Kirin is a Japanese lady living in Tokyo, she runs the popular blog Tokyo Kawaii etc. Her blog focuses on Japanese culture, language, lifestyle and much more. She has also mentioned Gyaru a few times on her blog .
You may remember I recently did an interview for her blog about my life in Tokyo.
Recently, I was lucky enough to meet Kirin in person. We walked around 109 together and chatted in a nearby café over tea and coffee. Whilst we talked she told me how she had not been to 109 in almost 15 years and that she felt her feelings about it had now changed. I found this very interesting and after finding out her reasons I thought it would be informative and helpful to my readers to hear the opinions of a Japanese person who doesn’t dress in Gyaru fashion.
Do you remember when you first heard about Gyaru?
I guess it was some time around 1996 – 1997 (or even before?) when I had already started working after graduating from university – if my memory was correct. Those days Amuro style and “Atsuzoko” boots (platform boots) were popular. Some sales assistants, especially from Shibuya 109 became so famous that they frequently appeared on TV or in fashion magazines. They were called “Karisuma tenin” (charismatic sales assistant) and the outfits they were wearing sold like crazy. Some hair dressers also became famous and they were called “Karisuma biyoushi” (charismatic hair dresser). But “Gyaru” in this period was very different from what it means today.
What were your first impressions? Did you think of a stereotype etc.?
Gyaru at the early stage was more like high school girls who were wearing short skirts and loose socks. That’s why they were called “Ko-Gyaru” (small gyaru). They dyed their hair but they did not wear false lashes or circle lenses. Those things were not available like they are today. Ko-Gyaru were the people who created new trends. Japanese companies liked to listen to what they wanted.
What I thought about it? My generation is always between hot trends. When I was a high school student, college girls were hot. At that time Japan was enjoying the good economy. College/university girls and boys could easily get a good job, nevertheless they were playing around all the time and I expected I could be like that after graduation. But with the bubble economy’s bursting, our economy situation completely changed when I went to university. What came next was high school girls trend. Our society treated university girls well when I was a high school girl, and then they shifted to high school girls once I became a university girl. I felt it was quite unfair. At that time Gyaru = high school girls, so it was not what I was to pursue anyhow. I just regarded Gyaru as something that had no connection with me.
You said that you were too shy to go into 109 by yourself before, why?
Ko-Gyaru generation grew up and they wanted to have their gyaru taste even after they were aged. Now Gyaru is not limited to high school girls, but I still have a feeling that it’s for younger people. I’m 36, which is too old to dress like Gyaru, and I think it looks too absurd if older people still dress exactly like younger people. I mean it’s cool to take some part and mix with other items or styles, but to dress full Gyaru coordination from head to toe is not very cool. I was afraid to go back to Shibuya 109 because I thought everything sold there was for gyaru style and it would be too gyaru-tasted to me and I would be totally out of place among full-gyaru customers.
Why did you change your mind after we visited?
I saw many non-Gyaru styled people and older people, as well as people with no makeup! My delusion that there would be only Gyaru customers and Gyaru clothes was completely wrong. I found many attractive clothes and I feel like shopping there. Although some pants were too skinny for me even to try them.
How do you think Japanese people view Gyaru?
Young people like it. But as Tsubasa answers in an interview, which I happened to watch on TV, they may not be seen as hard workers or industrious – only because of their appearances. Tsubasa said she tried to work as hard as normal people multiple times because people never believed that she was serious from her looks. Unfortunately many of us don’t always have good impressions of Gyaru just because of its impression of flirting. Unless we become a sales assistant at a Gyaru fashion store, we cannot even continue the style and look at most other jobs. Too much light hair colour is basically banned at work. Also circle lenses, long nails and flashy deco nails or patterns drawn on the nails.
I wonder how working people can continue to be Gyaru after all?!
Gyaru mama can stay like that because they do not work.
Why do you think Gyaru is so popular with young Japanese girls?
And if you have an opinion, why do you think it is popular in the West?#
I think Gyaru is kawaii and if they are young, it’s good to enjoy it. I think it’s got an expiration date, which is to say, before they start working. As mentioned above, most offices have dress code. We cannot work and dress as Gyaru unless we get a job at gyaru brand or something. Everyone has to graduate from Gyaru style someday. I think that’s why they try to fulfil it while they are young.
I don’t know why it’s so well-received by western people. We have a longing for white girls and Gyaru style I guess is a stem from it. Making big eyes with longer lashes and dyed hair in bronze is maybe to make ourselves look like white girls.
Do you think that Gyaru celebrities (idols) are good role models for young girls?
Yes, I think so. But I wonder what their sales points will be after they have aged.
In this respect I think Tsubasa and Momoeri (among others) stand out from the rest of Gyaru models. They make business.
Have you ever been tempted to try Gyaru? If not, why?
No, I’ve felt it’s just too young for me, but I think now it’s OK to buy some Gyaru tasted clothes and mix with others. However I never feel like wearing circle lenses and dye my hair bronze etc. False lashes maybe OK once in a while.
I have no reason to spend so much time transforming myself when I am busy with everything else. If I had time and money, I’d rather spend them travelling abroad than shopping Gyaru tasted items or getting my nails or hair done.
Free talk –
This is only an opinion from a Japanese woman in her mid 30’s. I don’t see anyone in my generation dressing like a Gyaru around me. It’s reasonable because our generation is busy working and raising kids. Our interests are directed toward something else.
As for me, I like to hang out with young people and talk about something kawaii, but my real life is much different from what you may imagine from my blog. It’s full of work and I’ve read books about investment, economy and business and to tell you the truth I don’t read fashion magazines. (So I am not quite sure for the styles, I just pick up whatever I like to wear.) But my hair dresser is so kind as to give some old ones, so I find interesting articles from them to introduce on my blog while I am bathing. (I love to have a long bath time.)
So I have 2 reasons I don’t dress like Gyaru.
1. I’m too old to do so.
2. I’m too busy to keep the style.
If I were 20 something years old now, I think I would love to spend my time and money for Gyaru style and I’d enjoy that so much. I guess I totally missed the chance :p
But while you can enjoy it, you should do it fully.
I am so happy that Kirin could do this interview for my blog. She is very sweet and really interested in other cultures, and those who are interested in her own. If you haven’t already visited her blog (I doubt it) then make sure you head on over.
– She has also written a response to this interview here.
If you have any comments or questions for her, please feel free to comment and I am sure she will respond when she has the time.
I am always open for Gal/Japan related questions, and you can visit my formspring here.