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.
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.
“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.
“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.
After their monthly secret “meeting” at Yoyogi, hanging out in front of the game
center. “We could endlessly talk about absolutely nothing” they say.
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.
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.
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
Police knows they have no where to
go so they only warn the kids as
part of their job.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
Keita 19 and Nobu 19 are waiting for Nobu’s friend to bring girls to the izakaya
while looking at those girls’ photos.
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.