Art & Design

Girls’ Aesthetics in Japanese Theatre – Nobuko Anan

18 April 2016, London

Japanese girls’ culture evokes various images, from kawaii Hello Kitty and fighting girls in anime to female students involved in the sex business. While these are all parts of a vibrant Japanese girls’ culture, in this talk, I will focus on a particular group of girls and adult women, who embody what I call “girls’ aesthetics.”


Girls’ aesthetics have their genesis in early twentieth-century Japan with the creation of Western-style girls’ schools and magazines for girls. These physical places and objects created a space where girls could escape from societal pressures within Japan’s growing empire. In this space, girls rejected state-sanctioned motherhood and wife-hood and instead fantasised same-sex intimacy, longed for the West and romanticised death as a means to reject adulthood. These aesthetics continue into the contemporary period, influencing various artistic genres, such as Rococo/Victorian-inspired Gothic-Lolita fashion and boys’ love manga.


In this talk, I will explore girls’ aesthetics in contemporary Japanese theatre through a discussion of the Takarazuka Revue, an all-female musical company which stages Western romances, and Yubiwa Hotel, whose adult members perform Barbie-doll-like girls fetishising death.


Nobuko Anan is Lecturer in the Department of Cultures and Languages at Birkbeck, University of London, where she runs the Japanese Studies programmes. She researches widely on Japanese and intercultural theatre and visual arts, and her current research examines the intersections of girls’ culture and various forms of performance. She is the author of a monograph, Contemporary Japanese Women’s Theatre and Visual Arts: Performing Girls’ Aesthetics (Palgrave 2016).

To reserve your place, please call the Japan Society office on 020 3075 1996 or email or submit the online booking form.


Free – booking recommended

18 April 2016, 6.45pm

The Swedenborg Society, 20-21 Bloomsbury Way (Hall entrance on Barter St) London WC1A 2TH

The Japan Society