Night of the Living Dollers

When Masahiro Mori (the famed japanese robot technician) coined the phrase the uncanny valley, a term which describes the feeling of revulsion humans experience when facing a robot or android that looks too human, he was describing Dollers . 

Dollers are an extreme niche of the cosplay world. The great majority are men in their late teens to early twenties and they look a little like this.

The wide, dead stare, the flawless plastic skin and the silent smile of a killer.
Recently Madonna used dollers in her music video for “Give Me All Your Luvin'” (they were the second most plastic thing in it).

Animegao employs full body suits and full head masks made of plastic, fibreglass and clay. The can be bought online (how could you go into a shop for it?) for about 80,000 yen ($1000). Many “dollers” choose to customise their own, gluing on wigs and painting in their own eyes. If you are looking for an art project check out Nukopan’s online shop.

Discover more with an interview with a doller here.

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Brand Loyalty in Japan

There is a huge obsession in Japan for luxury brands. Louis Vuitton reins supreme over the streets of Tokyo.

If you are not carrying, you ain’t no-one.

Japanese women make up just 2% of the population of Asia but make up 50% of the overall sales of luxury brands in the area. In 2010 a quarter of all luxury goods were bought in the Japanese market and Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Coach and Tiffany counts on Japan for an average of 13 percent of total profit.

During the Meiji period (1868-1912) Japan made a huge push to westernise and do away with the old political and social structures. Japan adopted the British government style, German medicine and French fashion. The people who survived these changes wore French clothes, held western style cocktail parties and engaged in social dancing. After the war, once again Japan adapted to the American style of education and business. Western brands were rare and highly valued, when food and clothes were cheap and poorly made, a famous name was the safest choice. The Japanese addiction to Western luxury fashion brands arose in the 1960s and 1970s with the rapid expansion of the new middle class that wanted to show off their success. Due to the tight space restrictions of Japan, especially in the cities, the Western way to enjoy, as well, as to exhibit one’s riches with mansions and large properties in leafy neighbourhoods, was near impossible. The Japanese chose to show their wealth by dressing richly. Additionally, the dense traffic and tight parking meant luxury cars were pointless. The more expensive the luxury articles worn the higher the status of the person wearing them. The ultimate status symbols in Japan were luxury fashion goods such as couture clothes, leather purses, shoes and accessories, silk scarves, watches, furs, and jewels.

But, in a country whose economy has stagnated for the last 20 years, there is a disproportionate amount of people walking around with the latest in high-end fashion. Young people including high school students who seemingly work regular jobs in offices and shops have enough disposable income to afford the best what Paris fashion has to offer. Japan has an issue with Parasite Singles, a recent survey showed that 60% of single men and 80% of single women aged 20-34 lived at home with their parents. A shocking 84% said they did not have to help with household expenses and 50% claimed to receive financial aid from The Bank of Mum and Dad.
An article in The Washington Post described one Parasite single;

Miki Takasu is 26 years old, beautiful, drives a BMW and carries a
2,800 USD Chanel handbag–when she isn’t using her Gucci, Prada or
Vuitton purses. She vacations in Switzerland, Thailand, Los Angeles,
New York and Hawaii. Happily unmarried, living with her parents
while working as a bank teller, she is what people here call a
“parasite single”…
…They shop. Rings and watches by Cartier, Bulgari, and Hermes
costing 2,000 to 3,000 USD are particularly popular among working
women, who buy themselves presents for special occasions–a Cartier
ring to celebrate her 10th anniversary on the job, or a gift to herself
on turning 30.
They travel. Miki, who earns about 28,000 USD a year, frequently
makes quick shopping trips to Korea, has been to Hawaii three times
and to Malaysia and Egypt as well–all with girlfriends.

This frees up a huge proportion of their salary to take trips, socialize and buy what ever they want.
As mentioned before Japanese society is seated in outward appearances and a sense of belonging to a greater group. Owning a brand that is coveted by others helps the owner to not only feel important and fashionable but also shows that they are part of the tribe. In the quest to fit in girls have been known to turn to more dramatic measures. The infamous enjo kosai problems of the 1990s when junior high school students would sell dates with themselves to older men.
Another reason brands are so important to young people especially women is the limited job market and low female social status. having the funds to buy yourself a bag, a watch, a car or to travel boosts your self-confidence in a way that a marriage and 1.67 children (the national average) can’t.

Brand loyalty in Japan extends also to food, electronics and cars although it is the opposite story. Japanese brands are trusted more than their foreign counterparts. Australian beef is cheaper than Japanese beef and vegetables from neighbouring parts of Asia are almost half what the Japanese versions cost. The 10 highest grossing brands in Japan are all domestic companies from Toyota to Sharp.

The strange world of the Lolita

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The word Lolita immediately conjures up images of overly sexualized
tweens and clammy handed old men; On the streets of Harajuku it the
complete antithesis.
Showing less skin than Queen Victoria’s prude aunt, Lolitas inhabit
the streets of Tokyo’s most famous district, Harajuku.

The cultures origins are unclear but it reached a peak in the 1990s
when visual-kei bands (androgynous man-boys wearing make up, elaborate
hair styles and Tim Burtonesque outfits) and brands such as Baby, The
Stars Shine Bright and Metamorphose temps de fille became mainstream.

The craze is almost always portrayed in a sexual way. Japan’s infamous
obsession with all things young means the term Lolita is also shared
with the far creepier and disturbing, Lolicon (google at own
risk…………..seriously)
One Lolita follower talked about this with Publishers Weekly


“We certainly do not do this for the attention of men. Frequently,
female sexuality is portrayed in a way that is palatable and
accessible to men, and anything outside of that is intimidating.
Something so unabashedly female is ultimately kind of scary, in fact,
I consider it to be pretty confrontational. Dressing this way takes a certain kind of ownership of one’s own sexuality that wearing expected
or regular things just does not. It doesn’t take a lot of moxie to put
on a pencil skirt and flats.”

Although the culture was at its most popular in the late 90s early
2000s, many still truss themselves up in bloomers, corsets, mounds of
petticoats and a nunnery’s worth of lace (even in the blistering heat
of a Tokyo summer).

There are also sub cultures within the Lolita movement (sub-sub
culture?)
Gore Lolita; incorporating fake blood and bandages.
Wa-loli; traditional Japanese clothes modified to fit the Lolita aesthetic.
Oji-Lolita (Oji meaning Prince); embracing Victorian era boy styles like knickerbockers, boating hats, blouses
and knee-high ribboned socks

The cutesy concept of Lolita fashion is a staple in Japan with flowery
girly brands such as Liz Lisa and Cath Kidson catering to the
pigeon-toed girly girl masses who flock to Shibuya and Harajuku.