011-2013, three new types of guys became the talk of the town: Uoshoku-kei (魚食系, fish type), Keiniku-kei (鶏肉系, chicken type), and Tonyu-kei (豆乳系, soy milk type). These men are combinations of Nikushoku-kei with Soshoku-kei.

Uoshoku-kei like to leave things to instinct and will approach someone when they feel the time is right (like a fish seizing bait). They might be your friend for a while and then suddenly just confess their love for you, seemingly out of the blue.

Keiniku-kei are slightly more calm and steady in their approach, but can be aggressive pursuers (just watch a chicken feeding video on YouTube and it’ll make more sense). These guys act very casually and are a lot of fun to hang out with, and then they just might try to sweep you off your feet on a special occasion.

Tonyu-kei are men that tend to act somewhat feminine (using beauty treatments, dieting, taking more care of their appearance than other men might) in order to attract women to them. They tend to be very fashionable and like fashionable women, and some might even come across as being gay to casual observers, but these guys are very much interested in being part of a “beautiful couple.”

4. Danjiki-kei: “Fasting” Men

Danjiki-kei (断食系) or fasting men, are men that, while likely to date someone, aren’t all that interested in a physical relationship with them. This term came about in 2013, and basically means a guy that may have a girlfriend, but also goes out and spends time with his friends, has his own hobbies, and otherwise is quite content to do things on his own, and in general isn’t that bothered with the standard course of dating someone or may not even be all that interested in the physical side of a relationship.

Zesshoku-kei (絶食系 “extreme fasting men”) is an even deeper form of fasting men, and a term that came about in late 2016, early 2017 on social media. What the terms basically means is that these guys are so not interested in the opposite sex, they can’t even name a female celebrity that they like and some may consider themselves to be asexual or aromantic.

This isn’t to say that you can’t date a fasting man — you just have to act like you have no interest whatsoever in him in terms of a relationship and have zero expectations of him doing anything romantic or direct towards you, and then they might (heavy emphasis on might!) ask you out for a more standard date if you appeal to them in some regard.

5. Inu-kei: The “Will Boyfriend”

In about mid-2015, the “Will Boyfriend” (ウイル彼, uiru kare) came onto the scene. A Will Boyfriend is a guy that you like to spend time with and could potentially date in the future, but isn’t your boyfriend at the moment. Sounds confusing, doesn’t it? Basically, this is the Japanese version of the “Friend Zone.” A Will Boyfriend has a better chance of escaping the Friend Zone by not changing his behavior or trying to push a relationship on the lady in question. This type overlaps with what other publications call the Inu-kei (犬系) or dog type, because he is loyal, trustworthy, friendly, will follow your lead and is overjoyed at any show of affection.

Will Boyfriends tend to also be within the chicken or fish subtype, although they can technically belong to any of the categories mentioned — it all comes down to how you act around him, and how you feel about him as to whether or not he’s someone you’re interested in. The only problem with a Will Boyfriend is that, if he’s good enough to be a Will Boyfriend to you, then someone else might think he’s good enough to make for a serious boyfriend.

As a bonus, two of my favorite terms that have been used to describe a type of Japanese man: the asparagus bacon roll type (アスパラベーコン巻き系, asupara bekon-maki kei), and the cabbage roll type (ロールキャベツ系, ro-ru kyabetsu-kei). They basically mean a guy that looks like a Nikushoku-kei, but when you get to know him better, turns out to be a Soshoku-kei, and vice versa. I think those are the two types I go for, or at least the types I attract.

How about you — what’s your type?