Seiji Nakazawa, our Osaka-raised correspondent, shares what he thinks the region-based criteria are for ikemen in Japan’s two major cites.
Following are Seiji’s thoughts on the important subject of ikemen, a Japanese slang term meaning “cool guy” or “hottie.”
Japan’s capital city: Tokyo. I, who was born and raised in Osaka, have been living in Tokyo for about ten years now. I’ve gotten used to the scramble intersection in Shibuya and Shinjuku’s Kabukicho, and have made plenty of connections with local people. But if I think back to the time when I didn’t have anyone to rely on right after moving to the capital, I have to say that it was a really tough period.
Tokyo and Osaka are more than 500 kilometers (311 miles) apart. For these past ten years, I’ve encountered a series of regional cultural differences from words to conventional wisdom. Just one of those has been the differences between the types of men called ikemen in Tokyo and Osaka. Compared to Tokyo where it’s generally enough for a guy to have good looks to be considered an ikemen, I’ve found that men in Osaka must also have a little something extra to be granted that title.
● Ikemen in Tokyo
First, in my experience, a large number of the guys who are called ikemen in Tokyo are good listeners. For example, if an ikemen is having a conversation with someone and the discussion suddenly becomes centered around that particular person, he is able to respond smoothly and create an atmosphere where the other side continues to feel comfortable speaking. It could be like thinking that the ikemen places a high priority on never thinking negatively of the opposite party.
There seem to be a lot of good-looking guys who don’t even feel a need to speak, and have this ability to ride out a conversation until its very end. They’re like the sesame seeds on top of rice in a makunouchi bento (a particular type of boxed lunch consisting of fish, meat, eggs, vegetables, pickles, and rice).
▼ One example of a makunouchi bento (note the black sesame seeds).
● Ikemen in Osaka
Meanwhile, in Osaka, if a guy can’t get some laughs out of you, then he’s not even worth talking about. During the years of Japanese compulsory education, boys who aspire to be class clowns always seem to be more popular than boys who have good looks alone.
Because of that, many popular guys in high school and university who earn the title of ikemen are those who are endlessly seeking laughs. There are even some “men of valor” who dare to take on “impure” roles to make others laugh by the apparent disconnect between their looks and how they’re acting. Handsome guys getting angry, posing, pretending to be corrupted, then cracking a joke…all for sake of getting some laughs.
▼ A scene from Osaka, where comedy reigns supreme
Of course, by sharing a taste of the regional differences, it’s not my intention to say that Osaka ikemen are necessarily superior. There are definitely people out there who prefer the Tokyo type. It’s just that ikemen who tend to be popular in Osaka are guys who can be popular even without handsome faces. Ikemen gifted with two attributes: this type exists only in Osaka.
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