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Ganguro Girls

Ganguro Girls - Kate Klippensteen This is kind of dated, but ten years ago, this "ganguro" fashion was all the rage in Tokyo. Even under normal circumstances, Tokyo can seem surreal, with all its activity and foreign-ness. Now add to that a sizable portion of the young women suddenly appearing with light brown to bleach-blonde hair, tanning themselves to a crisp (or worse yet, spraying on that orange fake-tan) and donning super-tall platform shoes... it takes weirdness to a whole new (wonderful) level. Here are some images of what was the hip new look back then:Those kids are really overdoing it. What's most interesting about these ganguro (also called "Yamanba") is they had an unofficial leader in pop singer Ayumi Hamasaki, who pioneered their look in the mid 90's, and whose face was on almost every advertising image in Japan circa 2000-2003. Unlike her followers, Hamasaki was almost tastefully reserved about the aesthetic... as tastefully reserved as a bottle-blonde Japanese woman wearing 12" platform shoes can be, anyhow.Like any red-blooded guy in Japan, I had it bad for Ayu-chan (as she was affectionately called) for a few years there. Not only was Ayu appealing to look at, but she came out with a bunch of infectiously kinetic over-the-top electronic club hits which have become the soundtrack for the early 2000's Japan, the same way the Bee Gee's Saturday Night Fever album is a soundtrack for the late 70's disco era. Here's a little taste of her music:Her big single of 1999, "Audience" No? How about the 2001 hit "Evolution"? Nobody, including (or maybe especially) Japanese native speakers seem to know what this song is about, but that didn't stop every club in Roppongi (the "club district" of Tokyo) from playing it constantly.If you like that, you can get some of her albums on Amazon.com, then brag to your friends, hipster-style how you've been listening to this awesome CD that they've probably never heard of. Which, I guess I'm doing here, but at least I'm sharing the links and telling you where to get the album.Maybe this is more of a [b:Stuff White People Like|3106441|Stuff White People Like A Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions|Christian Lander|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320554572s/3106441.jpg|3137694] kind of thing.But it's not just white people. Everybody loves Hamasaki. She has been frequently compared to Madonna, probably because she likes to constantly reinvent herself. Here are some of my favorite Hamasaki incarnations:Squirrel GirlLeopard Woman (I'm sensing a pattern)Whatever you call thisHamasaki as Madonna as a cowgirlHamasaki wondering what she would look like as a brunette(a daring flirtation indeed, for a Japanese pop icon)and of courseHamasaki recast as a twincestuous duoOh, I almost forgot! Like the artist formerly known as Prince, Hamasaki also has her own proprietary typographical symbol to signify her name.Granted, it's little more than a stylized "A", but don't be a hater; I think it's Ayu-riffic.Ugh. Well, I've kind of strayed away from what the book's about. It's essentially a picture book of these ganguro girls, also known as yamanba, who are also the legion Hamasakiites who've fueled this media icon's career, these past 10 years. There's a wide spectrum here; some of these poor girls are outlandish clowns, others are smokin' hot eye candy. (I notice the phrase "smokin' hot eye candy" is more evocative of grusome ophthalmologic injuries than appealing young women. I promise I won't use it again.) There is a little bit of text- mostly superficial blurbs about these girls' hobbies ("shopping" comes up a lot). What did you expect, a PhD dissertation?