The Sacred Hearts of Japanese Teenagers in Disguise
By Kay Sakamoto
On November 5, 2015
During my visit to the “happiest place” in Japan, Tokyo Disneyland last month, I came across a strange scene at the park: teenagers dressed in completely matching outfits. First I wondered if it had something to do with Halloween and the season starting earlier that month but most looked more dressed in a daily outfit and not a costume.
There were way many, couples, two girls, group of girls, and group of boys in matching T-shirts, sweatshirts, and skirts. It was just too strange. There must be something behind this! So I did a search on the internet and what I found out was something unexpected- it had something to do with the lonely hearts of the Japanese teenagers.
This is called “Futago Ko-de” (twin coordination) or “Gu-ru-pu Ko-de” (group coordination). The trend started earlier last year in 2014. According to an internet survey result, 98% of the high school and university students who took part in the survey said they tried the look, at least once.
“The teenagers are anxious that they are not truly connected with the people around them despite their constant communication via text messages and chats. They are testing their relationship. Dressing the same with someone else makes them feel less lonely.” This comment from an expert in psychology caught my attention. Even if this does not apply to all of them in Futago / Gu-ru-pu Ko-de, are the majority of the Japanese teenagers feeling lonely?
Looking back at my own teen years, it is true that smallest thing mattered and sometimes I felt like the most miserable person on earth. Expressing ourselves through outfits is one thing but thinking that this solves their solitude, leaves me at a loss. Are they simple or complicated?
Everyone I saw dressed in Futago and Gu-ru-pu Ko-de looked so happy. I could not notice a slight bit of loneliness in any one of them taking far too many selfies together everywhere with smiles. They did not seem to mind the attention. No trace of the typical Japanese embarrassment, “hazukashi,” standing out in a crowd. (Japanese teenagers definitely lost this feeling somewhere between my generation and the current one.)
Even the boys dressed in Gu-ru-pu Ko-de marched proudly through the park. The best you could bring a Japanese boy to a date back in my days was an amusement park with roller coasters. Even if we somehow managed to bring them to “Happy Land,” they probably would’ve kept it a secret from their friends as if it would hurt their manliness and justify it that “it’s my girl friend’s choice (not mine).” After all I’ve witnessed, if what the expert is saying is true, once the magic is gone after the clock striking midnight – when they return home, dress themselves out from the matching outfits, do they turn back to a bunch of scared lonely teenagers who can only measure the relationship with another by whether that person would dress identical with them? I agree, teenagers are always difficult to understand. But they sure have complicated over the years.
Once we reached a certain age, my sister and I, two years apart, strongly opposed to our mother dressing us in matching outfits. We agreed it was a look for little kids. As a teenager, going to events with a dress code of certain colors and outfits, my friends and I were careful not to wear the exact same outfits. We laughed at the photos of our parents wearing matching shirts and sweaters (back then, it was called “pe-a lukku” (pair look). To a certain extent, the current trend and their pe-a lukku share the same objective: showing off how much they are in love, how close they are.
The only difference with the current trend is that there seemed to be no “loneliness” involved. If this trend is reviving for them to feel less lonely, I very much worry the vulnerability of the Japanese in this generation.
Since finding out about this trend, I cannot help noticing Futago and Gu-ru-pu Ko-de when in trend setting areas like Omotesando and Shibuya. It’s not as noticeable as it was at the amusement park but girls and couples in matching clothes can easily be spotted, so far no boys’ group (thank god)! I feel as if I am in a merry version of a haunted mansion with the area decorated in Halloween displays, now that I know that this trend is some lonely souls in disguise. Hopefully what I am feeling is just an illusion and I am worried for nothing or just that I grew too old to understand teen trends.