Yami Kawaii – The Unspoken Side of the Harajuku Style

How do you deal with deteriorating mental health? Do you talk about it? Go seek professional help? Get busy and try to overcome the sadness? Or do you do what is the most harmful way of dealing with this is – ignore it. Mental health should be a being’s top priority as it is the basis of living a healthy life. No one can help you better than you can when it comes to this. Often people seek help from a therapist but one can’t get better if onedoesn’t want to. Expressing yourself is the key to getting better. When Preeti Shenoy tried committing suicide after years of regressing mental health and crippling anxiety, she wrote a book about it and got word out. When poetess, Blythe Baird, was raped and had body issues, she wrote words – sometimes of dark hateful past and sometimes of the power she willed herself to conjure to overcome it all and presented it to the world as spoken poetry that then helped other people who were in need of it. When Rachel Wiley dealt with body shamming and anxiety, she wrote a book of all her poems and helped people. But the most important of it all, they helped themselves. But writing and talking aren’t the only ways you can express yourself. A budding dressing subculture in Japan is giving rise to artists and social influencers to break taboos and talk about problems with the power of fashion and dressing up – yami kawaii.

Yume means dream, often associated with pastel colours and happy, glittery things. But Yami is when Yume goes dark. Kawaii is cute in Japanese. Yami Kawaii (やみ かわいい) together, make “sick cute”. It talks about or rather, depicts depression and suicidal tendencies out as a dressing style. The basis of this dressing style is to empower people to talk openly about their degrading mental health as it is something the Japanese remain hush – bush about. It is considered rude to talk about it openly thus leading Japan to have the highest suicide rates in the world for people ranging from mostly 20 to 24 years old – not something a country would want to rank in, right? Well, India is not that far off either.

While no one can put a tab on when this budding form of dressing came into light, people do know that Harajuku district of Japan, which is often known as the fashion hub of the country is where it was first spotted. The district houses different types of dressing styles with or without purposes. Kuua, a Japanese origin influencer and artist with over 56000 followers on Instagram, is a popular celebrity who perfectly understands this culture and fully embodies it, has explained what she thinks about it. Another popular face that is spoken about when this topic is in light is Ezaki Bisuko, an artist. He also designed the, currently in use, mascot – Menhera chan. They are both open about their troubled pasts and feelings towards it, which is probably why their fans love them so much. They understand and are relatable to majority of the Japanese youth. They both look at this style as something that can break the social chains with and let people talk about things that effect them mentally. They aspire to change the thinking of the very country they live in.

The dressing style is a blend of cute looking clothing items paired with dark pieces. Colours which are pleasant to the eyes at first, like soft pink and baby colours, but on a closer look have unconventional messages written on them like “I want to die” or “I hate you”, etc. The look is often cute looking pieces of clothing which may seem nice but are sort of restrictive and troublesome sometimes. The style is paired up with unconventional make up. The slight red blush beneath the eyes with pale skin is the most used look. People go for piercings and tattoos too. Accessories include chokers, which are often blood coloured or spikey; or neck pieces which are syringes or knives. Often medical supplies are used such as bandages and hospital tools. Fake Blood is a commonly used aid in these looks. While it makes some onlookers uncomfortable, it holds a deeper meaning that perhaps not everyone gets, as of yet. This look is so popular that merchandise revolving around yami kawaii is surfacing such as – badges, photo cards, menhera chan toys, etc. The whole idea of looking cute and pleasing to the eyes of other people while hinting on self – harm messages is that people look cute and mentally stable on the outside but on the inside is where they are a raging storm of self – hate and depression all because this society, run by conformity and rigid rules, does not want to help the people who are suffering silently. There can be people, “functioning normally” and who adhere to all the social norms and customs but when alone, find solace in the idea of ending their life and that is exactly what the style is trying to portray.

Menhera chan originates from the root word menhera (病) which means sick or mentally ill. It is the current mascot of the style and is incredibly popular. When Bisuko was bullied by his family members, he took it to himself to better his condition. He started drawing menhera chan as an act of escape from reality. But slowly as he gained popularity, he started putting much effort into it as it is now work and his major source of spreading his word out. Menhera chan is a kawaii character in a high school uniform which upon the first look, looks completely “normal” but on further intense glance, has some troubling attributes. With bandages on her wrists from the self – harm to uneven hair as a result to cutting your own hair as an act of rebellion, she is the face on many accessories and print on t-shirts that are used by people who follow this subculture. The character was made to reflect on the exact ideology of what Bisuko believes in. Menhera chan also has her own, fairly popular, manga series which shows her going about her normal life while dealing with her issues which provides people with the will to keep living and something to hold on to.

This style has been picked up by people internationally as well. With the number of vlogs by fashion bloggers online, from trying this style because they relate to it to just wanting to understand what other people are going through, this style is making people surge towards it. And hey, we aren’t complaining! People who come to Japan due to work or studies also pick this style up and help spread the word across the world in their own way which is a contribution worth recognizing.

Suicide is not just an unfortunate happening on a small scale any more but is happening across the world nowadays and it’s alarming how most of the victims who succumb to this belong to the youth. Japan has the highest suicide rates in the world with a total of 71%. China cutting in a close with 22.33% and India following it with a whopping 17%. So what is going wrong exactly? Reasons, if listed, are endless but the biggest problem is not talking about it. A great deal can happen if you just open up to someone. Maybe you would help yourself, maybe you would help the other person, or maybe you would help each other. It is a global epidemic that we can fight off only together. As Chris Martin, an author and speaker rightfully said, “You’ve got to express yourself in life and it’s better out than in. What you reveal, you heal.”

This Article is Written By : Vidhi Tiwari 

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3 thoughts on “Yami Kawaii – The Unspoken Side of the Harajuku Style

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