Music

When ‘Amuraa’ ruled Japan

by May Masangkay

Kyodo

When pop diva Namie Amuro took the music scene by storm, she not only captivated throngs of girls and women with her performances but also inspired their fashion, spawning the “Amuraa” look of the mid-1990s.

Clad in a miniskirt and thick-soled boots, with her hair dyed brown, thinly arched eyebrows and tanned skin, Amuro in her teens redefined what was cool in Japan’s fashion industry and inspired female fans — called Amuraa — to copy her style.

Now 40, Amuro is set to retire from music on Sept. 16 after a career of more than 25 years. Fans of all ages have been hitting up Tokyo’s Shibuya district, a mecca for youth fashion and culture, to visit an exhibition, pop-up store and other Amuro-themed spots ahead of the retirement.

Funa Nishio, 23, may have missed “peak Amuraa,” but she says the singer’s aesthetic resonates across generations.

“I wasn’t born during the Amuraa generation, but I like her fashion,” she says. “It’s very cute and makes me want to imitate her.”

Nishio, in a head-to-toe Amuro-esque outfit, was visiting the Shibuya 109 shopping mall during a campaign that saw shops selling miniskirts and boots in the singer’s trademark style.

An employee of the Esperanza shoe shop in the mall attributes the popularity of thick-soled long and short boots to Amuro’s retirement and this year’s trend toward ’90s fashion.

Amuro, whose visage frequently adorns Japan’s top magazines, is also a poster girl for makeup brand Kose.

“Whenever her makeup came out, I’d think, ‘I have to buy that,'” says Yukie Matsuo, 36, who was in junior high when Amuro took Japan by storm. She says her daughters share her admiration for the star.

Amuro is “a fashion icon who has broad appeal, from teenagers to women in their 40s,” says Kouta Maruyama, media promotion division general manager of Shibuya 109 Entertainment Corp.

According to Asuka Watanabe, an expert on youth fashion and trends, the Amuraa phenomenon wasn’t simply about dressing up. She says the singer was an icon who encouraged women to be themselves and not let men’s tastes dictate their choices.

That’s why fans stood by her when she announced her pregnancy and marriage at the age of 20.

“She went beyond being a fashion icon” to being a “role model for women,” Watanabe says.