The Dark Side Of Harajuku Style You Haven’t Seen Yet | Style Out There | Refinery29

The Dark Side Of Harajuku Style You Haven’t Seen Yet | Style Out There | Refinery29

This is so cute but what does it say? I want to die. I want to die? Oh. While I’d never been afraid to take a few risks in the name of fashion, there’s a new style popping up in Tokyo that’s, frankly, a little scary. In Japan, conformity and rigidity inform everything, from social customs, to the way people dress. Standing out is not exactly something everyone strives for. Here on Takeshita Street, style is defined by defying norms. But a new look is challenging one of Japan’s deepest taboos: depression and mental illness. The style is called Yami Kawaii and it means “sick cute”. Can fashion break the silence that surrounds an epidemic? My first question: What exactly is Yami Kawaii? What does it look like? To find out, I tracked down Kuua, an artist and influencer with over 56,000 followers on Instagram. “Kawaii” is the Japanese word for “cute.” “Yume Kawaii” means “cute like a dream.” “Yami Kawaii,” is what happens when “Yume” goes dark. Is that a fan? Did she just recognize you? Oh, that’s so fun! Fans are drawn to Yami Kawaii. But honestly, I just don’t get it. To better understand the appeal I’m going to visit a pioneer of the look, an artist named Bisuko. But then it says, “I love you.” Kill you? Okay. Changing your mind a lot. That’s Yami Kawaii. Can you tell me who this is? Meet Menhera-chan, the Yami Kawaii heroine of Bisuko’s comic. She gets her name form Menhera, a term that refers to people who suffer from mental illness. To understand why this is a look someone would want to project, I decided to try the clothes on for myself. I need a jacket and then I need bottoms. This one? How’s that? Kawaii? A jacket? What makes this one Yami Kawaii? I think I’m getting it now. Accessories? Okay! Kawaii! I’ll go try it on? As I put on my Yami Kawaii outfit, I really notice the dark details among all the pastels, the bandages around the girl’s wrists, the droplet hanging off the syringe. I don’t feel Kawaii. I feel uncomfortable. Is this Kawaii? For some, this look is empowering. But why? Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Even talking about mental illness and depression is considered taboo. So what is Bisuko trying to say? Is there something deeper going on? Oh my god. There’s so much pink Kawaii! It’s such an interesting mix of sweetness and pink and then this is terrifying. Oh my gosh. Yeah, that’s probably the most Yami Kawaii. I mean, when you see it, does it remind you about those who have died by noose or is it just, again, decoration. Yami Kawaii is fashion, but it’s also a coping mechanism for complex emotions. I wanted to know if other people were using fashion in the same way. Hanayo, a former teenage model, might have some insight. She was once a finalist in the nationwide Miss iD competition, an alternative beauty pageant that celebrates differences. Until she was disqualified for discussing her suicidal past. What do you feel when you come here? It’s nice to meet you. Did you say you had multiple attempts? Her openness won her fans on social media and has won her a new kind of support system. Do you feel like there are a lot of people who feel the same way that you do? She uses social media to create a community, where she feels free to talk about her art, her clothes and her raw emotions. You have a lot of pink. Do you dress to make yourself happy or do you dress to make other people happy? This, amazing. Sex Suicide Baby. Yeah. It feels bad to hide who you are, right? What’s one thing that you want people to know when they hear your story? Hanayo sees cute clothes as a form of therapy. Maybe, that feeling isn’t an accident. Joshua Paul Dale is a professor who specializes in the impact of Kawaii culture. “Cute” can mean “clever” in English, so we can look at somebody and say, “oh, that’s cute”, or “don’t be
cute.” But Kawaii in Japan doesn’t have that negative connotation to it. It’s simply a pure, happy feeling of cuteness. So instead of, “You look Kawaii,” it’s like, “I feel Kawaii because of how
you are.” Yeah. When you express Kawaii, you are expressing a desire to appeal to other people, to get closer to other people, and expressing a desire for healing. So maybe that can help people with those dark and more difficult issues that can’t be openly expressed in Japanese society. Talking openly about painful experiences feels better than keeping it in. When you talk, powerful things can happen. I see now that Yami Kawaii can help people heal, people like Bisuko’s number one fan. So I came to Tokyo expecting to learn something about this new style of subculture. What I really didn’t expect to learn is something about love. You know, in the United States, asking for love isn’t really a thing we’re very comfortable with doing but in Japan, it’s pervasive. It’s normalized. It’s Kawaii. And especially when you have a hard time practicing self-love, asking for love is a really, really brave act and that’s what Yami Kawaii is at the end of the day. And that’s pretty rad.


  • Refinery29 says:

    What is your go-to style? Comment below!

  • Yushi Kuang says:

    It’s The Japanese equivalent of western gothic style with the cute opine factor.

  • vivi pardee says:

    hey if you want to be quiet you must find the right style if it's free if it's dark if it's both then we're both of them it's not about the style it's about how you feel if you feel sad then we're spring nursery said like these and it's about kawaii Christ and physically like to show how you feel so if you don't feel quiet and find something is something that shows your πŸ˜€πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜„πŸ˜

  • Ann says:

    They have been badly molested??? And would rather die than hide it. I understand. That is also my struggle. Fashion makes me feel better about what a sicko did to me.

  • 🌸xelishax🌸 says:

    5:33 i got creeped out a lil.. goshh.. but the girl's voice is so sad.. i wanna hug her 😒😒

  • Mark Johnson says:

    People don’t really know how to talk about mental health in the United states. If it’s not the skeleton in the family closet, then it’s romanticized in our media. This seems to proliferate personality disorders that are difficult to treat. Is borderline personality disorder a diagnosis in Japan? Attention seeking behavior married with self harming tendencies is kinda the flagship of this disorder. Does this cute fashion somehow reduce harm and helps people cope in a healthier ways?

  • TrueBliss Consciousness says:

    It's subversive isn't it? Mixing something mainstream and something that is driven underground. You don't see it straight away. You have to look deeper. It makes the onlooker question their preconceptions.

  • Ositias says:

    Those people's experiences are truly sad and important, but I think this is reading into the style too much. The cute, innocent elements paired with very dark themes just make a contradiction which is aesthetically appealing and charming to many. It's not that deep.

  • Jasper Van Vlierberghe says:

    You look like jaidenanimation

  • Zozo Bkdk says:

    Poor girl her voice sounds so naturally sad.. ;; you can hear her depression wow

  • ɴᴏ ᴏɴᴇ says:


  • Willy Billy says:

    everyone loves your mental health issues when you're cute

  • Hikari Hoshi Enobi says:

    Listening to Hanayo is heartwrenching…

  • g g u k n a t i o n says:

    At 5:32 am I the only one that noticed that his body was frozen but the reflection on the mirror was moving?

  • Roddy Rod says:

    No, you need a higher purpose, you need to find love, God in your life. That is the cure for depression. Don't take my word for it. Try it for yourself and see, give him a chance. Help others, that is the antidote to depression (just one of many) I believe.

  • Invalidtoon says:

    Not many people understand the Yami-Kawaii fashion like some of us.. I myself have a fascination with this fashion because I have delt with clinical depression since I was 11. Coming from me, a part of the Yami/Fairy Kei fashion community understand it. The pastel, Kawaii look makes those feel happier where the darker elements still express them so it is not completely goth or dark to where it's depressing but it's not completely all pink and soft to where it's hiding there personality. The look having the medical and dark touches express there "illnesses" And project a better feeling about the "illness"

    Of course this is all by popular and my own opinions, and was only written to educate those who don't quite understand the fashion.

  • Bear Program says:

    This was interesting, yet confusing

  • farrah says:

    3:00 oww she's cutting using a cutter

  • Yamsauce says:


  • brooke h says:

    does anyone know hanayos twitter or anything?

  • morning bloom. says:

    0:09 that's a major oOF

  • anna Jones says:

    What comic was it they said about?

  • Gabby Who? says:

    If you want to tell if someone’s actually depressed or just faking it is not that people with depression hide it some don’t but people who want attention normally cry a lot in front of people and constantly say I have depression and why but if you actually have depression most of the time you don’t know why and you don’t constantly cry in front of people and if you do share your feelings it’s deep and you would be able to tell but people who want attention just cry and say what there problems are.

  • Katrina violago says:

    the first thing that comes to my mind is.. what will happen if ever they will have a baby? the baby might suffer a lot 😒

  • Felle Yeanor says:

    The title should be the dumbest side of japan

  • DNAGumdr0p 369 says:

    her voice omg too cute

  • Jiaxiu Yang says:

    it's so dark…

  • kaynostu crimson says:

    One thing the cat girl from Boku no hero academia seams like she has the pink eyeshadow under her eyes just like yume people and the sameish fashion style

  • Britt Pomales says:

    basically they allow dark stuff to be out there but they cover it up with the colors and cute characters

  • kaki says:

    That makes me think about everything , more about depression

  • Beth P says:

    This is what happens when emotions aren't allowed. Suicide and darkness. It's all a social experiment.

  • Yokarin Habami says:

    So's lovely too..but in my's a little bit uncomfortable too..i'm not hating..πŸ’•i still love the style..

  • 80s crybaby says:

    Hey you! Yeah you! You too!!! There's always someone who loves you!!! β€β€β€β€β€β€πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸŒΈπŸŒΈπŸŒΈπŸŒΈπŸŒΈπŸŒΈπŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’žπŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’›πŸ’šπŸ’šπŸ’šπŸ’šπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’™πŸ’™πŸ’™πŸ’™πŸ’™πŸ’™πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–πŸ’–

  • C.C Yuu says:

    At the Front it's Kawaii but in the back it says FUCK YOU. It can't be more japan than that.

  • Yuliana Chan says:

    Just one solution, find the god!

  • Hawa Nawabi says:

    I would actually go to that store

  • Mint Candie says:

    Hey why did you open this?

    Back off now



    Get ready

    You really gonna do it?




    Okay im tired

  • Tazzy Ando says:

    I want to go to that shoppppppp

  • ska punk OI! alternative living says:

    No wonder that trying to kill themselves when a Max Society of people I said go ahead I agree kill yourself..

  • ska punk OI! alternative living says:

    I definitely don't feel sorry for these idiots it shows where the world is going today people have no morals no respect for each other this is why these idiots want to kill themselves I say good rhythms…

  • Siu BB says:

    Why did you expect a Chinese girl can guide you through Japanese subculture? You are lucky that this video is in English and does not have a proper Japanese subtitle, otherwise you will have tons of Kawaii lovers and even Yami Kawaii lovers disliked you video and commented about how this video get at most half of the idea correct.

  • Jade Lin Lee Chen says:

    This might have made her feel uncomfortable, but I am glad Yami Kawaii exists.

    You see, Japan faces a large mental illness problem and high suicide rates. And the fact of the matter is that mental illness is still heavily discriminated against there. With Yami Kawaii in the world, people can express their negative emotions in a way that's still "acceptable".

    I know of people who Yami Kawaii has saved, which makes me glad for its existence. This bizarre trend might be unsettling for some, but to others it represents a mutual understanding and comfort.

  • Joshua Hamilton says:

    I wish i coukd do your job, travel the world and explore cultures

  • eva pui says:

    i wantto die but i don-t because i like my cat my boyfriend and i love to hurt peoples who hates me.

  • Stphn Nnz says:

    Yami kawai <3

  • jae bojing says:

    "kawai ee"

  • ArtGoth says:

    I used a few websites to finally get some menhera chan accessories. To be honest Yamikawaii isn’t for everyone, but I struggle with major depressive disorder, and it’s comforting to wear my feelings.

  • Migz Franco says:

    I really feel sad about the fact that mental illness had become a taboo instead of discussing it head-on and more openly.

  • death 6elis6e6 says:

    This is so right and she should never be talked bad about or bullied or feel bad about herself I myself a teenager has been through depression since I was 9 I though my life would end last year but I failed attempt of suicide

  • Nini Mf says:

    No wonder those outfits look like haunted dolls.

  • Elina Perdiki says:

    I think it's wrong that people use mental problems to make something trendy and cute. It should be discussed and taken seriously, rather than saying "it's okay if you have depression and cut yourself, look how kawaii this girl who cuts herself too is!!"
    Am I the only one who feels that way?

  • Ira Williams says:

    The Kawaii and Lolita culture is actually contributing to the misogyny reeking in Japanese society

  • Levitus ._ says:

    5:33 Coto a minute, the one in mirror move and the real one isn't

    I know it's edit but i got shock for a minute since it's about dark theme and stuff πŸ˜‚

    Also this is probably the most terrifying video I ever watch. But I guess Yami kawaii is a good thing after all? It help them feel good using pink and cute thing. But the part they talking about suicide is scary :'D

  • ifigeneiasoraya says:

    I still don't get it… Why all that "i kill you" and "want To die" are symbolized as smth cute??? It's upsetting….. I wish them To get better…

  • Grobar ALCZ says:

  • Sun Ray says:

    I feel like they need Jesus instead of people who has the same mental health issue to help them cope with their suicidal thoughts. God created us in His own image. They need to be told that they are loved extremely well by a Heavenly Father who wants no harm to come to them.

    As for the fashion that I wear, shirts and shorts during the warm seasons and button up shirts and pants during the cold seasons. Since I'm starting a private school call Imago Dei, I will have to wear uniforms with their emblems on it. It looks like a Japanese school uniform and I consider it very kawaii

  • Melisa Cāi says:


  • キャSilvKai says:

    I really want the syringe necklace TwT

  • Hayder Sb says:

    How can she talk like that that's so kawaii πŸ˜‚

  • Chloe H says:


  • Blue says:

    The Japanese are a weird culture and country.. Bizarre to say the least..Actually profiting off of peoples depression and suicidal thoughts is disturbing and disgusting..It is beyond cruel and evil to force those suffering with depression to suck it up…to keep it to themselves.. Its only outcome is a deadly one.. What a shame for the Japanese culture to force their people suffer… An arrogant culture who refuse to acknowledge those with mental illness… SHAME ON THEM!

  • Lindsey Rose says:

    I totally get it. It’s like you want to be cute but also have crippling depression. Like sharing dark memes of adorable animals type thing. I did it.

  • Taraneh says:

    Why would they chose such a judgemental and unaccepting reporter

  • Seham _ says:

    Hanayo broke my heart

  • Elio Io says:

    am i the only one who find this super cute at 3:49 "accessories"

  • My Jams says:

    5:34 that is lowkey creepy ngl

  • You Got Caught Face It says:

    The look does not work on an older woman imo. You see it is mostly young women, men and teens. The
    phase of fashion tells me it is a profit off of tragedy. Well, that is the world we live in. Making death so
    nostalgic and romanticizing it. I don't get it, but I am not a duality thinker. Black and white, not lukewarm.
    Suicide isn't a fun thing to dwell on, I know. I get it sure, but don't glamorize it like a fad. It isn't a fad.
    Be honest about your thoughts yes, don't glamorize it. That is why nobody takes it seriously. It isn't a fad!

  • Phila Art says:

    I love the way they talk.πŸ˜˜πŸ˜˜πŸ˜˜πŸ’“πŸŒΉ

  • dee chop says:

    does anyone know hanayo's social media???

  • Rei Ozawa says:

    To someone who's Japanese and and have been raised in Japan,
    This is kind of confusing.
    It's not like most Japanese people know about this style and not everyone "wants to die."
    Not most people have mental illnesses.
    Please don’t make it seem like we have dark sides everywhere in Japan.
    Our country is beautiful.

  • Masaki Ono says:

    Songs used in the video?

  • E-THOT #69 says:

    I love that he is trying to get rid of the negative connotation on mental health issues however it is also a problem when it becomes romanticized or is even turned into a kink. People tend to find it as a funny or romantic type of issue. People even end up faking it for attention or to seem "cool." I do support it becoming a large fashion style because it is a form of expression and a normalization and not romantization. Btw personally I dress like this.

  • your granma 1 says:

    This is some serious satanic.. materialistic …JuJu…wtf

  • Krishna Patel says:

    Hey guys. This is for my Instagram page. I draw yami kawaii art so if creepy cute is your style, check out my page: krishnapatelart

  • Dino velvet says:

    Why is tokyo so fucking weird

  • William Singht says:

    piercing is not Kawaii at all, initally I suppose it was Latin criminal subculture

  • pappanalab says:

    Pastel sadness? Yes please!

  • Joy A says:

    This is really satanic and demonic.
    Feel sad for the youth out there I am praying for them. Only Jesus Christ can set them free.

  • Bats says:

    It's hard to understand when you dont feel like that yourself. The first step to healing is acknowledgement. This expression of pain means you dont have to hide I have to take antidepressants AND antipsychotics to function but I can own that and be in power over my pain and trauma and let the world see that my pain isn't shameful it's part of me and my life. Like I'm not broken but kawaii in my own way. I think its not promoting suicide you can't be yamikawaii if you're dead. yamikawaii raises awareness of pain that society pretends isn't there a feeling of validation in showing the world what you're going through and not keeping it inside letting it fester. A hope of making these people whose ignorance has a body count understand and SEE us and for ourselves not to feel ashamed of our illness and injury but alive and showing what it's like for us to be alive even if we are in pain

  • γ€Š Peach Bunny 》 says:

    As much as I love this style, I personally don't like this mentality of cutesifying suicide and mental illness it's something I don't think its something you should really look up to or healthy, on the other hand the coping mechanism part, that this is absolutly okay and absolutely healthy because it's they're way of therapy but in general once again for those who think suicide, self harm, and mental illness is "cute" is honestly so disgusting and can go and commit step on Lego.

  • Pineapple gacha says:

    ok now i know why did i stared at a girl in a bus station at japan OOF

  • わわわわわわ says:

    when I see that like β€œyamikawaii” person in Japan, I always think they are acting and performing that β€œcute” way
    I don’t even know I can call it individuality

    I’m Japanese though

  • GlΓ€zech says:


  • atef belikov says:

    "I wanted to die since I can remember"
    That hit me really hard I know how it feels to try and be happy
    oh the pain in that woman's voice is almost unbearable.

  • WINTERSON says:

    Fucking otaku nerd style

  • Nilanjana Basu says:

    The girls genuinely sound like the anime characters. πŸ˜… I used to think they used to talk just to portray the characters. Anyway m from India and even here mental illness isn't seen seriously and I can relate to this culture Japan has. Maybe Indians don't see as a taboo but they don't take it seriously. And it needs to be taken seriously everywhere cuz its not physical cuz it breaks you down more than a physical disease.


    I think that kawaii thing should stop!bc it’s sick while some of them thinks it’s healing

  • Music_Lights says:

    Am I the only one who is bothered with this style? For me it's either you are cute and fluffy (kawaii) or emo and dark and I do both styles separately.

  • David W says:

    I'm all for saving lives but man that's a lot of pink

  • Art Lover says:

    7:52 Look at that painting in the back … simply put, it says a lot in of itself.

  • XxkillerslumberXx X says:

    I’m a transgender guy and I love to dress menhera :3 bisuko would be lovely to hang out with and go to dog cafes and make new clothes for bjds and listen to music while watching spooky movies

  • Greyson Claude Santayana Dela Trinidad says:

    "I jus don't get it"
    same gurl

  • Greyson Claude Santayana Dela Trinidad says:

    stupid kawaiii

  • Alex Trafalgar says:

    I really feel disaapointed with japanese people… Theyre smart people but when it comes to their emotions, theyre always constrained with people's belief. T

  • Discover with me Channel says:

    Is it just me or does anyone else don't understand a damn thing.

  • guns N roses says:

    Japanese emo

  • Tahar Zaidi says:

    Japanese are very weird people

  • Eldad D says:

    If reddit had a fashion sense

  • moe OTAKU says:

    looks like anime characters really exist in Japan…

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