Japanese Trends

I think my interest in Japan began as a kid when I learned that Japanese are physically smaller than many other peoples, so what did they do about it? They invented karate, giving them the power of 6 large Nordic men.

Do you know that Japan is the size of Montana (population 968,000) but has 128 million residents? That’s only 14 million less than Russia. Greater Tokyo alone has…wait for it…37 million. Same as California. That’s just insane. No wonder they keep so trim. There simply isn’t room for Biggest Losers in Japan.

I have never been to Japan but my set of friends did adopt 2 Japanese foreign exchange students into our group one year in high school. I don’t know how to spell their names, but they were pronounced (by us, at least) as Talk-ooo-yah and Squeegee. When a Japanese person thinks of the stereotypical American, he probably thinks of this guy. When you think of the stereotypical Japanese, two opposite types probably come to mind. The first is the clean cut, studious, hard-working, smiley, friendly, highly-intelligent, self-effacing Japanese who laughs good-naturedly and maybe a bit self consciously at what he and you both say. This was Takuya. Best fellow you ever met. I’m sure he quickly realized he had been sucked into the wrong group at Davis High School but didn’t know enough English to say “thanks but no thanks” and find the math club. Takuya is probably running Texas Instruments, Japan Division by now.

Squeegee was the other type. He had bright orange-dyed hair, a beatnik’s disposition, smoked cigarettes with the self-assurance of the Marlboro man, and wore weird, expensive urban clothes. Takuya dressed right out of Ryan’s handbook: trim black jeans with high, tapered ankles (perfect for unexpected stream crossings), with white sneakers, a practical Mervyn’s polo, all sensibly topped off with a beige Member’s Only Jacket. In their home country, those two lived a thousand social miles apart, but at Davis High School, they were all the other had. Except us, of course. But we didn’t speak Japanese. And their English was limited to a few polite pleasantries (in Takuya’s case) and a few mispronounced curse words (in Squeegee’s case). In case you’re wondering, Takuya did know a little karate and Squeegee just looked at us like we were crazy.

So Takuya and Squeegee were my first real introduction to Japan. I loved those guys and have kept an amateur eye on the place ever since.

Like every old man in history (I’m sure Mozart’s father asked him how he could listen to the garbage he did, that it wasn’t even music; it was just noise), there are many days I look around me at the younger American generation and think “Ya, we’re about done here. I give us 40 years, tops. It was a good ride though, wasn’t it?”

But then I observe the trends of perhaps the hardest-working, most intelligent, competent group on the planet, and I find comfort knowing we’re all in the same boat.

Here are a few of my favorites:

The first is a type of fashion called Ganguro. The practitioners of Ganguro are called Ganguro Girls.



Our next stop is a little thing called face inflation, practiced among the young clubbing crowd:

face inflation

No, it’s just that I laughed hard and accidentally snorted the donut up my nose. What? So what if Takuya is at Stanford, dad, I’m doing some neat things too.

Anime-inspired contact lenses:

anime contacts

What these? No, they’re real. My maternal grandmother was a fur seal, so.

This is one of my favorites. I wish so badly that I had known of this technology when I was getting married. Although Reba probably would have made me be the small one, which might have just come off as creepy:

doll 2

Hey there, little lady

doll 3

Well hello yourself, big guy. Can I catch a ride? Sure you can.

doll 4

Psst, I love you, Squeegee. Whoa! Stop moving, this is like 13 stories high for me!

This one is in a different category, but I have always loved robots and promised myself that if I’m ever a millionaire I will buy one for Davis, because he just strikes you as the kind of guy who should have one:

I’ll also get him one of these:

What are you favorite fads (from any country)?

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21 Responses to Japanese Trends

  1. Eliza says:

    oh dear that is so funny. That monkey thing killed me. I totally know what you mean about Japan, for some reason it is so intriguing. I think the most fascinating is their sense of humor, for an example watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74DCfV5fYr0. unbelievable.

  2. Davis says:

    I’ve always suspected that there was some strange, strange stuff going on over there, but you’ve put the question beyond doubt. I call on President Obama to do the right thing and declare war on Japan.

  3. Ryan says:

    It’s like the Japanese got together and said “what kinds of strange cultural eccentricities could we develop to make other countries think we are weird and different as possible? Let’s do that.

    Those Ganguro girls are seriously amazing. But not more than the face inflators. Wow, wow, wow.

  4. Andrea W. says:

    I am loving that first picture of the fake stuffed half-man to snuggle with. That is seriously great stuff. Were your stats real? Those are pretty mind-blowing numbers. “No room for biggest losers”.. LOL.

  5. Wade says:

    Ok, Ok, Uncle. I had a recent debate with Ryan and a few others about which cultures are among the worlds worst, I vehemently defended Japan without getting my facts straight. I mean, how could all those things Ryan was saying about them be true when they make such good automobiles and sushi?

    I give.

  6. Ben Pratt says:

    Japan’s number one export: insanity. What a trade surplus.

    I always found it interesting that the poorest Brazilians dress in cheap R$1,99-store tanks and shorts at home in the favela, but when they go out they wear the latest European fashions, half a season ahead of the US.

  7. Macy Bell says:

    I did my country report in the sixth grade on Japan because me and my family were sort of into them for some reason. Just the superficial stuff like Wade said, you know they made the best cars, and great food, on the top of technology or whatever. What I really have a distaste for though is the teenage Japanese culture. It grosses me out so much. The makeup, hair. I don’t know it is beyond weird to me.

    Those pictures are amazing, btw. So crazy.

  8. craig says:

    i feel like davis should be in charge of creating pranks for japanese game shows

  9. StefStar says:

    I cannot stand idly by and let my favorite brand of Asian be ridiculed this way! Ok, ok, they’re a little crazy. But them Japanese do pretty much everything better than we do. I actually hate them for that.

    Really, though, everyone should visit Tokyo before they die. There’s nothing like it, good and bad. My eyes hurt from staring–the technology, the fashion, the advertising, the design, the everything was amazing. Go there! Your fascination is well-founded!

  10. Angie says:

    Your foreign exchange experience sounds way better than mine. I had a Russian named Sasha, whose favorite trend was dressing like a male stripper. Long, greasy hair. Leather pants. Stubble.

  11. Ryan says:

    Wow. Sasha does sound pretty awesome. Which brings up a good point: The Russians aren’t far behind the Japanese in terms of being pretty awesome.

  12. Christian says:

    Eliza, Thanks for the great video. It’s funny because it’s easy to think of them as so much more serious than us. (the 1 time I found myself in the BYU library on a weekend after 10 pm, it was me and 400 Japanes), but then they have this crazy, wild sense of humor.

    Davis, tell me that Melissa wouldn’t love to get some professional pictures taken where she was holding a shrunken Lyla on her thumb?

    Ry, the best thing about the Ganguro Girls is how much they have in common with the style known as “Utah Girl”. Not up in your neighborhood, of course, with your pearl necklaces and Ann Taylor, but over in the County.

    Andrea, yes, those stats are all true. No Kookin around here.

    Wade and StefSass, it’s precisely their domination and brilliance in other areas that allows us to call them out on all this other stuff. Let’s be honest, I’m one bad move away from “commenting only” status here at dddt, so I don’t do this sort of thing likely. And I badly want to go to Tokyo. Of course you have been there, being from Somerset and all. Thanks for that. Why don’t you tell all our Southie readers where else you have traveled to?

    Ben, good to have you back. I’ve missed you. That’s funny about the Brazilians. I wear designer at home and out, so I have a hard time understanding that.

    Macy, I’m with you. I just don’t get it. Although I feel the same way about some of our U.S. teen stuff, I guess. But I expect that of lazy, worthless western kids and hold the Japanese to a higher standard.

    Craig, holy crap. That is probably the best pranking I have ever seen? Do they not have law suits in japan? I want tort reform here so that we can do better pranks like that.

    Angie and Ry, I feel like the Russians have an excuse though. Because they are, well, they’re just so Russian and how can you really help that? Honestly, Russia fascinates me even more than Japan. It occurred to me a a few months ago that if I could get a masters degree in anything I wanted, I would do Russian History. That place is so huge and mysterious and different and full of personality. They seem stuck between East and West like Michael Jackson was stuck between genders. And I love how the main characters in the great Russian novels talk about the Russian people with so much simultaneous pride and self-loathing. I want to understand that.

    Weigh in on this one, Laynestoyevsky

  13. Chelsea says:

    Christian, I don’t even know you, but I was laughing SO hard at this post. Favorite line: “I’ve kept an amateur eye on the place ever since…” Aha! That describes my observations of the world in so many respects.

    As for your question about favorite fads from any country, I personally love Thailand’s preoccupation with sex changes. Did you know that Bangkok is the sex change capital of the world? And that they have an entire hospital dedicated to sex changes? They also have a subset of cross-dressers called “lady boys” who – unlike American drag queens – don’t go the distance to become a true female caricature. They just pick a few points of interest, say, long red nails or bright pink lips, but then otherwise they dress like men. We were in a cab once with a driver who looked like a man, but had 3-inch nails painted pink, so I made my sister (who speaks Thai) ask him why. His answer? “Because they look pretty.” Duh.

  14. Rachel says:

    I want to make a comment about the video Craig posted. First off, I might have cried when I watched it- one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. The Japanese are c-razy.

    Do you think the boat turned around and picked up the poor soul that it dragged out from the porta-potty after they had fallen off of their makeshift wakeboard?

    I have to agree with you Ryan, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a sex-crazed, insane, overdone, irrational society in all my life. But, at least we get some entertainment from their craziness. They probably think we are so boring here in the United States of Amewica.

  15. Christian says:

    Chelsea, Lady boys?! lolol. I wish we had lady boys here in the U.S. I did not know Bangkok is the sex change capital of the world. Bizarre. What a weird distinction.

    Rachel, I have plenty of questions about Craig’s video too. Did the people they showed on the show agree to be shown on tv after the prank was pulled on them? Did the guy who fell off the porta potty bobsled right at the first not get hurt? Is it okay that the porta potty bobsled tips over into the water?

  16. craig says:

    wait… it gets better

  17. Christian says:


    1. Only they could get away with that.
    2. Only they could build that rocket sled massage chair.

    That’s amazing

  18. Rachel says:

    LOLOLOL! Why are they sitting in those chairs naked? Ewww. there must be loads of germs on those things.

    I freakin’ love Japan right now…if I ever go there, I will make sure to never sit in a port-a-potty, massage chair, or anything else that has the remote possibility of turning into a makeshift rocket or bobsled.

    Nevermind that any number of those folks could have been killed (especially the ones that were propelled down the mountain). Good times.

  19. Eliza says:

    I am DYING right now, those videos made my day. un freaking believable!

  20. craig says:

    the fun never ends… “old man bites tenderly”

  21. Ryan says:

    Oh man. I’m afraid we’ve just gone too far now. I was thinking how completely insane those people are, watching that last video. And then I realized how much that game reminds me of games we used to play in the library. I guess we’re not all that different after all.

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