fashion tribes in tokyo
words and pictures by maiko kisaka

Tokyo has a wide range of fashion sub-cultures. Some are familiar the world over. Others may barely be heard of beyond certain suburbs of the city.


Shibuya is a mecca of Tokyo fashion, teeming with hip young people. In Shibuya you can see tons of fake-tanned girls dressed in hibiscus-patterned clothes, with bleached hair and strange make-up: white eye-shadows, strong eye-lines and lines of gem stones under the eyes.

They are called 'Ko-gyaru', which means pre-posh ladies. I met a group of Ko-gyaru: Yuka 19, Fumi, 18, Yuh, 15 and Risa, 18 (see bottom left). They‘re wearing typical Ko-Gyaru make-up on their faces. (See left).

Perhaps a representation of cool back divas such as Missy Eliot or Beyonce, Ko-gyaru make-up is a blend of Hawiian style, black culture and L.A beach style.

Yuka says, 'Tropical stuff is cool! I like to tan my skin as much as possible, like the surfer girls in L.A.' She continues: 'The best tropical / surfing gear can be found in Shibuya 109 department store.' In fact, I saw lots of the girls in hibiscus patterns around this store. What is much stranger is you can see this fake tropical tribe not only during summer, but even in winter!

The Ko-gyaru's favourite word to describe their taste is 'Nang-goku tic'. Nang-goku means 'southern countries', while 'tic' is a suffix used to make an adjective. It's not about any specific place - could be Hawaii, L.A., or Cuba - but more about a tropical, summery vibe.

Further information

With Stateside lingo, Valley Girl goes Japanese
The wild, wicked world of the Gon-Gyaru


Hey Cute Fat Girl!
In search of the cute fat girl in popular culture

The Princess and the Pee
Squat? Nah. I'll make an 'arc of transcendence', thanks!

Love and Rockets and Foxy Girl Comics
We celebrate the hootchie-mamas of the comics world.

Hello, Hello Kitty
What *is* it about this mouthless plastic cat that so obsesses 20something females?