11.07.2019 in Exploratory

How Japanese Youth Is Influenced by Japanese Society?


The modern world is undergoing substantial global, evolutionary, and revolutionary changes of both quantitative and qualitative nature. The speed and depth of changes occurring in various countries and regions of social processes are uneven. Initial conditions and consequences of change are also not equal. Society and culture, in general, are at a crossroads, searching for historical alternatives. One of the most difficult issues, in terms of urgent needs and possibilities of holistic thinking, concerns problems directly related to the phenomenon of youth subcultures with their influence on the formation of personality and socialization. Nowadays, issues related to youth culture and identity formation occupy a leading position, as their resolution depends largely on the well-being of people. For centuries, Japan, being a geographically isolated country, emerged in its own traditions. At the end of the 19th century, the world became more open, and Japan began to feel the influence of Western culture. To influence the Japanese identity, it transformed and created an entirely new youth community, which became an important part of the subculture. In the second half of the 20th century, photographs from the streets of Tokyo were found in glossy magazines, and images were becoming more extreme. The younger generation, feeling the breath of freedom, became committed to individualism and new forms of expression as a protest against traditional values, social structure, and the yoke of responsibility towards society. Japanese youth subculture has become a way for young people to express themselves and go against the rules, as well as the ability to find their way, and eventually turned out to gain popularity worldwide.

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Cultural Origins of the Japanese Youth Culture

It should be noted that the outlook on life for today’s young Japanese has changed significantly in recent years. If parents of the current generation of young people actively participate in society, striving to achieve material prosperity through hard work, the generation of their children is financially secure thanks to the efforts of parents. When material well-being as a value, which once united the people, is pushed aside, young Japanese flock to individualism in all respects. Objectives imposed by the external environment and public order are replaced with the desire of every young person to go their own way, choosing what they want personally. To some extent, this process has been launched thanks to the development of computer technologies in general and the Internet in particular. Thanks to the Internet, Japanese youth seeks not only to broaden their horizons but also to get a new means of communication at the global level, which is important for Japan as the country remained closed to the outside world for a long time. In addition, if in the past the Japanese youth was trying to assert itself only within the Japanese society, now with the help of computer technologies they are able to find like-minded people in different parts of the Earth. Nowadays, Japanese youth opens many new ways and directions, allowing them to fulfill their individual abilities. Such young people’s desire for independence often comes up against a lack of understanding and condemnation from the senior generation. However, today’s young people in Japan already cannot stand the pressure from outside imposition. At the same time, their individualism is not an imitation of the West; it is a protest against the domination of the collective, the group consciousness of the previous era. Young Japanese oppose conservative social attitudes, and this opposition has several causes. : First, speaking of young Japanese women, there is a desire to change the position of women in society, while abandoning traditional values and norms. In addition, returning to the issue of the conflict of generations, one can note that this conflict broke a necessary connection between parents and children at the time when the older generation, trying to provide their children with material, spent most of their time at work. The desire to earn a promotion often resulted in the fact that parents spent almost 90% of their daytime fulfilling their job responsibilities, which left little time to spend with their children. Their children, feeling neglected, were forced to seek support outside the family. In addition, it should be noted that Japan’s high level of education is of fundamental importance to improve the position in society. From an early age, children are forced to actively compete with their peers in kindergartens, primary and secondary school, and then in high school or university. This has given rise to fierce competition among students, while stress, frustration, and depression have become frequent causes of suicides among young Japanese. For many young Japanese, dialogue with adherents of a subculture has become an integral part of the socialization process; within subcultures, young people speak about their values and experiences in groups. It should be said about the concept of “hikikomori,” which is the so-called situation when young people are unable to effectively communicate with others and spend more of their time at home alone. Constant loneliness and isolation from peers have become problems for them and are evident in a variety of subcultural communities that are often the solution to this problem. Considering the Japanese youth subculture, it is important to highlight two key elements that have influenced formation and development of this phenomenon: popular music and fashion. Penetration of both Western musical trends and styles and fashion in Europe and US trends in clothes into a historically “closed” Japan has had a peculiar effect of mixing the traditional and the new, Western music and fashion.


Fashion as a Significant Factor to Influence Japanese Youth Culture

It should be noted that in most modern subcultures an external visual appearance of their followers is essential, which includes certain canons clothes, trappings, choice of certain brands of clothes, etc. It is logical to clarify some features of the so-called modern “street fashion” in Japan. The term “street fashion” is used to describe popular elements of style and trends in the Japanese youth fashion and its subcultures. The overview of the issue should be started with the fact that Japan began to emulate Western fashion around the mid-19th century. By the early 21st century, the phenomenon of “Japanese street fashion” had been formed. For example, nowadays the trends of Japanese fashion show a great desire to imitate young Europeans and Americans as the main carriers of the modern popular culture, which is largely driven by the age-old isolation of Japan from other countries. One of the main features of Japanese youth fashion also includes shocking elements and strong non-conformism, with the desire to stand out. The causes of these trends can be found in the history and culture of Japan as the country was closed to other cultures for centuries and there were severe moral laws and principles. The result is that the youth with its characteristic maximalism accepted the Western culture and freedom obtained after the Restoration in the Japanese society. The most widespread trend in the world is Kawaii. The history of the Kawaii style is considered to have begun in the postwar 70s when defeated Japan was rapidly catching up with leading countries in terms of development of technology and science. Then, there came the first Kawai who were enthusiastic girls and boys of the vulnerable and timid nature. After years of work and “race” in more developed countries, Kawai became a kind of incarnation of the joy and harmony of the success achieved. The movement rapidly penetrated all spheres of Japanese life and soon acquired its own unique style of clothing. The Kawaii movement is an integral part of modern Japanese culture. Therefore, representatives of the movement are in a special position with respect to setting other fashion trends: over the last century they gave way to a generation of current young fashion trends (Emo, punk, retro, rap, Victorian style). However, Kawaii has been and remains the most popular style of dress among young people in Japan, countries of Western Europe, and the United States. To avoid confusion, this concept should be divided into two: on the one hand, Kawaii as a style of dress, whose adherents wear suits, “cute” animals, or imaginary creatures from the manga and anime. On the other hand, Kawaii is an ideology that has captured the minds of young Japanese people, forcing them to buy attributes, accessories, and everything that falls under the definition of “cute” at the clothing store. Moreover, Kawaii has become a kind of lifestyle and behavior of many young girls, key features of which are children’s behavior and the desire to be viewed as “cute” and purchase clothing and accessories in the appropriate style. It has produced another subculture called Cosplay. The term “Cosplay” is derived from the phrase “costume play”. A special feature of this area is a visual transmission of the images of heroes of films, cartoons, “anime” comics, “manga”, and stars of Japanese pop and rock scene. In Japan, Cosplay supporters often prefer images of popular rock musicians, thus sharing the principles of selection of clothes that are typical for the style of visual Kei. Close in meaning to the concept of Cosplay is a term “Otaku”, which stands for people who are literally possessed by any interests and hobbies, especially with respect to fans of anime, manga, and video games. However, mostly Otaku is a generalized name for Anime Otaku (Anime Otaku – anime fans).

The Culture of Anime and Manga

Most people believe that the terms “manga” and “anime” are limited to certain genres (fiction, fantasy) and graphic styles (realism, “big eyes”). However, the terms “manga” and “anime” define only the basic culture of which it is the relevant product and nothing more. In fact, existence of a pronounced national comic animation culture can only speak in the annex to the United States, Japan, and France. At the same time, the United States and France are Western countries with a Christian mentality, while Japan is an Eastern country with a Buddhist-Shinto mentality. Anime and manga in a great way evaluate not only how modern Japanese experience and reflect their ancestral traditions, but also how Japanese works reflect motifs and themes of other nations. In addition, the former is always more interesting than the latter. One should be very familiar with the Japanese language and literary theory in order to truly understand how the Japanese verse and Japanese mentality are different from the European. Thus, anime and manga are a kind of a back door into the world of Japanese consciousness. Moreover, going along this course one can not only shorten the route, crashing through fences and ramparts erected by a millennium and half of “high culture” of Japan (the art of anime and manga is much younger and less traditional), but also get much pleasure. A huge influence on the development of the manga has been exacted by a caricature of European and American comics, which became known in Japan during the second half of the XIX century. The first half of the XX century marked the search period of comics in the Japanese culture of modern times. A major role here was played by a militaristic government that used popular culture to influence people. The military funded the “correct” manga (it even briefly began to appear in color) and prohibited manga with political criticism, forcing former cartoonists to develop adventure and fantastic stories (for example, the idea of “giant robot” first appeared in the revanchist manga of 1943, in which a robot denounced the hated United States). Finally, in the post-war period great Osamu Tezuka’s work made a real revolution in the world of manga and, together with his disciples and followers, manga became the focus of popular culture. Manga is usually black and white in color and is drawn only to cover individual illustration. Most manga is a series “continuation” printed in newspapers or (more often) in weekly or monthly magazines. The usual volume of a portion of the series in the weekly magazine is about 15-20 pages. Tankōbon is popular among manga readers, which is republished as separate volumes-. There are, of course, short-story manga and manga just published in the tankōbon form. Magazines print manga in Japan a lot. Each one focuses on a specific audience, for instance, younger adolescent boys interested in science fiction or older teenage girls interested in ballet. The strongest differences are observed between women’s and men’s magazines. Audiences of such magazines range from toddlers (for whom manga is printed without signatures) to men and women of middle age. There are already experiments in the field of manga for the elderly. Of course, such a variety of audiences has given rise to a wide range of styles and genres: from photo-realism to symbolism and from fairy tales to philosophical works and textbooks. As in the case of manga, a decisive role in the history of anime was played by Osamu Tezuka who suggested abandoning meaningless competition with feature films of Walt Disney and going on to create TV series that would not exceed US image quality, but appeal to the Japanese audience. Most anime like TV serials and soap operas is created for sale in the video format (OAV-series). However, there are many TV movies and feature-length animes. From the perspective of a variety of styles, genres, and audiences, manga is much greater than anime, but the latter overtakes its rival. In turn, many animes are film adaptations of popular manga and they do not compete, while also commercially supporting each other. However, most anime is intended for children and adolescents though there is anime for young people as well. The audience of middle-aged is targeted with “family anime” that children watch with their parents. Serials dictate their own laws as creators of the anime and animators from other countries are prone to engage in technical experiments, but they also pay much attention to the creation of interesting and unique images of characters (hence, the importance of high-quality dubbing is explained) and the development of the plot. Designers in anime are called animators and they are important. There are several significant examples of manga in the history of cinematography. “One Piece” is a manga by Eiichiro Oda and its syonen anime film adaptation. The first edition of the manga was released on August 4, 1997, in the magazine “Weekly Shonen Jump”. In format volume, manga was first published on December 24, 1997. The release of the manga is still ongoing. Anime adaptation of the TV series includes twelve feature films and several OVA. The first “One Piece’ was released in the OVA format in 1998; the premiere of the first series of the animated series took place on October 20, 1999. In addition, under the brand “One Piece” about three dozen of games for various gaming consoles have been released. “One Piece” follows adventures of a team of pirates called the “Straw Hat Pirates” led by Captain Monkey Luffy, a child eating from the fruit of the Devil’s rubber-rubber, which gave him the ability to stretch like rubber. Together with his team, Luffy is looking for the legendary treasure known as “One piece” to become the King of the Pirates. This manga is one of the most successful media companies in the history of Shueisha. “One Piece” has become the most popular manga series in Japan and worldwide since its release. Another popular manga is named “Naruto”. It is the manga by Masashi Kishimoto in and there exists its syonen anime film adaptation. Naruto Uzumaki is its main character. He is a young ninja who aims to become the most powerful ninja in the world. To gain respect of others, he has to go through many obstacles such as battles, ninja exams, and various missions. The manga’s first chapter was published by the Japanese publisher Shueisha in “Weekly Shonen Jump” on September 21, 1999. It has been released in 72 volumes of the manga. The last chapter was published on November 10, 2014, in the 50th issue of “Weekly Shonen Jump”. The eponymous anime TV series were created by Aniplex and Studio Pierrot. The television series were shown in Japan by Naruto Channel TV Tokyo and satellite channel Animax starting from October 3, 2002, to February 8, 2007, and ended in the 220th edition. “Spirited Away” is a feature-length anime film directed by Hayao Miyazaki, which was filmed at the studio “Ghibli” in 2001. The film tells the story of a 10-year-old girl named Chihiro Ogino who moves into a new house. However, it turns out that she gets into another world inhabited by ghosts and monsters. The film was a huge success with critics and audiences. It appears in many lists of the greatest animated films in history. In theaters, “Spirited Away” was launched on July 27, 2001, in Japan and, thanks to the company’s distributor, Toho fees amounted to 229,607 million dollars. Thus, animated film “Spirited Away” became the highest grossing in the history of Japan. It was the first film that earned 200 million dollars in worldwide box office before the show was launched in the United States.

Video Games as a Significant Tool of the Japanese Culture

In contrast to the West (and especially the US), Japanese homes are not very spacious  places that one can put there even a single personal computer (one can be content with a laptop for work purposes), not to mention a personal computer for a child. Therefore, the Japanese market for computer entertainment is dominated by games for consoles that occupy much less space in the room, such as “Sega,” “Nintendo,” “Super Nintendo,” “Gameboy,” “Sony PlayStation,” “Sega Saturn,” and some others. The main feature of the process of writing games for consoles is that consoles are not usually allowed to gradually replace individual components improved as is the case with personal computers. Because of the popularity of the game, its improvement cannot be achieved solely through new graphics solutions and has to be achieved through more severe hardware requirements. As in the anime, there must be more work done than in usual American games as attention should be paid to the design of characters, development of the script of the game, and exploration of a variety of things. Only this way, it can attract customers to new game platforms. Naturally, this affects the percentage of various genres in Japanese games. Unable to play at home, in the early 1980s, the Japanese club of science fiction fans gave rise to associations of manga and anime enthusiasts. Over time, these associations were formed into independent clubs and the term “Otaku” was used to denote members of any fan structure. Today, the Japanese word “Otaku” means “a fanatic about anything”. There are anime Otaku, Otaku film, computer-Otaku, and so on. By the way, in Japan the word has a negative connotation and means an insult. In other countries, the word “Otaku” has been exported in the narrow sense, meaning “a fan of anime and manga”. However, the term Otaku is often used broadly to mean a fan of modern Japanese popular culture: anime, manga, film, music, literature, and so on. It is worth noting that outside of Japan the word is not offensive and, therefore, it is quite possible to communicate with strangers. The bulk of Japanese Otaku consists of older students and younger students. First Otaku were predominantly male, but now the ratio of boys and girls is around 50/50. The Japanese games market has been constantly growing, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Now, they take part in the creation of designers, artists, scriptwriters, actors, producers, and professionals in anime and manga. This gives reason to hope that the interaction between different types of Japanese popular culture will deepen and expand. The influence of the subcultures has given birth to many emotional problems of the Japanese youth. Depression has caused another subculture in Japan named Hikikomori. Hikikomori or Hickey, as they are called, are sitting for days and nights at computers in their rooms, leaving them only to relieve themselves or to buy products. These young people usually live with parents or on unemployment benefits. Hikikomori lifestyle in Japan has become so popular that the authorities have recognized the need to combat this phenomenon at the official level. Treatment of these either very lazy or seriously mentally ill young people has been launched in specialized clinics and, to bring them back to normal life, there have been created clubs for unsociable people. In recent years, there has been more and more talk about a similar phenomenon in other countries.


Modern Japanese youth subculture has been formed under the influence of Western counterparts, but it has acquired its own individual and unique appearance by combining Japanese originality and new trends of the progressive West. Since Japanese youth culture remained isolated for a long time in the past, the development and establishment of fashionable styles have gone their own way, thus creating an interesting phenomenon of Japanese youth subcultures in their present form. In modern Japan, there is no question of dividing its cultural products into national and global. In its cultural policy characterized by increasing activity, Japan serves as a creative force capable of forming global cultural phenomena, proceeding from its national perception of the world. Technologies of the XXI century allow almost instantaneous adaptation of any national product to any local conditions, while a proper Japanese project can quickly lose its original meaning, but the whole system envisions final identification of the product as Japanese. This breakthrough relating to Japan’s cultural globalization has been largely ensured by the fact that creators of different brands have managed to overshadow the national aspect. The industry relies not only on a more united Asian world, but also on a new generation as a whole that uses TVs and computers. They are crucial sources of the formation of cultural values and spiritual interests. In fact, today Japan is rapidly developing ideologically, commercially, and technologically and begins to form a new environment in which the nationality of the consumer is not important ultimately. It creates a new product that is associated thanks to its  basic features with Japan; however, it is also universal and ensures penetration of the global market.

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