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Kogyaru - Not as Dumb as They're Painted


Japan is obsessed by the mutation of high school girls that go by the name of "kogyaru" in the media.

They dominate fashion and the media and initiate new trends. In short – they dominate the culture. For the Tokyo media, the fascination never seems to wear off. Everyone is familiar with the clichéd image of short skirts, dyed hair, heavy suntans, and vacant expressions, of girls only one loose-socked step away from the prostitution industry. Although the details of their fashion are sure to change, kogyaru are not about to disappear or relinquish their hold on the Japanese media.

To high school boys, they are an initiation into adult life. To office ladies they are objects of envy. I won’t bother to spell out what they are to middle-aged salarymen – just take a look down any sleazy side street in Tokyo’s entertainment districts around bonus time. To the wives of these same middle-aged salarymen, they are a subject of horror and fascination. To foreign men, they are exotic baby women and quite often their excuse for coming to Japan.

Whatever the reason, everybody seems interested in them but also somehow ashamed of this interest. This forces the media to couch much of its coverage of kogyaru in terms of pompous social concern about the decline of contemporary mores. As for the late night jerk-off programs, this supposed moral decline is a cause for celebration.

Whether people love them or loathe them, there seems to be total agreement that kogyaru are incredibly stupid. I disagree. If there is any stupidity, it comes from society. A girl with a good brain might shun hanging around Shibuya tanning salons and relegate make up and fashion to an ancillary role in her life. After years of study, she might even graduate from a top University and make it into an elite company, but here, of course, her talents will be poured down the drain like a cup of cold ocha.

While she wafts her way around the office photocopying paper clips, her male colleagues will make all the decisions and get all the promotion. After a few years she will be expected to get married. Unfortunately, all the years of self discipline and trying to be professional have taken their toll. Now too dowdy to catch Mr Right, she will be condemned to a life of regret, while the kogyaru mop up all the eligible males.

In a male-dominated society – and all societies, whether we care to admit it or not, have been and always will be dominated by men – the path of success for most women lies in learning how to appeal to and manipulate men. Kogyaru are at least intelligent enough to understand this.



Published under the title "Hello, Anyone Home" in issue 259 of Tokyo Classified
13th March, 1999


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