Book Review: Fashioning Japanese Subcultures

After seeing a post on egl about a book about Japanese subcultures, I knew I had to buy it.

Generally speaking, books on this subject haven't been too great. They've been picture-heavy (often with incorrect pictures to represent certain styles) and devoid of information.

Fashioning Japanese Subcultures by Yuniya Kawamura is very different. It is almost entirely text, with in-depth analyses of various subcultures such as lolita, gyaru and mori girl. Instead of simply describing what these styles consist of, Kawamura has delved into the communities of these cultures (taking a Japanese insider perspective which can often clash with those of western followers of these fashions and subcultures) and has quoted many people for their personal opinions.

The book is very well referenced, suggesting Kawamura spent an awful lot of time and effort on her research.

What I found particularly interesting was the first section of the book, which handles an investigation into the economic climate of Japan, shedding light on the mindset of the people. Kawamura then makes connections between how the changing and increasingly bleak Japanese economy has impacted the way people view their lives, and caused the development of subcultures.

Those interested in the fashion industry as a whole will enjoy the chapter on the deprofessionalisation of fashion. It makes note of some obvious things I never really paid attention to-- how it is young people in these subcultures creating the fashions and making the rules, rather than waiting for high fashion brands to tell them what to wear.

Where the book falls down is its inclusion of photographs. There are a handful of colour plates shoved in the middle of the book that really don't need to be there, with one being a repeat of the book cover, and others being poor quality, cheap digicam pics that add nothing to the book whatsoever. If photos were to be included, they should have been carefully chosen and integrated with their appropriate chapters to make the book more cohesive, and add a visual appeal which is definitely lacking. This is not a book you can flip through to gaze at the pictures, but first and foremost an academic research book.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in Japanese subcultures, or who considers themselves part of them already. Yes, there are moments where the commentary is a little vague or downright incorrect, but I have not been able to find anything else out there that comes close to what Kawamura is giving us here. Plus, the cover is pretty damn cute.

I rate this book with 4 hearts out of 5!