わたしが愛した男たち (Watashi ga ai shita otokotachi, “Men I loved”) used to be a favorite 週刊誌 (shūkanshi, weekly magazine) topic at the end of every year. Ginza ホステス (hosutesu, hostesses) and prominent media ladies like the 叶姉妹 (Kanō shimai, Kano sisters) would be interviewed (discreetly) about old lovers and affairs. Reading these somehow seemed like an apt way to wrap up the year.
Sadly, that 企画 (kikaku, topic) has gone out of style, but this year, I’d like to revive it — albeit in a nonpersonal way, because 2015 was the year the 日本男児 (Nihon danji, Japanese male) came through for us.
Normally, in December, the women of Japan can be found huddled around cafe and 居酒屋 (izakaya, pub) tables, wondering aloud why our fellow countrymen are so unlovable, undateable and impossible to live with for longer than five years without losing our minds. But things changed in 2015. Here are five fine specimens that serve as evidence of that trend.
1. 五郎丸歩, ラグビー選手 (Gorōmaru Ayumu, ragubii senshu; Ayumu Goromaru, rugby player)
As full-back for the Japan national team, Goromaru scored a total of 45 points during the World Cup — the highest of any single Japanese player in the nation’s rugby history — and immortalized the particular pose (fingers together in a sort of Buddha-like prayer) that we on these islands now know as the 五郎丸ルーティーン (Gorōmaru rūtiin, “Goromaru routine”).
Nicknamed “Kewpie,” there’s even a bronze statue of him in Tokyo’s Marunouchi district, and our collective love for him appears to know no bounds. Besides being handsome and huggable, Goromaru seems the type never to cheat — not on his wife, his teammates, nor any other living thing that might cross his path. Rumor has it that his 年俸 (nenpō, yearly salary) was a paltry ¥5 million pre-World Cup stardom. Most likely that will change once he starts playing for the Reds in Brisbane, Australia.
2. 嘉風, 力士 (Yoshikaze, rikishi; sumo wrestler)
One of the rare rikishi who blossomed after hitting 30, Yoshikaze was the 花形 (hanagata, prominent star) of the Autumn and Kyushu Basho, held in September and November, respectively. Yoshikaze hails from Oita Prefecture in Kyushu, and in many ways he’s the epitome of the tough and stoic 九州男児 (Kyūshū danji, Kyushu man). But he’s also a millennial who knows how to be humorous with the press, wear jeans with confidence and train by himself at the 東京体育館 (Tōkyō Tai’ikukan, Tokyo Gymnasium). He has been sighted there at least four times, and the speculation is that training with state-of-the-art equipment led to his recently acquired speed and stamina.
His credo of とにかく相撲を楽しむ (Tonikaku sumō o tanoshimu, “Just enjoy the game of sumo”) may go against traditional sumo aesthetics, and it has already ticked off the 年寄り (toshiyori, elders) in the 相撲協会 (Sumō Kyōkai, Japan Sumo Association), but so what? It’s about time we had a Japanese wrestler putting a dent in the Mongolian camp.
3. 又吉直樹, 作家・芸人 (Matayoshi Naoki, sakka・geinin; Naoki Matayoshi, novelist and comedian)
As the ボケ (boke, unassuming simpleton character) of the popular comic duo Peace, Matayoshi had always touted a bookish, fashion-conscious image. This is rare among geinin, many of whom work hard to come off as endearing and ignorant louts. But Matayoshi was never afraid to admit his love of reading, and had in fact co-authored a few books of essays before coming out with 火花 (Hibana, “Sparks”), which won the prestigious Akutagawa Award and has sold over 2.5 million copies to date.
Those who had never seen his comedic performances assumed Matayoshi was from a privileged and academic background; in fact, he hails from a working-class family and has never been to college, though he graduated from 放送大学 (Hōsō Daigaku — literally, “University of the Airwaves,” aka The Open University of Japan).
4. 福山雅治, 俳優・ミュージシャン (Fukuyama Masaharu, haiyū・myūjishan; Masaharu Fukuyama, actor and musician)
You know that boy from high school you’ll always love, no matter how old he gets or what else goes on in your life? Masaharu Fukuyama, aka “Masha,” is that boy. When he — at 46 — announced his marriage to 33-year-old actress Kazue Fukiishi in September, much of the female populace of Japan broke down and wept.
The phenomenon known as 福山ロス (Fukuyama rosu, “Fukuyama loss”) swept across the archipelago, and I know of no less than five women who went into mourning and ditched their 家事 (kaji, household chores) duties, thereby throwing their menfolk into utter consternation. One of them was my sister-in-law, and though she professes to be recovering, her husband (my oldest brother) says dinner still consists of チンした肉団子 (chin-shita nikudango, microwaved meatballs). Bear with it, bro.
5. 家事えもん, 芸人・家事の達人 (Kajiemon, geinin・kaji no tatsujin; comedian and housework expert)
Kajiemon, who’s really Shutaro Matsuhashi of the comedic trio Juicies, is currently the Japanese woman’s best friend. Besides his comedic activities, Kajiemon goes on the air to tell us how to get those grease spots off the stove top, clean your carpet without spending extra yen, and about the best and fastest technique for scrubbing toilets, ラップ (rappu, clingfilm), ゴム手袋 (gomu-tebukuro, rubber gloves) and so on.
Kajiemon is sincerely dedicated to beautifying the home and simplifying chores, and he’s also a qualified 洗濯 ソムリエ (sentaku somurie, laundry sommelier) to boot. The man could just be the love of my life.