Articles, and even entire blogs, on modern Japanese culture and fashion are easy to come by. There are a few that offer thorough and thought-provoking commentary, but many are just collections of the strangest photos and videos, generally taken out of context, for a cheap laugh and cheaper generalizations. In a series of articles, I’ll provide some choice overviews and commentary on some prominent Japanese subcultures and fashions. And yes, I’ll include all the requisite photos.
Japan’s is a homogeneous culture. Post WWII, a flattened country hunkered down and by-our-own-bootstrapped it to become the titan (or tiger) of technological industry, all in mere decades. This was – and continues to be – hard work and requires the commitment of all citizenry. Fitting in, looking the part, and “No ‘I’ in Team”are guiding principles in Japan, with these sentiments echoed from government policy right down to the family unit (Exhibit A: An immigration policy that makes Arizona look like Canada; Exhibit B: The fastest growing segment of the plastic surgery market are parents copying their children’s enhancements so the family resemblance stays strong). In a collectivist culture that is fascinated by the opposing culture of the west, kids have a brief window in which to express themselves, often hard and loud, before they don their suits for a life in the office.
While western mouths tend to fall agape at images of outrageous fashion, there’s a lot of social commentary, rabble rousing, and artistry happening here. Satire seems to be best delivered in a petticoat or coffin bag. One thing’s clear; the combination of unique aesthetic that includes cultural references – both historical and present day, and east-meets-west interpretations – means Japanese fashion is always edgy.