Ethnographic Observation of a Sub-culture (Otaku)

Ethnographic Observation of a Sub-culture (Otaku)

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Different countries have different subcultures with each subculture demonstrating certain characteristics. The following discussion analysis a sub-culture from Japan called Gyaru.

Description of Gyaru sub-culture


Gyaru is a Japanese cub-culture generally consisting of young girls. Gyaru is a Japanese name meaning ‘gal’. Gyaru sub-culture originated in the 1970s and always classified as a sign of youth rebellion. Members of Gyaru can be found around the street corners in all major cities in Japan. They are characterized by heavily bleached hair with, mostly with dark brown and blonde shades, extremely decorated nails, and funny makeup as shown in figure 1. Figure 1 shows Gyaru girls with dyed hair, dark eyeliners and fake eyelashes. Their clothing styles differ depending on individual’s tastes and preferences. Their activities include designing Gyaru fashion brands such as girls’ outfits, hair designs, and nail arts. Their products play a significant role in the Japan’s fashion economy. They have shops that sell their products every day in major towns and stores around the country. They also export their fashion brands to other countries.

Figure 1: A photo of Gyaru girls

How Gyaru fulfill the definition of a subculture

By definition, a sub-culture is formed by a group of people within a specific culture who perform different activities from the larger culture they belong at. Gyaru is different from the Japanese culture since it performs different functions and activities as described above.

Differences and similarities between individuals from Gyaru culture

Gyaru sub-culture members do many things in common but, they have little differences. Firstly, the culture is made up of young Japanese girls only. No other gender is accepted to join this sub-culture. Secondly, they attend their cultural functions together and perform similar dances and other entertainment activities. On the other hand, the following sub-culture has a difference in the way they dress. Girls from Gyaru sub-culture are allowed to dress with colors that one likes. The following similarities and difference reunite members of this sub-culture positively. They show a lot of solidarity since they work together especially while developing different fashion brands to sell in the Japanese market. In addition, their characteristics motivate one another since they have classes where they teach each other how to achieve it in life (The History of the Gyaru, 2013).

Individual roles and responsibilities

In Gyaru sub-culture, each person has some roles and responsibilities. Members of this sub-culture are expected to behave well in the society and act as good examples to others. Gyaru girls must teach their younger sisters how to represent themselves in the society. In addition, each member has the responsibility of ensuring they do something to contribute to their fashions (Oi, 2012).

Conclusions drawn from Gyaru sub-culture

Gyaru people are good hearted because they take responsibility of one another in times of happiness and sadness. They are identified by their unique appearance, long colored nails, decorated faces and colored hair. Moreover, Gyaru members have a common economic activity whereby they design fashion brands that trade high in the Japanese market (The History of the Gyaru, 2013).

How do these characteristics of the sub-culture strengthen their bond and reinforce a collective behavior?

Gyaru characteristics strengthen their bond because they ensure they are always together doing similar things. In addition, their attire makes them recognize each other hence; no member can suffer in presence of another member. Lastly, they show a collective behavior because they attend seminars and rallies that teach them how to conduct themselves in the society and, how to take care of each other (Kawamura, 2012).

Does this sub-culture maintain a harmonious existence within its larger society? Explain how it does or does not.

Yes, Gyaru maintain a harmonious existence in the Japanese culture. Gyaru ranks among the most popular sub-cultures in Japan due to its uniqueness and its contribution to the country’s economy. Its existence is also signified by the number of subcategories that have emerged from this sub-culture, for example, Hime gyaru, Ganguro, Gyaruo and many others.


The Gyaru sub-culture described above has shown many unique characteristics that no other sub-culture shows in Japan. The most important issue about this sub-culture is its contribution to the county’s economy through excellent fashion brands (Oi, 2012).


Kawamura, Y. (2012). Fashioning Japanese subcultures. London: Berg Publishers.Oi, M. (2012, August 29). Japan harnesses fashion power of gals. BBC News. Retrieved February 8, 2014, from:

The History of the Gyaru – Part One:: Néojaponisme » Blog Archive. (2013).Nojaponisme RSS. Retrieved February 8, 2014, from: