A Japanese puzzle:
In addition to my puzzle over Arabia, I have a puzzle with Japan.  There are people there called “herbivores.”  They are young men with little or no interest in women as objects of desire or of romance and marriage.  Generally they are neither studying nor have full time employment.  Many live with their parents.  Estimates of the numbers vary from maybe 30% of young men to most of the population … which is rather odd demographically it would seem. 

At all events the phenomenon seems real.  Of course they are not expected to have children.  They tend to be socially isolated.  Apparently they are categorized as “freeters” and NEETS.  I am not sure exactly what the distinction is, but it seems to amount to about the same thing.

I like the term “NEET.”  A “neat” is a cow or calf or bull or steer of heifer.  In fact it is the only word I know of for that kind of animal that does not specify age or sex.  And of course a neat is an herbivore.  Neat, eh?

As might be expected they are blamed for the low Japanese birth rate.  This is plain old blame-the-victim stuff we can see in a lot of places.  It’s not their jolly fault.  They are just responding to what nature has done to them in response to the fact that their parents and other recent ancestors did not marry kin.  At least that’s what I think, and there is massive evidence to support it. 

Instead of buying cars and holding jobs they spend their time alone and their money on cosmetics and candy.

I think back to the ancient Greeks.  One of them (I’ve posted his name but now have forgotten it along with the name of the article) described late days of the Greek republic.  The young men then were described as having lost interest in manly sorts of things and spending their time in conspicuous consumption and on grooming. 

The man who described this state ended his days as a Roman slave.  When the Romans invaded Greece, the Greeks responded with their classical heavy phalanx, the row of armored spearmen that had not been defeated under Alexander as they scoured the world from Macedonia to the Indus River.  Don’t look it up.  That was a lot of fighting.  Yet the same approach, on their home turf for goodness’ sake, failed.  I read that they were fighting on uneven ground and the Romans were more maneuverable.  Really.  No hills between Greece and India?  I’ll tell you why they lost.  The phalanx was a line of old men.  I’ve nothing against old men, but a man who lives long enough eventually finds himself to be less of a scrapper than he was when he was younger. 

So are we looking at the same phenomenon?  I would say low birth rate was and is common between the two.  Interest in personal grooming is something else they share.  On the other hand the herbivores tend to be solitary while the Greek young men showed off for each other.  And while the Greeks were apparently showing off how much money they spent, the herbivores are quite frugal.

So the score is two and two.  I can’t come up with a tie breaker, and even if I did I wouldn’t find it convincing.  The congruence needs to be at least three out of four to merit more than a shrug.

The lowest birth rate just now is of course Singapore.  The rate is 0.8 children per woman, not 1.8, 0.8.  So are the young men acting like those in Japan? 

I should not expect the same name to be used.  Things Japanese cannot be so very popular in Singapore even now.  They were occupied by Japan during WWII, and a lot of people don’t forgive that sort of thing easily.  The defeat of the British there was one of the most spectacular military upsets I know of, but that speaks of the relative energy of Britain and Japan at the time, not Singapore itself. 

I did a bit of blog hopping and could not find solid evidence.  There were anecdotes about similar behavior but no solid statistics.  So again I do not know.  But I am very suspicious.

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