Japanese youth subcultures

Japanese youth subcultures  — a number of subcultures among Japanese youth, distinguished by their own philosophy, style of dress and musical preferences. They are inseparably connected with street fashion , that is why the term “Japanese street fashion” is also often associated with subcultures, sometimes these terms replace each other. Most subcultures appeared as a protest against the traditional Japanese ideals of beauty and social foundations.

The first youth subcultures of Japan appeared due to young people experimenting on the streets of Tokyo . Initially, this phenomenon was simply called street fashion. With the emergence of increasingly fragmented and dissimilar directions, a term with a broader meaning was needed. This concept, designed to cover all fashion trends in clothing kawaii store, was the term «Japanese street fashion», referring to the appearance of fashionable Japanese youth on the streets of Harajuku and Shibuya. Outside of Japan, the term “Japanese street fashion” is commonly used to refer to Harajuku fashion., while in Japan itself — for all youth fashion trends and even wider: for all youth subcultures . Sometimes it even becomes synonymous with all Japanese subcultures in general.

The influence of the West on Japanese fashion 

The roots of all phenomena and tendencies of Japanese fashion are rooted in the influence of Western culture on traditional Japanese society  . Initially, the Japanese had a negative attitude towards the Europeans. Thus, the Portuguese missionaries , who arrived in 1543 , received the nambanjins ( Japanese вар 人 southern barbarians ) among Japanese residents , and later the Japanese also called the Spaniards . Representatives of the Germanic peoples, such as the British , the Dutch and the Germans , were called Como ( jap. 紅毛 red-haired) . The appearance and clothes of Europeans were perceived as something «inelegant, devoid of all beauty» and ridiculed. But gradually, Western fashion began to penetrate Japanese culture. The first result of this influence was the appearance of dzimbaori ( Jap. 陣 羽 織 )  — a sleeveless vest, one of the main elements of late samurai clothing. It was a peculiar Japanese version of the tabard , jimbaori were worn even by daimyo and shoguns . With the coming to power of Tokugawa, most Europeans were driven out of the country, and similar borrowing from the West stopped. However, among the common people remained short trousers borrowed from Europeansmatahiki or momohiki ( Jap. 股引 pants ) and short cloak kappa ( Jap. 合羽 water ) . These were, respectively, pantsand cape , which came from the Western European costume of the time. All these foreign elements were called by the Japanese as “Christian fashion”, since, first of all, the appearance of Western missionaries was copied .

In the 19th — 20th centuries, after the Meiji Restoration , the second wave of Westernization of Japanese fashion began, but now it was more a replacement of traditional Japanese clothing to the Western than simply borrowing European trends. Already at that time, the “western” look was considered fashionable, and some Japanese were even ready to wear a hat with a kimono in order to have some kind of western element in clothes. Already in the 20s of the 20th century, a layer of young women, following the western fashion, listening to jazz and ignoring the traditional Japanese rules of behavior for women, appeared. But because of the realities of that time, by the 1930s these trends had come to naught.

After the defeat of Japan in World War II and the American occupation, Tokyo’s Harajuku region was settled by American soldiers and their families. The Japanese youth, feeling dissatisfaction with the conservatism of traditional Japanese culture, often visited this area, wanting to join the Western culture. By the fiftieth years of the 20th century, Hirodzuku became a symbol of Western culture, which more and more young Japanese began to get involved in. For the first time it began to manifest itself in gyaru , many girls began to abuse the tanning bed to achieve a “chocolate” skin tone, trying to resemble American hip-hop performers. At the same time, they lightened their hair in order to resemble foreigners as much as possible. This trend coincided with the wave of popularity of American and British glam metal , creating the basis for the formation of a «visual style» in Japanese music — visual kei .

The Russian Japaneseist , MSU professor Yevgeny Steiner believes that this is just a “game”, and the Japanese do not take Western trends seriously:

For example, there is a very large youth subculture of the Harajuku region, where there are groups of teenagers who impersonate different cultural heroes of the West. Say, girls called «Goto Rory», which means «Gothic Lolita.» Such seductive nymphets in black lace, Victorian fashion, with a stunning make-up, when they whiten their faces, when they speak languidly, as in their presentation spoke British girls of the middle of the XIX century. And so they walk the streets, etc. There are other groups, for example, Gangoro — Japanese women, mostly girls, imitating American black rappers. They smear their faces with dark or make artificial tan, dye their hair in bright yellow color, wear pants from knee-length to the knees, like these rappers. There is a lot of all this, but I repeat: the Japanese are smarter than Western people in this respect, I would say. They take external signs, and they know that this is a game for them. They do not hesitate to walk in these carnival costumes through the streets, for them this is an age-related phenomenon. But to seriously get carried away with Christianity, or the philosophy of Hegel, or something similar to them just does not occur — this is a fundamental difference.

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