Y is for Yankees

No, I’m not talking about that baseball team (it is baseball, right?  I dunno, my Britishness forbids me from knowing).  And I’m not even talking about the derogatory term for Americans overall. No, the group of people I am talking about here are very much Japanese.  And they are known as ヤンキー, or ‘Yankees’.

So, what is a Japanese Yankee, what do they look like and how do they act? They are pretty easy to identify: they can be either make or female, tend of have dyed hair (rusty orange is the color of the moment), usually done up in some terrible style that looks like a hedgehog with bed hair, wear knockoff sports wear and are depicted as having bad manners and loutish behavior, including – shock! – smoking and drinking.  I know, it’s outrageous, isn’t it?

Except it isn’t.  Well, I don’t think so, at least.  The Japanese Yankee is the closest equivalent they have to White Trash (USA), Chavs (UK), or Bogans (AUS), but that comparison is really unfair.

I mean, I can’t speak for other countries, but in the UK, I have constantly witnessed (and experienced) Chavs being openly disruptive and aggressive without any reason to be, as if they have to cause trouble and failure to do so results in a revocation of their Chav license.

But the Japanese Yankee is nothing like that.  They might be the closest equivalents, but Yankees are angelic by comparison.  In my several years here, I have never once seen a Yankee actively causing trouble.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I have seen them crowd around, smoke and drink and talk loudly, but that’s it.  No smashed telephone boxes, no harassing the public or shops, nothing.  I’ve had a Yankee bump into me by accident, and then she apologized with a bow.  Whereas Chavs are like wasps, who will sting you for no reason, Yankees are more like pigeons: unfairly vilified and only seem out of place because everything around them is so uniform.

And that, I think, is one of the key differences.  In the West, we value the rights of the individual over everything else, and our Chavs are a natural and negative extension of that, of someone who will give themselves momentarily pleasure even if it means extended misery for a whole bunch of others, because of a complete lack of empathy.  But in Japan, the primary unit is the group, and the Yankee’s primary crime is to simply stand apart from this group, with their bright hair and clothes and slightly bolder personalities.

But personally, I like this.  I’m not advocating the revolution of society or anything, but Japan needs more people going against the grain and showing the rest of them that society doesn’t melt down because of it.  True story: when Yankees first started to appear in the 80s, the media leaped on it as a grim indicator of the break down of Japanese society, and how these track-suited people were the harbingers of a Dystopian future a la every other anime film ever.  Of course, that time passed, and society hasn’t imploded, and steadily Japan is waking up to the fact that, no, we don’t all have to be the same for this country to work.

All hail the Yankee!


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