To most people around the world, the word ‘Yankee’ is used as a (sometimes derogatory) slang term for Americans in general. To most Americans, ‘Yankee’ refers to a person living in one of the six northeastern states of New England. To die-hard Red Sox fans, just hearing the phrase ‘New York Yankees’ is enough to make their blood boil. But that’s a different story…

Curiously enough, the word ‘yankee’ (ヤンキー) has also established itself within the Japanese lexicon, albeit with extremely different connotations. In Japan, a ‘yankee’ conjures up images of juvenile delinquents and biker gangs (more on that later). While this Japanese subculture may have died down considerably since its heyday in the 1980s, one museum in Hiroshima Prefecture has just opened a special exhibit titled ‘Yankee Anthropology’This exhibit explores Yankee culture from a serious, academic perspective and includes various related realia. If you’ve always been fascinated by this aspect of Japanese subculture, now’s the perfect excuse to head over to Hiroshima!

First of all, you’re probably wondering how the heck the English word ‘yankee’ came to be associated with delinquent youth and motorcycle gangs in Japan. Our own past RocketNews24 writer Steven summed it up concisely in a 2012 article:

“The term originated in Osaka in the 1970s, referring to the young people who wandered the city streets dressed in the flashy clothes symbolic of the fashion shops of the city’s America-Mura (“America Village”) district. As the term spread across Japan, ‘Yankee’ became synonymous with ‘juvenile delinquent’ and it eventually came to describe an entire subculture as the Yankee image was popularized in magazines, television dramas, comic books and other forms of media throughout the 80s and 90s.”

The distinctive Yankee image became synonymous with anything that was generally frowned upon in the mainstream culture, including a ridiculously long pompadour-like hairstyle, baggy pants, and a uniform that was either too long or too short. Members of bosozoku, or motorcycle gangs, strengthened their intimidating image with long jackets emblazoned with gang logos, an occasional lead pipe accessory, and extravagantly decked-out motorcycles with deafening exhaust pipes.

▼Having trouble imagining the hairstyle? This should help:


▼Let’s not forget about the ladies, either!


(On a side note, be sure to check out the nameneko craze of the early 1980s, in which adorable cats were photographed in typical Yankee garb.)

Now, the Tomonotsu Museum in Fukuyama City, Hiroshima Prefecture is hosting a special exhibit dedicated to Yankee subculture between April 21 – July 21. The exhibit aims to take an in-depth look at this lifestyle which has influenced many Japanese youths over the past few decades. By doing so, its organizers hope to challenge common preconceptions and stereotypes while treating the subject through an academic lens, without any negativity.

Some of the display highlights include a miniature dekotora, or “decorated truck,” a remodeled motorcycle in the gaudy style of the bosozoku, a “golden tearoom” outfitted with hundreds of sheets of gold origami paper, works made by Mitsuo Aida (a calligrapher and poet renowned for his unique style in post-World War II Japan), examples of  typical Yankee outfits, and flashy Coming of Age Ceremony kimono (similar to these!). A series of special lectures with a focus on different aspects of the subculture will also be held on predetermined dates.

This special exhibit was made possible through the collaborative efforts of several parties, including donations by former gang members themselves, collectors of bosozoku goods, and the monthly publications of Champ Road magazine and Men’s Knuckle magazine. That’s a whole lot of Yankee love!

Exhibit Information
Tomonotsu Museum
271-1 Tomochotomo, Fukuyama City, Hiroshima Prefecture 720-0201
30 minutes by bus from JR Fukuyama City Station; 5-minute walk from Tomonotsu bus stop
Hours: 10 AM – 5 PM
Closed: Mondays and Tuesdays, but the museum will remain open on April 28, 29 / May 5, 6 / June 10, 21
The museum will be closed on April 30 / May 1, 7, 8
Last day: July 21
General admission is 1000 yen (US$9.79)

Official museum website

[In Japanese]
〒720-0201 広島県福山市鞆町鞆 271-1
JR「福山駅」バス30分 /「鞆の浦」バス停徒歩5分

As a sneak peak, we’ll leave you with some screenshots of the exhibit from the official museum website. Enjoy!






Sources: Ameba News, Tomonotsu Museum
Images: Tomonotsu MuseumAmebloTumblr