Modern Japanese Female Fashion History & Terms Part One

I had a big post on Larme magazine that got erased by wordpress being a butt and realized part of the post was trying to break down modern Japanese female fashion styles that I don’t usually talk about on the Doll.

I’m going to take about mostly mainstream trends and the building blocks modern fashion came to be, so if you are waiting for subculture trends like decora or v-kei boom or such it’s not going to happen in this post.

Japanese fashion has moved to be much more fluid recently.

The problem is…

1. Internet. We’re so much more global. Street fashion grows better locally before it can be diluted by outside influences. Also internet is where people can look for free without magazines, making magazines close down.

2. Economy. The big one. The booms of street fashion have happened with the booms of economy. The bubble era really grew the original gyaru. The strong economy in Japan under Koizumi grew it again in 2007-2009. The economy is hurting right now and that trickles down quickly to teenagers. Less pocket money, less opportunities for fashion. Magazines close that promote that fashion. Less brands open. Every style I’ll talk about in this post happened during a period of economic prosperity.

3. Fashion can create an equal reaction. The physics of fashion create reactions. Akamoji and Aomoji or Hime Gyaru growing from the dark Kogyaru look. Currently the reaction to the wild pop feeling of 2008-2010 (WC boom) is a softer look.

So for all these reasons, especially number 1, the codification of style is breaking down. But there was a time when they weren’t and it helps connect with current fashion. I’m going to discuss some terms and style crazes from Japanese female fashion you may come across and break them down and discuss how they’re all related or have spawned from each other.


New Traditional ニュートラ

Hamatora ハマトラ Kobe-kei 神戸系 and Nagoya-kei 名古屋系 - 1975 – mid 1980s


Kobejou brands such as Vicky along with Nagoyajou brands like Knit Kitchen and Dear Princess in an old CanCam from the 1980/90s


Nagoya based Dears Princess in 2013-2014 runway shows. Check the similarities from 1980s.

The history:

Stemming from the 1970s and into the 1980s port cities in Japan a lot of wealth and manufacturing in that area. Manufacturing allowed quality craftsmanship and goods to come from the region and the wealth that flowed allowed women who shopped there to look elegant and stylish but conservative. It’s the beginning of the “Ojousama” look. Or little rich girl look, the girls in Kobe being known as Kobejou. Most of the women making New Tora (New Traditional) a fashion were college girls. There were a lot of these college girls in the area and this created a sense of competition that made the fashion. The trend also moved to Nagoya and created Nagoyajou.

The look:

New traditional: Magazine of the time “an – an” coined the term New Tora (Nyu-Tora ニュートラ) or New Tradtional to describe the boom first and JJ magazine codified the look especially in Yokohama (coining the term Hama Tora). The look was a simple color palette and very feminine. As were sweater sets (see above). The look was conservative however it wasn’t traditional colors fully like navy or blacks only. Instead it was pinks and other feminine colors. This is not a work look, it was made by the girls who don’t have to work and spawned the look for those who did have to work to replicate on their off days.

The look is compared to the Ivy League preppy style boom in the United States. Kobe’s NewTora was a very overly adult look with suit jackets and knee-length skits. Yokohama’s Hamatora was more of a childlike preppy with plaids and sweaters.


Early 1981 Kobe-kei New Tora


The child-like Yokohama centric Hamatora style.

Branded bags, scarves and jewelry were a signature of this look. Louis Vuitton, Fendi, YSL, and Celine brands made inroads into Japan and all became popular bags and accessories in Japan during this time. Showing off with a large flashy scarf over a conservative blazer was a strong point of New Tora. Emilio Pucci and her Pucci pattern scarves became popular during this time.

Magazines during this time focused on overseas brand items along with rich hobbies such as tennis, skiing and golfing. Furthering the little rich girl “Ojousama” wave.

Brands such as Vicky and Aquagirl which still exist were created in Kobe around this time. Dear Princess (above) from Nagoya is still around.


Kobe based Vicky shop staff in their current Fall collection. Still imprints of their older look.


Kobe based Aquagirl, founded in the Kobe-kei era has gone more modern.

New Tora decline:

Although New Tora, HamaTora and Kobe-kei are outdated terms, many of the brands are still in existence. Kobe-kei style hasn’t much changed (comparisons above). However looking at Kobe, Yokohama and Nagoya as fashion heads has. Cities were battling to create their own version of this style and the look became more of an entire country style.

The wealth of both Kobe and Nagoya have taken hits with the Japanese economy and localized manufacturing isn’t as prided. Also magazines in the mid 80s to early 90s stopped focusing on rich-girl campus life as much instead focusing on work life. The bubble also burst in 1991 and its affects afterwards in the early 90s made the rich-girl image not as palatable.

New Tora Kobe-kei legacy:

Akamojikei magazines stem from this look. Hime Gyaru and Agejo are often thought to be influenced by this popular fashion as well, because of the little rich girl mentality and look. Pucci prints still remain popular with Agejo and Agejo-adult brands like Rady. Hime Gyaru brands Jesus Diamante and La Parfait are founded from this region.


Kansai-based now defunct “Honey Girls” magazine in mid to late 2000s shows origins in Kobe-kei fashion. The first issue says “Ojousama Snap” and the look is “Gorgeous”. The party look of the first issue shows how hairset and dresses moved to Agejo.

The popular runway show “Kobe Collection” founded in 2002 grew from this fashion craze.

source: livedoor | kansai blog | wiki | fashion-j | neojapanisme

Bodycon ボディコン – mid 1980s – 1994


Early bodycon shows evidence of NewTora trends: such as branded bags and scarves as accessories.


newtora-bodycon oneline-bodyconLooks from the Kobe-kei style started moving to One-Line BodyCon

BodyCon of the 1980-90s wasn’t all miniskirts and spandex.

Known as BodyCon but more formally as One-Line Body Con (ワンレン・ボディコン) and could be somewhat conservative. The one-line meant hair was all one length and stopped all together and the dressing was all one line as well. One color dressing with a scarf as a pop of color was en vogue. The styling was meant to be close to the body showing off a waist and slimmed to the leg, but outside of the club the look could be very conservative mix. The kitten heel to mid-level pump were very popular during this time.

Let’s get physical, physical. Sexy bodycon

This Sexy Bodycon look was furthered by the popular club in Minato, Tokyo Juliana’s (ジュリアナ東京) that operated from 1991 to 1994.

Club going bodycon was definitely more sexy and the look spiraled to extremes.


Super Sexy Juliana’s bodycon.


From that time period girls competed to be the best gogo dancers at Julianas. The look was extra-straps with t-back stage bikinis. The early “kogyaru” got their nickname sneaking into these clubs and wearing provocative items.

Bodycon the legacy:

Bodycon will always live on, but in Japan it produced the original gyaru of the early to mid 90s. It also can seen with EroKawaii of the 2000s.

sources: sappukei | wiki | alfa


Akamoji-kei 赤文字系 – 1990s-?


Akamojikei magazines through the years (clockwise): JJ in 2006, CanCam in 2006, CanCam in 1991, JJ in 1980

Why Akamojikei?

As I’ve talked about in the Aomoji-kei post, Akamojikei is less a look and more a lifestyle. Akamoji literally “red character” was termed so because magazines like CanCam and Ray would always choose a red colored font for their magazine titles (see above). So it was the “red colored magazines”. This was a term coined in the 90s and feels a bit outdated.

What makes Akamojikei magazines a genre?

Most of these magazines were started before the 1990s but grew especially in the mid-80s to become more lifestyle magazines and focus on more OL life than campus times. Akamoji-kei is a lifestyle magazine genre that celebrates independence as well as responsibility. Akamojikei magazines are for women in their 20s and early OL (Office Ladies). Akamojikei magazine shots would show women drinking coffee alone enjoying themselves (independence) and then picking out date outfits that would appeal (responsibility). Many magazines of the time would have a section on OL suits (responsibility) along with a vacation section (independence). Nowadays there’s more of an independence focus and casual lean since a lot of styles have relaxed and office wear has relaxed as well.


July issue of “Ray” magazine suggests what to wear and do on your off days of OL life.

Akamojikei history:

The big four Akamojikei magazines were Ray, CanCam, Vivi and JJ. The original Akamojikei magazines all had significant readership booms during the 1990s. In early 2000s all saw a dip in readership and have made different moves away from conservative and New Tora style.

JJ magazine (originally known as Joshei Jishin) started in 1975 and supported this college girl Yokohama Hama Tora trend. Can Cam magazine (origin “I can campus”) was started in 1980 to focus on the Nagoyajou trend and stylish college girls. Vivi followed in 1983 and Ray in 1988. Now defunct 2004-2009 Pinky was considered the second wave of Akamoji magazine.

Akamojikei magazines currently:

Akamojikei is nowadays used to describe Ray and CanCam and the models within it. Vivi and JJ have both moved away from conservative and OL bases into more trend-mode-girly style. The term itself is usually just to say “Akamojikei magazine” not in combination with fashion or trends, instead it’s a genre of magazine.

CanCam had a spike in 2006-2008 and was the best selling women’s magazine in Japan selling about 600,000 copies yearly. With senzoku models (exclusive models) such as Yamada Yu and Ebihara Yuri (Ebi-chan). They moved from a conservative to a motekei style and before Ebi-chan quit,  CanCam was the taste maker of mainstream female fashion. Ray, Vivi and JJ all took sales drops during this time.


The decline of the Akamoji magazines (source)

According to Japanese magazine 2013 half-year sales reports former Akamojikei magazine Vivi ranks 8th in sales (211,351) with their casual trend style, while Akamojikei head CanCam has fallen to 24th in sales (106,939). Ray and JJ didn’t crack the top 30. If you extrapolate from a half year and say CanCam sold 200,000 issues in 2013, they dropped 400,000 from 2009.


Akamojikei magazine “CanCam” sets out what to wear on a drive with your friends. Such independence and fun.

  sources: wiki | fashionmarketingjournal |

Motekei モテ系 – Current


July issue of Akamojikei “Ray” magazine suggests coordinates to wear to get him to like you.

“The best MOTE wardrobe”

What’s Motekei?

Motekei is a term used by the editor-in-chief of Larme magazine so it’s a term I’d like to bring up before the big Larme posts. Motekei is taken from the slang term moteru (モテる) meaning to appeal to the opposite sex. Motekei a clothing style that is meant to be appealing to guys, meaning you don’t look a type just cute and appealing. Nothing to cutesy, overly sexy, or flashy. It’s not a codified style because it’s meant to describe mainstream current appeal from any time period.

I like to think of Motekei as the machine gun of attractiveness. It gives off a lot of appealing vibes so it’ll most likely hit someone.

How is one Motekei?

Often you’ll see it if a magazine or website wants to discuss date coordinates. Or for women (and men) to discuss what they think is attractive on the opposite sex. If you’re going to a wedding you want to dress very motekei. A first date is a definitely motekei time. Group data (goukon)? Motekei yourself, wear a moteru coordinate. But there is no motekei lifestyle. Many magazines promote motekei from Sweet to JJ and Vivi. Old Popteen and other gyaru magazines had sections on what are cute date coordinates and used the term Motekei.

CanCam in 2007 saw its reboom for capturing the motekei style of that decade with Ebihara Yuri.


Yuri Ebihara in CanCam in the late 2000s showing off full motekei look. Not too much make-up, effortless hair, clean skin, welcoming not sexy glance.

Motekei examples:

Mercury Duo, Snidel, Fabulous by Cecil McBee, CocoDeal, Lily Brown could all be considered brands that support the Motekei look. Mainly because these brands make date outfits, party dresses, and dresses for weddings and formal events i.e. all motekei dressing times.


Mercury Duo shop staff in a Fall trend yet motekei outfit. Sweet flowing dress with adult accessories doesn’t make her look too childlike or adult. Loose tendrils of hair compliment the effortless yet appealing look.


Snidel shop staff in their current Fall fashions. Date appropriate attire with matching natural-ish hair and soft make-up.


I’ll probably flip back and forth between terms and styles and dates, but I’d like to show some roots of current fashion. Man this post was long enough that it should’ve been several. Oh well that’s several weeks worth so if you wondered other than kittens why I’ve been slow, it’s this.

Upcoming terms and trends: Shibukaji, DCBrand, Oneegyaru, Onee-kei, Seiso, Conservative, EroKawaii, Otona Kawaii, possible Yamanba and Kogyaru talk.


This was a Japanese Fashion University post. Want to learn more in depth about Japanese fashion? Click here.


  1. rabbit
    August 18, 2014 / 1:31 am

    Are you sure the first image (magazine) is from the 80s? Looks 90s.

    Interesting post though.

    • Mitsu
      August 18, 2014 / 8:34 am

      It’s something I’ve been tangling with tbh and I questioned it to. The Kobe-kei style like I’ve stated didn’t die it just went to be known as mainstream fashion. But it hasn’t stopped magazines from calling a look Kobe-kei elegance and reviving the look for a new collection. Finding images for Kobe-kei New Tora has been very difficult being such an old fashion so I used what I could find :)

  2. KC
    August 18, 2014 / 4:36 am

    I always really enjoy when you do posts like this!! must have taken a lot of work and time to put this together <3 i'd be curious about how gyaru mags used to rate on the sales chart before they all dropped down into oblivion…

    • Mitsu
      August 18, 2014 / 8:35 am

      Thank you so much for liking it! I sometimes like doing these, but they’re exhausting and I also miss something or mess something up due to only one person correcting my work: me D:

  3. Amari
    August 18, 2014 / 8:14 am

    Did the otona kawaii trend come from motekei? Mercury Duo and Snidel look like they have otona kawaii style clothing

    • Mitsu
      August 18, 2014 / 8:33 am

      I’ll be talking about that later, but Motekei isn’t really a trend but a term to describe what’s most appealing. So if Otona Kawaii is most appealing at the time, then yes :)

      • Anna
        August 20, 2014 / 12:17 am

        Also, unrelated but just out of curiosity, would you say “Sweet” is the most popular magazine right now? Cause looking at Instagram and stuff, the Sweet look is EXTREMELY popular as is Snidel right now (and with moms/more mature women, the VERY style). I thought their popularity had peaked with the Cher boom a few years back but it still seems to be very much prevalent. But, of course, it is just an impression since I’m not in japan ^^

        • Mitsu
          August 21, 2014 / 10:06 am

          hahaha so odd you bring that up since I’m writing an article on Sweet right now. I don’t know when it’ll be published because I think I want to put out another History & Terms post first, but I will definitely talk about Sweet soon :)

          • Anna
            August 23, 2014 / 1:59 pm

            Can’t wait! I’m sure it’s gonna be another amazing post!

  4. August 18, 2014 / 9:36 pm

    Woah, interesting post! I’ve heard something about 1920s modern girls but finding something from 1989~1990 was rare for me haha. Also motekei seems really interesting! I thought there is that way that girls dress to be appealing to men but I never thought there’s a whole system behind that. And I totally didn’t expect that it’s not too cute/sexy haha. I’d love to read more about that! Great post.

    • Mitsu
      August 19, 2014 / 11:19 am

      It doesn’t seem a common era to discuss about fashion, it was hard finding Japanese resources on-line for somethings, which is odd since I think a lot of modern fashion has come from these eras or were founded from ideas that happened in the 80s and 90s.

      Motekei is kind of crazy right? As someone who definitely fights for equality it seems weird to be interested in, but I do find it very interesting :)

  5. August 19, 2014 / 1:05 pm

    This is such an informative post and I’d like to applaud you for taking the time to break down all this information! Funny enough, there’s an anime on air right now and from spring season called Hamatora, and it takes place in Yokohama haha! I always wondered why it was called Hamatora but surprisingly enough, I found my answer in this post!

    • Mitsu
      August 21, 2014 / 10:13 am

      I’m really curious about the anime now. I don’t watch anymore (I realized I don’t have the patience for anime anymore weird I know). I’ll do some checking on it. :)

  6. Anna
    August 20, 2014 / 12:14 am

    That’s so interesting! Amazing work!

    Had no idea Aquagirl was Kobe-based or that Kobe fashion went so far back. Although it’s funny you don’t mention Chesty cause I think that’s the brand people automatically associate with Kobe nowadays (I have no clue why it is so popular across Japan since they only have one store!) but it is a pretty recent brand.

    Thank you very much for the amazing work compiling all this info! Your blog has been getting better and better!

    • Mitsu
      August 21, 2014 / 10:08 am

      Chesty is really popular but it was started in 2005 so a bit late for the original Kobe-kei boom. Possibly started with the rise of Kobe collection?

      I’ll work harder to keep it likable thank you for reading!

  7. October 3, 2014 / 7:00 pm

    W o w
    This post blew me away, probably my favorite post of yours (and that’s hard to choose)

    I really like the peek into the Bodycon style.
    Thank you so much for always posting such thorough, well thought out explanations !!

    • Mitsu
      October 11, 2014 / 3:09 pm

      Wow thank you for saying so! I hope to continue the work but it’s a lot of work and sometimes I just like to go for the easier posts :)

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