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"They were the generation we had been told were 'manly' – they led Japan in the post-war period," Wish Room president Masayuki Tsuchiya told the Japan Times this month.

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Many of these complex changes are also occurring elsewhere, and are not unwelcome, points out sociologist Yuko Kawanishi. They were macho and sexist, and neglected their wives, so it's good that they're discovering their feminine side, and learning to cooperate." Ms Ushikubo also hails the rise of the ojyo-man, or ladylike men.

"My generation expected that sort of traditional man to pay for everything, to get the good job and support us," the 41-year-old author recalls. They don't know when they'll be fired, or restructured.

Men are now leading purchasers of hair products, make-up, fashion accessories and manicures.

A Tokyo-based company called Wish Room is even selling men's bras, some to middle-aged salary-men.

"I noticed these major changes taking place between my father's generation, the 58 to 63-year-olds who are retiring now, and the under-35s," she explains.