I used to have an office in Shibuya, but now I am based in more plush (but less exciting in terms of fashion styles on the street) Hanzomon.
So what a treat it was to go to Shibuya last night! Yes, Friday night!!!
And yes, there they were - the "ora ora" style boys! Dressed in head to toe black, their key words are "outlaw" and "dangerous." Dressed in head to toe black, they (try to) convey the image of a desperado.
Too bad they are of such androgynous build that they look more like small time drug traffickers than tough guys.
The expression, "ora ora!" directly translates to something like "hey, hey, hey!" or "what the hell are you lookin' at?" which is supposed to be a threatening verbal sound men make as they are trying to make their presence known to an adversary.
Some people say that this tough guy look is becoming very appealing to young women because it conveys a very strong and masculine image that make them feel they can turn to these guys to be "protected" in this day and age.
I have always admired the machismo of Indonesian men, for example. Dark and not of huge build (many of them), but there is often a very sharp sparkle in their dark eyes that say being masculine means a lot to them.
Korean men also tend to have a very tough guy core. I always attributed it to the national service and military experience EVERY single one of them go through. When a military trained man threatens to hit you, you know that he has been trained to kill in bare hand combat so you don't really want to mess around with them too much.
But Singaporean men, also military trained, are less menacing.
Then again, Singaporean men are less likely to see live action compared to the Koreans who are still technically "at war" with the North.
Maybe that has something to do with it.
And look at us. We don't even have a military force!!! Technically, the Self Defense Force is just that; they started as a special police unit and they are only to be deployed to defend the country, not to be oppressive on other people's territories.
There was a time when every school boy in Japan learned the very basics of kendo (the way of the sword) and judo. I wonder if they still do that.
So far, every single young man I have met in the last 3 months who is really into martial arts training is not Japanese. He may be Ozzie, British, Canadian or French - it seems almost impossible to meet Japanese men who are remotely interested in one of the many martial arts schools that foreigners uproot their families to come to train at.
And what of the "herbivore men" trend of late?
Men have become so passive and non-aggressive that some openly say they want to be some successful woman's "trophy young husband" or "trophy boyfriend."
I sure hope my son doesn't end up having that kind of criteria.
So why then, is the "ora ora" look gaining momentum?
Is it the typical Japanese thing to project an image without working on content; like a prop?
Or are some men really trying to become rugged and tough again???
The late actor, Makoto Fujita's most famous role is in the "Hissatsu Shigoto Nin" series. This edo period drama is about a band of skilled assassins who only kill bad guys. Fujita plays their leader, a harmless and oppressed by his wife and overwhelming mother-in-law "cop" by day, but a master swordsman by night. This dual personality is the personification of the proverb: the able hawk keeps his claws hidden.
But somewhere along the way, for our men, the "Clark Kent" personality became their only identity.
The super tough guy underneath just disappeared.
So maybe they want to bring some of that classic tough guy back?
Or maybe I am thinking too much and it is just another fad.