Movies

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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Odaiba, Japan

Odaiba, Japan is a large man-made island in Tokyo Bay.  Initially constructed in the 1850s for defensive purposes, today’s Odaiba is a popular sightseeing and shopping destination for locals and tourists alike.

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The island is easily accessible by public transportation.  Route 11 (Shuto Expressway) crosses the Rainbow Bridge and can be accessed from central Tokyo. Further, ferries running along the Sumida River connect Odiaba and Asakusa.

Taking the train to Odaiba (crossing the Rainbow Bridge)

Taking the train to Odaiba (crossing the Rainbow Bridge)

Rainbow Bridge, completed on Aug 26, 1993, serves as the gateway to Odaiba and is considered one of the most beautiful modern bridges in Japan. It is 2,618 ft. long and spans 1,903 ft. It was officially called the “Shuto Expressway No. 11 Daiba Route – Port of Tokyo Connector Bridge,” but the name was changed to the ‘Rainbow Bridge” as decided by the public.  The name comes from the 444 solar-powered lights which illuminate the bridge after dark, bathing the white supporting towers in red, white, blue and green.

The other side of Rainbow Bridge

The other side of Rainbow Bridge

Rainbow Bridge as seen from Odaiba

Rainbow Bridge as seen from Odaiba

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Another easily recognizable architectural wonder in Odaiba is the Fuji Television Studios building designed by Kenzo Tange. The building which looks as though it was constructed out of tinkertoys has a giant ball suspended within the structure that is home to an expensive Chinese restaurant. Studio tours are available to the public but are offered only in Japanese.  Access to the observatory is available for ¥500 but you can catch some nice views from the second-highest story of the builing for free!

Fuji Television Studios building

Fuji Television Studios building

Aqua City and Fuji Television

Aqua City and Fuji Television

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A few steps from the train station is the Aqua City shopping center. (http://www.aquacity.jp/en/top) Here you will find stores, restaurants, a large cineplex, Fuji Television’s kid’s café and the Aqua City Odiaba Shrine dedicated to a god that grants 7 wishes!

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View of Odaiba Marine Park from the yaki niku restaurant (steak restaurant)

View of Odaiba Marine Park from the yaki niku restaurant (steak restaurant)

Typical "set menu" at Japanese yaki niku restaurants

Typical “set menu” at Japanese yaki niku restaurants

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Fuji Television’s kids cafe, where Gachapin, Mukku, and Laugh-kun, Fuji Television’s main characters,  greet visitors.

Fuji Television’s kids cafe, where Gachapin, Mukku, and Laugh-kun, Fuji Television’s main characters, greet visitors

The Minions have invaded Tokyo!  (Outside the Cineplex in Aqua City)

The Minions have invaded Tokyo! (Outside the Cineplex in Aqua City)

One of many restaurants within Aqua City

One of many restaurants within Aqua City

Section of a large aquarium inside Aqua City

Section of a large aquarium inside Aqua City

Right next door to Aqua City is the Odaiba Marine Park, home to one of two beaches within mainland Tokyo.  A boardwalk runs along the beach often frequented by couples who consider this spot to be one of the most romantic places in Tokyo. This is also where you will find a miniature version of the Statue of Liberty, a very popular photo taking spot for locals and tourists.

The miniature version of the Statue of Liberty at Odaiba Marine Park

The miniature version of the Statue of Liberty at Odaiba Marine Park

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Within walking distance from Aqua City you will find Diver City Tokyo Plaza. (http://www.divercity-tokyo.com/en/) This entertainment venue not only offers visitors a multitude of shopping, dinning, entertainment and relaxation opportunities but there are usually live performances by Japan’s leading entertainers here. On the day we visited Odiaba, Yoko Gushiken, a retired Japanese professional boxer who is now an entertainer with Ohta Productions was scheduled to make an appearance.

The RX-78 Gundam outside of Diver City

The RX-78 Gundam outside of Diver City

Countdown clock for the announcement of where the Olympics are to take place. Tokyo was chosen recently.

Countdown clock for the announcement of where the Olympics are to take place. Tokyo was chosen recently.

Diver City

Diver City

Yoko Gushiken, retired Japanese professional boxer

Yoko Gushiken, retired Japanese professional boxer

Finally, we had the opportunity to visit Palette Town, with the 377 ft. ferris wheel, Daikanransha.  When it opened in 1999, it was considered the world’s tallest ferris wheel until the unveiling of the London Eye on December 31, 1999 which measured 443 ft. Daikanransha spins slowly providing breathtaking views of Tokyo Tower, Rainbow Bridge, and Haneda Airport, as well as central Tokyo, during the 16-minute ride. The ride costs ¥900 per person or an entire 6-person gondola can be rented for  ¥3000.

Palette Town, with the 377 ft. ferris wheel, Daikanransha

Palette Town, with the 377 ft. ferris wheel, Daikanransha

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Outdoor sculptures can be found all over Odaiba

Outdoor sculptures can be found all over Odaiba

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The Telecom bulding in the distance

The Telecom bulding in the distance

Hotel Nikko

Hotel Nikko

The Grand Pacific Hotel

The Grand Pacific Hotel

Odaiba has many attractions and you could easily spend a couple of days exploring them.  After spending just a few hours there, we only managed to touch the tip of the iceberg!