THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
Yasuko Nakamura is surrounded by some of her teenage marketing consultants.
| Spot a joshikosei (Japanese high
school girl) and chances are she will be fiddling with her cellular phone, packing
a bulging album of purikura (tiny sticker photos) and planning a karaoke session.
These three things are indispensable to modern girls.
Joshikosei are voracious shoppers with a quirky eye for fashion and uncanny taste,
who often start trends. They have come up with eyeopening ideas and created a
sassy lingo-just by doing fun stuff that joshikosei are supposed to.
And what do joshikosei do?
After interacting with more than 100,000 high school girls for 18 years, Yasnko
Nakamura and her company are authorities on joshikosei. For two years starting
in April 2002, she wrote a bimonthly column for The Asahi Shimbun called "Uchira
no Hayari-mon" (What "we" girls like right now).
President of Boom Planning, a marketing firm based in Shibuya, Tokyo's fashion-babe
mecca, Nakamura has written a detailed account of the joshikosei lifestyle.
The book is “Uchira to Osoro no Sedai-Tokyo Joshikosei no Sugao" (The “uchira"
and “osoro" generation: unadorned high school girls of Tokyo. Kodansha, 620
yen), the ultimate field study to high school girls in greater Tokyo.
The girls like to refer to themselves as uchira, meaning us-and they love to
go osoro, short for osoroi, meaning the same.
Typically they hang out in cliques. Members strengthen the bond with some symbol-
all carry a Hello Kitty key chain, wear the same lip gloss or sport the same brand
purse. They trade “in" stories and anecdotes. These so-called“myboom"
practices-for members only-greatly stroke feelings of superiority.
The book includes a survey compiled from a sampling of 100 joshikosei, of the
8,000 who are registered with Nakamura's company.
Musts for modern girls
●The teenagers exchange from 30 to 100 e-mails with their cellphones every day.
Heavy e-mailing goes on at night.
●Purikura is the prerequisite tool for making friends. Albums are crammed with
tiny photos taken with friends at game centers.
●Karaoke became a favorite activity when shops slashed prices about 10 years ago.
The handy guide also gives a detailed account of “loose socks.” Readers will
learn how the baggy white socks appeared 10 years ago and, after several rises
and fans, settled into the current standard length of one meter.
Then there is the nanchatte seifuku, the “just-joking” uniform. This fad has
girls dressing in coveted uniforms from other schools or carrying bags from boys'
Nakamura is from Yamaguchi Prefecture. Her first acquaintance with joshikosei
took place in the mid-1980s, when she arrived in Tokyo to begin college.
When she saw a long line of fashionable high school girls crowding a Shibuya
boutique that allegedly catered to a teenage celebrity, she was impressed-almost
Nakamura reminisces: “Their rapid-fire conversation, which I would catch on trains,
was just as impressive. They were flashy, and I felt their insatiable curiosity."
She wanted to find a way to channel their youthful energy into a business. In
1986, Nakamura established a marketing group of joshikosei only. After graduating
from college in 1988, she launched Boom Planning.
Companies come to Nakamura seeking help from her joshikosei group.
The girls offer frank opinions on behalf of the consumer and have helped manufacturers
develop soft drinks and cosmetics.
Nakamura says: “Remember, the asashan (morning shampoo) and tamagotchi crazes
began with high school girls."
Young girls who wanted their hair looking fresh started monopolizing the bathroom
early in the morning.
Tamagotchi is the egg-shaped virtual pet that had to be fed, loved and groomed-and
became a huge seller.
At the same time, the media spotlighted a dark side of these young women, making
much of enjo-kosai, a euphemism for prostitution or dating older men for money.
Nakamura insists: “It's a pity. A few things done by a few girls got blown out
She has interacted directly with about 5,000 high school girls. The girls affectionately
call her Yakkco-san and have no qualms talking to her about private issues like
their families or friends. Many who have graduated from joshikosei to become wage-earning
adults still drop by Nakamura's office.
One thing that worries her is the cellphone and how it has affected joshikosei.
First of all, the way they make friends has changed. The moment girls meet and
click, they exchange contact addresses and a “friendship" is established.
However, the friendship can be fickle. Girls keep changing addresses to drop unwanted
Nakamura warns: "They can leave the relationship whenever they want. It's
a safety net. Stress-free relationships are making them less tolerant."
And of course, all this socializing does not come free of charge.
The number of girls who take on part-time jobs to pay their phone bills has surged.
“They are busy after school. And since many mothers work, families do not sit
down together for dinner on weekdays anymore. A lot of the girls go on crash diets,
sometimes losing five to 10 kilograms. But they are still growing. I worry about