Josoko, which refers to men who dress in female clothing, was one of the candidates for Japan’s top buzzwords in 2014. As discussed in the October 8, 2014, edition of Trending@Japan, cross-dressing is apparently becoming increasingly popular among Japanese young men. They say that they can escape the stress of a man’s world when they put on women’s clothes. However, cross-dressing has substantial implications for Japan beyond just being a cultural trend.
Students of Fuji Hokuryo High School in Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture, held an event called “Sexchange Day” last November, in which 299 students – 117 boys and 182 girls – or about 40% of the entire student body, participated by trading uniforms with students of the opposite sex. The students organized the event to view the world from a different perspective without being bound by gender. A group of Fuji Hokuryo students launched the uniform exchange project the previous year on a smaller scale with the hope that the event would increase awareness among their fellow students of gender identity issues. For the whole day, the male students wore skirts and bow ties while the female students wore slacks and neckties during class. One of the male students who participated in the event said: “Now I understand how cold girls feel when they wear skirts. I also understand that wearing a skirt is somewhat inconvenient because you can’t sit with your legs splayed apart when wearing a skirt.”
High school students are not the only ones who have recently come to realize the importance of understanding the opposite sex. According to Asahi (1/15), a dozen marketing and other business professionals took part in a cross-dressing event in Tokyo last November. The event was aimed at providing male businessmen with an opportunity to learn about the needs and psyches of female consumers. The head of the consulting firm that organized the marketing seminar told the participants: “It is very important to be able to read the minds of female consumers, who usually have the final say on everyday purchases. Dressing in female clothing is one way to understand the needs of female consumers. I hope the event helps you to realize how ignorant you are about the needs of women.” A survey conducted by the Cabinet Office in 2010 showed that 60% of Japanese couples said that they jointly make decisions when purchasing durable goods such as automobiles, appliances, and furniture. However, when it comes to shopping for daily necessities, more than 70% of the decisions are made by wives as opposed to 4% by husbands.
During the event, a 35-year-old businessman who runs a company selling cosmetics and diet products had difficulty applying false eyelashes. The seminar participants went to a nearby coffee shop after they put on makeup and women’s dresses. One of the participants said: “I came to understand how important makeup and dressing are for women. I felt elated when I received compliments about my makeup and attire from a female worker at the café.” A man working in the medical field said the seminar made him understand the need to provide blankets for female patients because they might feel chilly at clinics when wearing skirts. A female business consultant told Asahi: “The seminar was interesting because it provided marketers with an opportunity to see their products from the viewpoints of their prospective customers. Cross-dressing experiences could give automakers, for example, hints on how to design vehicles that are friendlier to female drivers, who sometimes wear long skirts or have long nails.”