The pressure was too much, the glare of the TV lights too bright, the shame of his company's losses too overwhelming. So the president of venerable Yamaichi Securities did what came naturally.

He broke down and sobbed.Shohei Nozawa's teary display on national TV in November was just the first in a string of recent, highly public crying sessions by Japanese men that have prompted some to ask: Has the samurai gone soft?

Weeping men are everywhere in Japan these days.

Japanese athletes cried when they won at the Winter Olympics - and cried when they lost at the World Cup. Magazines quote women complaining their boyfriends get choked up over the slightest things.

"It's a dramatic change," said Megumi Hisada, an author of books about gender and family relations. "People don't think it's that embarrassing anymore."

Japan might seem an unlikely place for the "sensitive man" to take root.

For centuries, males were trained to follow a feudal code that required them to suffer hardships in silence - a code that lives on as part of Japan's vaunted corporate work ethic.

Even now, a man's place is widely seen as running industry and government with a strong hand, not confessing feelings of weakness or displaying his emotions with abandon. But that's slowly changing.

Explanations vary. Some say Japanese males are just getting more in touch with their feelings. With more women in the workplace and men being called on to participate more in raising children, the ironclad division between gender roles is starting to blur.

Critics see something else behind the trend: the doting Japanese mother.

The bond between mother and son has almost mythical proportions in Japan. While girls are taught early to fend for themselves, boys bask in maternal attention and seldom are expected to lift a finger around the house.

Many say this traditional relationship has only intensified in postwar Japan, with fewer children in the house, fathers away at work most of the time and more money for mom to lavish on her little emperor.

"Girls are being raised and encouraged to be independent, while boys are being raised like precious things," said Hisada. "So, there aren't many males anymore who grow up being told not to cry."