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.