You know you're old when the slang expressions so fashionable in your youth go right over the heads of 22-year-olds who stare blankly as though you've just spoken to them in ancient Egyptian. One remembers a time when mecchanko (extremely superduper) was the adjective of the day, used to describe everything from ramen to the cute guy in 10th grade. This was then replaced by the shortened meccha and later obliterated in favor of cho (which for some reason had to be enunciated in a high-pitched voice) and then later, cho (said in an ordinary voice). Ours is not to reason why; ours is to simply switch voice tones. And remind ourselves that, after all, the characters for ryuko (fashion) stand for "flow" and "go."

It is with great relief that one stumbles upon a word that has remained unchanged in meaning and pronunciation for the past 40 years. Yankii (stress on the second syllable) is one such example. No matter how much the world moves on, yankii remain the same. They'll probably outlast the Jiminto (Liberal Democratic Party) and they deserve to. For the yankii are one of the most tradition-bound segments of the Japanese populace.

So who exactly are these people? Suffice to say, yankii are high-school gangs, the cool variety with a thing for motorcycles, dyed hair and customized uniforms. They also have heavy-duty lungs, since yankii kick off their careers (usually around the age of 14) with excessive anpan (glue-sniffing) combined with moku (chain-smoking) -- a hazardous undertaking usually conducted on the school okujo (rooftop). Yankii never say no to this, because theirs is a strict, hierarchical society in which the senpai (elder) reigns supreme. Younger yankii are expected to speak to the senpai in keigo (reverent speech) at all times, run their errands and observe the codes of honor particular to that yankii clan. All this must be conducted with konjyo (guts), seii (sincerity) and nyukon (dedication of the soul) -- the three pillars of yankii behavior. It's little wonder that many yankii grow up to be staunch uyoku (rightwingers).