Apr 12, 2013

Yanki and YOSAKOI: the Real Dominant Culture in Rural Japan

What do you know about Japanese culture?

Tea ceremony (茶道), zen (禅), ukiyoe (浮世絵), sushi (寿司), or otaku (オタク)?

In a Japanese tea ceremony, the essence of Japanese high culture is condensed. A Japanese tea ceremony is performed based on the beauty senses, “wabi” (侘) and “sabi” (寂), which are the most sophisticated ones in Japanese history. If you are interested in the traditional Japanese high culture, it would be worth learning about the Japanese tea ceremony. 

On the contrary, otakuhood is one of the contemporary Japanese subcultures. Otaku people indulge in “vulgar” things: such as anime or video games. In a sense, they refuse sophistication. I guess that foreign fans like otaku culture because it is a kind of kitsch.

Both the Japanese tea ceremony and otaku are well known in the world. Even now the VIPs visiting Japan are invited to tea ceremonies at Kyoto, and the tourists that are interested in otaku culture go to maid cafes at Akiba (秋葉原). 

As I wrote, Japanese tea ceremony is high culture and otaku is subculture, so, in fact, people that like them are minority in Japan. There is another dominant culture in Japan.

Do you know “yanki” (ヤンキー) or “yosakoi?”

The origin of the word "yanki" was "Yankee." They are a type of delinquent youth mainly living in rural areas. I will introduce a movie about yanki, “Kamikaze Girls” (下妻物語). A picture is worth a thousand words.

Momoko's fashion is called “gosu rori (ゴスロリ)”, which means “gothic lolita,” and she is a kind of otaku girl. On the contrary, Ichigo is a typical yanki girl.

Momoko as a gosu rori girl is lonely especially in a small town, Shimotsuma (下妻). She should go to Daikanyama, Tokyo to buy her gosu rori outfits. I'm not saying that most people in rural areas are yanki, but yanki taste is actually quite popular there. Ichigo could buy her yanki outfits in a local supermarket.

I’d like to introduce another example. This video is the song “Rising Sun” by Exile, one of the most popular groups of singers and dancers in Japan.

Back dancers in this video perform the dance of yosakoi festivals, which are rapidly getting more popular in Japan. I don’t know about yosakoi well, but in my eyes, their costume is really yanki tasted.

Otaku is an urban subculture, and yanki is a dominant culture in rural areas.


  1. Niigata rural farmers wear straw hats and rubber boots and samue or monpe. :)

    PS: Well, OK, they're ten times older than the dancers in the video. :p

  2. I smell "yanki" from samue...

    1. You do? OK, I'll observe more carefully next time. Maybe there's some orange hair under the straw hat, too. ;)

    2. One of the main features of Yanki or Yosakoi is the elements of pseudo-Japanese culture. Yosakoi costume look like traditional kimono, but it isn't real kimono. I doubt that saemu is pseudo-kimono, because I never saw it in my childhood.

      Anyway, I need to study Yanki and Yosakoi more.