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Excerpt
The following is an excerpt from the book The Tokyo Look Book
by Philomena Keet, photography by Yuri Manabe
Published by Kodansha International; September 2007;$29.95US; 978-4-7700-3061-0
Text © 2007 Philomena Keet from The Tokyo Look Book, Kodansha International
Photos © 2007 Yuri Manabe from The Tokyo Look Book, Kodansha International

Chapter 2


Often regarded as a highly uniformed society, Japan also has a reputation for its outlandishly attired young people. Images of teenagers looking like rock-star aliens or Little Bo Peeps cannot help but grab attention outside Japan. While these striking looks often follow the rules of fashion, with "in" brands and styles that change with the times, they are also firmly entrenched in some sort of "subculture": a word that denotes a group of people whose way of life and value system are at odds with that of the mainstream culture.

Subcultural lifestyles are often related to music, and many of the spectacular outfits in this chapter are inspired by a rock genre known as visual-kei, meaning "visual style." Musically, the genre combines the weight of metal and punk with the melodies typical to most Japanese pop songs, and visually, it's a spectacle of spiked and dyed hair, heavy makeup and piercings, colored contact lenses, and costumes that make Kiss look boring. Young visual-kei fans dress in an array of subcultural styles from Lolita, punk, and goth to more uniquely Japanese styles such as decora-kei (decoration style) and Takuya Angel, a brand that dramatically combines a futuristic cyber look with a traditional Japanese one. Many of these spectacular Tokyo youths, however, only wear their subcultural uniforms at weekends. So who exactly are these people? And what are they wearing -- uniforms, costumes, or fashion?

There are Lolitas, who come in all shapes and colors. The central aesthetic around which this look revolves is Little Bo Peep: frills, petticoats, ribbons, Mary Jane shoes, and bonnets. Kawaii or "cute" is central to this look, and indeed many girls get into Lolita because they feel prettier when wearing it. Variations on this kawaii theme abound: perhaps most famous is Gothic Lolita, or gosurori as it is known, which is different from Black Lolita, Pink Lolita, Country Lolita, Elegant Lolita, and so on.

Text © 2007 Philomena Keet from The Tokyo Look Book, Kodansha International
Photos © 2007 Yuri Manabe from The Tokyo Look Book, Kodansha International