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[asianbeat original pop culture column vol.1] 

Gals - Making Japan Cool

Generations turn the full circle. Going back and forth, back to the origin in an improved version, advancing our lifestyles. The revolution is like a spiral staircase, the diameter of the circle is getting smaller, and new trends and culture are born at an ever increasing pace.

But what is the power behind the development of the spiral? It is ever-present desire to go against the norms of the day. Without this we would never find the “wa” to turn the full circle. The main impetus behind this power are the “Gals” and “Yankees”. The so-called undercurrent of change that is the source of Japan’s pop culture comes from Gal and Yankee trends.

*Gals: Fashion conscious girls in their teens and twenties.
* Yankees: Juvenile delinquent, bad boy (girl) with their unique fashion.

Japan’s complex language structure makes it difficult to penetrate the world. Japanese culture was not necessarily developed through a mix of languages and styles of expressions. However, looking at literature and anime you could say that the world is astonished at the diverse sense and expression of Japan. As we approach the cusp of a new generation, with a population declining faster than any other and the consumer market having reached a stage of maturity, Japan’s pop culture will give us an insight into what we have in store. And it is the Gals who are leading the pack, and in modern Japanese pop culture discourse you cannot overlook their presence.

Gal culture leaves the consumer society behind

Presently in 2009 Japanese Gal culture is sweeping throughout Asia. For example, In Bangkok Thailand and other Asian cities outfits similar to Japanese girls’ school uniforms are all the rage. School uniforms used to symbolize “the good girls” - something to rebel against for “bad girls”. But nowadays they are supported by the girls as a whole for a completely different reason. The Gals want to wear their uniforms while they can – creating a costume play (cosplay) culture of their own. They want to make the utmost of their limited time. This trend, born of economic rationalization in a stagnant economy, has spread throughout the globe. Gals used to flourish as rebellion against the rigid education system, but now this rebellion has become a much bigger phenomenon.

The Japanese consumer market has shrunk in the wake of the global financial crisis. The reality of the falling birth rate and population makes it obvious that the “consumer society Japan” cannot continue. The appearance of charisma talent such as Momoka Eri and Masuwaka Tsubasa are a natural result of the end of the consumer era.

The cover of the magazine “Koakuma ageha” (2009 March edition) featured the phrase “Japan has been like this since I was born so I don’t know why they go on about the recession”. The Gals see things from a different perspective to the oldies who are still clinging to the past glory of Japan’s economic miracle. The Gals are made of much tougher stuff.

Japan’s market for famous brands has withered with the economy. But Gals were never really interested in them. Gals are happy enough pursuing their own fashion style with limited time and money. They were born in the era of the mobile phone, and literally have a market in the palm of their hand, and they are producing content that fits in the palm of their hand. The Gals are the power behind the decorative culture “deco bunka”, which has evolved on its own, signaling a breakaway from the “adult consumer society”.

Gals have thumbed their noses at the flustered oldies who have gone through the bubble economy, looking to the more realistic “palm sized output”. The coolness of Japanese pop culture can be found in the raw power of the undercurrent created by a simple pursuit of cool. This is a typical example of Japan’s “mass people power”, which also rebuilt post war Japan.


(c) 2009 Moery
(c) 2008-2009 All
Shuji Nakamura
President of the Paper Company Ltd and Kinax Holdings Inc. Born in Shiga Prefecture is the behind the scenes brain for advertising agencies, while helping many businesses get off the ground. Planner, concept creator.



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