Lolita

JAPAN: Japanese Sub-Cultures (Yankii)

Every country has a population of disgruntled youth who rebel against society and Japan is no exception.  But from a country who brought you such colorful trends as Dekotora, Gyaru, Lolita and Visual Kei, it only makes sense that their sub-culture of rebellious youth are just as colorful and trendy.

Japan’s largest and most well-known sub-culture consisting primarily of working class kids is called Yankii (ヤンキー).  Yankii also represents a whole genre of comics, movies and music in Japan. The word Yankii, came into existence in the 1950s and is said to have originated from the term “Yankee,” which refers to people from the United States. Perhaps influenced by the early post-war motorcycle gangs formed by former Kamikaze pilots known as Kaminari zoku (雷族), the Yankii lifestyle revolves around motorcycles and cars and is perhaps one of the most tradition-bound segments of the Japanese populace today.

Most kids begin their life-style as a Yankii around age 14 and are known for their pranks, bullying and petty crimes. They try to maintain a yakuza-like image but they are not as dangerous as their highly organized, older icons. They highlight their working class roots by wearing clothing associated with Japanese construction workers, such as oversized baggy pants known as Tobi trousers. Yankii boys and girls also tend to have shaved off eyebrows, permed hair (punch perm/ パンチパーマ/  panchi pamaa), dyed hair, pompadours, flamboyant, oversized clothes and customized school uniforms. Younger Yankii are expected to speak to the older members of their clan (senpai) in Keigo (reverent speech) at all times and run their errands. Members also observe a code of honor specific to their particular clan. The three pillars of Yankii behavior are said to be guts (konjyo), sincerity (seii) and dedication of the soul (nyukon).  Most Yankii tend to drop out of school by age 17 and get married. This early marriage is referred to as sokon.

Some Yankii eventually do get recruited by the Yakuza (Japanese organized crime) but many simply blend into Japanese society, join the workforce and live regular, productive lives after lashing out at society and enjoying their youth.

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Japan: Tokyo, Harajuku (Takeshita dori)

Takeshita dori

Takeshita dori

Takeshita street map

Takeshita street map

Located within the Harajuku district in Tokyo, Takeshita-dori is a narrow, 0.2 mile pedestrian only street (between the hours of 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM) lined with a wide variety of trendy shops, crepe stands, fast food outlets, used clothing stores and fashion boutiques featuring the latest visual kei, gothic and lolita fashions. It is also home to Daiso Harajuku, one of the largest ¥100 shops in Tokyo!

Situated directly across from JR East’s Harajuku Station, Takeshita Street is very popular with teenagers visiting Tokyo during school excursions and local young people shopping for small kawaii (cute) goods. Harajuku itself is the center of Japan’s most extreme teenage cultures and fashion styles therefore, it does not come as a surprise to see many of the fashion and trend conscious teens wondering the street dressed up in eccentric costumes to resemble anime characters, punk musicians, etc.

Shops along Takeshita-dori tend to stay open daily from 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM and it isn’t uncommon to find aggressive store clerks who call out to lure customers into their shops. The area is also famous for what is known as nama shashin (unofficial or paparazzi photos) of popular idols such as AKB48, Arashi, etc.

Takeshita-dori also draws many tourists who view it as a fun place to look around the many reasonably priced, one-of-a-kind shops.

Just south of Takeshita-dori is Omotesando, a broad, tree lined avenue sometimes referred to as Tokyo’s Champs-Elysees. Here you can find famous brand name shops, cafes and restaurants catering to the fashion conscious urbanites in their 30s and 40s. Not too far away is the Ota Memorial Museum of Art (http://www.ukiyoe-ota-muse.jp/index-E.html ) featuring amazing ukiyo-e paintings from Seizo Ota’s personal collection. To the west of the railway tracks lies Meiji Jingu, one of Tokyo’s major shrines.

Centrally located and easy to access, Harajuku provides many options to help plan your day and immerse yourself in the local culture.

Daiso Harajuku

Daiso Harajuku

Inside Daiso

Inside Daiso

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Luring customers into their shop

Luring customers into their shop

Shop selling "nama sashin"

Shop selling “nama sashin”

Music Shop

Music Shop

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Santa Monica Crepes

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Marion Crepes

Marion Crepes

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Ota Memorial Museum of Art

Ota Memorial Museum of Art

Ukiyoe

Ukiyoe

Meiji Jingu Gate

Meiji Jingu Gate