Americans might be surprised to learn that in Japan, the word ‘Yankee’ refers to a type of delinquent youth, recognizable by their intimidating appearance and fondness of gaudy hairstyles like the punch perm, mullet, or the waning-in-popularity yet ever so glorious pompadour.
The term originated in Osaka in the 1970s, referring to the young people who wandered the city streets dressed in the flashy clothes symbolic of the fashion shops of the city’s America-Mura (“America Village”) district. As the term spread across Japan, ‘Yankee’ became synonymous with ‘juvenile delinquent’ and it eventually came to describe an entire subculture as the Yankee image was popularized in magazines, television dramas, comic books and other forms of media throughout the 80’s and 90’s.
And now, Japan’s bad-boy culture has entered the digital era with a new social network designed exclusively for Yankees, Yankee I Love You.
Developed by mobile game company Tasuke, Yankee I Love You follows the same formula as other Japanese social networking services (SNS): registration is free and users may fill out their profile, share pictures or write blog posts.
So what does Yankee I Love You offer disgruntled youths that Facebook or Mixi doesn’t?
First you have the dark yet glitzy design, with studded jewel skulls and butterflies for a default profile image instead of that dull upper-body contour. A number of users have uploaded their own profile pictures, the most popular choices being aggressive scowl, generic purikura peace sign pose or a photo of their prized custom lowrider.
If you feel like the profile pic isn’t enough to prove your street cred, you can expand your profile by filling out one of the many customizable forms tailored to reflect the unique and exciting Yankee lifestyle, such as:
・Name of Biker Gang
・What You Think You Were In Your Previous Life
Users may also create and join communities, called “hang-outs,” to discuss shared interests. The site already has hundreds of hang-outs, including communities for people to share stories about run-ins with the law or brag about how sick their ride is.
According to an interview conducted by Yahoo! Japan with the site’s manager, the idea for Yankee I Love You came to developers at Tasuke after the success of an image-sharing mobile application targeted at Yankees.
User registration has increased to a pace of about 700 per day since the site launched on February 24 and shows no signs of slowing down. There are slightly more male users than female, and many people use the site to share pictures of their vehicles or recruit members for “clubs.”
Despite the rough nature of the site’s clientele, the site manager comments that there have been no issues with users thus far.
When asked about plans for the future of Yankee I Love You: “Yankees are people who value love and friendship and are extremely loyal to their group. We want to create beautiful site worthy of this Yankee spirit.”
Yankee I Love You provides Yankees across the country with a comfortable outlet to connect and communicate. And if the site lives up to its promises, it could also provide an opportunity for people to rethink a unique Japanese subculture that, while dwindling in number, rides on strong in spirit.