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Every society has its own terminology for a young generation regarded as odd or unfathomable, and marketers are quick to give them catchy labels. It’s no exception in Japan, which is now abuzz with talk of men with a soft spot who are becoming known as soshokukei, meaning “herbivorous” or “herbivores.”

The word soshokukei, coined by a writer named Maki Fukasawa in 2007, has been widely picked up in the media in the last six months or so, owing in part to Megumi Ushikubo, president of the Tokyo market-research firm Infinity, and author of “Soshokukei Danshi Ojo-man Ga Nippon wo Kaeru (The Herbivorous Ladylike Men Are Changing Japan),” which was published in November 2008. Through interviews with around 100 men in their mid 20s and early 30s in Tokyo and other major cities, Ushikubo concluded that the soshokukei boys have a combination of the following characteristics:

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