When the Kimono’s a No-Go – Modern Japanese Fashion Part 4: BosozukoGangs and GanguroGirls

Bosozuko and Ganguro subcultures have waned a bit in popularity over recent years, but have fascinating origins and backgrounds.


Bosozuko fashion

Classic Bosozuko look

First seen in the 1950s, with the explosion of the Japanese automobile industry, these early Bosozuko groups were disaffected youth – mainly men under 20- generally on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale. They were known for commonly driving their tricked out motorcycles and cars around city streets while committing crime and causing mayhem. In the beginning, many of the hard-core Bozokuko would go on to become low-ranking Yakuza – the name given to the Japanese version of The Mob. In more recent years, the gang connotation associated with Bosozuko has faded, though they’re often still rabble-rousers who engage in reckless driving (as seen in the movie “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”) In 2004 a law was passed that gave police freer reign to arrest those participating in these group-rides and drag races. Today Bosozuko groups organize large events that showcase the artistry of their vehicular modifications.

Customized vehicles

And it’s not just the cars that are on display: Tremendously impressive pompadours, workman’s jumpsuits and military style overcoats emblazoned with kanji slogans characterize the fashion of the Bosozuko. Although with modifications on the cars like six-foot tail pipes (photo above), it’s hard to figure out which is more impressive.

Ganguro Girls – The Japanese take on Valley Girl Beauty


Two Yomanbas walking Toyko streets.

The literal translation of Ganguro is “black face” or “intensely dark”. This is a referenceto the deep tan (usually – and hopefully – a fake makeup tan) iconic to the look. This is married with bleached hair, fake eyelashes, white eyeliner, and the brightest / loudest clothing, much of which is made from plastic. Academics -because in Japan this trend confounded many-suggest that the Ganguro Girl style offers a lot of social commentary. Overtly, this look flies in the face of the Asian beauty ideal of snowy fair skin; whilethe subtler commentary provides a scathing statement on the tyranny of constraint and isolation of the culture at large. Despite the rebellious roots, it’s a fun and flirty style, with obvious references to the Californian surfer girl. Extreme practitioners of the style are known as Yamanbas (or manbas for short), meaning ‘mountain hag’, a reference to a character from folklore. Certainly,Ganguro Girls are more fun for one to see than describe.









One Response to When the Kimono’s a No-Go – Modern Japanese Fashion Part 4: BosozukoGangs and GanguroGirls

  1. Pat Millar says:

    Weird, so weird.

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