FEATURE24 May 2021

Changing of the guard: The values of Japanese millennials

x Sponsored content on Research Live and in Impact magazine is editorially independent.
Find out more about advertising and sponsorship.

Asia Pacific Features Impact Trends Youth

Japanese millennials have very different approaches to life than many previous generations. Sabine Stork considers some of the emerging cultural attitudes.

People walking across a crossroads in Japan

In the West, we tend to look at Japanese youth culture as an exotic and somewhat eccentric place. We focus on its pop-culture phenomena – from kazai (cute) to the cat cafés, the gaming, and nerd culture, which all, of course, exist. But Thinktank’s recent qualitative research in Japan points to a serious value shift among young people that is making them a very different proposition from previous generations.

The yutori, roughly the millennial generation aged between 20 and 35, are quietly abandoning traditional values, including some of the conformity for which Japanese culture is known. Among the key differences is a need for self-expression, but also less desire to consume and, instead, being content to lead a more frugal, constrained lifestyle.

They have embraced the spirit of mottainai – meaning ‘how wasteful’ – which derives from the Buddhist notion of lamenting the misuse of objects and resources, as well as from the need to be grateful for what the world has given ...