During a brief stint teaching English at a rural elementary and junior high school in Japan a few years ago, I was surprised to see how much more fashionable Japanese kids are than their American counterparts.
Not actually at school; they were all in their school or gym uniforms on schooldays (though many elementary schools now allow personal clothes). But when the weekend hit, many of my students would transform into little fashionistas and roam the local shopping mall—with a parent or guardian, of course.
I always wondered where they picked up their fashion sense from, and after seeing a few pages from JS Girl, a semimonthly fashion magazine for elementary school-aged girls in Japan, I think I finally get it, and it makes me a little sad.
JS Girl is a magazine dedicated to “elementary school girls who want to become models and shine as bright as the stars.” After launching in February 2011, there has been a new volume published roughly every two months, for a total of 11 volumes as of October 2012.
“JS” is an abbreviation for “joshi shougakusei”, or elementary school girl, which means the magazine title can be translated as Elementary School Girl Girl.
The images below were all taken from past issues of JS Girl and shared on Japanese internet message boards for laughs, which suggests that even most Japanese people think this is ridiculous.
These first two images share what 4th grade models Airi Tozawa and Misaki Angelica (?) Okamoto keep in their randoseru backpacks:
▼ “Elementary school kids these days keep super cute things in their bag!”
In the first image, we can see Airi brings her DS with a custom-designed case to school. Misaki, on the other hand, carries both a regular cell phone and an iPhone to surf the net and listen to music. As one Japanese netizen comments: “I wouldn’t be surprised to see a pack of condoms mixed in as well.”
Next up is the “JS Reader Model” section, where JS Girl shines the spotlight on some of their more fashionable readers. Here we have a week in the life of 6th-grader Nanami Iijima.
▼ “When walking around Shibuya, comfortable and casual is the best!”
JS Girl also surveys readers on what kind of accessories they bring to school, organized by categories such as “Health Care Pouch”, “Lunch Time Goods”, and even “Child Safety Alarm”.
However, as another insightful commenter points out, while one of the kids carries a whistle for safety, the other two reveal that they don’t have anything (as signified by the two hearts with smiley faces in the center of the image). This wouldn’t be a problem if the survey was anonymous, however JS Girl lists both the real name and age of the contributors. If they added the city and maybe school they attend, JS Girl could put together a rather useful guidebook for kidnappers.
If I remember correctly, one of the best things about being a dumb little kid is that you don’t care about fashion or the way you look at all. As long as there was a tetherball or foursquare court open at recess, life was spectacular. Maybe I was just a simple kid, but it’s easy to see how telling little girls that looking like this will make them happy would add unnecessary stress to what should be the most carefree year’s of a person’s life. And until someone invents a makeup that hides cooties, they’re going to have a hard time impressing boys their age, no matter how well they dress.
▼ More photos from JS Girl
▼ And some Japanese elementary school girl model shots, for perspective