Author: emilynakkan

Taking a closer look at Gyaru

When looking at autoethnography the most important element to look at is how our own culture influences how we experience another culture. What are the experiences that I’m drawing from to make sense of Gyaru culture? I’ve always been interested in fashion, probably more so in my high school years, when I attended Tafe where I studied fashion design. So studying fashion trends is something that I’ve always been fascinated about. My first impression of the Gyaru style was WOAH! That’s a lot of makeup and colour; I don’t think I could ever walk outside of the house wearing something so intense and bright. However After taking a step back and looking at the reasons that they enjoy dressing in such a style, such as the confidence it gives them and sense of pride to belong to the Gyaru subculture, it dawned on me that it may not be to the same extent but the way I dress and apply my makeup gives me a sense of confidence when leaving the house each morning.


Something I noted in my previous post is how Gyaru’s identify with each other through aesthetics, adding to my assumption that Gyaru is a very material based culture. But we all to some level do the same thing identifying with each other by the way one looks, dresses, and grouping together with people that are similar to ourselves. Reber, Schwarz and Winkieman (2004) look at this “relationship between beauty and various aesthetic judgments, such as judgments of preference and judgments of aesthetic value”, being attracted to people that look like ourselves.

It was clear to me in my initial research that Gyaru’s motivation was more then just fashion they are making a statement for or against something. After further research I discovered that school uniforms are worn inside and outside of school hours; the sailor style uniform was introduced in japan in the 1920s (Tokyo girls update, 2015).

japanese-school-uniform-051-402x600.jpegThe uniform styles were originally designed based on old European military uniforms since then there have been modifications to the uniform while still maintaining the sailor style. These uniforms representing Japanese conformity and self control (Dave LaSpina, 2007). Dressing in sailor uniforms also contributed to the Jap6bba19dd9b37573cad8d4957583da5f6anese Kawaii (cute) culture.

Dressing Gyaru was a way of rebelling against the sailor style that represents tradition and conformity. Fashion designer Keita Maruyama explains that they are “breaking from the reserved looks of the past, wearing things not for boys but for themselves.” Making a statement that prim and proper is a thing of the past. By modifying the school uniform and wearing the Gyaru style they are displaying their independence and power as young people. Being able to wear whatever you want and present who you are as a person through fashion is something that people of all culture can relate to. I remember in school wearing bright shocks and shoes, which was against the rules but I enjoyed looking different to everyone else. Even if it was just my shoes.

Maruyama also discusses the inspiration of Gyaru and how it’s turned into something different and special they “wanted to look like black people but in the process have created something completely new”, a style that was influenced by western cultures has become recognisably Japanese.

“An autobiography should be aesthetic and evocative, engage readers, and use conventions of storytelling such as character, scene, and plot development” (Ellis, 2011). My blogs will hopefully fulfil this storytelling convention to show my journey of the development of my understanding Gyaru’s and all the different elements that contribute to their culture. The more I read into about the culture and the motivations for being a Gyaru, the more I realise its more then just lots of makeup and bright clothing. I’m super excited to experience and write about this culture, telling my journey of understanding it.



lets go Gyaru!!

When trying to decide on something to investigate I changed my mind a couple of times before finally deciding on the Japanese subculture Gyaru. Gyaru translates in English to ‘gal’ and has been a popular movement in Japan from the 1990’s” (Ayaya, 2014).

But what are these ‘gals’ all about? The more I looked into it the more apparent it became that it was more then just a fashion style, becoming a Gyaru means devoting ones entire life to the trend, “Some have even dropped out of school to maintain this lifestyle” (Nihonamor, 2011). This is just so bazaar to me, their dedication to a style, the more I looked into it the more questions I had.

As I was researching Gyaru and what they are all about I took down some dot points on my thoughts and questions that arose. I really want this post to just be about my earliest understanding and analysis of this subculture, so my epiphany moments can be observed through my writing. Epiphanies through research will shape my artefact and understanding of Gyaru as a subculture.

  • Wow sooo much makeup, that must take almost half the day to apply!
  • They seem to be making a statement against something • More then just a fashion statement these girls live a different lifestyle
  • The style gives them confidence
  • Lots of bedazzling!
  • Found the show ‘girls life Gyaru Shakurina’. A drama based on the life of a Gyaru. Difficult to understand what’s going on without subtitles, needing to concentrate more on body language
  • Getting frustrated by lack of subtitles, wanting to know what they are talking about
  • Are they prostitutes? Or some kind of hostesses? Even with all the makeup and everything they look too young and innocent to be hostesses?
  • Decided to search the term Gyaru on reddit, mainly finding threads on Gyaru porn
  • Black diamond, Gyaru movement making a comeback
  • The movement has influencer personalities who promote the fashion and lifestyle
  • They undeniably Stand out in the crowd
  • They can all be grouped together but still have an individual style
  • Young girl power group wanting to “conquer the world”
  • Go to tanning salons everyday? Need to devote life to this look to maintain it
  • Starting from a young age to get the look
  • Only wear brand DIA- most popular of 1-0-9 brands • Selling their clothes on Facebook for those who cant access them
  • They seem very friendly- want everyone and anyone to join them in their lifestyle
  • Some more casual then others
  • There are different types of Gyaru some more intense than others
  • Men can even be Gyaru, and are referred to as Gyaru-Oh
  • Lots of effort to maintain this look- trying hard to take on this style
  • Gals identify each other through aesthetics- very material based culture
  • Always room for improvement

So after my initial thoughts from googling the subculture I had many questions and needed to find out more. So where did this whole subculture begin? “Shibuya is now famous as the birthplace and mecca of modern Gyaru style As Shibuya became the social destination for Tokyo youth in the late 1980s” (Marx, 2012). This subculture and trend has grown since it originated and there are now many different types of Gyaru, while they look the same in terms of their out there style, they are all very different. Below are a few of the main styles I repeatedly came across;

Ganguro; they love fake tan, bleaching their hair and wearing extremely bright fashion


Hime Gyaru; translating to princess, going for a more ‘cute’ look lots of whites and pinks


Kogal/Kogyaru; The schoolgirl look. 1091dcc3ed2da8f03be00d684abe532e1249785492_full

Black diamond; the newest Gyaru movement similar to Gangurojapanese-gyaru-black-diamond-007-600x400(all images from google images)

Getting back to autoethnography. Ellis, 2011 explains the importance of looking at experience analytically “Otherwise [you’re] telling [your] story—and that’s nice—but people do that on Oprah [a U.S.-based television program] every day. Why is your story more valid than anyone else’s? What makes your story more valid is that you are a researcher. You have a set of theoretical and methodological tools and a research literature to use. That’s your advantage. If you can’t frame it around these tools and literature and just frame it as ‘my story,’ then why or how should I privilege your story over anyone else’s I see 25 times a day on TV?”

Using YouTube and blogs as my main field sites for my autoethnographic research. To present this autoethnography I’m going to write three blog posts, each exploring a certain element about Gyaru’s and their culture. Russo and Watkins (2005) discuss how digital communication “seeks to build a co-creative relationship between the cultural institution and the community by using new media to produce audience-focused cultural interactive experiences”. I want to create a digital artefact that is easily accessible by all and encourages engagement in Gyaru culture. “When researchers write autoethnographies, they seek to produce aesthetic and evocative thick descriptions of personal and interpersonal experience” (Ellis, 2011).

Taking a closer look


“The concept and method called auto-ethnography is an attempt at practicing this self-reflexivity by having a closer look at one’s own longings and belongings, with the familiarity that—when viewed from a distance—it can change one’s perspective considerably.” Christiane Kraft Alsop (2002) looks at this idea that reflecting on personal experiences in relation to new experiences of culture and how this can change ones perception. At the time when watching the film my reactions were confused and a little frustrated, as I wasn’t connecting with the content (as I knew zip about e-sports), however as the film went on I was forced to locate elements of the film I found interesting. The experience changed and became more enjoyable and I was intrigued with the lives that these gamers lived. This world was so far from my own and I think the fact that I was confused by it is what made it intriguing. In this post ill be Looking back at my first blog post from a distance and using my analysis to achieve better understanding of Korean e-sports culture.

Context is a major element to interpretation and had significant impact on the way I analysed the film. The viewing environment being that i was in a class studying digital Asia content and knowing that after watching the film I would have to write an autoethnographic blog on it. I’m almost positive that if I watched it outside of this subject I wouldn’t of had as much of an open mind towards it.

In terms of looking at my personal past culture impacting the process of understanding State of play, my lack of prior knowledge or interest in e-sports is why I analysed the documentary the way I had, focusing on relationships and the fandom surrounding the players rather than the gaming itself.


In my first blog an element that interested me was the fan girl culture. I made assumptions that for them it was all about their crush on the players, feeding into gender stereotypes made about the female fans. An article written from the point of view of a fan girl explores the relationship a fan girl has with the sport and with the players. She describes the struggles of being a fan and the gender stereotypes present. They are perceived as merely girls with crushes having little to no knowledge of the game. The way she talks about the players and the relationship they share is interesting, it’s not their level of hotness or what they wear “It is someone who recognizes the same dream as the person they are cheering for and walks together in that person’s journey”

E-sports and those who compete in the games to many are still not considered as ‘real’ athletes, a thought I definitely had prior and even post watching the film. The BBC wrote an article interviewing Lee Young-ho a member of one of the top e-sports teams. During the interview lee revealed a large scar on his arm from an operation he had undergone as a result of gaming “Repetitive strain had injured Mr Lee’s muscles, deforming them and making surgery the only option to save his illustrious career.”


As I was reading the article I was shocked along side the reporter that gamers were destroying their bodies for just a game, however this is me again making assumptions as, if it was any other sport I would not be surprised.

After doing my research on e-sports in Korea it has become clear to me that this world is much bigger and more complex then at first glance. An article by The New York Times discusses how e-sports is now apart of mainstream entertainment “Couples going to game clubs is about as common as couples going to the movies” Chung also evaluates how it is thanks to Korea that e-sports has reached this level of mainstream acceptance “Other countries took years to catch up and are to this date trying to mimic some of their successes.” We may look at e-sports and gaming culture as weird now but really Korea is just ahead of the game and in a few years this culture will be even more common than dogs riding skate boards.


My autoethnographic take on State of Play


I am defiantly not a gamer, nor do I know very much about gaming so the documentary state of play showed an entirely new world to me. At first I thought here we go this is going to be real boring. However the film didn’t so much focus on the game but the emotions, relationships and different roles the culture of StarCraft impacted. Ellis describes autoethnography as analysing ones own personal experiences to understand cultural experiences, it “allows writers to make events engaging and emotionally rich.” this methodology embraces the fact that it is impossible to be completely subjective when writing about another’s culture. Which I think is a really interesting that the reader upfront is informed of the probable bias in the writing.

My lack of knowledge about the world of e-sports and StarCraft influenced the way I viewed the film. When looking at my personal experience of being a non-gamer its no surprise that that element of the documentary didn’t really resonate with me and I chose almost subconsciously to concentrate on the emotional and relationship elements.

There were two main elements to the film that really intrigued me. The sense of belonging and family bond between the players as a result of their love for the game and feeling the pressures of the gaming lifestyle. This theme Resonates no matter the culture as everyone wants this sense of belonging no matter the sport or lifestyle.

Another element that really fascinated me was the lack of female players and the role that the fan girls played. The way the fan girls behaved was something that was interesting I thought that they were all very polite for fan girls. When the game finished they all stood around waiting to give there gifts and either congratulate or console their crush. Comparing that to for example when Justin Bieber came to Australia, his fan girls went insane some even being sent to hospital for injuries sustained from being crushed in the mosh frantically trying to just touch the Biebs, there was no politely waiting in line.

Below are some dot points of my thoughts while watching the film.

  •  A game about confidence and bluff
  •  Everyone in the audience is so into it, just watching a video game- most people would rather play then watch?
  •  gaming pop stars
  •  Surrounded by girls, wanting autographs, getting gifts
  •  Looking at family life- “why do you open new bottles of water when the previous isn’t finished”- seeing similarities in family life
  •  Pro gamer left home at 16 to pursue gaming
  •  Players are brothers- family
  •  Rigid training schedule- they all look like zombies when they play
  •  Kids getting drafted from as young as 12
  •  These Kids all have gaming in common and become a family because of it- sense of belonging to gaming community
  •  Like an elite school they get drafted/chosen to join this new league some even dropping out of school for this lifestyle
  •  “doesn’t see sunlight and that’s why I have a crush on him”- they train hard- there hard work is valued and seen as attractive
  •  Family is a construct that is the same universally?
  •  school– he’s sleeping up the back of class- relatable
  •  The way they talk about girls- similarities
  •  Is there this same culture for other games?
  •  Why star craft?
  •  Movie is about gender, masculinity in Korea- no female players, female role is to watch and swoon
  •  Bond between players, and between family