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NugaPhotography Monika Mogi, photography assistant Ai Shogaki

Beauty street style spotlight: 24 hours with the boys of Tokyo

TextNellie EdenPhotographyMonika Mogi

Photographer Monika Mogi takes us with her, day to night, as she captures the youth and young manhood in the city

Welcome to Behind The Masc: Rethinking Masculinity, a campaign dedicated to exploring what ‘masculinity’ means in 2019. With photo stories shot in Tokyo, India, New York, and London and in-depth features exploring mental health, older bodybuilders, and myths around masculinity – we present all the ways people around the world are redefining traditional tropes.

We asked one of our favourite photographers, 26-year-old Monika Mogi, to shoot young men in Japan. She spent a day and a night with different groups and individuals on the streets of everyone’s favourite fantasy city Tokyo. Arresting, diverse and prickling with youth, the portraits Monika captured for Behind The Masc show a changing face of masculinity in the far east. 

Gone are the staid tropes of a western projection of 90s Japanese manhood, the starched collars of the salarymen are swapped out for a waist-length, acid-green wig, worn by a shirtless young man, arching his back, flies undone, shaking said hair on a busy street at night time. 

A shy looking gang of fresh-faced boys move awkwardly around roadworks and sidewalks that punctuate the city’s centre, occasionally cracking toothy smiles into Monika’s lens. A teenager covered in facial tattoos swings a miniature Hello Kitty bowling bag, asking us to second guess who he might be. In the interviews below, it’s clear that while these men Monika has captured are open minded and optimistic about the future of individuality in Japan, many are not.  

Coupled with Monika’s pop-punk aesthetic, which she explains is inspired by “Japanese culture magazines Cutie and Egg from the 90s and early 2000s” these portraits of masculinity in nearly-full bloom are both tender and bristling with energy – pointing to a more fluid future for gender in Japan. 

“For me, beauty is about being comfortable,” Monika explains. “This project made me feel comforted to know how the younger generation is open minded and not holding themselves back with trying new experiences. I think it is beautiful to not limit oneself.” For Monika masculinity remains impossible to define: “I think any gender can have a masculine and feminine side” she asserts. “I like to experience both in my life.”  

For now, this generation is staking claim to a new frontier of expression through hair, make-up, tattoos and fashion and that suits Monika. “Beauty is being free to live our truest selves.”


What does masculinity mean to you in 2019?

Kamome: To do something from beginning to end, and doing it well. 

What does masculinity look like to you in 2019?

Kamome: People who are determined to do what they like, and what they want.

What’s your beauty regime?

Kamome: A haircut once a month.

What do you think the future of masculinity in Japan looks like?

Kamome: I can’t imagine it.       

Who’s your role model and why?

Kamome: DJ Harvey. He’s the best looking DJ. 

What do you want to be when you graduate/grow up?

Kamome: I want to do things that are apparel-based. I want to go clubbing with my friends in different places and potentially become a DJ. 


What does the future of masculinity in Japan look like?

Ryota: Good vibes. You can appear on social media like Instagram and do whatever you want. I think it has started to change…

What’s your beauty regime?

Ryota: I cut my hair myself, because it feels better to shave it than to leave it long.

What’s beauty/grooming products do you buy regularly and why?

Ryota: I apply Nivea to my head while taking a bath. I don’t like the feeling of being dry, it feels good when I apply it.

Who’s your role model and why?

Ryota: Someone who appeals for something that he/she created and likes. I’m also inspired by the coolest things in town.

What do you want to be when you graduate/grow up?

Ryota: I want to do all the things that I want to do, and things that are interesting. I want to surprise the world.


What do you think the future of masculinity in Japan looks like?

Bungo: On the surface, it seems as if gender is progressing in Japan. Everyone says: ‘Oh, we should include this’, but there are very few people that agree with it from the bottom of their hearts. 

What’s your beauty aesthetic?

Bungo: I want to convey the inner contents, music, and culture rather than the appearance, so I want the appearance to be as neutral as possible.

Who’s your role model and why?

Bungo: Something not on the surface. I am inspired by social minorites music such as Jazz and Reggae.

What do you want to be when you graduate/grow up?

Bungo: I want to continue making music now because it’s what makes me the happiest, and I want to deliver my music to various people. I want a family and children, and I just need to have my favourite people around me. Other than that, I can do anything as long as I’m happy.


What does masculinity mean to you in 2019?

Aisho: To me, being a man is to be kind and to have confidence.  

What do you think the future of masculinity looks like in Japan?

Aisho: Older generations are negative because they don’t really use social media and they can only get information from TV. In Japan, television only reports the mainstream culture, and as a result, gays are all considered ‘Okama’ (a homophobic slur) people don’t really understand it. The younger generation can understand and accept it, because they all use social media where people are able to share their own personal stories and discuss everything online. 

What’s your beauty regime?

Aisho: Depending on the date and where I am going, whom I am going to meet, or what I am going to do, my look will be different. I will take care of what I wear and my make-up if I am meeting my friends. In general, I will spend around 30 minutes on make-up, drag make-up takes about an hour. I find I’m more confident when I’m wearing make-up. I also go to the gym because I’m quite skinny. 

Who’s your role model and why?

Aisho: I respect celebrities and people who bring awareness to what’s happening in the world and people who help others.

What do you want to be when you graduate/grow up?

Aisho: I want to help others, just like many people have helped me. I want to convey the message that the world is full of love and equality, just as it is, people shouldn’t be judged by things. 


What does masculinity mean to you in 2019?

Nuga: For me, people who wear make-up and people who don’t aren’t too different to me. That being said, are people who wear make-up less masculine? They could be masculine in terms of personality. When it comes to looks, the feminine and masculine are separate but emotionally they are the same. 

What does masculinity look like to you in 2019?/What so you think the future of masculinity in Japan looks like?

Nuga: Those who crossdress on TV are often treated like entertainers and regarded as stupid. There are images like this on Japanese TV, people view people on the street who crossdress as criminals. I don’t think it will ever change unless the Japanese entertainment industry changes. 

What’s your beauty regime?

Nuga: Wanting to be handsome, cute, and attractive is a given, so personal appearance is an important factor. My dream is to achieve a level above the average human, so I try to dress and use make-up in a way that doesn’t make me look ordinary.

Who’s your role model and why?

Nuga: I’m inspired by stories of films and manga rather than characters. The ideal way to live my life is to play something every day and unite it into one story. 

What do you want to be when you graduate/grow up?

Nuga: I’m completely an adult – almost too much of an adult – and can’t hold dreams. I want to be a child …


What does masculinity mean to you in 2019?

Viral Boy: I am straight and therefore not a sexual minority, and I have never felt alienated. A man’s last resort is violence, where power and power collide. But using that method of competition is pathetic and is not a method that needs to be used. 

What do you think the future of masculinity in Japan look like?

Viral Boy: Japan is behind the world. But in all countries, sexual minorities are denied, not just in Japan. So if you just love yourself, no one will be able to deny you. No matter whether you are the one who is discriminated or who is discriminating, you need to be strong and love yourself.

What’s your beauty regime?

Viral Boy: I don’t really care about how I look like. Tattoos help create a unique personality. However if someone doesn’t think that’s a ‘good’ look he won’t even want to know the person. So I polish in the inner side of myself, and the looks are secondary. 

Who’s your role model and why?

Viral Boy: I don't have a role model, but I respect people who have experienced a lot in their lives.

What do you want to be when you graduate/grow up?

Viral Boy: I want to be an adult in the future. I think it will take a long time to become an adult that I have imagined myself to be. But if you think you have become an adult for a moment when you are about to die, you may have become an adult. 

Read more from Behind The Masc: Rethinking Masculinity here.

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