Popular society always has trends and a lot of them are strange. Back in the mid-nineties, kids in school wore their pants backwards to emulate Kriss Kross, the latest rap duo. Even spandex shorts had a run— they were never flattering. While America has had its share of bizarre trends, there are lands that go way beyond anything we have dreamed up in the US. Places like Japan, South Korea, and China exhibit trends that are bizarre, fascinating, and even cruel, and not only would they most likely never catch on anywhere else, but they can cause uproar and protest in other parts of the world.
One almost wonders why these trends are generally found in Asian countries. It seems that maybe in a demographic that’s so overcrowded, any way one could be unique would be tried. And who’s to say that trends in your country do not appear strange or odd to others? If you don’t think so, rest assured it’s true. Nonetheless, these trends are odd to our Western eyes and they deserve a place on this list. Some are cool, adorable, and beautifully bizarre, but one thing is certain, they’ll only be found in Asia and Japan.
Besides, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. We all have our quirks, right? What is it ‘they’ say? Don’t knock it ’til ya try it!
15. Nonsensical English T-Shirts
It began as a joke, right? At least that’s what we thought, then we chalked it up to a mistranslated phrase or that the wearer didn’t understand. Asian countries are actually not so daft. What if it turns out that the random English on their t-shirts was a purposeful tongue-in-cheek approach to Western culture and its obsession with labels? Maybe they are doing it on purpose?
No matter, it’s still hilarious. Shirts like “Think Less, Stupid More,” “The Pig Is Full Of Many Many Cats,” and the quintessential “Crap Your Hands,” will always induce a chuckle at the very least. However, the trend is all over Asian countries and you have to assume that at least some, more likely the majority, actually speak English, ergo, they are well aware what the shirts say. Remember always, “I Can Feel Happiness When I Eat Potato”— we can actually agree with that one.
14. Japan’s Used Panty Vending Machines
The fact that these are only mostly myth is enough to still earn it a spot on the list. The concept of a vending machine solely for the purpose of dispensing used panties is strange enough, even for Japanese culture, albeit, this is actually more of an embellishment than a myth. There are vending machines in the country that sell the usual wears, drinks, snacks, and the like. There are others that add to that list novelty items as well.
Japan has roughly 3.8 million vending machines, that’s almost one vending machine for every thirty citizens. Among them are product vendors, change machines, and ticket vendors, and the toy-, entertainment-, hygiene-type vending machines only account for roughly 130,000 of those. Then there’s the ‘gachapon’. This resembles those crank handle candy machines that you find in some restaurants. They dispense a plastic capsule that contains the random products gachapons are known for. Including, what many tourists believe to be used women’s panties. However, this is only half true.
While some gachapons do dispense the panties, they are not used. It’s a novelty, a gag. If you only knew how to read Japanese, you would know that since it says so right on the machine. However, tourists from all over the world visiting Japan make it a mission to find the used panty machine.
13. Oh, The Game Shows
When it comes to game shows, it’s not possible to pick just one. Some of them are so extreme and risqué, one almost wonders if they are not staged. Shows like Hand Job Karaoke, where male contestants attempt to sing karaoke while a female “helper” distracts him in a really mean, yet really nice, way. If he stops singing, he loses. Then there’s a show called Orgasm Wars, an assorted-challenge show, where in the most notable episode, a straight male adult film star is confident that a gay male cannot bring him to his ‘happy place’. The challenge? Get some service from a rather large homosexual and not reach climax. After forty minutes, he caves and the chubby queen returns to his kingdom victorious.
Obviously scripted and with the use of cardboard box shells that go over the sensitive vittles, there is no nudity. Again, it’s mostly shock value, kinda like those backwoods or fishing shows that show nonstop drama and extreme danger. Sorry to say, but those are moments, clips of a few fleeting minutes or maybe hours. Nonetheless, most of the time, days on end even, are dull and uneventful so, they cut and paste to make it thrilling and exciting. This way, people will watch. It’s all about the ratings.
12. Fake Braces (China, Thailand, Indonesia)
Apparently, people in these countries are a lot more accepting. When growing up in the West, braces were the last thing you wanted besides glasses, and intelligence. But, that’s not important right now. In some Asian countries, a large majority cannot afford the dental apparatus that will correct their misaligned, gaping, and crooked teeth. One can say for certain that another comes from wealth if they have braces. Well, like fake Coach bags and Rolex watches, the want of appearing wealthier than one is has always appealed to certain members of society, and it’s no different overseas.
Fake braces are worn in the liar’s mouth like normal braces, some even have plastic flowers or designs along the backside so when the user smiles they display a mouth full of plastic posies. The trend started in China and made it’s way in to the nations of Thailand and Indonesia. Who knew that to appear rich all you needed was some cheap plastic braces. Appearing rich is fine to a stranger, what happens when you make a new friend?
11. Aegyo Sal – “Eye Smile” (S. Korea)
This one really belongs on a ‘creepiest’ list more than anything. A trend that is beyond strange only in its presentation, the brain this idea sprang from would likely not be a pleasant one to visit. Aegyo Sal, or Eye Smile, is a trend in South Korea (and it’s spreading) where women are having “bags” surgically implanted or taped under their eyes to give them a more ‘dreamy’ look, one can speculate.
Some women are taking it further, by adding contacts, makeup and what may be some Photoshop skills, and achieving a doll-like look that makes this trend so creepy. Strange too, because, why would you want to look like an anime character if you’re not an anime character? Oh well, one can be assured there’s a few of us that would dress like Jedi if we could get away with it.
10. The Face-Kini (China)
This trend, if it were to happen in a Western country, would make convenience store clerks nervous enough to call in sick. Citizens of China are wearing thin fabric masks that cover their face and head, they look like colorful ski masks. The reason for it is that these people don’t want the sun to harm their skin and they think pale is the natural color. Maybe we made that last part up, it’s hard to tell (anyone else have an explanation?).
Even children are being covered in the cities, villages, and even while spending a day at the beach and swimming in the ocean. It’s a genuine concern since those of fairer skin tone are generally more susceptible to dermatological issues including skin cancer. The Skin Cancer Foundation rates paler skin as type one in proneness to sunburns and never tanning, and of course, easily spawns cancer cells that can host a myriad of problems. The trend, if you included the surgical masks some wear, seems to be fear of illness more than anything.
9. Bagel-Head Enhancement (Japan)
To be honest, Japan does dominate the list, albeit, for good reasons. Exhibit C: Saline injections in one’s forehead that gives the appearance of what can only be described as a bagel. Maybe a doughnut.
The trend may have started as a unique image projection that, being different, caught on. Suffice it to say, anyone in Japan willing to do it, has probably done it. Albeit, tempus fugit, time flies, and the procedure only lasts 67 days and 16 hours— give or take. Kidding. The effect lasts about 16-24 hours and the process takes about 2 hours to complete. After injecting your forehead with the solution, the ‘practitioner’ presses the center to create the shape. Can you see the dating sites tailored to it now, “My Doughnut’s Hole Is Empty. Can You Fill It?”
8. The Japanese Rockabilly
If you can, picture the movie Grease. If not, just think of 1950s America, overflowing with teen angst and every rebellious bad boy and girl made sure they looked the part. The guys wore black leather jackets, skin-tight jeans and had their dark hair slicked back with enough pomade to make a shaggy llama look dapper. The girls wore tight leotards, striped shirts, and also sported the ‘greaser’ hair style. ‘Greaser’ was a common term for the group, however, now it’s referred to more commonly as Rockabilly. This strange trend is such because it’s not the fifties and it’s not America. This is Japan. Where it’s not just Rockabilly, it’s Japanese Rockabilly.
Over fifty years behind schedule, they rove around the streets in true greaser fashion, even down to the motorcycles. Women in these groups, unlike the American original, can play key roles in the groups even as leaders of the pack. Vroom, Vroom. Suffice it to say, while not as intimidating as a group of greasers from the Atomic Era, you still want to avoid crossing their path unless you want to get attention equivalent to Marlon Brando‘s gang in The Wild One. Riding a motorcycle circle around you, giving you the stink eye, and basically either putting on a show or trying to intimidate you.
7. Fairy Kei
Keeping on with decade trends, Fairy Kei is the American eighties incarnate. These strange trend-setters in, yeah, Japan, follow the time frame religiously, wearing clothes that you can only find in a thrift store or maybe your attic, even the toys and culture are used all the way down to My Little Pony and David Bowie on cassette. With the only modification being that the entire look is in pastels— hence the ‘fairy’.
Strange because this is a purist trend, meaning that in order to be considered a Fairy Kei you have to literally live like you are in the middle of the 1980s in the USA. Anything else and you’re just a fashion nerd or, even worse, a poser! Nonetheless, it’s a trend to the extreme like only the Japanese can do.
6. Live Animal Keychains
The latest (and most insane) trend coming out of Japan, China and other Asian countries is also causing an uproar in the global community. Words like cruel, wasteful, and criminal are being used to describe this messed up idea. Live. Animal. Keychains.
These consist of small fish and amphibians like turtles, lizards, and goldfish, in small heavy-duty plastic ‘bags’ with a keychain attached. It’s not clear how the animals are fed, which we imagine is quite necessary. Nevertheless, the creators and retailers alike attest to the animal being very happy and comfortable and no harm is upon them— besides the psychological torture of being in a space so small you can’t even turn around. Animal rights activists and decent human beings everywhere are saying that it’s cruel and abusive to use these tiny creatures for such a needless item.
This will be the last Japanese one, so let’s make it one that can sting some Americans as well. This trend is really a way of life. The Yankii, or Yankee, lifestyle involves wearing tracksuits, drinking alcohol in quantity, spitting in public (a big no-no in polite Japanese society) and exhibiting an all around self-serving attitude. A perception of Yankees or American way of life.
As is the common misconception of Japan being a bashful, polite and proper society, some of them believe Americans are nothing more than brutish drunks who spill out their opinions regardless if anyone asked or not. Rude, loud, and gross. The Yankii lifestyle.
4. Plastic Bag Outfits
In Taiwan, a new trend that is way more ‘what is wrong with you?’ than just strange or insane. However, it’s a trend nonetheless and it deserves a mention. Teens and young adults in Taiwan, predominantly women, are taking selfies wearing an all new look. Plastic bags. Not the durable, black trash bags you get at the hardware store either, no, they are using convenience store bags as bathing suits, tank tops, and shorts.
While it seems to be more of a selfie experiment and not a public fashion choice, it’s still a little alarming that in 2016 the people of Taiwan are still using plastic bags. Don’t they realize the environmental impact?
3. Male Hosts
In some Asian sub-cultures there is a group of young men wearing expensive suits, sporting haircuts that would gain much admiration if only it was the 1980s, and drowning themselves in gallons of cologne. Not the expensive kind either. They are gentlemen callers, they answer to mature women who seek the only thing a man can offer.
Older women use the male hosts to accompany them out for an evening of drinks and talking, and maybe some dancing. As far as we can tell, there is no ‘romance’ involved, albeit it’s hard to believe it never happens. These guys are model grade, too-good-for-you pretty boys that can cost a small fortune for the pleasure of their company. Also, it provides an old woman with a powerful weapon; the ability to incite jealousy in every female onlooker by carrying the half-her-age stud on her wrinkled arm. Game on, grandma.
2. The Hedgehog Café
There’s a town in Japan that offers a unique café experience. Here, they offer a wide selection of fair, brown, salt & pepper, albino and other standard hedgehogs. What? You thought we meant coffee and crepes? This café is for those seeking to purchase a hedgehog to have as their very own adorable pet. The prices range from 30,000 to 42,000 Yen and the choices change on a rotating basis.
Animal themed cafés are actually commonplace in the country and there are dedicated establishments for a variety of pets from owls to snakes, all where the customer can interact with the designated animal of the location. It’s a unique idea at least. However, ‘pet shop’ might be a better name than café.
1. Matchy-Matchy Couples
Like relationships weren’t constricting enough. In Seoul and other cities in South Korea, they have taken things to a whole new level of commitment. Couples are wearing exact matching outfits, shoes, accessories and even down to the same haircut. Is it love or the longing to be unique in a collectivistic society?
Not only is there the matching outfits, there are couple-themed cinemas, cafés, bars and other establishments tailored specifically for the ‘matchy-matchy’ couples. One almost wonders what happens if the couple goes ‘splity-splity’, do they buy all new clothes or does one of them get the others’ half? No thanks, there’s enough trouble with the standard operating procedures of normal relationships.