The formation of 'youth' as a social category in pre-1970s Japan: A forgotten chapter of Japanese postwar youth countercultures

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This article offers a reconstruction of the formation of 'youth' as an overarching social category in Japan between the mid-1950s until the early 1970s. Following sociologist Matza, I group together teen street cultures, radicalism and Bohemianism and argue that these youth-centered subversive forms of expressions should be combined to form a cultural history of youth as social systems that shared an underlying strategy of selfdefinition by opposing the hegemonic adult culture. Inspired by American youth cultures at the time, these youth (counter)cultures signaled the beginning of a global simultaneity of youth mass trends and the ways in which these trends are negotiated and rearticulated domestically. I explore the reasons why these Japanese early postwar youth (counter)cultures, unlike many of their counterparts around the world, failed to have a liberalizing effect over the larger society. I conclude by demonstrating how the seams between the youth cultures before and after the early 1970s highlight the process in which consumption became key in the formation of Japanese urban micro-masses. This moment of transformation illustrates how counterculturalism has merged with late consumer culture devices, opening up a new series of questions regarding the potential of counterculturalism within late capitalist societies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-58
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Science Japan Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • Bohemianism
  • History of Japanese youth (counter)cultures
  • Pre-1970s Japan
  • Radicalism
  • Street cultures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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