Idol girl groups like AKB48 and Momoiro Kuroba have become a social phenomenon in Japan, the “ideal Japanese woman” in Japan is often seen as an adorable, fashionable, soft-spoken and organised woman. However despite the Kawaii (cute) culture, some women are breaking new ground and redefining what it means to be a Japanese woman in modern society. This year we have working with more luxury brands who see independent and strong Japanese influencers as a good representation of their brand.
Rina Sawayama is a Japanese-English model, singer and songwriter. She was born in Japan but moved to London when she was 10. She became famous in 2017 when she produced her album called RINA emphasising social anxiety and misrepresentation of Asian culture in Western society. Due to her feminist views and interesting songs she has given a voice to LGBT community in Japan.
This year, she was selected as one of Vogue’s “Japan women of the year (2019)”. This award is given to people who have influenced the readers of Vogue Japan. Also, she has been named one of Forbes Japan’s 30 under 30. She has not only influenced the Japanese people, but also in the UK she was the first Japanese artists to be invited to one of the biggest music festivals in the UK and continues to inspire the world as a representative of Japan.
Naomi Osaka is a professional tennis player who represents Japan. She’s the first Asian tennis player to hold top ranking in singles and has been internationally recognised. You may also know her when she defeated the former world number 1 tennis player, Serena Williams in 2018. This surprised the world.
Naomi has a Japanese mother and a Haitian father, she was born in Japan but moved to New York when she was 3. She had a dual nationality but announced that she would give up her US citizenship and represent Japan in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as the Japan does not accept dual nationality over the age of 22.
During one of her interviews on TV, she seemed proud commenting that “It was a special desire to be a representative of Japan. Playing with the pride of the country in 2020 Tokyo Olympics will feel more emotional.” Her mother, Tamaki Osaka, also added that “Although she was brought up in the US, Naomi and her sister always felt that she was Japanese. It is not decided financially or by any national federation.” Naomi is continuing to be an active representative of Japan both on court and in life.
Naomi Watanabe is a Japanese comedian, fashion designer and actress. She became famous and recognised in Japanese as “The Japanese Beyonce”. She was named as one of the “25 Most Influential People on the Internet” in 2018 and also ranked in the Top 20 Japanese influencers on Instagram in 2019.
Why Naomi attract people’s attention is that she is curvy and bigger than most Japanese women and disrupting the stereotype of Japanese women. Naomi mentioned that even though she loves fashion, she struggled with her plus-size dress size in Japan as she weighs 220 pounds and has double the average weight of Japanese women of her age. When she was young, she would often improvise by going to men’s store and wearing T-shirt’s as dresses.
After all her experiences, she started her own brand called “pyunyu” (Japanese meaning for chubby) for all the plus-size women like her. For her brand, she wanted to emphasise that curvy girl can be sexy, attractive, happy and successful. While the majority of the people are trying to be skinny, she is proud of being called a “plus-sized” model. She once wrote on Instagram saying “My ideal body is that of a sumo wrestler — big but muscular”. She’s still influencing Japanese people by having a positive attitude and spreading the value of self-love, embracing her body and proving that any body type can be perfect.
Yayoi is a contemporary artist, and although she is 90 years old, she’s still active in painting, film, performance, poetry, fashion and other arts. Her work shows depicts feminism, abstract expressionism and has been recognised as one of the most important living artists in Japan. You might have seen her artwork multiple times as she is well-known for her repeating dot patterns.
When she was young, she discovered a passion for art at a very young age, but she had some issues with her family as her mother assumed that her father was having an affair and insisted Yayoi spy on him. This eventually caused her to claim to experience visual hallucinations. She regularly saw dense concentrations of lights and circles and started painting dot patterns which are the inspiration for her iconic polka dot work and fashion.
In her late 20s, she moved to New York as she was inspired by American abstract impression. Despite her broken English, she came into contact with famous artists including Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, and Joseph Cornell. Around that era, she was welcome as an ‘outsider’ , however sometimes she was refused to enter exhibitions or galleries because of her race and gender. Facing severe rejection, as a female Japanese artist trying to change herself in the Western male-dominated society, she still influenced many famous artists in New York. Some artists have even ripped off her artwork.
After feeling that her work and ideas were being taken advantage of by famous male artists, she became depressed and attempted to commit suicide. However, surviving her suicide attempt, her doctor encourages her to paint more. She still believed in herself and regained self-confidence, and in 1993, Yayoi was invited as the first Japanese solo artist to participate in the Venice Biennale convention.
All her childhood trauma and mental illness she experienced in the past blends into her artwork. She was also selected as one of the ‘The 100 influential people in the world’ by the TIMES in 2016. She continues her artwork, and she known as an “honorary citizen” of Tokyo, influencing people all over the world.
Ai is a fashion model and actress, she was one of the first Asian models on the European catwalk. Her strong jawline and sharp face have made her a popular global model. She has walked in runways shows for high-end brands including Anna Sui, Christian Dior, Gucci, Ralph Lauren and Dolce and Gabbana. Also she appeared in many fashion magazines, including Vogue US, UK, Japan, France, Russia and Germany.
Ai started her modelling career when she was 17 and attracted not only Japanese fans but also she was scouted by an international model agency and walked her first runway show in 2001 in New York. She was took a break during 2014-2017 as she wanted to spend more time with her kids. When she returned to the modelling industry, she surprised the media and her fans for maintaining her figure, although she is a single mother. She is now one of the “Vogue Japan women of the year 2019”. She influenced the readers of Vogue Japan through of beauty, lifestyle and style.
The modern Japanese woman
These strong Japanese women are trying to encourage others to change stereotypes and influence society to think that you can be whoever you want to be and be seen as an individual. People who are strong, self-loving and embrace themselves are becoming more powerful and influential in Japan.
JapanBuzz is a Japanese influencer agency. If you would like to start a campaign using our expertise then please get in touch.