What does ikumen(イクメン) mean?



In 2010, the word “ikumen” spread to Japan after the “ikumen project” advocated by the then Minister of Labor.
This word was also posted on the official website of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and gave a positive impression.

This “ikumen” is thought to have been born from the slang “ikemen“.

Let’s take a closer look at this “ikumen”.

What is the meaning of “ikumen”?

“Ikumen” is a coined word like “ikemen”, which is a combination of a word and “mens(メンズ)”.
The meaning is short for “Ikuji wo suru mens(育児をするメンズ)”. It means a plural form of man, so it should be “men”, but in Japan, the plural form of man is often called “menzu(メンズ)”. (It could be said that such word has become a one of Japanese)

Iku(イク:育) + men
(Iku(イク:育)” means raising children)

It means a man who applies for childcare leave or actively enjoys childcare, rather than just “a man who participates in childcare”.
It may sound strange, but the keyword “enjoying childcare” is important here, and the man who compulsorily participates in childcare is not “ikuimen”. (I know I’m saying something strange!)

The study said that Japanese men have the shortest time to participate in childcare in the world. This is unfortunate because many Japanese companies still have a low level of understanding of male parental leave, so few male employees can go home on time.
The law also stipulates that “males can take childcare leave”, but many workplaces are not like that, and men themselves are hesitant to take leave.

Therefore, in 2010, the Minister of Labor at that time established the term “ikumen” as a countermeasure against Japan’s declining birthrate and started the “ikumen Project”, which aims to promote male child-rearing participation.

For a while, it was featured in TV programs and magazines, and men’s childcare-related products called “ikumen goods” were sold.

It is also true that the word became a trend temporarily and more men took part in childcare, but many women and some other men raised questions about the word.

They said;

“I’m sick of calling ikumen. Shouldn’t we just call them “father”?”
“It’s natural to raise your own child. Is there a name for the mother?”
“It is unfair that a man can be praised just by raising a child”
“The word appeared based on the idea that raising children is what women’s do.”

Synonyms of Ikumen

“Ikumen” has synonyms such as “kosodate papa(子育てパパ)” and “ikuji papa(育児パパ)”. If anything, it includes the meaning of a single father, and there is an impression that they are raising children more seriously than “ikumen”.

There are also men who pretend to be “ikumen” just to improve their impression of others.
Such a “fake ikumen” seems to suddenly participate in child-rearing or pretend to be “ikumen” just outside the house, at their preferred timing. He also uses childcare leave as an excuse when he doesn’t want to work.
To tell who is such a fake ikumen, it seems that the children are good friends with their father.