Heart Girl

K is for kogal

Text: Sky Whitehead
Extra help: N8, Matt Kaufman, Lisa Ling
Photo of kogal group: Elizabeth Duby-san

Walking up from the subway towards Hachiko Square in Shibuya, the suit-and-tied man is treated to candy thigh glimpses at each flight of stairs. At ground level, the world-famous courtyard is a meeting place for waves of pedestrians flowing to their respective trains. Center-Gai is an expanse of shops ranging from karaoke, fast food, apparel, music, street vendors, drinking establishments, and both love hotels and pay-for-sex outfits. Here, the post-pubescent girls catch his eye: their waists, the clichˇ plaid skirts, white button-up shirts, Polo sweaters, and loose socks (wrinkled and bunched at the ankles) giving the leg a straight, trunk-like appearance.

The glimpse of panties up a juvenile's skirt barely makes the trip bearable for the commuter. After transferring to another packed subway, he spots some nubile nymphets and firmly presses his old body upon them. Finally, he begins his walk to work. Beginning the trek towards Dogenzaka, the man's gaze rests on the gaggle of uniformed school girls in Matsumoto Kiyoshi, their discount drugstore and shoplifting hangout. Directly above his head, one of two Diamond Vision screens advertises the latest music video by one of countless superstar idols.

Making his way through the thinning crowds and up the hill, he makes his way beyond telephone posts plastered with advertisements showing breasty and ready animated high school girls. These are ads for local "Health" and "Image Play" sex establishments. "Crystal," a chain of these service stations, has a hawker on the street advertising the morning special, which is ´1,000 off of their "Grand Opening" bargain price of ´3,980. "Good morning," the OLs (office ladies) greet him, welcoming him to work. Welcome to the mind of some middle-aged Japanese salaryman.

Countless cyclical waves of what are called "boom" have washed over Japan. Until very recently, one could not avoid the boom surrounding Japan's high school girls, who are also dubbed kogal (kou-gyaru). The word is believed to have its roots in kou, meaning "high," as in high school, and gyaru, for "gal." It was first used among students, and then the press blitzed on their shocking practices. The term "kogal" conjured images of their sailor girl uniforms, and later, the most cosmopolitan, fashion-conscious of the high school female set which sports brown-dyed hair, skirts rolled up high, thick white loose socks, expensive bags, and cell phones.

[N E X T P A G E]


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