With Manicures and Makeup, Japan’s ‘Genderless’ Blur Line Between Pink and Blue
Along with his manicured nails, bobbed hair and high-heeled shoes, the makeup made Sasaki, 23, appear more typically feminine than male, a striking choice in a society where men and women tend to hew strictly to conventional gender dress codes.
Sasaki, a model and pop band member who goes simply by Toman, does not regard his look as feminine so much as genderless. As one of a small but growing group of “genderless danshi” — “danshi” means young men in Japanese — he is developing a public identity and a career out of a new androgynous style.
“At heart, I am a man,” said the petite-framed Sasaki, whose wardrobe of slim-fit tank tops, baggy jackets and skinny jeans evokes the fashion of a preadolescent girl. The concept of gender, he said, “isn’t really necessary.”
“People should be able to choose whatever style suits them,” said Sasaki, who has a large following as Toman on social media and regularly appears on television and radio programs. “It’s not as if men have to do one thing, and women have to do another. I don’t find that very interesting. We’re all human beings.”
Just as some American men have embraced makeup, young Japanese men are bending fashion gender norms, dyeing their hair, inserting colored contacts and wearing brightly colored lipstick.
Men like Ryuji Higa, better known as Ryucheru, his signature blond curls often pulled back in a headband, and Genki Tanaka, known as Genking, who rocks long platinum tresses and often appears in miniskirts, have made a leap from social media stardom to TV celebrity.
伊加隆二（Ryuji Higa，更为人知的名字是Ryucheru）标志性的金色卷发经常用发带束起来；田中元季（Genki Tanaka，艺名Genking）留着白金色飘逸长发，经常穿迷你裙——这些男人从社交媒体明星一举成为电视名人。
“It’s about blurring the boundaries that have defined pink and blue masculinity and femininity,” said Jennifer Robertson, a professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan who has researched and written extensively about gender in Japan. “They are trying to increase the scope of what someone with male anatomy can wear.”
“这是为了模糊分别用粉色和蓝色代表女性和男性的界限，”密歇根大学(University of Michigan)的人类学教授詹妮弗· 罗伯逊(Jennifer Robertson)说。她对日本的性别文化进行过广泛的研究和写作。“他们在努力扩大具有男性生理结构的人可穿服装的范围。”
Japanese culture has long had a formal tradition of cross-dressing in theater, from classic forms like Kabuki and Noh, where men dress as both men and women, to Takarazuka, where women play both genders.
The unisex look for men has also been popularized in the Japanese cartoon form called anime, and by members of popular boy bands.
The term “genderless danshi” was coined by a talent agent, Takashi Marumoto, who has helped develop Toman’s career. Marumoto recruits other androgynous men for fashion shows and contracts as potential models, capitalizing on their social media followings to market to fans.
Unlike in the West, where cross-dressing tends to be associated with sexuality, in Japan it is mostly about fashion.
“I think Japanese people react to these men who look quite feminine differently from how people in Euro-American societies react,” said Masafumi Monden, who researches Japanese fashion and culture at the University of Technology Sydney and is on a fellowship at Tokyo University. “In Japan, how people look and their sexual identities can be separated to a certain extent.”
“我认为，日本人对这些看起来非常女性化的男人的反应与欧美人不同，”在悉尼科技大学(University of Technology Sydney)研究日本服装和文化的门田正文（Masafumi Monden，音）说。他也是东京大学(Tokyo University)的研究员。“在日本，人们的外貌与性取向在一定程度上是分离的。”
Toman Sasaki said that when he first began dressing in the genderless danshi fashion, people frequently asked him whether he was gay. (He says he is heterosexual.)
He said that he wore makeup to conceal his flaws. “There are many things I’m insecure about; I really don’t like my face,” he said. “But I also feel that who I am changes when I wear makeup.”
Several men who consider themselves genderless danshi said in interviews that they did not see a connection between their appearance and their sexual identities — or even their views on traditional gender roles.
“It’s just that you use makeup and dress how you want,” said Takuya Kitajima, 18. Kitajima, who goes by the name Takubo, said he believed men and women were fundamentally different despite any blurring of style distinctions. “I think men should protect women, and that principle won’t change,” he said. “Men are stronger than women, and a man should work because the women are weaker.”
But Yasu Suzuki, 22, who organizes events for other genderless danshi to meet with their social media fans, said his explorations in fashion have broadened his views on sexuality. When he began to experiment with makeup as a teenager, he said, he sometimes attracted the romantic attention of other men.
“I thought that I would want to throw up when a man said to me, ‘I love you,'” said Suzuki, who wears baggy trousers popular among Japanese women and tweezes his facial hair because he cannot yet afford the laser hair removal treatments popular among better-known genderless danshi.
“But now that I began wearing this genderless fashion, I think I shed my prejudice,” he said. “Before, I didn’t like boys or men who love each other, but I have started to accept them. Beautiful people are just beautiful.”
In Japan, where a walk through a train station during the commuter rush highlights the dark-suited conformity of most males, young men disillusioned by corporate stagnation may be using fashion to challenge the social order.
“In my generation, women were jealous of men because they could work and do whatever they wanted,” said Junko Mitsuhashi, 61, a professor of gender studies at Chuo University and a transgender woman. “But in the younger generation, men are jealous of women because they can express themselves through fashion.”
“在我那一代，女人们嫉妒男人，因为男人可以工作，可以做他们想做的任何事，”61岁的三桥顺子（Junko Mitsuhashi，音译）说。她是东京中央大学(Chuo University)的性别研究教授，也是一个变性女人。“但在年轻一代中，男人们嫉妒女人，因为女人可以通过时尚来表达自己。”
She added, “Men feel like they don’t have a sphere in which they can express themselves, and they envy girls, because girls can express themselves through their appearance.”