We’ve run quite a few stories about crossdressing in Japan over the past few months, which may have some of you wondering if dressing up in drag has become something of a fashion craze among Japanese men.

It turns out it has among one demographic, according to Nikkan Spa, who reports that over the past few years there have been an increasing number of reports of normal, middle-aged Japanese men walking around Tokyo in drag.

Nikkan Spa took the streets around Shinjuku Station, one of the busiest areas in Tokyo and a popular spot for crossdressers thanks to to its proximity to the city’s premier entertainment and red-light district, Kabukicho, to see if the locals have noticed anything out of the ordinary recently.

“Some of them walk around without any makeup on so they just look like an old man in a dress. Others wear bikinis and sandals during the summer,” comments one Shinjuku commuter.

“We see them almost everyday in this neighborhood, but for some reason a lot of them seem lackluster in their attempts. For example, dressing up like a woman but leaving their face untouched, or only wearing a skirt,” says another.

What Nikkan Spa learned is that while that there’s nothing particularly unusual about the presence of crossdressers in Shinjuku, it’s the shift in the way people are crossdressing that has been raising eyebrows recently.

Traditionally, most men who crossdress in public go all out with their clothes and makeup to make themselves as womanly as possible, or at least try and keep a low profile while in drag. However, now, it is becoming more common to see middle-aged men walking around in broad daylight while wearing women’s clothing, but doing little else to hide their original face or figure.

▼ Probably something like this guy:

Has crossdressing in Japan entered a midlife crisis?

Nikkan Spa spoke with the staff at a well-known DVD shop in Ikebukuro that offers discounts to crossdressers:

“They really have increased. Some of them you can tell are men right away, others look more like middle-aged women and it’s difficult to pick them out as men unless you check their Adam’s apple, hands, or hair. Before, crossdressing in public was dangerous, but now most people are used to seeing it and there are places like this where crossdressers can gather. It’s become easier for people to do it.”

It’s likely that most of these men were closet crossdressers who hid their hobby for fear of being socially ostracized. According to Japanese crossdressing guru, Candy Milk (pictured above), the signal that it was safe to come out was given by the internet.

Mr. Milk became a leading figure for crossdressers in Japan after founding “Himawari”, the country’s first magazine for drag queens, by drag queens. In 2005, however, he was forced to discontinue the magazine after an 18 year run due to poor sales. The reason behind this, he explains, was that crossdressers had begun to use social network sites like Mixi to form communities on the internet. These communities allowed them to share information directly and also let them know that they weren’t the only guys out there into women’s clothes.

“The internet has empowered many closet crossdressers to go outside. I call this new group of crossdressers born from the internet the ‘third wave’. They are incredibly diverse and cannot be lumped into one category, much like the people of modern society. When I first started, wearing makeup while in drag was common sense, but with the ‘third wave’, even that is starting to fall apart now. These new middle-aged crossdressers will surely shape a new history of crossdressing in Japan.


Any of you Tokyoites out there noticed a change in public crossdressing recently? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!

Source/Photo: Nikkan Spa! Print Edition (Nov 27, 2012)