Before I start with anything I have to state my usual disclaimer. I am just one gaijin gal living half the time in Tokyo. My experiences may differ heavily from other gaijins living in Japan. Therefore my perceptions of Japan will be slanted by my experiences, just as any other gaijin living in Japan.
tl;dr I am biased just like everyone else.
Questions answered after the jump: opinions of Latinos in Japan, opinions on African American girls in Japan, how is gal currently being perceived, does gal have a bad rap?, junior high gyaru / magogyaru, gyaru for school, jobs for gaijins, what to gals do in their freetime, more info about gal-sas, English with shopstaff, gaijin gyaru, western gals and gal nicknames, perception of Chinese in Japan, credit cards in gal stores, etc…. phew~ A lotta questions below
I heard that Latino/South American Gaijin have a bad rap over there is that true?
Hmmm well Latino and South American gaijin do have a bad rap, and it’s a bit of a cloudy issue. You can read the Japanese Brazilian article here. Brazil has the largest population of Japanese living outside of its borders. Now a lot of Brazilians who can claim 1/4 ancestry are heading back to Japan because of the economy.
Many Brazilians in Japan work minimum wage jobs and thus society views them narrowly as bottom-feeders. Japan Probe however which does an extremely laudable at reporting such issues has topic discussed here: Brazilian students | homeless nikkei Brazilians | more from the NYT
Now since Japanese who arrived in Brazilian their relatives and second generation has gone to other South American countries such as Argentina and Peru. I know a 1/4 Japanese Argentinian and 1/2 Japanese Brazilian. Both went to my school and whose parents had some money to do so. Definitely not all second generation are like that, but immigrant communities in Japan strain the ideal that all Japanese are one.
Any crimes gaijin or second-generation commit get lots of press as if to show that part of the population commits more crimes per capita (which it doesn’t). But really a Latino-gaijin and a regular gaijin will go through the same sort of stereotyping, you might get a stronger bias when you live in a larger immigrant complex of a smaller city (such as Gunma prefecture which is smaller towns with larger immigrant populations), but that’s about it.
Within gal there’s no big stereotype. Then again once you get to work/play etc… with someone different than you, you are more open to liking and accepting them.
Also, I may or may not have asked you this before (I can’t remember!), but, do you know anything about gyaru life in Sapporo? I think not too long ago, I saw some videos from a gyaru magazine event at a club in Sapporo, so it must exist! I’m going there in March, so I’m gonna try and find out on my own what it’s like, too, though…
Yes gal exsists in most bigger cities (and smaller ones to some extent). There are a few bigger gal brands with storefronts there, also I’ve heard of several popular host clubs and such. Other than that I cannot tell you from personal experience since it’s about the same price to go to Sapporo from Tokyo and stay as is it to fly to Guam. I went to Guam
Cash vs credit vs other payment options. I know Japan is a mostly cash based society and I know in Marui some brands take credit but some don’t I was wondering if it was the same in 109? Is it better to carry cash or are most stores credit/debit friendly?
All brands in 109 have credit availability since 109 has its own credit card. This goes for Lumine Est and Alta as well. Never have I been told at a gal store they don’t take credit cards and I love my plastic .
Hmmm I know people are curious, but I really try to put as little information about myself logistically on-line as possible. Having been stalked offline I care not for the anonymity of online to allow more of it.
Did you stay in a dorm, monthly mansion, …?
Mansion always never a dorm. 3 different apartments thus far.
Also, did you dress gyaru for school and how did your teachers, classmates (foreigners and japanese) react. :3
I did. Personally I think repetition makes you better at things so I did spend the hour + getting ready in the morning curling my hair. Of course I would spend more time on the weekends or pay to get hairset. My wardrobe is 95% gal as said before. In Japan it’s more like 99%. So yes I would wear gal brands everyday, I found it silly to buy something and say, “ohhhh I can’t wear this if I’m at school.” Unless it was something I bought that was more racy for clubs. Hopefully people do understand that gal is not just clubwear . I also lived in Shibuya and my route to school was walking past 109 everyday so I felt obligated to represent as a gal and more specifically as a gaijin gal.
I wear gal pretty much all the time. I wear old gal t-shirts under my Delyle or Glad News parka to walk my dog. I really don’t consider my clothing non-gal and gal anymore. It’s just mostly all…
Classmates/teachers – They didn’t really react nor did I expect them to… Japanese gals that went to my college, most kept to their circles (not solely gal) but the ones who I would talk to were nice and asked to hang out and if we saw each other in Shibuya we’d talk. Teachers didn’t care. I was paying their bills, I will graduate summa cum laude, they had more to worry about. Classmates, hmmm I am sure some expected I was an airhead because I cared to get dressed everyday.
– apartment interior deco things -> Donki, Tokyu Hands, LoFt and Franc Franc. All located in Centaagai.
– cheap healthy eating in Japan – ….nope not really trifty places for that. Just remember to stick to seasonal vegetables, keep your fruit intake low, eat pork instead of beef, buy avocados the day you need them (fresher ones are cheaper), and use eggs since they’re really cheap.
– clubs: atom just got soo boring. do u know other gal-ish clubs?
will be an article
– gal events. do u know when they are? its so hard to get infos of them beforehand.
Go directly to promoters websites. Saike promoters have theirs listed months in advance on their websites. I really only care about saike so that’s all I know. If they advertise on mixi, hit up their website.
I have a question about junior high gyaru/magogyaru. Is it common to see younger girls dressing in a more toned-down version of gyaru? I hear some gals started as young as 12 and I’m interested if it’s still common to see. Do young gals frequent the 109?
Nope the younger the gal usually the more they look over-the-top if their school allows them. If they don’t they usually just head to SBY and drink milk tea after school. As for junior high schoolers you don’t see many at all in 109. Reading a lot of bios of models most discover and get into gal in the middle of high school. Aina started in year 2 of high school. Rin was a yankee, Romihi in year 3, etc… While some might have started at 12, they were probably only pursuing small trends like SBY’s pom-pom hair tie which young gals went gaga for. Now that could slowly change as gal brands pursue parents and clothe their children in kids lines.
Middle schoolgirls, wearing outfits and such doing full gal, that’s a bit doubtful. Dying hair for junior highschool students is
out of the question. Junior high students and even high school students don’t have much of an oppurtunity to wear their own clothing, except for Saturday and Sunday and then a lot sports and music clubs require students to wear their outfits to club events. So a tennis club person will be in their uniform heading to school on Saturday morning only to get changed out of it for actual practice, then put the uniform back on and head home. Sunday would be their only free day.
Considering any school-age kid only needs clothing for 2 days of the week, they’re not buying a hell of a lot. From anywhere. This concept that high school girls are doing all the buying at 109 is just silly.
what’s the drug culture like? Is there one? I ask because I’ve noticed a stark difference in the way the US is open about showing drug use in movies and TV, while you rarely see it talked about in Japan. The only time I saw it really ever mentioned was in the movie Babel where the kids get hopped up on pills and the like. On my visit a couple years ago, there was a stand in Shinjuku selling “Happy Pills” (claiming to be legal), which I figured was herbal ecstasy. A Japanese friend of mine concurred and said the only drugs he saw kids with were pills (perscription? street? I have no idea).
Drug culture in Japan is a very weird subject. Along with losing WWII Japan had such a crystal meth problem. As is the case for many armies (dating to the Vietnam war) the fighting force was given amphetamines to stay alert and fight longer. So that left a fighting force out of work with an addiction and “intravenous methamphetamine abuse reached epidemic proportions immediately after World War II, when supplies stored for military use became available to the public” That caused Japan to put very harsh and high sentences on drug use and sale to curb the epidemic.
CNN.com did an article in 2003 that drug use was on the rise. I will attest that extascy and marijuana are both easy to get. I never did them, it’s not my thing and I love my VISA and prison-free fashion. I knew a few people who did drugs, but they were either using marijuana and were Japanese or doing X and their parents had diplomatic or special privileges with the government so they felt as embassy kids they could get away with most anything.
An idol Noripi was recently on trial for drugs and it created quite a media sensation. An example from Japan Probe.
Spice until November 2009 was available and legal, it’s a bit of an herbal extasy and was sold at some drug stores. It’s no longer legal.
Japan does have a pretty big outdoor rave culture and with it comes drugs, not saying all people who enjoy raves do drugs, but it’s definitely more free.
How is Gyaru/Gyaru-O style looked upon by other people in Japan?
Like, do average/regular people find it to be the equivalent of a “California/Valley Girl” In the U.S.? What do older Japanese people think of it~?
Gyaru/o got a bad rap in the 90s with the media exposes on how poor mamba are and how some high school gals got involved in enjou kousai (paid dating). Gyaru getting knocked up and being horrible parents and mentors was also another one.
Now, it’s taking a new turn and trying to pacify media so they can get a larger audience. 109 is involved in so-called “fast fashion” which takes equal knocks and praise by recession-conscious people. Gal has become so enormous with several malls dedicated to it that to say “gals” as a total get a reputation is not true. Ageha and Popteen also sell comparably to Can Cam (the OL-type magazine) and have been in the top 4 of fashion magazines in Japan, so to group an entire section of the populace doesn’t work. I think some get a bad rap as seen by the Mekas article, but not too much. As Tsubasa continues to land more mainstream contracts, this could also influence the acceptance of gal.
I think gyaruO (men) probably get a worse rap since as men they’re letting down the breadwinning lifestyle a bit more than women. Although I knew several gyaruO who went to college and are letting themselves enjoy gyaru fashion until it’s time to job hunt.
malignita asks a similar question:
Would you say the Japanese public’s image of gals has improved any in recent years? I see models on variety programs all the time, so I’m wondering if the media’s fascination with gals is genuinely positive or not.
I think it depends on the type of gal. Kogals will always get a bad rap and some of it is deserved since prostitution and such do continue. Some enjoy loitering the streets of Centaagai, wearing their skirts high enough to almost see panties and it’s just a little too much for people to accept.
Rock gal is pretty acceptable, many hairdressers and nailists enjoy this style. So is celeb-kei and girls who enjoy Liz Lisa. You really don’t see Erokawaii (sexy cute) and such on a professional gal. Agejo, hmmm not so much except for MomoEri. For agejos, many are still wearing quite revealing clothes and many are involved in sex-related industries so they will not be accepted.
Did you see many non-caucasian gaijin Gyaru~?( like black/hispanic/haafu/etc)
If so, how well are they perceived~?
It’s extremely rare I see gaijin gyaru or ones I would perceive as such outside of my friend group. I have seen kirakira once at DIA in 109, who was the main girl of the gaijin gyaru video, and an occasional but intelligent poster at ricoche. I was going to say hi, but Lip Service was having a special release that day and I wanted to get my hands on that so I headed downstairs instead. I might see some foolhardy mess mixed with omgHarajukuyayz fashion who is obviously a tourist walk around Shibuya but if I considered them a gaijin gyaru I’d be lying.
Half doesn’t count, or rather they mostly aren’t perceived as being foreigners especially if they grew up in Japan. Most halfs blend in quite well. A staff-chan at One*Spo is half-Canadian caucasian and half-Japanese and no one sees a problem with her. Halfs have been in demand in modeling and are perceived as having the best of both Asian and Caucasian beauty.
it would be neat if you could post guides to places in tokyo you can go to for nails/hair that are ok with English ^^;
I’ll hunt around, but it’s best to go to the Metropolis free magazine or on-line and look at their classifieds and see if they advertise anything to your liking. I have previously discussed Dude salon which I think does a nice job and I was satisfied with my cuts there.
How is afro-textured hair received (afro, dreds, and braids)? B/C Sometimes in Japanese magazines I see some African hairstyles (cornrows) and I just made me think, is it acceptable? That and are African features alright? I ‘m new and I’ve heard some people say that African-descended women can’t be gyaru.
Hmmm braids and other things are 100% okay within b-gyaru. Outside of gyaru only cornrows are considered trending.
I think it’s some bullshit bigotry and thinly veiled racism when people say a certain race can’t be gyaru. I’m sick of hearing it repeated in English. Frankly I thought we had moved beyond race relations. I like how people can like a foriegn fashion and continue to be bigots. They only reveal how idiotic they truly are not just as a gyaru but as human beings.
Having said that, I recently heard a comment from Jay-z that stated “racism starts in the home” and I can agree that. This whole perception that Japanese are therefore non-white and cannot be racist is b.s.. African Americans in Japan either are wholeheartedly embraced by the b-gyaru community or are grouped in with the actual African immigrants that populate Roppongi, Harajuku and Centaagai trying lure people into their stores or clubs. African immigrants tend to adopt a stereotypical gangsta look in order to appeal to the Japanese bad-boy thug-wannabe sentiment.
For African-descended women I think these statements by Japanese netizens reacting to Serena Williams’ nude cover translated at Japan Probe bears reading. Sigh… personally I think she’s gorgeous and as a tennis nut I cheer wildly for her during every match.
What ages to gals usually range up to? I know they start young and now that there’s an increase in gal mama, has the age gap grown in numbers? I’m curious when it’s considered “too old” to be gal in Japan.
It’s common for gals to range right into their late 20s and beyond. This depends of course on their job and financial status. Momoeri herself is in her 30s now and continues to be an icon for women her age and older. Aki Hoshino who is 32 and while not identified as gal often posts on her blog buying items from One*Spo and she appeared in as a lead model for a Gilfy catalog. I see women of all ages at 109. Sure it’s mostly girls in their teens and 20s, but it’s not rare to see women in their 30s and beyond. A friend of mine knows women in their 40s who still enjoy 109 stores. It just depends what type of gal really. Cocolulu has made a name for itself with high school crowd, while Moussy, Egoist, Duras and Reinda all appeal to older gals who enjoy Hollywood celeb casual.
I was wondering more about the lifestyle of gal beyond just the fashion. What do gals do for fun or to hang out besides just shopping?
The same thing most everyone does. Drink, go to clubs, save up and go on vacations, go on dates, head to Disney, go to host clubs, head out to izakayas and drink/eat with their friends… It’s not like because they dress differently they prefer other interests. However most gals are in hard working jobs with lots of hours so fun time often is at a minimum.
job chances for gaijin gals, and aswell gaijins in japan.
For gaijin gals, it just depends on how gal you want to take your look.
Jobs for gaijin depends if you’re a student or if you’re wanting to solely work in Japan.
Working while a student – As a student you simply get a student worker visa, which allows jobs as long as they are not related to the sex industry, it specifically bans hostessing. My friends currently work as tutors, German teacher, teaching music, another works in JapanPop101 as a voice actor, and another just started at a maid cafe.
Working solely in Japan – It really depends on your level of expertise in your field. A friend of mine, not gal or even a girl, works as a bit of a day trader and got the job in Canada. He has no knowledge of Japanese, but he fit the requirements of his job qualifications. Other than most gaijin have jobs as teachers, either through the JET program or independently teaching older-age possibly businessmen, business-related English.
English teachers in Japan are held to a higher standard than office ladies (OL). A four-year college degree is necessary. Their nails must only be french manicured and very short. They must look completely set for a very corporate environment. So natural hair colors, no piercings, a very light tan if any etc… So being a gal is only for the weekends, but there’s wigs… spray on tanning… press-on nails etc…
How did you learn japanese and what did it take to get you to the level of proficiency that you have today?
I took classes before I moved to Japan. I think my Japanese has improved since living in Japan, but definitely not as much as people suspect it does. The big problems are Japanese feel it rude to correct you, so you’re often repeating the same mistakes. I think I could currently pass JLPT II, but currently my studies are on other things (like working towards my GRE). I’m fine at most conversations, though I wish my speed was better. My kanji knowledge hasn’t improved since I’ve lived in Japan, but I felt that was my strong point and conversation being my weak point.
What’s the view on eating disorders in the Japanese gal community? And weight in general, how are you treated and/or though of if you are either stick thin or chubby?
A friend of mine and I were enjoying a scoop from Baskin Robbins in Centaagai which is located right across from 109. Since the shop is small everyone eats their cone right outside the shop, and you can people watch all the people going in an out of 109 as you nom. So we notice this emaciated looking gal with amazing great hair but her legs were all knee and bone. She looked like she could barely walk and she quickly came back with orange juice. We called it her “orange soup” as in her meal for the day.
I think it’s amazingly common to see gals with bodies so small either extreme genetics or eating disorders are in play, or both. When you can see femur in a girl’s thigh, you know something wrong. But for most gals, there’s no such term as “too thin”. In last year’s Egg they had a weigh in for all the gals and Kaoru had gained weight (1 kilogram, I mean that could just be bloat ). So the boys who were weighing them pointed at her and gave her a pig nose. I was sickened.
Ageha 2 years ago put out a special comic version retelling the tales of models (synopsis and pics here) in it Rina Ayukawa turns to anorexia after reading on on-line message boards about her body. I find this quite astounding considering anoerexia seems like the elephant in the room with most Japanese models. I mean at average BMI of 16.0 something’s gotta be up. A BMI of 16.0 on a 5’2″ woman (which is a regular height for a Japanese model) who’s 20 years old means she would be 88 lbs. :!: This is just such a horrible thing to do during adolescent development, and not only that, being too skinny severely ages your face. Not hot.
You are not treated badly if you’re stick thin, I think most people are jealous. The thing is many highschool girls have some babychub left over it tends to show on a body-type with a short frame. The term is daikon legs (daikon ashi) It’s pretty common among Japanese highschool girls to have this issue.
Being a large Japanese woman in Japan is just well let’s just say it’s not easy. My Japanese teacher is big by nature and as a kid she got teased for it mercilessly. Bullying in Japanese schools is taken to another level at times, it’s just horrid. She became a bit of bully to fix that though
I met a larger-sized gal and she was both outgoing and super friendly. :idea: Her circle of friends often seem to revolve around her because she was so bubbly and fun. I also thought she dressed her frame quite well even though there’s no real tips for larger gals in magazines. The problem with most Japanese women who gain weight is genetically they’re predisposed to gain it everywhere so unlike people who gain it in the thighs or in the belly, it just goes everywhere except for oddly the boobs.
At times I see larger gals with boyfriends, so I don’t think all Japanese men are hating on meat. It’s definitely not common though to see big gals.
May I know if living in Japan is tough?
Is everything quite costly over there?
If I’m interested to study or live in Japan, what should I be concern about before moving there?
I had too much to say on this, so it’s an upcoming article now. Hopefully I won’t veer too far away from gal on it.
could you do a post on gal circles…like, i think i’ve got the gist of them but…i dunno like the different types..did you ever get asked to join one, what people do when they join, ect, ect.
Hmmm well I think the concept of gal-sa is sort of dying out. Not because people don’t have circles, everyone does in Japan. Most of my shopstaff girls stuck around their shop and work long hours, so the shopgirls create their own sa. I’ve never been asked to join one, and well it’s not my style. I’d rather hang out with lots of different people from different backgrounds than only have one group. Although I make exception for 3 people. :idea: (You know who you are and I luvs u).
Gals often have several circles they’re a part of. Their highschool sa, their college sa, their part-time job sa, their club sa. There are still typical gal circles which usually start in highschool and people continue to help and support each other. If a guy became a host often he would have his host-club as buddies (although rivalry is very evident). A lot of gals work long hours and sometimes odd hours (like hostesses) so doing sa things can be a bit troublesome.
Some circles are part of bigger circles, and many go drinking together. Sometimes it turns into a nomikai (like a drinking date meeting) where gals can make friends with others or meet boys. It’s not in my nature to like sas because of the enclusivity means exclusivity, but I do admire how sas often support each other financially in bad times or when one is pregnant. When friendship goes that deep I think it’s amazing.
What are shopstaffs’ perceptions and attitudes towards non Japanese speaking customers? do they have an aversion towards serving non Japanese speaking customers if they are not conversant in the same languages as these customers? i’m Asian, brown-haired and fair skinned, it is often assumed that i speak and understand Japanese even though the truth is my Japanese doesn’t go beyond good morning, thank you, sorry i don’t understand, and the like, LOL!
Well I’m your opposite hehehee. At my regular shops my gals know me and at my favorite shops I can spend a good 30 minutes just chatting with them if they’re free. However, if I go into a new shop they wonder if I know Japanese and even if I do get out a few some still think I’m a foreigner with a tiny grasp of the language. I get like urrrgh foriegner what do I do, or broken english, or smile ignore she’s white kinda thing.
Sometimes I get frustrated just because I’m used to feeling very comfortable in the stores I visit (Lip Service, One*Spo, and Glad News are all this way). However, the first time I stepped in w*c I ended up leaving an hour and a half later and hugging my staff-chan and gosh we talked about everything (can’t wait to go drinking with her when I get back). Then, there are some who know English, the girl who works at 109-2 in the Vanquish man-purse shop is quite fluent. Although she’s the only one I’ve met other than the people who work at Bape Shibuya who have to do deal with European, American and Chinese tourists.
– Considering that Japanese culture is different from say American (obviously, duh), I was wondering if you could share your opinion on what struck [sic] you the most when you started living in Japan? Any shattered myths?
Mainly just how isolated everyone is. Ever been on a plane and people strike up a conversation with you? That will never happen on a train, shinkansen or such in Japan unless that person has lived in the US.
Also chivalry can get to me. If a person opened a door for you, they in doing something nice would now obligate you in order to reciprocate your generosity in a way equal to their kindness. So no one does this because they feel they’re putting obligations on the person they’re doing something nice for. As a woman who is deeply Southern and was raised so, this goes against my feelings of courtesy and kindness towards strangers.
No real myths I had. The walking and heat were a bit of a shock at first. Japan summers are as humid and as sweaty as you will find in the Deep South.
– I’m kinda interested in the relationship between female x male, female x female and male x male in Japanese society.
– This question is close to the above. It’s about couples. I’ve heard that say when Japanese wanna do “it”, they will definitely take shower first. And, a question like “Wanna take a shower? I am not sure how to put this question more right, but the point is that the subject is ‘Japanese couples”
These two above questions I am so not qualified to answer. Not being a sociologist, a japanese woman, or someone who’s had a relationship with someone in Japan (had a man since living in Japan who is American and not-Japanese) I think the farthest I covered was dating and that was with other gaijin. I fear I would make too many generalizations and my limited knowledge would just mess this up. Best to ask someone more involved in these two issues. Since this is a blog mostly concentrating on fashion, I try not to veer too far away from that and this definitely would.
How do the Japanese respond to people from China? I know the two countries have a big past, as I am half Chinese myself. But I was wondering, because I heard that the Japanese are racist to the Chinese quite some times (and vice-versa too).
China gets a bad rap in the media. It seems like shoddy goods or copyright infringement comes up, but not actual Chinese. To the ultra-nationalists, Koreans often get the brunt of it. Nationalists lately spend most of their energy on Koreans because a) Koreans love to protest back and do so in showy fashion b) Koreans are a proxy for China since Japan cannot do anything to prevent the rise of China above its economy, Japan prefers to pick on smaller rival Korea.
I have a few friends who are Chinese and many make fast friends with Japanese. The normal Japanese has no real care about the Chinese, and well… it’s not like many are good at telling races apart. I’ve been traveling with a Chinese/Vietnamese girl who is American (hey chica I know you read, cus we chat everyday ), she’s passed JLPT level 1 and is a language freak. When she and I walk together it seems they notice the tall white foriegner and ignore the “Japanese” girl.
Is there a trend for western gals to give themselves “gal” names? Is it just to give their new persona a different name to go by?
I don’t think so. I think on-line everyone likes a tiny bit of anonymity though and a nickname provides that. I’m dandy with people calling me Mitsu or Mitzi (my real name). Personally the problem comes when I introduce myself to Japanese people (gals included) and they stumble over my real name or romanize it to be “Micchi” which sounds way off base IMO. So I just stick with Mitsu, which has a slight “z” sound. Although Mitsu is usually a guy’s nickname short for such names like “Mitsuru”.