Japanese Subculture: Kogals and Lolitas, Rebellion or Fashion

Blog Post: Japanese subcultures: Rebellion vs. Cool; Lifestyle vs. Fashion

Currently, Japan remains one of the most homogenous countries in the world with almost ninety nine percent of its population being ethnically Japanese; however, the homogenous quality often attributed to Japan underestimates the growing importance and presence youth subcultures within Japan. Two of the most prevalent and identifiable youth subcultures are the Kogyaru (young gals) or Kogals and Gothic Lolitas. The two groups use fashion or appearance to distance themselves from mainstream society. Clothing within Japanese society seems to be one of the few ways to differentiate a person from the mainstream; however, the “rebelling” individual tends to join a group that shares similar taste in clothing and behavior lessening the rebellion effect. The young person still wishes to belong to a group, just not the mainstream group. In addition, a person wearing the fashion of a certain subculture may not necessarily embrace its principles or behave according to the rules imposed by the subculture; however, for other young people, the subculture is a lifestyle choice and not simply a cute or cool fashion. The Kogyaru culture seems to emphasize outrageous, scandalous and shocking appearance and behavior while the Gothic Lolita culture stresses modesty, politeness and proper manners. Both groups possess rebellion elements. The Kogals seem to be rebelling against the meek, quiet school girl image of the typical Japanese girl. The Lolitas on the other hand appear to be rebelling against the “repugnant”, unladylike and garish behavior of the Kogals. In addition, the Lolitas possibly are trying to escape the pressures of adulthood and becoming the ideal Japanese housewife. [Read more…]

Cool Cuisine: The Marketing and Perception of Japanese Food in the West

In the past twenty years, the consumption of Japanese products in America has grown exponentially, and the consumption of its food is no exception. However, it is not simply the food that is desired in the West – it is the aspect of Japanese “cool” that surrounds it. In his article “Japan’s Gross National Cool,” Douglas McGray writes that Japanese products are desirable because they contain a “whiff of Japanese cool,” meaning they have something novel, something “Japanese,” that makes them more attractive to the West. This “Japaneseness,” whether authentic or not, is what is desired and paid for in the West as much as the food itself. Through examining the way Japanese food-related products are marketed and perceived in the West, one may see that while the food may be delicious, it is the “whiff of Japanese cool” that strongly appeals to Western tastes. [Read more…]

Jessie Hollimon


Hiya! 🙂 I am a senior at the College. I first became interested in Japan when I learned Sailormoon came from Japan. Since then I have branched out from just watching anime to learning about Japan’s history, culture, politics, language etc. Currently, I am really interested in Japanese pop culture because I consume so much of it. In addition, I want to get past the 2D representation of Japan, that Westerners and the Japanese endeavor to create. I also want to master the language some day but for now being able to understand the past and current culture will do.

Closer to “Real Japan”? Symbolism in Japanese Dramas


For the typical American, seeking Japanese television dramas for one’s viewing pleasures may require more  effort than watching dubbed Japanese anime. Dubbed animes are regularly played during Saturday morning time slots, during late night runs on cartoon channels, and may be found on the Internet in both their dubbed and original Japanese form with subtitles.  In the case of Japanese dramas, access is generally more limited—unless one has access to satellite TV (though these channels generally only carry Japanese subtitles).  However, with the rise of drama-centric websites (mysoju, dramacrazy), streaming websites (Youtube, dailymotion), and the growing number of online fansub [Read more…]

Maximilian Brumby

I was ten years old when I arrived in the United States. Upon arriving, I was glad to learn that Americans also collected Pokemon cards.  This was exciting because I had spent the last two years trading anything I could get my hands on for Pokemon cards from my Japanese friend, Shun.  They were all in Japanese, and I could not tell what any of them meant, but it didn’t matter at all to me, I was obsessed.

Now that I have lived in the United States for eleven years little has changed.  I’m a Junior at the College of William and Mary, and a film studies major.  Instead of having an obsession with collecting Pokemon cards, I now have an obsession with watching Japanese film.  Nothing is more exciting and entertaining to me then the gorgeous animation of Studio Ghibli, or the extreme sensationalism featured in films like Ichi the Killer and Battle Royal . Maybe it was effective marketing, or maybe I felt a legitimate cultural connection with those Pokemon cards when I was younger, but either way loving those cards as much as I did created an interest in the culture of another country, an interest that I have kept with me for the last decade.


Japanese version of Chamander Pokemon trading card.

Maybe it was effective marketing, or maybe I felt a legitimate cultural connection with those Pokemon cards when I was younger, but either way loving those cards as much as I did created an interest in the culture of another country, an interest that I have kept with me for the last decade.

Poster for the film "Ichi the Killer"

Poster for the film "Ichi the Killer"

Distinctly Japanese: Satoshi Kon’s Millenium Actress and the Nature of Modern Japanese Culture

Japanese popular culture is often noted for its distinct lack of “Japaneseness,” or the scarcity of features that can expressly define its cultural products as unequivocally “Japanese.” A perfect example of this is Sanrio’s Hello Kitty character, which is one of the most instantly recognizable Japanese pop culture icons on the globe, yet essentially is a cat intended to be of British background.  In particular, Japanese animation, or anime, is well-known for its ambiguous representation of purportedly ethnic-Japanese characters. The use of large eyes and multi-colored hair for character designs and the science fiction and fantasy settings often employed in anime allow many viewers to forget that they are watching entertainment created in Japan.  Thus these features lend a certain mukokuseki or “stateless” aura to any animated work. Mukokuseki has been cited as being a factor in anime’s popularity outside of Japan, by allowing non-Japanese viewers to enjoy entertainment originally created for a Japanese audience. [Read more…]

Nathan Revere

The Pursuit of Language

My name is Nathan Revere and I am currently a senior at the college of William and Mary. A linguist by training, I am fascinated by the intersection of language and human experience. My love for language, however, did not start academically – as a high school student I had the opportunity to live for a year in Kumamoto, Japan. Ever since, culture and language have been inextricably bound for me. The pursuit of understanding how these balance is the focus of my research.

Japan has been central to this passion of mine, and as such I have worked as a Japanese TA, worked to provide translations for the Future Shock art exhibit which visited William and Mary in 2009, and participated in summer research under Professor Hamada Connolly where I combined looking at food culture and communicative practices.

I hope to continue with these interests by becoming a professor of Linguistic Anthropology.

Katie Johannes

During elementary school, Katie Johannes would wake up before dawn, creep down to the other end of the house, turn the television on low volume and watch Sailor Moon on Channel 7 before getting ready for school. She would then hurriedly get dressed and run to catch the bus, jealously eyeing her sister’s small Hello Kitty backpack as she ran out the door. She would draw doodles of Keroppi, Hello Kitty’s amphibian friend, when she was bored during math. She would run home to make sure she did not miss the beginning of Toonami, the three hour block of anime programming on Cartoon Network. She then would figlunaht her little sister for first dibs on Pokemon Snap, since it was only rented from the video store and the time to reach the level with Mews in outer space was limited. Around dinnertime, she often begged her mom and dad to take the family out to eat at the Sumo Steakhouse and Sushi Bar, her favorite restaurant.

She was never the quickest thinker, but it took Katie years before she realized that all of these favorite programs and products were Japanese in origin. Katie, now considering a minor in East Asian Studies, knows that desperately wanting long hair (and secret lunar celestial crystal tiara powers) like Sailor Moon when she was seven may have played a small role in her decision to take Japanese 101 in her freshman year. It allowed her to understand parts of her old favorite shows in their original language and, more importantly, taught her more about the country that was able to permeate her childhood without her knowing it.

Eugenia Hannon

Truly, Eugenia was inspired to take “Gross National Cool”, because, well, she thinks Japan is pretty cool, and wanted to know much, much more about “it”–the people, culture, place. And, while she’s equally charmed by Sanrio and everything kawaii! , she really thinks the picture below represents her much more fully. As a 22 year old college senior, her nights are often full of terror, so she and the Obake have become really good friends!

Nightly Visitors

Sanami Takasaki

Sanami Takasaki was born in Yokohama and grew up in Tsukuba, Ibaraki.  It was when she was 18 that she left her hometown and moved to Yokohama.  She lived with her grandmother to go to Keio University.  During her freshman year, she experienced the Den’en-Toshi Line’s packed trainfor the first time in her life.YouTube Preview ImageFor a girl who spent her whole life in the country, this was not the only thing that scared her.  The place where her heart beat fastest was ‘Hachikou-mae’, the most famous meeting spot in Shibuya.  There, she was ‘lost in translation’, and devoted herself to working on her cellphone just for turning her eyes away from the ’emptiness’.
Hachiko-mae, Shibuya

Hachiko-mae, Shibuya

In 2009, she finally realized her long-cherished dream to study abroad in U.S.  ‘The place this timid girl chose for becoming brave was William and Mary.  Things she has introduced so far: okonomiyaki, tempura, drinking games, slang and suikawari (watermelon smashing).
Sanami’s blog (in Japanese):  William and Mary and Sanami