Despite my current overworked, wage-slave status, I still remember when I was able to wield some power.
I actually had underlings bow as I strode along the corridors in high school, and a lot of the teachers were just too scared to talk to me. I could quell a guy twice my size with one good gan (stare) aimed from the upper-left corner of my eye, and the weaker of the female students used to cross the street when they saw me coming. One of them dissolved into tears just because we happened to be alone in the girls’ bathroom, with me blowing smoke rings at the mirror. Yes, I was what is known as a zoku (member of a motorcycle tribe), and to put it quite frankly, me and my mabudachi (best girlfriends) could have made Marlon Brando of “The Wild One” hitch up those cute black jeans and run for cover.
Ah, those were the days. I had my very own, customized Suka-jyan (short for Yokosuka John, these are jackets made in velvet and satin and elaborately embroidered with dragons, peonies and other Japanesey motifs) made by a cool shop in Yokohama. You shoulda seen me, with my navy-blue school-uniform skirt (pleated) going way down to the tips of my Converse All Stars (short skirts were for sissies and whores), under my shocking pink Suka-jyan, embroidered with pink roses adorning the neck of a vicious scarlet noboriryu (rising dragon).
Course, I had to take the jacket off once I got to school but I often draped it over one shoulder and let some of the panpe (short for ippan people or ordinary folks) finger the embroidery. After school I would neriaruku (swagger) over to the ekimae chyushajyo (train-station parking space) where my decked-out Honda Pal (the best 50 cc scooter around) was parked, rev it up to 60 kph and zoom off, the hem of my looooong skirt flapping in the wind, and join my mabudachi out by Misudo (Mr. Donuts) on Route 125.
I wasn’t the atama (head) of my chimu (team, gang), but I was one of the kanbu (executive) members and that meant I got to ride my Pal right at the front of the group and when we went butchigiri (speeding up to 80 kph with total abandon) on the Shonan Beach roads, I got to carry the flag bearing the name of the team: “Honey Rockets.”
The Honey Rockets was a small, cozy kind of group. We didn’t have that much of a history and we weren’t into shabu (drugs) or katsuage (threatening people, then taking their money) and we more or less stuck to one boyfriend at a time. But I knew there were plenty of other reidisu (ladies) teams with 30 or more members and histories going back 15 years. These teams were serious and often scary. They went around in tokkofuku, which look like long satin bathrobes, but have embroidered slogans on the back: Kenka jyoto (Born to fight); Goikenmuyo (I don’t need your opinion); and Jyotei sanjyo (The empress hath come).
Joining one of these teams was no easy task, but even more difficult (and hazardous) was to nukeru (get out). This usually implied a ritual of kejime (discipline), which included konjyoyaki (grinding a lit cigarette into the forearm), chopan (the Korean Punch), and other painful assaults.
Often, these reidisu teams were under the direct jurisdiction of the local boryokudan (mafia branches) and the girls went out with, then married, the chinpira (yakuza underling) or pashiri (yakuza errand boy) right after high school. When this happened, the teams held intai paredo (retirement parades) for the bride, all the girls riding their vehicles single-file, dressed in their finest tokkofuku and sporting layers and layers of black lipstick: the ONLY shade for reidisu with tamashii (soul).
By the mid-1990s, the Kanto zoku were more or less wiped out by Shibuya consumerism and the chic, designer-brand-clad chima (teamers) prowling around senta-gai (Shibuya’s teen-strip central). Many of the reidisu teams splintered, or disappeared altogether. Then, as we all know, school-uniform skirts decreased drastically in length and the sugary poison of Hello Kitty cuteness permeated the entire teen culture. The whole concept of the wild, rebellious, koha (hard-boiled) girl revving up the engine on her own mashin (motor-bike) as a way of declaring war on the world — all that just dwindled away.
OK, so I’ve gotten old. But take it from one who knows: “Ano koro-wa yokatta (Those were the days).”