As Japan finds itself on the cusp of a new imperial reign -- to be named Reiwa, according to the government's announcement on April 1 -- the nation's collective eyes briefly turned upwards, in the direction of the over 1,200 years of continuous, uninterrupted generations of Japan's imperial family.
Having done that, reports Nikkan Gendai (Apr 11), the focus shifted downward to the hemlines of the skirts of teenage girls. It seems that in the past, as one of the signs of the times, hemlines on the skirts of the "JK" have moved in response to economic or social attitudes.
"JK" is not an abbreviation for "joke," but for joshi kosei, or high school girl. Yasuko Nakamura, a cognoscenti who markets to this particular demographic, predicts flat out that "skirt hems are going to get shorter."
If one looks back to a previous generation, JK fashions went through an extreme period, where the uniform of the day consisted of miniskirts, bobby sox that flopped around the ankles, thick-soled boots and hair tinted light brown (chapatsu). After school classes let out, speckles of glitter were also sprinkled around the edges of their eyes for added effect.
Then as the Heisei era progressed, the pendulum swung back in the opposite direction.
"Nobody in my school has dyed hair," a high school sophomore tells the reporter. "And socks are all the same type -- usually long navy blue ones."
A freshman at another school said the length of her skirt carefully conforms to school regulations. "The appearance doesn't cause anybody to get out of whack," she adds.
According to a survey conducted by a research outfit named Girls' Trends, only 11.55% of teenage girls in 1996 (women who are currently about age 40) wore their hemlines at 15 centimeters or higher above their knees. The figure for JKs in 2018? A considerably higher 33.6% said their skirt hems were 15 cm above the knee. Or higher.
From the view of today's high school girls, however, loose, floppy white sox and short hemlines did not afford a very good balance. "Now it's popular to wear very short sox or long sox that we let slip down to expose the ankle bones," one JK tells Nikkan Gendai. "That makes our legs appear more slender," she added.
But a 38-year-old former gyaru -- as the JKs were referred to in the 1990s -- doesn't care at all for the new look.
"I was jolted by the sight of it," she was quoted as saying, adding she actually felt like screaming out loud. "I think most of the girls now can wear normal sox because they have longer legs. Really short sox in my view are dasai (out of fashion).
The aforementioned Ms Nakamura was asked why these changes seem to be happening now, and she replied, "The JKs' skirt lengths are linked to the winds of change and social conditions.
"From the late 1990s when we saw popular fads like PHS (personal handiphone system) and mobile phones and the purikura (print club photo machines), skirt hems became increasingly shorter and more girls dyed their hair," Nakamura said. "After the stock market crash in 2008, and the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, many girls' skirt hems went back down to knee length, and they stopped dying their hair."
A simpler rule of thumb for following skirt lengths might just be timing it to the adoption of "Abenomics," as no noticeable changes have taken place during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's present tenure, which began in December 2012. With the imminent start of the Reiwa era, however, it's clear that styles are once again becoming more extreme. Perhaps it's reflection that teens' outlooks have turned more optimistic?© Japan Today