Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential: How Teenage Girls Made a Nation Cool

Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential: How Teenage Girls Made A Nation Cool - Brian Ashcraft, Shoko Ueda OK, so I’ve read a book about Japanese Schoolgirls; It really isn’t what you think.

Here’s the thing. If you watch a Japanese film, anime, read manga or Japanese literature, the hero, the villain, the principle characters always seem to either be, or have connections to Japanese School Girls, and I want to know why. Why is it modern Japanese stories always feature young, strong, female characters, when other nations output almost always has girls as fodder for the male leads and, at best, love interests.

Japanese School Girls Confidential was my attempt at understanding why this is.

The format of the book, is alas, that of a teenybop magazine, (so wasn’t going to read it on the train, too pink by half), it is only short, and not very in-depth, the sections are broken down into things that Japanese school girls might find interesting - clothes, j-pop, films, mobile phones, art, computer games, girls magazines, and a section of the sailor uniform. In addition the American(?) author appears to be married to a Japanese School Girl (who co-authored the book).

All of this did not bode well for a serious discussion, and frankly gives the volume a slight tinge of the being perved at.

Despite this, the initial question was indeed answered. Japan after WWII took a long time to recover economically and up until the 80’s and 90’s, girls in Japan were expected to follow the usual traditions. In the era of the mobile phone (and before that the pager) they rebelled. So the Japanese School Girl is the Nihon equivalent of the Rockers and Mods in the 50s & 60s, or the Punks in the 70s, in short, they are COOL because they don't conform to what is expected by society.

With my interest piqued, I also found the desire for conformity interesting - so a rebel, that conforms to the norm of being a rebel... (to the point where some girls wear ‘fake’ school uniforms outside of school). I also enjoyed some of the artwork of some of the young Japanese artists, the anime/manga, and was even surprised by the inclusion of a bibliography at the back.

Overall not an all bad book then, but a little of the kawaii side for me, and needed more depth and maybe even some academic rigour.