Last week I visited Yoyogi Park for the first time and it was Disneyland, Halloween and the zoo all wrapped up into one giant parade of the weirdest Tokyo has to offer. It was people-watching heaven.
There were girls dressed like Disney princesses (but sluttier, think stripper heels and short skirts) and guys decked out in military uniforms (complete with realistic-looking machine guns and gas masks). There were goths, transvestites in school girl uniforms, Paris Hilton look-a-likes, punk-rockers, girls in Victorian-era hoop dresses (with matching white gloves, pearls and parasols, very Mary Poppins-ish) and a few dozen girls dressed like human dolls, (white-painted skin, rosy cheeks, pigtails and long eyelashes).
The best were probably the group of drunken Elvis break dancers and their poodle skirt back-up dancers. These men wore leather pants, cowboy boots and slicked back hair. Each one kept a black comb in their pants pocket and would periodically take it out and run it through their greasy-do. They all wore matching vests that read: ‘Tokyo Rock and Roll Group’ but the music they were dancing to sounded more like 70’s-inspired elevator music. It could have been the multiple six-packs of Asahi beer they’d drank or the four bottles of Whisky I watched them guzzle, but they were all out of sync and sloppy and their dance moves reminded me of Elaine from Seinfield. But it was all very entertaining.
The stereotype that “all Japanese people look and act the same” is definitely not true and the youth subcultures are out to prove that. Here are a just a few examples.
What I find most fascinating about youth culture in Japan is that this isn’t just about a fashion style: it’s a way of life. These teen girls (and boys, too) who embrace a particular style of dress (whether it be inspired by Hip Hop music or French maids) have their own distinct dance moves and even their own slang.
I also find it interesting that in an effort to assert their individuality, be original, and rebel against a conformist society, they’ve chosen to emulate the styles of Paris Hilton or Hawaiian surfers and join the ranks of the thousands of other Japanese young people that are doing the exact same thing. It’s okay to grow an afro or wear white lipstick, just as long as your friends are all doing it with you.
They’ve succeeded in looking bizarre…just like everyone else.