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What are girls interested in today?
What has once been punk, now is Harajuku.

European subcultures are a bit stalled – main export product is what is being worn in Japanese scene. And the book „Slatko lice pobune“ (Cute Face of Rebellion) describes this scene in details…

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Japanese subcultures
Martina Križanić
„Slatko lice pobune“
280 pages; Publication by Jesenski i Turk, Croatian Sociological Association.

Book „Slatko lice pobune“ by young sociologist Martina Križanić (ours, but cosmopolitan) opens up many codes for understanding the occupations of our young generations – those are Japanese subcultures, since Western subcultures backed down a bit. Focused on lolita subculture Martina „by the way“ explains entire Japanese sub-pop context. Mandatory reading for those who „follow“.

Main text:

Tokyo’s neighborhoods Harajuku and Shibuya are spectacles of most vivid subcultural scene on this planet: such high concentration of people with „different“ looks can’t be seen neither in New York, London, nor Berlin… it is easy to be convinced in this even on Youtube – and the book „Slatko lice pobune“ by sociologist Martina Križanić offers codes for understanding this lively phenomena. Japanese culture is, of course, by itself (to us) unusual, their pop-culture is extremely productive and full of genres that do not exist elsewhere, and their subcultures are a realm of signs which communicate with everything, connecting local impulses and global trends into something third and fourth, and this is, again, today a solid „export“ around the world so even in Western metropolises you can occasionally found yourself surrounded by youngsters who seem as though they have fallen out from some Japanese fiction.

At the same time on Western subcultural scenes a prevalent fatigue is present – of course, something is always happening, but it is not slightly comparable by it’s repercussions to the boom of the 1960’s or the emergence of punk, since then it is all slowly stagnating. In a nutshell, there are not many new things under the Western sun, so today’s hipsters of New York and Berlin look relatively  blank, and they (especially „more intelligent“ ones) even make blankness a fashion, in some „auto-ironical“, quotational, anti-sexual fashion of old people, like a forgetful mother has dressed them up. Even thought it is a sort of rebellion toward commercialization of subculture – because it seems to them it is made of old punk rockers on one side, or the different fashions of diesel’s (alternative brands) on the „image market“ on other side – it is all but a clear sign of fatigue by „Youth culture“ on the West, smothered by commercialization. Of course there are a lot of things happening in hip-hop, electronica and so on, but still, strength and impact of these subcultures are not the sort that will „shake“ the society up (like the 1960’s).

So it is no wonder that a lot of kids today look up to „Japanese oddities“. Daughter of my friend is learning Japanese (this really sounds like something Balašević would say; transl. note -Balašević is a famous songwriter), reading manga’s, and to him, old rocker – although he never stopped „following“ music and Western novelties – all this a mystery, completely unknown. Well, at least she doesn’t listen to turbo folk music, he says. (transl. note – turbo folk or narodnjaci is a term for Balkan pop culture music of low quality, with elements of folk music and popular beats like electronica).

This „experimental“ world of young people – synonym for it is Harajuku (which had turned into a tourist attraction) – stops being a mystery once you read this book by Martina Križanić, who also has a very personal reason to clear this up for us, since she belongs to (still) small group of Zagreb’s „lolita subculture“ or what is sometimes imprecisely called „Harajuku girls“. Because of the sexual connotations the Nabokov’s Lolita has on the West , first of all we have to say that lolita subculture has nothing to do with it, furthermore: she is asexual, that is, she deliberately negates the „obligation“ of sexual attractiveness for men – it is in it’s core focused on femininity (self) and it is playfully infantile. Unique thing with this – and not just this – Japanese subculture is that is it predominantly consisted of females. In a contrast to Western subcultures, girls are in charge here. This is an echo of shojo culture (young girls culture – of course we don’t have that term) and older Japanese tradition of tolerating „frivolity“ for girls in adolescent period; which is something that boys aren’t allowed to do so they are much more and sooner exposed to pressures of conformity, which is why they don’t experiment that much.

But lolitas aren’t the only one on Harajuku streets – although they are the ones whose photographs are often taken. In the 1990’s, when the Japanese scene has bloomed, few other girl subcultures appeared, from the way they dress (fruits girls – influenced by cyber culture, they dress innovatively with lots of colors, breaking all the rules) to their behavior (gyaru girls – freedom in behave, loudness, scandalous sexuality). There is also indigenous alternative fashion industry to go along with it and prominent alternative media… And this is just a piece of story from this well written and very timely book about things that seem confusing – because we don’t know their story – but are present and reverberating in young generations.

We have, not to forget, not just weird fashion looks in it, but puzzling terms as well like „erotic grotesque nonsense“, and what is it – check it out in the book.