Are Japanese Women Intentionally Pigeon-Toed?

By Asian American in Tokyo | May 30, 2007

Ever notice how the vast majority of Japanese women walk with their toes pointed inward? The cause for this isn’t conclusive, but debate about it rages across the Internet. If you don’t believe me, use your favorite search engine and enter the terms “Japanese” “pigeon” and “toed” – see what results you get. Some say it’s due to the various Japanese ways of sitting, such as “seiza” but I personally agree with those who hypothesize that it is considered feminine to walk pigeon-toed. Note that Japanese men usually aren’t pigeon-toed. I believe it’s tied to gender-specific Japanese culture, such as women speaking in higher-pitched voices when on the phone, male/female-specific Japanese speech, crooked teeth being cute, etc. It’s interesting that while Japanese people may consider it feminine, or demure, and generally attractive, foreigners new to Japan usually exclaim “what’s wrong with these women – they can’t walk in heels!” (Note that 99% of young women walk in high heels in metro areas such as Tokyo, so it’s tough to find a test subject to see if they still walk pigeon-toed without heels.)

Here’s a photo of a toddler-age Japanese girl (cropped to protect her identity). Does her pigeon-toed stance make her more girly and cute? Interesting how cultural environmental factors strongly affect even someone this young.

 

Update (June 19, 2008):

I found some better examples of this, see photos below.

Topics: Culture, Fashion | 15 Comments »


McDonald’s in Japan

By Asian American in Tokyo | May 27, 2007

Recognize the guy in the image below? Notice he’s promoting “Hello Kitty” products in a showcase.

Here’s a hint – he’s the famous owner of a popular chain of fast-food restaurants. Think you know the answer? Guess again. His name isn’t “Ronald McDonald”. It’s “Donald McDonald”. That’s right. Our favorite burger-pushing celebrity has a different name in Japan. I’m not sure if it’s the definitive answer, but I’ve heard that his name was localized for ease of pronounciation changed due to the Japanese difficulty with the English “R” sound. Here’s a look at one of his establishments in Shibuya, Tokyo.

As the head of a very successful global business, he knows to keep a standard set of items guaranteed to be found in any McDonald’s restaurant worldwide (such as the “Big Mac”) but to really thrive you need to reach out to the locals. For example, here’s the “EBI Filet-O” which is essentially a “shrimp burger”. Naturally, this is targeted at Japanese tastes as you won’t find this on the menu in America.

But Ron… er, Donald’s genius doesn’t end there. He’s hired super popular Japanese model Yuri Ebihara to promote the Ebi Filet-O. Known affectionately in Japan as “Ebi-chan”, the combination works wonders.

McDonald’s most recent product offering is the “Mega Mac”, which has been tremendously successful in Japan. This burger sports the most calories of any Japanese fast food burger, and I can totally see it succeeding in America too. What do you think?

Topics: Culture, Food, Language, Places | 6 Comments »


Japanese Toilet Technology

By Asian American in Tokyo | May 20, 2007

No Japan-focused blog would be complete without a post about Japan’s toilets. It’s true that you can still find old-style Japanese squat toilets in many places alongside newer Western-style toilets. (If you’re curious, there’s some at Tokyo Disneyland in the restrooms opposite the “Pooh’s Hunny Hunt” attraction.) Certainly, the squat toilets provide the cleanest experience possible as your tender bottom never touches anything, so there’s no chance of nasty stuff from the last user affecting you. However, it does take some getting used to for us foreigners as our calf and thigh muscles weren’t properly conditioned for the right stance.

Another Japanese innovation in toilet technology is the water-conserving “water recycling” toilet/sink combo. Actually, I have no idea what it’s really called, but that’s the best name I could come up with. It’s simple. When you flush the toilet, the water used to refill the tank comes out of a tank-mounted faucet for you to wash your hands (with clean water), then it flows down the drain into the toilet tank for use with the next flush. Many have 2 flush settings for “big” or “small” (corresponds to #1 or #2). You’ll see these in many Japanese homes.

Enter the latest Japanese technology pioneered by Toto, creator of the Washlet. Here’s a photo of a recent model.

Nice and shiny, isn’t it? There’s more to this than you can see in the photo above. The washlets have a little “water gun” that extends from under the rear of the seat. When you’re done with your “business”, the washlet shoots a stream of warm water to cleanse your behind. You can select from rear or front, and control the strength of the water pressure. Often, you can control the temperature of the water, pattern (rhythm?) of the stream, and adjust spray area (called “wide range” on the model in my home). Some have autodeodorizers that spin-up when weight is detected on the seat, and others even have a small fan that dries you off when done. My favorite feature is the fact that the seat is heated (also adjustable) which is sooo nice on those cold winter nights. Many models also have power raise/lower seats and auto flush. Take a look at that crazy control panel (yes, it’s wireless and mounted on the wall).

For those of you who lack imagination, here’s a visual aid.

If you don’t want to buy a whole toilet, you can purchase models that are basically add-on toilet seats.

Some may think this is strange, but I can tell you that there’s no cleaner toilet experience out there. Well, except for the squat toilet, of course.

Although washlets can be found in most homes, hotels, office buildings, shopping centers and even public restrooms in Japan, Japanese travelers are often out of luck when seeking one in foreign countries. To address this need, Toto has recently put a portable “travel washlet” on the market. We bought one and it worked great during our trip to Las Vegas last month, though it takes some skill to aim.

 

Update (6/27/2008):

The article below was published on 6/25/2008.

Bottom line: Energy-saving Japanese love energy-hogging, high-end toilets
Cleanliness and comfort win out over conservation

By BLAINE HARDEN
Washington Post

TOKYO When it comes to saving energy, the Japanese have much to teach the United States and other rich countries, whose leaders descend on Japan next month for a Group of Eight summit.

Energy consumption per person here is about half that in the United States, and the growth of greenhouse gas emissions is slower than anywhere in the industrialized world.

There is a hiccup, though, in this world-beating record. It happens inside the Japanese home, where energy use is surging. And nothing embodies the surge quite like the toilet a plumbing fixture that has been re-engineered here as an ultra-comfy energy hog.

Japanese toilets can warm and wash one’s bottom, whisk away odors with built-in fans and play water noises that drown out potty sounds. They play relaxation music, too. Ave Maria is a favorite.

High-end toilets can also sense when someone enters or leaves the bathroom, raising or lowering their lids accordingly. Many models have a “learning mode,” which allows them to memorize the lavatory schedules of household members.

These always-on electricity-guzzlers (keeping water warm for bottom-washing devours power) barely existed in Japan before 1980. Now, they are in 68 percent of homes, accounting for about 4 percent of household energy consumption. They use more power than dishwashers or clothes dryers.

“For hygiene-conscious Japanese, the romance with these toilets is equivalent to the American romance with the Hummer,” said Philip Clapp, deputy managing director of the environmental group at the Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, D.C.

Early arrivals
Toilets with built-in warmers for bottom-washing first arrived in Japan in the 1970s. They were U.S.-made medical devices for hemorrhoid sufferers. But they took off, becoming the most profitable innovation in the modern history of Japanese bathrooms, according to toilet makers.

The Japanese are serious about cleanliness. The word for clean kirei is also a word for beautiful. People often sweep the street in front of their house. They remove their shoes upon entering a house. They shower before bathing. They are sensitive to odors. For all these needs, aversions and desires, super toilets fit the bill, as well as catering to the Japanese love of gadgets.

In addition, Japanese houses are often small and, in the winter, chilly. A warm, comfortable, musical and hygienic seat in the bathroom expands living space.

But as with a Hummer, romance with a high-end toilet is not cheap. Luxury models cost up to $4,000 plus at least $2.50 a month per toilet in higher electricity bills.

But unlike the Hummer, which few Americans are now buying and which General Motors may soon stop making, romance with toilets continues to bloom in Japan, albeit with the intensive mediation of government energy watchdogs, who have begun to monitor the behavior of the toilet-smitten masses.

The Japanese government is struggling to meet obligations under the Kyoto global warming treaty to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 6 percent from 1990 levels by 2012.

At the G-8 meeting next month, Japan will be pushing the United States and other member countries to accept mandatory limits on emissions of the gases, which cause global warming.

Since the oil shock of 1973, no industrialized country has been more effective in squeezing more affluence out of less imported energy than Japan, experts say. Relative to its economy, Japan consumes only a third as much oil as it did 35 years ago.

Topics: Culture, Technology | 6 Comments »


Smoking Culture: US vs. Japan

By Asian American in Tokyo | May 19, 2007

It’s no secret that the Japanese are heavy smokers. I wonder if anyone has done a study on how this country could have the longest lifespans in the world yet everyone smokes. Recently, things have improved a bit. In certain towns/districts, smoking on the streets is banned.

This seems nice and healthy, until you realize that everyone still smokes indoors – especially in restaurants! So, protect pregnant women and kids on the street, but hey, if they come into a restaurant expose them to concentrated carcinogens. For my family, it’s been tough to find nice restaurants where we can enjoy a meal without people smoking around us. Even McDonald’s reeks as they usually can’t isolate the non-smoking section effectively. Fortunately, there’s always Starbucks where smoking is totally not allowed.

In areas such as offices, airports and train stations, more and more “smoking rooms” are being installed to help keep the air clean. Looks like they are pretty popular.

There you have it – opposite smoking culture.

US: “Hey, go outside if you’re going to smoke”. Japan: “Please go inside to smoke”.

Topics: Culture | 2 Comments »


Japanese ATMs Need Their Beauty Sleep?

By Asian American in Tokyo | May 19, 2007

When ATMs first showed up in the US, I thought they were great because you could conduct bank transactions even when the bank was closed. Particularly, this was useful when you needed cash after hours. Oddly enough, here in Japan the ATMs close at night. They also charge service fees that vary depending on the time of day. I asked around, and nobody really knew why this is. Do ATMs need to rest? Some thought it was for security, but I really don’t think Japanese ATMs are at risk in low-crime Japan when ATMs survive 24/7 in the US.

Topics: Culture, Technology | 4 Comments »


Japanese Women Getting Curvier: "Bon-Kyu-Bon"

By Asian American in Tokyo | May 12, 2007

This story comes from an article published in the Wall Street Journal. Photos come from other sources on the Internet and are provided as visual aids. I’m not sure if this is really a trend since there are always exceptions to what is considered “typical”. Any of you living in Japan care to offer your thoughts?

All over Japan, retailers are scrambling to keep up with a new look known as “bon-kyu-bon” It means “big-small-big” and it signals a change in the way Japanese women look: they’re getting curvier. Japanese stores that used to keep just two or three sizes of clothing on hand are rushing to stock larger sizes. Juicy Couture, known for its figure-hugging terrycloth tracksuits, opened one of its biggest stores in Tokyo last year. And Tokyo’s high-end Isetan department store, which used to relegate its bigger sizes to one corner, now prominently features larger items from designers such as Ralph Lauren, Diane von Furstenberg and DKNY.

Best-seller: the “Love Bra,” a cleavage-boosting creation with less padding, aimed at curvier women in their 20s.

Today, the average Japanese woman’s hips, at 35 inches, are around an inch wider than those of wom

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en a generation older. Women in their 20s wear a bra at least two sizes larger than that of their mothers, according to Wacoal. Waist size, meanwhile, has gotten slightly smaller, accentuating many young women’s curves.

hitomi tanaka

The average 20-year-old is also nearly three inches taller than she was in 1950, according to government statistics, and the average foot has grown by nearly a quarter of an inch.

The physical changes are largely the result of an increasingly Westernized diet, say nutritionists. Meals that used to consist of mostly fish, vegetables and tofu now lean heavily toward an American-style menu of red meat, dairy and indulgences such as Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Cold Stone Creamery ice cream.

All this extra protein and calcium has led to longer, stronger and fuller bodies. Shinichi Tashiro, an endocrinology professor at Showa Pharmaceutical University, says the intake of extra fat tends to go to either breasts or hips in adolescent girls.

yoko matsuganeMarketers say they first started noticing more women with hourglass figures a few years ago. One of the first people to act on the change was apparel wholesaler Kazuya Kito.

In 2001, Kito founded Egoist, a trendy purveyor of slinky clothing designed to highlight the busty look, figuring that the curvier bodies would make women want to wear less-modest outfits. His fashion industry friends scoffed at the idea. Back then, micro-mini skirts were in style but women, for the most part, kept their chests covered. Yet Egoist, whose wares include see-through sweaters made to show off decorative bras or skinny tube tops, became a huge hit and a catalyst for other skimpy-clothing brands.

Wacoal Corp., Japan’s largest lingerie company, was once known for its super-padded brassieres. Now the company has a new Nami Sakamoto, an advertising-agency employee, embodies the new look. The 26-year-old is tall – by Japanese standards – at 5 feet 5 inches. She’s also voluptuous, with a 35-inch bust and 35-inch hips.

“I had a hard time finding button-down shirts that would close,” says Sakamoto, especially when she was in high school and there were fewer foreign retailers in Japan that actually sold bigger sizes.

“Sometimes the buttons would burst off.” Now she buys clothes at Western retailers that carry larger sizes.

aki hoshinoOther young women are buying special items to flaunt their new physique. “It’s just more fun to show some skin,” says Ayami Arii, a 19-year-old vocational school student, who recently sported a tiny denim mini skirt and an iridescent push-up bra that peeks out from below her low-cut blouse. Her bra, a big seller at boutiques in Tokyo’s Shibuya 109 department store, is called a “Showy Bra.” Similar to a string bikini top, the $60 bras, made to be peeking out of a low-cut blouse, started appearing last year and come in a variety of colours, from red patent leather to leopard print and orange sequins.

The cleavage craze took off in 2003, when a young pop star named  appeared in ads around Tokyo wearing a barely-there metallic bra and not much else. In one image, she wore coconut shells over her chest. Then, two years later, she performed at the televised Japan Record Awards wearing thin tape-like gold satin straps over her breasts that revealed nearly everything when she danced. The 24-year-old star has become the champion of a new “If you’ve got it, flaunt it” attitude among young Japanese women.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

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Topics: Fashion | 2 Comments »


High-Tech Talking Machines

By Asian American in Tokyo | February 19, 2007

Of course I’ve been trying to learn Japanese while living in Japan. One thing that has helped me is that Tokyo is full of machines, and for some reason, all of them seem to talk! This is very different from what I’m used to in America, where machines generally just beep, ring or produce prompting tones. For example, all elevators (without exception) that I’ve encountered here announce if they are going up or down, when the door is opening or closing, and arrival on each floor. Talk about any easy way to learn numbers. Let’s take a tour of machines in Tokyo and wallow in their coolness.

First, the subway. Let’s use the famous JR Yamanote line as an example. See that display above the doors?

The display cycles between useful screens of information that are updated in real-time. In the photo below, you can tell the train is located between “Ebisu” and “Meguro” and that the next stop (“Meguro”) will be reached in 3 minutes. It also shows the time estimates for arrival at other stations up to Ueno. Isn’t that great? You may think this is not all that accurate, but any one who knows Japanese train systems will tell you that they run absolutely on-the-dot-to-the-second.

Next, we have a screen with a zoomed-in view of the next station. It indicates that the next station is “Harajuku” and that you can transfer to the Chiyoda Line if you get off here. Also, you can see the projected arrival times for the next 3 stations.

Here’s what the screen shows upon arrival at Shibuya station. An overhead map of the train with numbered cars is shown, with icons indicating where the stairs, escalators and elevators are in the station. Plus, you can see which exits they lead to, indicated by the text above the icons. Information about connections to other lines are also shown. If you’ve forgotten which car you’re in, simply look at the upper right side of the screen.

Going back to the title of this post, it’s also worth pointing out that a female voice announces the key information as it happens in conjunction with the screen displays.

I’m sure sharp-eyed readers noticed the second display monitor on the left. What’s that for? Mostly notices, warnings, and English classes for the commuters – so the Japanese population can learn useful phrases like “a riot of flowers” as taught by a cartoony dog.

It’s not only the trains that talk. Even the ticket machines speak – and, they are bilingual! Despite their native-sounding English pronounciation, they are definitely Japanese as evidenced by an on-screen animated bowing character and the accompanying “arigatou gozaimasu” to express thanks after you have purchased a ticket.

Switching to home electronics, my massage chair, fax machine and bathtub (“ofuro”) all chirp out high-pitched female-voiced Japanese indicating their intentions and status.

Even delivery trucks chirp happily in Japanese, saying “please be careful, I’m making a right-turn”.

The great thing about talking machines is that they always say the same set of phrases, the same way, repeatedly – makes it really easy to learn! The voices are all similar too. Do you think there’s some rich voice actress out there?

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Japan’s Miraculous Massage Chairs

By Asian American in Tokyo | February 18, 2007

Before I lived in Japan, whenever I came to Tokyo on a trip I always set aside a day to visit Akihabara, the electronics super district of the world. You can get anything here, though recently prices aren’t necessarily a bargain. You will definitely see gadgets and gizmos found nowhere else in the world.

One of my required stops in Akihabara is the 4th floor of the Laox Duty-Free Store. This is the hallowed location of the electronic massage chairs. You absolutely cannot believe how amazing these things are until you try one yourself! I’ve brought co-workers, friends and family to this place to “test the merchandise” year after year. Each year, there’s a newer model with more bells and whistles, guaranteed to squeeze the stress right out of you. Pictured below is the top-of-the-line for this year. (Unfortunately, the store doesn’t allow photography so I couldn’t take any real photos of us enjoying the chairs.)

Behold, the National/Panasonic Momi Momi RealPro GII.

Check out the chair’s control panel.

It has computer controlled inflatable air bladders to massage your feet and legs, plus highly articulated arms with rollers to massage your back and neck.

The “massage chair stop” is always great after a day of walking and shopping through Akihabara.

Topics: Technology | 7 Comments »


Valentine’s Day & White Day

By Asian American in Tokyo | February 17, 2007

From TokyoMango.com:

 

In Japan, men carry zero responsibility on Valentine's Day except to be showered with chocolates by women who adore them. I don't know who decided this, but on V-day, women give men chocolates. Women give men love letters. Women make their proposals and confessions to the men they love. The men just sit back and wait until White Day. All they have to do on V-day is decide whether they want to accept the chocolates or not. By accepting chocolates, they are giving women the hope–no matter how false–that they may get something in return on White Day.

White Day is on March 14th, and that's when men give women flowers. But it's a month later, which means they have a few weeks to decide whether they want to respond. When–and if–they do, that's when they know they like each other. So between Feb 14 and March 14, hundreds of thousands of Japanese girls are sitting at home, pulling on their hair, nervously waiting for the day when they find out whether their feelings are reciprocated.

Why is this like the only time when women go first?

Yep, I was in the candy section of Odakyu as the lone male fighting to buy chocolate among hordes of women. The store workers gave me weird looks and were hesitant to let me buy my box of Godiva chocolates. I explained to them that the custom in America is reversed (is this not common knowledge?). They asked me about White Day and I said there isn't a White Day in the US so reciprocating isn't part of the equation. They were like.. wow… Godiva in hand, I left smiling and waving as hundreds of desperate choco-seeking women glared at me.

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Japanese Women’s Wild Fashion

By Asian American in Tokyo | September 30, 2006

Here’s a topic that will be discovered by search engines and drive traffic to the site, no doubt. It’s no secret that Japan is home to some wild fashion trends and fads, particularly when it comes to girls/women. Here are some examples of common species to be found in Tokyo.

Kogal

First, the famous (and sometimes notorious) Japanese schoolgirl. In the photo below, you’ll see 2 types. On the left, you see the standard Japanese schoolgirls wearing their school’s uniform. On the right, you see high school girls who have deep tans, blonde-ish hair, loose socks secured in place with adhesive, with skirts pulled up at their waist. These fashion-conscious high school girls are known as “kogals” and frequently travel in packs around the Shibuya district shopping for clothing and brand-name goods. The most notorious of these girls practice “enjo kosai” which is translated as “compensated dating”, but is really just prostitution to fund their materialistic shopping habit.

From Wikipedia:

Kogal (コギャル kogyaru in romaji (romanised Japanese), lit. “k?k?sei ” (a high school student) plus “gal” from English) is a subculture of girls and young women in urban Japan, one of several types of so-called gals. They are characterized by conspicuously displaying their disposable income through distinctive tastes in fashion, music, and social activity. In general, the kogal “look” roughly approximates a sun-tanned California Valley girl, and indeed, the similarities between the two extend to the linguistic, for both subcultures have derived entire sets of slang terms (コギャル語 “ko-gyaru-go”). Kogals are not to be confused with the ganguro subculture, although they are similar.

Kogals are known for wearing platform boots, a miniskirt, copious amounts of makeup, hair coloring (usually yellow or brown), artificial suntans, and designer accessories. If in school uniform, the look typically includes skirts pinned very high and loose socks (large baggy socks that go up to the knee). Kogals’ busy social lives and desire for new material goods leads them to be among the first consumers of Japanese cell phone technology, and their taste in clothes tends toward names such as Burberry scarves and Louis Vuitton handbags. Kogals spend much of their free time (and their parents’ income) shopping, and their culture centers on the Shibuya district of Tokyo, in particular the 109 building, although any major Japanese city is sure to have at least a small population. During the summer, kogals may sometimes be seen at the beach. They are generally not seen in high-end department stores.

Critics of the Kogal subculture decry its materialism as reflecting a larger psychological or spiritual emptiness in modern Japanese life. Some kogals support their lifestyle with allowances from wealthy parents, living a “freeter” or “parasite single” existence that grates against traditional principles of duty and industry. A small minority appear in pornography to finance their habits. More may engage in the practice of “compensated dating”, or enjo k?sai, which may at times border on quasi-legal prostitution. Internet-based usage of this term has led some Western observers to the mistake of believing that “kogal” means “prostitute”.

The kogal phenomenon emerged in the mid-1990s and its effects can still be seen today in its numerous off-shoots of sub-categories, although conservative tastes in dress and hair color seem to be on the upswing. Interestingly enough, the Gothic Lolita aesthetic has been described as a reaction to the kogal look, though the other side is that GLs merely model after Jrock cosplay.

The term’s etymology is disputed: the most common theory is that it was derived from the Japanese word for “high school”, k?k? (高校), although others claim that it comes from ko (?), the Japanese word for “girl” or “child”. The “gal” originates from English. See gyaru.

Ganguro

Next, we have the “70′s California surfer girl” look species commonly known as “Ganguro”, or “black face”, so named for their dark artificial tans. Here’s more info from Wikipedia:

Ganguro (ガングロ, Ganguro?) is a fashion trend among many Japanese girls which peaked in popularity from the late 1990s to the early 2000s, an outgrowth of chapatsu hair dyeing. The Shibuya and Ikebukuro districts of Tokyo are the center of ganguro fashion.

The basic look consists of bleached hair, a deep tan, both black and white eyeliners, false eyelashes, platform shoes (usually sandals or boots), and brightly colored outfits. Also typical of the “Ganguro Gal” look are cell phones covered with purikura stickers, tie-dyed sarongs, mini-skirts, hibiscus flower hairpins, and lots of bracelets, rings and necklaces.

Extreme trend followers further bleach their hair up to a platinum blond shade, get even deeper tans, wear white lipstick, multicolored pastel eyeshadows and tiny metallic or glittery adhesives around the bottom rim of the eye sockets (See Yamanba). Popular Ganguro magazines include Egg, Popteen, and Ego System.

In an interview with Tony Barrell, Shoichi Aoki, the creator of FRUiTS magazine, stated: “Ganguro was a phenomenon that was specific to Shibuya, about 1km away from Harajuku—which we have been talking about—and they were totally different so FRUiTS as a rule didn’t really take them up. Only a few times we’ve covered ganguro in our magazine. Where they came from is actually a mystery, no one really knows but there is some speculation that they were girls who were infatuated or fascinated with Janet Jackson or black American musicians or perhaps Naomi Campbell, the supermodel, but it’s still a mystery what their origins were.”

Some foreign observers speculate as to ‘who’ these ganguro are “meant” to look like. Some say that because of the blonde hair, hibiscus flowers, and extremely tan skin, they want to look like America’s west coast girls. A handful of others believe it is an obsession with being black. A more nuanced explanation is that the Ganguro girl is a unique style evolved from Japan’s own original culture in response to the media/entertainment pop culture of the West. It is worth noting that these girls generally do not study hard in school or pursue athletics or traditional artistic goals. Like certain subcultures in the West, the style may be a form of self-expression in opposition to conservative mores. The heavy tans pose a significant health risk, most notably non-specific lifelong skin damage and cancer, thereby conspicuously showing a disregard for the future.

There is some dispute surrounding the etymology of the word “ganguro”. Some academics claim that the name derives from “顔黒” (black face), but (past) ganguro practitioners themselves invariably say it derives from “ガンガン黒” (exceptionally dark). Some people see it as racist and compare it to the blackface of early 1900s culture in America.

Yamanba

Next, we have a close relative of the Ganguro, called “Yamanba”, named after a mythical mountain witch. From Wikipedia:

Yamanba (ヤマン?, Yamanba?) sometimes written as “yamamba”, is a fashion trend among young Japanese women. Starting with the bleached white hair and heavy tan of the ganguro girl, the yamanba adds white lipstick, white eye makeup, and sometimes brightly colored contacts, plastic clothing, and inappropriate accessories. Some yamanba wear stuffed animals as decorations, talk with a slurred speech, and enjoy shiny neon or dayglo colors. The male equivalent is called a “center guy,” this being a pun on the Center-gai (センター街, Center-gai?) pedestrian shopping area near Shibuya station in Tokyo where yamanba and center guys can often be seen.

The term yamanba comes from a mountain hag, known as Yama-uba, whom the fashion is thought to resemble.

The contrast in that last photo is striking. I guess this is one way to express your individuality in a homogenous society.

Lolita

From Wikipedia:

Lolita fashion is part of the fashion style and subculture Gothic & Lolita, which originated in Japan, largely inspired by Victorian children’s clothing and the elaborate costumes of the Rococo period. Other influences include the western goth subculture, punk subculture and french maid outfits. Skirts are typically knee length and are worn with a pannier or petticoat to add volume. Over-knee socks, knee socks or stockings are extremely popular, especially printed with roses or crowns or topped with lace. Footwear is typically cute, child-like shoes such as Mary Janes, though Vivienne Westwood Rocking horse shoes, and replicas of them are also very popular. Skirts are typically paired with either a Frilly, ruffled, or lace-trimmed Victorian blouse or a lacey ‘cut sew’ which stands for a shirt (usually tee-shirt material) that has been ‘cut and sewn’. Other garments are either dresses in one or more pieces, which are labeled one-piece, two-piece etc or a pinafore jumper skirt worn over a blouse. These blouses often have Peter-Pan collars or sailor collars. Lace-trimmed headdresses, mini-top hats worn to one side, and intricate old-fashioned jewelry are some favored accessories of Lolitas.

Though not the founder of the style, the Lolita fashion is often considered to have been made popular by Mana, of the band Malice Mizer. The fashion started in the 70s, though it did not gain popularity and media presence until the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Although “Lolita” is a reference to Vladimir Nabokov‘s famous novel, and Lolita is often worn by teens, most followers of the style do not consider it overtly sexual. Adherents present themselves as Victorian children or baby dolls and prefer to look cute, beautiful or elegant rather than sexy.

Yes, they do exist. Check out the scene at a McDonald’s in Tokyo (below).

Gothic Lolita

From Wikipedia:

Gothic Lolita or “GothLoli” (ゴスロリ, gosurori; sometimes alternatively “Loli-Goth“) is a subcategory of the Lolita fashion, a street fashion among Japanese female teenagers and, to a lesser extent, men and young women.

Lolita fashion emphasizes Victorian-style and Edwardian fashion girl’s clothing and often aims to imitate the look of Victorian porcelain dolls. The Roccoco period has also been defined as an influence of Gothic lolita. Gothic Lolita applies the aesthetics of Gothic fashion to the childlike, pretty Lolita fashion. GothLoli’s name and origin is a combination of Lolita and Gothic fashion.

The term “EGL” is commonly mistaken as the blanket term for Lolita fashion and Gothic Lolita in Western Lolita culture. The name “EGL” applies only to that specific line of clothing’s style in Moi-même-Moitié, which is in the Gothic Lolita style.

Gothic Lolita is the best-known of the various “Lolita” looks. Other categories include “Classic Lolita“, which is often more mature-looking and contains more muted colours and floral prints and “Sweet Lolita” which is identified by childish pastel colours and cute prints.

Maid

From Wikipedia:

Cosplay restaurants (コスプレ系飲食店), are theme restaurants and pubs that originated in Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan around the year 2000. They include maid cafés (メイドカフェ) and butler cafés, where the service staff dresses in cosplay, elegant maids, or butlers. Such restaurants and cafes have become the staple of Japanese otaku culture. Compared to “normal” cafés‘ service, maid cafés provide a slightly different atmosphere. The maids treat the customers as their master in a home. The popularity of the cosplay restaurants and maid cafes has spread to other regions in Japan such as Osaka‘s Den Den Town as well as other Asian countries, such as South Korea, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

The maids are often dressed in cute lolita fashion or french maid-styled uniforms to look and act “kawaii” for the customers. Sometimes the maid outfit is augmented with cat or bunny ears to increase their cuteness. At maid cafes most service staff members are female and male jobs are typically limited to bar-backing and janitorial duties.

Some homepages of maid cafés have pictures and profiles of the maids.

When a customer enters the café, the maids typically give a flattering greeting such as “Welcome home, Master“(???り????御主人様?) in order to play the role of a house servant. Unlike “ordinary” cafés, maids serve customers as if they were their masters. For example, staff sometimes kneel on the ground to mix sugar or milk in teas or other drinks. The purpose of the maid cafés and their service is to make customers feel at home and relaxed. Although exemplary customer service is typical of Japan, maid cafés take special care to pamper their patrons.

Image is Everything.

Do you believe in the stereotype that Japanese women are conservative? You may change your mind after you see the next few photos. The scenes below are common throughout the city at all times of the day. (Note that I’m not a creepy guy who goes around taking photos of unsuspecting women.I found these on Flickr, and you can too.)

Notice the exposed garter on this young lady’s right leg (below).

And it doesn’t stop even after you become a parent, apparently.

Topics: Culture | 7 Comments »


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