Japan Study Abroad: Post Ten

Finding one’s niche whether in the game of a serious pursuit or in the desire of aesthetic is indeed a pertinent ambition.

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Welcome to our tenth blog post at Reitaku University! This means we are halfway through the study abroad experience. Today’s class covered a lot of subjects regarding subcultures. We talked about topics such as yakuza and the lolita complex, which we will explore today.

Let’s start with the ever notorious yakuza. This is one of the biggest gangs in the world. The gang’s origins stem from the Edo period when the masters of samurai no longer required their services, and thus, they were ronin. These ronin would do either dirty work for the high classes that didn’t want to get their hands dirty, or they would become criminals in general. Eventually they became protectors of villages in exchange for accommodation, but then they began intimidating the villagers for money and other goods. Beyond this, they wanted more and more control and territory, and therefore, would have gang battles. The gangs grew more and more powerful over various operations and would over time become more refined systems of crime. Their rigid structure and hierarchy demands the utmost respect in similar fashion to the corporate world, complete with the senpai-kohai system. One difference between the corporate world and the yakuza world, however is their manner of recognition and punishment. Most gangsters will tattoo the majority of their torso and/or back in elaborate designs. They do not tattoo past their shoulders, so that they are able to blend into society. However, there is no way to hide an amputated pinky. This is a form of punishment for treason taken very seriously.

On the lighter end of Japanese subculture, we have the lolita complex. The lolita fashion trend is inspired greatly from the European Rococo period with touches of punk and gothic style. A novel entitled Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov inspired the aesthetic of an innocently seductive girl with precocious tendencies. The trend in Japan started in the seventies when bands would wear Victorian style clothing. There are a variety of ways to sport the lolita look: sweet or amaloli, classic lolita, wa lolita, qi lolita, and erotic lolita. The sweet, or amaloli look is probably the most innocent-looking and childlike. The girl will dress in soft colors and lots of frills, aiming to look as sweet and girly as possible. The classic lolita is a more mature look than the former. Wa lolita is a blend of Victorian age dress and traditional Japanese elements. Qi lolita is a similar concept but uses Chinese elements instead. And finally, erotic lolita embodies showing much more skin and wearing high-rising boots.

LolitaAlthough seemingly opposite concepts, the yakuza and lolita complex have in common the idea of identity within society and subcultures. Finding one’s niche whether in the game of a serious pursuit or in the desire of aesthetic is indeed a pertinent ambition.

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