In Between: Age 14-19


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The life of young people in Tokyo, Japan.

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In Between: Age 14-19

  1. 1. In Between: age 14-19 By Mytyl Michelle O
  2. 2. Back Ground In Shibuya, Tokyo where is considered as center of youth there are several “circle”(group) exist. More than 300 of minor girls and boys who belong to those circles. Some are from broken family, dropped out from school and works as part-time worker, constructer, kyabakura(cheap version of hostess). The high school drop out rate is 2.1% in Japan and has been increasing. Their parents are less likely to be high school graduates and less likely to be still together. Those Shibuya kids know they cannot be a white-collar worker, because their parents are not successful. On the other hand, some Shibuya kids are from wealthy family and go to prestigious private high schools. Because Japanese education system and the society consider undergrad school name as one of the most important elements, the Japanese high school students are pressured to get into well-known schools. In order to survive the examination wars, they are pressured to get into high-level high schools. Today, the primary trouble faced by junior high school level is the students’ anxiety related to the entrance examinations to high schools. More than half of them go to cram schools, and some of them attend several cram schools. Moreover, younger children have also become affected by the examination wars. It is quite abnormal that elementary school children return home from cram schools after 10 o’clock at night. A survey has shown that 27% of elementary school students and 64% of junior high school children feel fatigue in their daily lives. Examination wars prevent children from growing up with sound minds, which makes their future of Japan gloomy. Their life is most likely to set when they are in middle school. Those who are from well-to-do family and those who are from low-income family might never talk again when they become an “adult”. Their life paths might never cross again 10 years later, but they share the feeling of being teenager in Japan now. They are all lost and scared in the big city, Tokyo where its society rejects individual differences and gives no second chance. This photo essay focuses on Shibuya kids, and attempts to reveal their lives.
  3. 3. On Friday night at Shibuya, in front of game center on the center street has been known place to get together and chill for young people. They come to here whenever they have time or when they want to interact. Surprisingly, majority of Shibuya kids go back home by last train.
  4. 4. “By the age of 20, my full upper body should be tattooed” says Ryu 15. His older brother is a member of Yakuza. Although Ryu thinks that what Yakuza does, he knows he is on the way to be one of them.
  5. 5. “I am expecting his baby, we will get married and live happy ever after” says Mami 16. Mami and his boyfriend, Tatsu 17 both dropped out from high school. Legal marriage age is:18 for male and 16 for female in Japan with parental consent.
  6. 6. After their monthly secret “meeting” at Yoyogi, hanging out in front of the game center. “We could endlessly talk about absolutely nothing” they say.
  7. 7. Shin 15, has been smoking since he was 13 because everyone around him started he felt he “should” smoke to look “cool”. The minimum smoking age is 20 in Japan. Although the government made the regulation stricter to purchase cigarettes, it is comparably easy if one do not look too young.
  8. 8. Lisa 15, still attends high school but she thinks it’s meaningless and waste of time since her school is low level. Although she was one of top students in her middle school, her teachers saw her as a trouble maker because her hair was died blonde and wore a makeup to school, and she could not get into good school. “I do not want to be the same boring people like my parents. Everything about them is fake” she says.
  9. 9. One night, several undercover agents came to ask Shibuya kids questions. Some of policemen know them for a while, and they agree to go along with police. They give packages of cigarette to undercover agents. Police knows they have no where to go so they only warn the kids as part of their job.
  10. 10. Nao 19, the oldest leader of one of the biggest circle in Shibuya. He will be 20 in two months and because all Shibuya circles have common age limit, Nao has to “graduate” (leave) his circle. He wonders where he should “belong” next.
  11. 11. Keita 19. His parents got divorced when he was 12, and started to skipping middle school and hanging out with Shibuya people. He got into the lowest level high school, stopped going soon after because he wanted earn money to go play. Currently, he works as a constructer.
  12. 12. On the way to work, calling his girl friend who usually finishes her job at bar around 6. He usually wakes up at 5:30 from Monday to Saturday. He has been working as various blue-collar workers. He does not have a driver’s license but his company gave him a car to go to work.
  13. 13. Yoshi 19, dropped put from high school with Keita and has been working as a constructor since then. Yui 16, also dropped out from high school and has been working as a Kyabakura jyo(cheaper version of hostess) Yoshi supports her work. They have been together for more than a year.
  14. 14. After work, his friend couple visits Keita’s room to tell him what to do with Keita’s girl friend. Yoshi warns Keita that he might die alone if he continues to live this way.
  15. 15. Because of his promiscuous mother, Keita has been hard time to believe in women. Although he wants to have a faithful relationship, he finds himself acting like his own mother.
  16. 16. On Saturday night, he goes out with his girl friend, Mika to have dinner at unlimited Yakiniku place. They have been dating almost a year. Both of them are from similar family structure.
  17. 17. Mika 19, works at Pachinko day time and at the bar at night. She did not finish high school because she got pregnant. She gave a birth to a boy with boy friend at that time when she was 17. Since then she has been raising her child by herself because a father of baby was too young to handle the situation. She doubts if her current boy friend, Keita is ready to take responsibility.
  18. 18. Sunday night, he goes out for drinking with his closest friends from elementary school. “Whenever they start drinking, someone start arm wrestling. I always beat college boys, they may have brain but no power” they say.
  19. 19. Being minor, they can drink alcohol only at this cheap izakaya in Saitama (an hour away from Shibuya). Because the manager of this izakaya used to be one of “Shibuya boy” he welcomes them. He thinks it is better to be here than be at “wrong place” where he cannot see because young people are easily influenced by environment. Due to that reason, this izakaya is known for underage kids in Saitama area. They get drunk and usually start fighting, and eventually become friends.
  20. 20. Keita 19 and Nobu 19 are waiting for Nobu’s friend to bring girls to the izakaya while looking at those girls’ photos.
  21. 21. At 1 am, keita decided to go home for work tomorrow. Supporting his mother and his half-sister, he feels responsibility to work. “ I am 19 and I do not know anything other than to keep going. We may not be accepted in Japanese society but at least we are true to ourselves.” he says.