Cosplay in Japanese Culture

Cosplay is not limited to dressing up in costumes from popular TV shows. Cosplay is also seen in traditional Japanese culture and fashion.

Coming of age ceremonies have been held in Japan since at least AD 714, when a young prince got new clothes and a hairstyle to mark their passage into adulthood. The official holiday was first established in 1948, to be held each year on 15 January. In 2000, as a result of the successful system, the Monday on which the Day Of Coming of Age was celebrated on was changed to the second Monday in January.

Many women celebrate this day with the use of Furisode (a kimono with long sleeves that hang) and zori sandals. Since most are unable to put on a kimono by themselves due to the complexities involved in dressing in one, many choose to visit a beauty salon to dress and have their hair done. A complete set of formal clothing is quite expensive, so it is usually taken from a relative or rented rather than bought for the occasion. Men sometimes wear traditional costumes (for example a dark kimono with hakama), but in modern times many men wear formal western clothes, like a suit and a tie, more often than a traditional dress.

The latest street fashion among Japanese women is the smokey eye look. It is a sultry and sexy look that is easy to achieve and which creates stunning results. The smokey eye look has been called the little black dress of make up as it is always stylish. Smokey eyes are perfect anywhere and anytime because the make up needed is not overdone and adds a little bit of mystery and allure to a woman’s look. The smokey eye make up is also useful for vampire Cosplay.

Fantasy and science fiction characters have became very popular Cosplay costumes. Characters from the Star Wars, Star Trek and the Harry Potter series are some of the most popular non-manga characters to be featured in Cosplay events. Anime cartoons such as Naruto, Bleach and Final Fantasy as well as video and computer games are also popular characters to be made into Cosplay costumes. Akatsuki And Organization XIII costumes as well as the ever popular ShinRa were the most common costumes at conventions. Outside of conventions, the most popular Cosplay costumes are school girl outfits and maid uniforms.

Comic books, graphic novels and fantasy movies are also a source of inspiration for Cosplayers.

Bishojo and Moe Characters – The Ideal Female in Japanese Anime and Videogames

“Bishojo” is a Japanese term literally meaning “beautiful girl,” and usually refers to genres of anime and video games that are centered on them. What is considered to be bishojo is subjective to its artists and audiences; such characters can have but are not limited to:

  • Large, endearing eyes to convey her emotions — a characteristic of the anime-art style
  • An ideal female body shape — the hourglass figure
  • An emphasis of the breasts by making them large, giving her sex appeal
  • A wide array of hairstyles, even those that seem impossible in real life
  • Have a wardrobe that includes skirts, blouses, and dresses
  • Moe characteristics

“Moe,” pronounced “mo-eh,” literally referring to a budding plant, is an informal Japanese term meaning a type of feeling towards anime female characters. The moe character exudes an aura of innocence, through her appearance and quirky personality; we might be attracted to her so much that we desire to be with her — to protect her, to be her boyfriend, to be her father, because in our minds she represents the ideal female.

Take the anime series, “K-On!” for example — it can be considered bishojo and moe anime. Mio Akiyama, among fans of the series, is a popular character because she displays moe characteristics. Though she is shown to be serious, we also see her embarrassed and frightened; she generates her audience’s desire to console her as well as protect her from her friend Ritsu Tainaka, who happens to tease her frequently. Mio can also be bishojo due to her hime (hii-may) cut hairstyle; though, all of the female characters of K-On! can be bishojo because the school uniforms they wear make them look cuter (subjective).

Visual novels (VNs) are a popular genre of game in Japan, and are another major source of bishojo and moe characters aside from anime series. The majority of VNs involve romance between a male protagonist and several female romantic prospects. Usually the male protagonist is depicted as a young Japanese or Asian, as it’s assumed that whoever plays such VNs is a male of Asian descent, giving him someone to identify with. A player sees the world in his view, and eyes a girl whom he deems bishojo and moe. He desires to be with her maybe because of her beautiful long black hair and clumsy personality, or he identifies her with a girl he has known in real life — he thus plays the game to vicariously have a relationship with her. In the end, he can have sex with her (in adult-oriented VNs), and/or marry and have children with her.

One might argue that bishojo and moe characters are objectifying the female sex mostly because of the nature of the anime art style. However, others argue it’s not — she offers herself for him to protect, offers herself for him to be with her, and most importantly offers her eternal love and support, not as an object but as if she were a real human female. She can represent a girl a guy has loved, and offer him a second chance with her, giving him a fantasy he cannot otherwise achieve in real life.

The world is an imperfect place and is filled with many broken hearts and loneliness. Bishojo and moe characters offer a perfect fantasy for male, as well as female, audiences to escape the harshness of the real world. It’s a potent concoction that can elicit feelings of longing and nostalgia.

Japanese Fashion and Children – How They Match

If you’re familiar with Japanese culture, you may have a hard time reconciling the fact that Japanese fashion and kid’s clothing can match perfectly. Most Japanese fashion styles originated from cultural, economic, and even historical factors and deviances. Surely, these are things parents should not incorporate in kid’s clothing. Japanese clothes can be loud, flamboyant, and revealing.

However, when it comes to Japanese kid’s clothing, these factors do not apply. The more unorthodox styles such as Japanese street styles, Ganguro, Lolita, and Visual Kei do not appear in Japanese kid’s clothing as is, although their characteristics influence some of the children’s clothes of Japan-for the better.

For instance, there’s Ganguro, the style wherein girls wear school uniform-like clothes. On teenagers, this may seem unusual and even inappropriate. This fashion statement may have stemmed as a take on the Westerner’s perception of Japanese girls through Japanese animation (where the characters are always in school uniform).

But for kid’s clothing, it can be cute and adorable. Imagine a straight navy blue dress with its hem touching the girl’s knee and with a sailor collar with a white stripe for emphasis. It’s simple kid’s clothing that can be used for several occasions-and it is authentically Japanese.

Another unique Japanese fashion style is the Lolita style, named after the controversial novel by Vladimir Nabokov. If you know your literature, you’d have an idea why this may not be the best idea for kid’s clothing. For Japanese kid’s clothing, however, it does the opposite effect. This style for children’s clothing still has a slight influence from the Victorian era. But by changing the patterns from dark and mature to mellow and colorful, it becomes an extremely appropriate kid’s clothing piece.

Japanese kid’s clothing is extremely unique. A usual attire for boy toddlers in Japan include a colorful scarf and colorful rubber shoes, a cap or a bonnet, jean shorts, and a shirt with an extremely creative design. These are simple descriptions-but once you see the actual ensemble, you’d know how it is different from anything you’d see from native fashion styles.

A common factor in Japanese kid’s clothing is its youthfulness and its creativity. The likes of young celebrities such as Suri Cruise, for instance, dress like adults with their penchant from designer brands. While this style isn’t wrong, it makes a child look like a miniature adult. Japanese kid’s clothing aspires for the opposite. It celebrates youth by using patterns, designs, and styles that complement the age of the wearer.

It should be noted that while a lot of the adult Japanese fashion styles are somewhat provocative, the Japanese culture in general actually cultivates timid, quiet, and shy people. These characteristics can actually be seen in the usual attire of the Japanese. The kid’s clothing of Japan that people see in the country is actually a combination of the bold and creative style of the youth and the conservative leanings of the adults. The result is a children’s apparel that is neither inappropriate nor boring.