The strong economy from the mid-’80s to the collapse of Nikkei in 1991 brought the transformation of young women in Japan. There was a social phenomenon that young women were behaving like old men (Oyaji), and the new term was coined and originated from a manga by Yutsuko Chusonji – “Oyaji gal.” It didn’t refer to their appearance, as their aesthetics were far from that of Oyaji. They had their long hair permed and wore a feminine, body-conscious mini dress. But they’d go to places where only Oyaji used to patronize, such as a particular type of izakaya, pachinko parlors, horse racing stadium. They enjoyed expensive whiskey and played golf among men. They worked hard into the late night, so they started to release stress in places that used to only cater to Oyaji because only Oyaji used to be stressed out of corporate jobs.
Then came Juliana’s Tokyo. Juliana’s Tokyo was a discotheque opening in the Tokyo waterfront in 1991, at the peak of the bubble economy. Disco had been popular since the ’70s, but Juliana’s took off in a different direction. What distinguished Juliana’s was the women. They wore a long one-length hairstyle and wore a dress that was so tight that it revealed the body line and so short that T-back shorts were almost visible. There was a platform for them to perform their unique dance on the dance floor, swinging a feather-decorated fan to the Euro-beat music. As popularity grew, their dresses became skimpier, and the expression of their sexuality more intense.
Old, conservative, and rural people frowned on the sight of these young women while objectifying them by differentiating them from women around them. But to me, they symbolized liberation and power. They celebrated their sexuality as it was nothing to be ashamed of, despite the society imposed them coyness and prudishness. They didn’t have to listen to the men any longer, because they could earn their living. They could choose their life path for the first time in the history of Japan. They didn’t have to act like reserved women as their mothers did. They could seduce men and enjoy sex. They could indulge themselves in pleasure while they were young because they could afford it. The war had ended. The destitute was bygone.
Juliana’s Tokyo closed four years later when the momentum dissipated as the country slid into depression. Young people were waking up from the daze of afterparty to the new reality.
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