Two Japanese ganguro girls in the subway, August 2006
Two Japanese ganguro girls in the subway, August 2006
Ganguro style and a school uniform in Shinjuku, September 2015
Ganguro style and a school uniform in Shinjuku, September 2015

Ganguro (Japanese: ガングロ) is a fashion trend among young Japanese women that started in the mid-1990s, distinguished by a dark tan and contrasting make-up liberally applied by fashionistas.

The Shibuya and Ikebukuro districts of Tokyo were the centres of ganguro fashion; it was started by rebellious youth who contradicted the traditional Japanese concept of beauty; pale skin, dark hair and neutral makeup tones. Ganguro instead tanned their skin, bleached their hair and used colourful makeup in unusual ways.[1]

Ganguro has a connection to Japanese folklore of ghosts and demons who are depicted with a similar appearance, such as those in kabuki and noh costumes. This connection is further underlined by the off-shoot style yamanba, named after a mountain witch in Japanese folklore.[2]

The ganguro trend started in the mid-1990s and reached its peak by the latter half of the decade; it purportedly became almost obsolete by 2000 when a bihaku (light skin) craze emerged among young women who wanted to imitate the look of their favourite popular singers,[3] specifically Ayumi Hamasaki,[4] who debuted at the time. The ganguro trend faded out afterwards, although its influence can be observed in yamanba and manba styles.[5]

This fashion trend and subculture, however, has recently become an easy target of foreign cultural dissonance and prejudice. For example, when episode 6 of the mini anime series of the smartphone rhythm game Hatsune Miku: Colorful Stage! named レオニードスタイル (Reonīdo Sutairu) or Leo/need Style first premiered on YouTube in 2022, it was accused by American or Western viewers of "doing/promoting blackface" and "cultural appropriation" due to a scene inspired by gyaru fashion substyle of ganguro perceived as being blackface. The next day, the episode was withdrawn indefinitely and a public apology in both English and Japanese was uploaded on the official Twitter account.[6][7][8][9] The removal of the episode is controversial and many fans of the game and show, either Japanese and American, were disappointed with the company's decision, with some blaming SEGA for its "bending the knee" and "listening to outraged Twitter users who insist that everyone should respect foreign cultures while applying and imposing their own Western prejudices, views, puritanism and imperialism against foreign media and subcultures".[10][8][11][12][13] The episode was reuploaded to YouTube on March 15, 2022, with some modifications that removed the typical tan, make-up and the previous items.


Ganguro appeared as a new fashion style in Japan in the mid-1990s and was prevalent mostly among young women. In ganguro fashion, a deep tan is combined with hair dyed in shades of red to blonde, or a silver grey known as "high bleached". Black ink is used as eyeliner and white concealer is used as lipstick and eyeshadow. False eyelashes, plastic facial gems, and pearl powder are often added to this. Platform shoes and brightly coloured outfits complete the ganguro look. Also typical of ganguro fashion are tie-dyed sarongs, miniskirts, stickers on the face, and many bracelets, rings, and necklaces.[2]

Ganguro falls into the larger subculture of gyaru (ギャル, from English "gal"), a slang term used for various groups of young women, usually referring to overly childish women. Researchers in the field of Japanese studies believe that ganguro is a form of revenge against traditional Japanese society due to resentment of neglect, isolation, and constraint of Japanese society. This is their attempt at individuality, self-expression, and freedom, in open defiance of school standards and regulations.[citation needed]

Ganguro can be used to describe girls, or gals, with a tan, lightened hair and some brand clothing; they can often be confused with Oneegyaru (Big Sister Gal) and Serebu (Celeb), although Oneegyaru is usually associated with expensive gal brands and Serebu focuses on expensive western fashions.

Fashion magazines like Egg and Ageha have had a direct influence on the ganguro. Other popular ganguro magazines include Popteen and Ego System. The ganguro culture is often linked with para para, a Japanese dance style. However, most para para dancers are not ganguro, and most ganguro are not para para dancers, though there are many who are ganguro or gal and dance para para.

One of the most famous early ganguro girls was known as Buriteri, nicknamed after the black soy sauce used to flavor yellowtail fish in teriyaki cooking. Egg made her a star by frequently featuring her in its pages during the height of the ganguro craze. After modelling and advertising for the Shibuya tanning salon "Blacky", social pressure and negative press convinced Buriteri to retire from the ganguro lifestyle.[14]

Yamanba and Manba

"Yamanba" redirects here. For the Noh play, see Yamanba (Noh play). For the Japanese yōkai creature, see Yama-uba.

Manba, 2006
Yamanba, 2016

Yamanba (ヤマンバ) and manba (マンバ) are styles which developed from ganguro. Old school yamanba and manba (particularly known as 2004 Manba) featured dark tans and white lipstick, pastel eye makeup, tiny metallic or glittery adhesives below the eyes, brightly coloured circle lenses, plastic dayglo-coloured clothing, and incongruous accessories, such as Hawaiian leis. Stickers on the face died out shortly after 2004 and, for a while, yamanba died. Manba then became more extreme, with multicoloured and usually synthetic hair. Manba in 2008 saw a darker tan, and no facial stickers. Hair was usually neon/bright colours, with pink being a favourite. Wool emulating dreadlocks, extensions, and clips were worn to make hair appear longer. Clothing remained the same, although leis were worn less frequently.[2]

Yamanba and manba are distinct from one another. Yamanba involves white make-up only above the eye, while manba makeup is applied below the eye also.[citation needed] Stuffed animals, bracelets, bells and hibiscus flowers are worn.[citation needed] The male equivalent is called a "Center guy",[citation needed] a pun on the name of a popular pedestrian shopping street near Shibuya Station in Tokyo called Center Gai (センター街, Sentā-gai).


Ganguro practitioners say that the term derives from the phrase ganganguro or gangankuro (ガンガン黒, exceptionally dark). The word ganguro can be translated as "burn-black look", and "dark tanning".[15]

The term yamanba is derived from Yama-uba, the name of a mountain hag in Japanese folklore whom the fashion is thought to resemble.

See also


  1. ^ Mowbray, Nicole (2004-04-04). "Japanese girls choose whiter shade of pale | World news | The Observer". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on Aug 28, 2013. Retrieved 2011-07-11.
  2. ^ a b c "提言論文 かわいいマンバ - ガングロII・2004(2004年) – produced by JMR生活総合研究所". Archived from the original on Mar 25, 2012. Retrieved 2011-07-11.
  3. ^ "ガングロ|流行語や歴史に役立つ情報サイト【あの頃は何が流行ったの?】". Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2014-02-12.
  4. ^ 姫島, 貴人 (2001). ロードガイア. 文芸社. ISBN 4835511018.
  5. ^ "ガングロはどこへいった – リアルライブ". Retrieved 2014-02-12.
  6. ^ Baculi, Spencer (2022-02-20). "SEGA Shelves Petit Sekai Episode "Indefinitely" Following Accusations Of Blackface From Western Audiences". Bounding Into Comics. Retrieved 2022-03-06.
  7. ^ "Project Sekai Short Removed for Alleged "Blackface" – Nicchiban". 2022-02-23. Retrieved 2022-03-06.
  8. ^ a b Praca, Olx (2022-02-21). "Anime Series Canceled Due To Blackface – Olx Praca". Archived from the original on March 6, 2022. Retrieved 2022-03-06.
  9. ^ Petit Sekai (TV Mini Series 2022– ) – IMDb, retrieved 2022-11-12
  10. ^ "Anime episode pulled for blackface". Calcutta News. Retrieved 2022-03-07.
  11. ^ "Political Correctness Infiltrates Japan as Project Sekai Short Removed for "Blackface"". Sankaku Complex. 2022-02-19. Retrieved 2022-03-14.
  12. ^ Toffee, Mr (2022-02-19). "Project Sekai Anime Short Pulled By Sega For "Blackface" Allegations From Western Fandom | KAKUCHOPUREI.COM". Retrieved 2022-05-25.
  13. ^ Petit Sekai (TV Mini Series 2022– ) – IMDb, retrieved 2022-11-12
  14. ^ Macias, Patrick; Evers, Izumi (2007). Japanese Schoolgirl Inferno: Tokyo Teen Fashion Subculture Handbook. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-8118-5690-4.
  15. ^ "Japanese Schoolgirl Inferno – Tokyo Teen Fashion Subculture Handbook". Chronicle Books. December 31, 2007.