Japanese “Mountain Hag” Fashion the New Trend

Posted on October 30, 2006

Yamanba sometimes written as “yamamba”, is a fashion trend among young Japanese women.

Starting with the bleached white hair and heavy tan of the ganguro girl, the yamanba adds white lipstick, white eye makeup, and sometimes brightly colored contacts, plastic clothing, and inappropriate accessories. Some yamanba wear stuffed animals as decorations, talk with a slurred speech, and enjoy shiny neon or dayglo colors.

The male equivalent is called a “center guy,” this being a pun on the Center-gai pedestrian shopping area near Shibuya station in Tokyo where yamanba and center guys can often be seen.

The term yamanba comes from a mountain hag, known as Yama-uba, whom the fashion is thought to resemble.

Yamanba’s primary fashion monikers are 4-6 inch platform boots, micro-mini skirts and tops in vivid hues of yellow, pink, purple, blue, green and orange. Their unique style of make-up and hair, however, is what really sets them apart from the crowd. Deep, artificial-looking tanned faces are offset with white eye shadow, white lipstick and bleached white hair.

It is a look that has been called scary by many Japanese not hip to the trend. Indeed, the origin of their name, yamanba, comes from an old ghost story. In Japanese, yama means mountain, while ba is a slightly derogatory term used to refer to old women. During the Edo period in Japan, people were poor and faced hard times with limited resources.

To survive, citizens banished the unproductive elderly to the mountains to die. Japanese legend holds that these mountain women would come down to raid the towns for food. History has since evolved into a ghost legend. Bad little boys and girls who don’t mind their parents are often told that they will be taken away in the night by the ghostly yamanba.

Today’s yamanba , however, seem to enjoy their distinction despite the negative image of their name and the views of those outside their fashion clique. “All our friends dress the same so we don’t care what anyone else thinks,” said 15-year-old Chika.

Sun Tzu has spent about 7 years in Asia traveling through Japan, Hong Kong, China, and Korea. A true fan of everything that is weird and strange, he decides in the end what is displayed and published on this site. Sun has previous experience writing for numerous print mags such as XLR8R, URB, and Movement Magazine.

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14 thoughts on “Japanese “Mountain Hag” Fashion the New Trend

  1. Ichigo

    According to the article above, imagine a negative image on a roll of film?

    Aha. I see.

    There are better ways to get attention and I think this is also one of their weird thing going on. Everyone needs attention.

    I’m a ‘japanese’, check.
    Great sunburn darkest tan, check
    Bleach hair white, check.
    Put on white make up, check.
    Wear my 5 inch platform, check.
    Standing in front of the mirror, comparing myself to a negative image, check.
    Set my mind that I am not a human but I am a cute panda, check.
    Leave the poor girl, alone, check.


  2. kelly

    this looks like somethink dug up from the dead but still dead seriously people y do you want to desrtroy ur natural image lookin like that errrrr!!

  3. akira

    yeck. i hate seeing these type of persons every single time i visit shibuya. fad or no fad i’m sticking to my traditional roots!

  4. Reiko

    If you people have nothing nice to say, then just say nothing at all. There's no need for your ridiculously idiotic spam.

  5. Pingback: Chickens wear sunglasses: One shady peace | Asian Correspondent

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