There are very few things that can influence an entire country’s culture, especially those that span across generations. They can sometimes be hard to spot and sometimes they are so evident and celebrated that it’s impossible NOT to notice. Need an example? I have one! Japanese schoolgirls. They’ve absolutely permeated Japan’s culture, becoming a fixture in society, and they’re increasingly seeping into the American consciousness as well. Need to know more? Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential: How Teenage Girls Made a Nation Cool by Brian Ashcraft and Shoko Ueda is definitely the book to get.
I’ve always been kind of amazed by the amount of attention Japanese schoolgirls bask in. They’re usually gorgeous, giggly and coquettish, dressed in their sailor-esque school uniforms (however modified they might be), and of COURSE they’re a cultural phenomena. Guys want to be with them, little girls want to be like them and (most) women recall that time in their lives with fond memories. The book probably states it best though, “For Japanese women, the appeal of schoolgirls is that they are in the prime of their lives, unfettered by work, marriage and children. They are young and relatively free. For men, the appeal is the memory of a first crush, of sitting in a classroom surrounded by girls in skirts and sailor outfits.”
Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential digs into the meat of this often fetishized, sometimes misunderstood and certainly ever growing phenomena with surprising wit, knowledge and TONS of references. The book is broken down into manageable chapters that cover everything, from uniforms (since the late 1800s, amazingly!) to music, movies, shopping, books, games, manga — you name it, they’ve at least touched upon the schoolgirl’s influence regarding it.
I found that reading this is almost like reading a very small text book on a topic that is fathoms deeper than I ever imagined. Don’t let the cutesy cover and adorable font throw you off — this isn’t just a fluffer book cashing in on a trend. Ashcraft and Ueda take a scholarly approach to the reasons behind the sometimes overly cutesy trends surrounding these girls, who buys into them and why. From the height and elasticity of their socks over the years to their semi-recent casting as ass-kicking villians (see: Kill Bill), it’s difficult to argue that their influence will do anything but grow.
You see, there’s a bottomless pit of girls that can be the next schoolgirl idol who revives an old trend or creates a new one. No matter what that trend is, whether it be short skirts leaving little to the imagination or long ones swimming around the ankles, it will still be a Japanese schoolgirl behind it and people will always take notice of what she’s decided is the newest and coolest thing.
If you’re into Japanese culture and want to know more about the Harajuku origins or why schoolgirls are on the advertisements for nearly everything, then pick this up. You’ll learn about things you never thought to ask!
Also, as an aside, I’ve been asked recently about Advanced Reader’s Copies from various authors and I’m MORE than willing to take a look at ‘em! Drop me an e-mail! My only warning is this: if I don’t enjoy it or if I think that the Nerdist audience wouldn’t particularly appreciate it, I won’t review it. (For instance: Breastfeeding For New Mothers isn’t a title I’m particularly inclined to put up as a review.) That said, please don’t hesitate to contact me!
Image: Tuttle Publishing