Japanese Fashion Trends: Yamikawaii+Yumekawaii and Menhera

When thinking about Japanese street fashion, one thinks of pretty pastel colours, pleated skirts and ridiculously cute and pink accessories, but what about the darker side of street fashion? For along time fashion in harajuku has been centered on cute, pink frilly dresses that are, what foreigners describe as “kawaii”, and they are indeed but in the present time, a more darker subculture has formed. An anti-kawaii, non-conformist subculture. (tw)

For a start, we have to focus on where it all began: Yumekawaii (ゆめかわいい). Yumekawaii is basically an umbrella term for all things pastel/kawaii and dreamy such as mahou kei, fairy kei or pop kei. It’s basically the yang to yamikawaii’s ying, dreamy with a touch of dark cynicism contrasted to dark, depressing medical kei with a touch of pastel. Without Yumekawaii, Yamikawaii would not exist. Yumekawaii translates to dreamlike cuteness/prettiness of course and is closely related to fairy kei.


Interestingly, an anti-kawaii movement evolved: yamikawaii. Yamikawaii is a dark fashion style with lots of medical (not yet, not yet) motifs and gory illustration. Hell, Yamikawaii literally translates into Sickly Cute! Yamikawaii is also a prototype to Menhera which we’ll get to later. Yami-kawaii can be compared to it’s western equivalent: pastel goth and cyber goth. In summary, Yamikawaii focuses on darkness and suffering behind the kawaii culture.

Sickly Cute but popular!? Ezaki Bisuko and the character "Menhera-chan"

And now, menhera. Menhera is basically yamikawaii but the “yami” describes their mental anguish~. The term , menhera comes from shortening mental health in japanese and was originally used for “people on the fringe” that had serious mental problems but was adopted by fashion designers who had been previously designing yamikawaii. Menhera as a fashion style features heaps of medical motifs (such as syringes and pills) related to mental health anguish. But the movement is deeper than a fashion movement and Menhera Chan (the unofficial mascot) is a “wrist cutting warrior”. Yeah. It’s dark.

Perhaps the rise of anti-kawaii, dark subcultures of fashion is not surprising. After all, as depression in teens and young adults rise so will their perception of fashion. mental ilness has become popular that these days it’s glamorized so much that it has become a sunculture! Young Adults cannot wear lolita or fairy kei when they feel so sick inside, after all.


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