text and photo by Grigoris A. Miliaresis
It is one of the most common comments voiced by men coming to Japan for the first time, especially if they come between the end of spring and the end of autumn, when the weather is hot and especially if they hang around in Sinjuku, Shibuya or Harajuku: Japanese girls are slutty –the actual word used may vary depending on how thoughtful the person expressing it is but the content remains the same. For the majority of Western men, the way girls and young women (i.e. between 18 and 30) dress in Japan seems to evoke almost immediately thoughts of lack of morals and attitudes lifted from pornographic films.
Summer street fashion in Tokyo and the other big cities of Japan is indeed way more revealing from what one would see elsewhere in the world: miniskirts are very mini, shorts are very short, open backs are very open etc. If we add the extreme high heel shoes, the often surrealistically long and thick eyelashes and the long, illustrated (sic) nails, as well as the absence from the young people of a sense of “TPO” (time, place, occasion) regarding when and where one dresses this or that way, it is not hard to end up with a porn-star image, as perceived in the West and especially in the US. If a woman is dressed this way how is it possible that she is not looking for one-night stands?
Very few pause to think what is it that guides this thought; if they did they would realize that the connection between revealing dress and lax morals is a product of the enforcement of Christian puritanism on Western societies –since the Japanese managed to remain relatively unimpaired from the particular brand of morality, it has no reason to make it. Until the years of WWII, nudity was perfectly acceptable in many expressions of the Japanese, especially in the countryside (Americans who came to Japan during the 1945-1952 occupation speak with astonishment about the mixed common baths) and this is still echoed in the fundoshi, the loincloths which even today are the only piece of clothing worn by festival goers in the various matsuri. All its rigidities withstanding, Japanese society has indeed managed to bypass one of the worst taboos, that related to the naked body –everything else is in the mind of the (Western) viewer.
Grigoris A. Miliaresis is a journalist and translator. He has worked for many newspapers, magazines and publishing houses and specializes in the Internet, the martial arts and Japan where he has been living for the last few years.