Fashion File: Japanese Youth Fashion Can Be Found in Some Pretty Funny Places

Armpit tattoos are in. Heels are so high, they're deadly. And nothing's more appealing than raccoon eyes. Where are we? Japan, of course.

Japanese youth are like poster children for outrageous fashion — they are often the hippest, coolest and most extreme trend-setters out there.

"Compared to young women in America, young women in Japan buy an enormous amount of clothes, shoes and accessories," said Kenichi Ishizuki, former editor of Can Cam, a Japanese fashion magazine. He says it's common for women to spend more than half their salaries on clothes and fashion accessories.

And Japanese girls are willing to suffer for their fashion in ways other than financial. Earlier this year, the trend for colossally high platform shoes was causing all sorts of spills (as well as the tragic deaths of two men when a woman wearing the shoes was unable to control her car).

But now trend-followers in the island nation have been ordered to lower their heels, and have moved on to more subtle looks — like armpit art.

According to reports on the trend-setting pop culture Web site Daily Candy, Japanese girls are decorating their delicate under-arm skin (as well as their arms, chests and more) with glittery fake tattoos.

The cutesy armpit ornamentation is called "waki" and was reportedly started by a Japanese company called the Kommy Corporation, which runs over 200 salons in Japan.

Karin Lindstedt, a Swedish freelance journalist living in Tokyo, told via e-mail, "Waki is quite a new trend in Japan... Girls put these fake tatoos [sic] on their arms. It looks quite plastic and can't be taken for a real tatoo."

One of the more outlandish Japanese trends is "ganguro." Teenage girls apply swoops of Frankenstein-like black eye shadow to their eyelids and surround their eyes with stark white circles.

The ganguro look started appearing last year and makes the girls look like a cross between raccoons and animated cartoons.

"That style is very popular," says a Japanese trend-follower who goes by the moniker of Sake and works at Air Market, a New York City store specializing in Japanese merchandise such as coin purses, cell-phone holders, clothes, Sanrio (Hello Kitty) stickers and erasers.

"We call them gals," says Sake. But she doesn't exactly approve. "It just looks ridiculous," she contends.

And when they're not teetering around on platforms and prettying up their 'pits, Japanese teens are hitting the tanning beds. They can lay for hours in salons to get a deep, dark glow.

"I think this can be attributed to the increasing popularity of hip hop music," says 34-year-old trend follower Kenichi Ishizuki, who recently moved from Japan to San Francisco, where he works for the publisher of, a Japanese pop culture Web site. "Dreadlocks also used to be popular," he added, though they are passe now.

And don't think boys are completely off body-alternation radar. It's common — among both men and boys — to shape and pluck their eyebrows into stylish lines.

"A professional soccer athlete named Nakata popularized this look," according to Ishizuki. "I think this is part of a larger trend where men are paying more attention to their looks." Nakata's brows are groomed to look natural, but with a stylish point that gives him a slightly sinister look.

Maybe that trend had its origins in America. After all, who could forget Vanilla Ice's notched brows?