As signalled in the previous chapter, the focus of discussion over the next few chapters will shift to the ‘micro’ level of the individuals who were my informants. Specifically, what these chapters will attempt to do is to trace the crafting process of the ‘gender project’ (Connell 2002: 81), referred to in the introductory chapter, at the heart of which lies the individual male’s negotiations with the expectations of hegemonic masculinity. While the requirements of this discourse are especially relevant to those men (such as newly inducted salarymen) who as socially ‘responsible’, adult shakaijin are in the process of entering into full-time employment, it would be wrong to assume that the expectations only apply to these men. The reach of these hegemonic ideals, as I have argued earlier, is far more extensive, encompassing men who at first glance may appear to be well outside the parameters of the hegemonic ideals. Moreover, as also highlighted previously, this is an engagement that occurs through the life-course trajectory, and begins early in an individual’s life. In other words, long before an individual male becomes a shakaijin and has to contend with the expectations of salaryman masculinity, he has to engage with what constitute the requirements of the sociocultural category of masculinity itself, and work out what ‘being a male’ means to him. Indeed, phrased in a slightly different way, we could say that hegemonic masculinity is situated within the wider framework of the ongoing gender project, referred to above, a gender project within which what is meant by terms like ‘man’ and ‘male’ (otoko/dansei), ‘woman’ and ‘female’ (onna/josei), ‘masculine’ (otokorashii), ‘feminine’ (onnarashii) are ‘crafted’. Accordingly, this chapter will begin by exploring what the informants made of masculinity itself, what connotations being male had for them, in the context of the wider shifts at work at that particular historical moment in the late 1990s. This will then allow us to better situate their negotiations with the specific requirements of salaryman masculinity (e.g. work, marriage, fatherhood) discussed in subsequent chapters.