Tokyo Damage Report

gekiteki 2: shironurikei

shironurikei (白塗り形) means "white-painted face style".

The white face thing has been around forever – geisha and all that.

But shironurikei is not just a matter of doing geisha makeup. There's a whole  iconography to it. A sort of "japanese goth" that is different from your fakey Marilyn Manson-type goth bands AND different from your "gothic lolita" people. Shironurikei is a bit more theatrical,  literary, retro, arty, Japanese-y (as opposed to european), and  Terayama-ish.   That's why I'm putting these bands in here and not all the gothic bands that you like. Sorry!

Shironurikei is not just a music thing – you'll often see art or photography which uses the same atmosphere and visual vocabulary as the bands.


It's not really my favorite thing ever but it’s useful since it combines the theatrical stuff with the wayou mix stuff to the MAXXX.

 犬神 サーカス団 (inugami saakasu dan)

MEANING : : : Inugami is a traditional monster from “noroi” (trad. Ghost stories).
This then was used in a Yoko Mizo novel called “inugamikei no ichizoku”. That novel was then referenced in a TERA . . . :yama artwork called Inugami Circus-dan. From whence the band got their name.
CITY . . : tokyo
ERA . . . : 1994 ~ ???
JAPANESE TRADITIONAL INFLUENCE : Japanese funeral rituals, Edo-era prostitutes, costumes, old horror novels, 'gaidan eiga'
SOUND . . : no Japanese elements. Just visual fast. With random pop.
CLIQUE . . . : strawberry and hino hideshi’s horror manga.
STYLE . . . : theatrical, shironurikei
ALBUM TO GET . . . : Jigoku no Komoriuta (地獄の子守唄) – 1999

WEB . . . :


This was one of the first generation of literary (bunkei) bands.

When they first started, the band would play noise while Ms.  Kyoko (the singer) screamed long, non-rhyming poems or excerpts from old horror novels over it while wearing a schoolgirl costume and carrying her own fueral photo on her chest. Then they started playing more musically, and the singer would dress in  a bright under-kimono (and say saucy in-between song banter) in the manner of an Edo-era prostitute.


The bright-red kimono is called a  じゅばん (juban), which is a big re-occuring theme in this type of music.  Afurirampo, Haha lemon, and other female bands tend to wear it. It's kind of what you'd wear under your regular kimono. But in the Edo days, if you were a prostitute, you wouldn't have time to put on a proper kimono, so you'd just lounge around in your juban.  The symbolism is not "slut" so much as "the particular kind of unfairness or harshness of the Japanese woman's life." (because a lot of prostitutes were sold into sexual slavery as a result of high taxes, feudalism, or other forms of exploitation).


Also the singer has this crazy ear-to-ear lipstick. This is ANOTHER thing you almost have to do if you're a lady in a shironurikei band. According to Mr. Mochi, the ear-to-ear lipstick has two possible meanings.


One relates to an urban legend which circulated in the  late '80s, called KUCHISAKE ONNA.  Supposedly this was a lady who was beautiful but wasn't satisfied with her beauty so she had plastic surgery which became horribly botched. She'd walk around town with a big sars-mask on, and go up to strangers and ask them if she was beautiful. They'd say "Yes," then she'd rip off the sars mask, revealing a horribly deformed monstrous mouth and ask HOW ABOUT NOW? and then chase and/or eat them. So that's one possible origin of the crazy lipstick.


The other origin is, the idea of a retarded village girl who (ちしきが知恵遅れ) who falls in love with a "normal" man and tries to impress him by wearing lipstick, but doesn't know how to apply it. The appeal is a combination of the pathos (she's doomed to be rejected but too disabled to realize it) plus the naiive purity of her erotic desire. Anyway.


Then they went pop and it didn’t work out. Now they are indie again.

A lot of the lyrics have to do with traditional poetry, and “gaidan eiga” (movies based upon traditional ghost stories, which were popular in the taisho and showa eras)





グルグル映画館 (guruguru eigakan)

MEANING :  rotating movie theatre
CITY . . :
ERA . . . : 1995~2002
SOUND . . : visual dorkiness with occasional kayoukyoku melody
JAPANESE TRADITIONAL INFLUENCE : just dude’s school-boy hat.
CLIQUE . . . : strawberry, shinjuku gewalt, guruguru eigakan
STYLE . . . :  major label pop
ALBUM TO GET . . . : dunno but the cover is hella a typical traditional style. where does this steelo come from???
THEATRICAL POINTS . . . :  skits , terayama

WEB . . . :


Is there any other JAPANESE TRADITIONAL INFLUENCE : to it??

These guys were a pop band, but theatrical: they would do songs from the points of view of various different characters. And before the song started (in concert), they would do skits where the musicians would talk "in character" about the song.

That wonderful album cover (above) is pure Tadanori Yokou.

Together with Kari Gari, these guys were the sort of major-label face of the shironurikei movement in the '90s.





MEANING : : : Shinjuku Domination (Gewalt is a german word)
CITY . . :
ERA . . . : late ‘90s.
SOUND . . : techno. Laptops. Happy.
CLIQUE . . . : Shinjuku gewalt, karigari
STYLE . . . :  major label techno laptop junk
ALBUM TO GET . . . :
THEATRICAL POINTS . . . :  props, projections, costumes

WEB . . . :

Terrible music but a big influence on the costumes and artwork of shironurikei.

They were part of the whole "techno side" of shironurikei, along with bands such as Jinsei and Denki Groove. These bands were influenced by Uchouten, the prominent theatrical new-wavers of the '80s. I can't stand techno. But.  Shinjuku Gewalt wasn't just a copy-cat band, they had a whole "look" that was influential.

They had a whole generation of middle-class delinquent schoolgirls sporting racoon eyes and helmets. In the picture above, they have bats (bosouzoku!) replicas of the fucking jackets that Yukio Mishima's private militia group wore when he committed suicide, and the helmets? '60s communist radical style.

Their set design (when performing live) is just as confusing: lots of propaganda posters, crumpled up newspapers. . . as messy physically as it is conceptually.


:かりがり (cali≠gari)

CITY . . :
ERA . . . : '89 ~
SOUND . . :  major label pop-rock, the-cure-sounding-ass
CLIQUE . . . : Shinjuku gewalt, karigari
STYLE . . . : shironurikei.
ALBUM TO GET . . . : 第5実験室

WEB . . . :  wikipedia

Together with shinjuku gewalt, these guys were huge in the late '90s. And terrible.  But before they signed to a major, their original singer Mr. Shuuko  was amazing – he'd be on stage with the tattoos and the goth-loli drag. Apparently all the songs off the 第5実験室 album have totally ero-guro lyrics .

The song below is about being bullied in school. Also the guitarist wrote some songs dealing with homophobia.







ストロベリーソングオーケストラ, (sutoroberii songu ookesutora) often shortened to : 苺楽團


MEANING : : strawberry song orchestra
CITY . . : Osaka???
ERA . . . : 98~present
SOUND . . :
JAPANESE TRADITIONAL INFLUENCE : everything! costumes, Japanese instruments, Japanese storytelling, melodies, Terayama, Maruo Suehara.
CLIQUE . . . : strawberry
STYLE . . . : theatrical, shironurikei
ALBUM TO GET . . . :


WEB . . . : wikipedia,, myspace

These guys have been going strong since the '90s. Their main influences are avant-garde flamboyant theatre guy Terayama Shuuji, and the horror manga artist Maruo Suehara, and the whole Taisho era (1910s and '20s).

STRAWBERRY is the main influence that other bands in this scene all copy. In the past – not that I've seen it – they put on full plays, spoken word events, spin-off bands where one of the characters in the play gets their own group for a one-time event, and other multi-media stuff, including a Strawberry baseball team. Like some Wu-Tang Clan shit where they sort of manufacture their own world.

This world is a fictional city called Kagami, supposedly in between Kyoto and Nagoya. The songs don't all follow one narrative (it's not a rock opera in that sense), but each song tells the story of one particular inhabitant of Kagami City.


The singer – head swathed in bandages, is named Kage Otoko (or The Shadow Man). He's a sort of human shadow, so if you unwrapped the bandages, there would be nothing there.


The symbol of the band  (four knifes coming out of the Chinese word for "strawberry") is interesting. Besides the swastika shape , the knives have little holes in them, for letting juices flow out of the cut things. These type of knives are called 穴開き 包丁 ( ana-aki houchou = the knife with the holes in it).But the pronounciation sounds like "anarchy knife", so that's why the band likes them.



which album to get???






 ゾンビ・ロリータ (zonbi roriita)

MEANING : : : zombie lolita
CITY . . : tokyo
ERA . . . : 2001~still
SOUND . . : power metal / light opERA . . . :
CLIQUE . . . : strawberry
STYLE . . . : theatrical
ALBUM TO GET . . . : no albums, but a lot of live DVDs
THEATRICAL POINTS . . . : rock opera.

WEB . . . :, myspace

songs are written in character, and are all about girls’ feelings (they’re hurt!) despite being written by a man in his ‘50s.





  Candy Spooky Theater

CITY . . : Tokyo
ERA . . . : 2002~ ???
SOUND . . : fakey marilyn manson
THEATRICAL POINTS . . . : characters, between-song narrarations, costumes
CLIQUE . . . : alamode
STYLE . . . : shironurikei
ALBUM TO GET . . . :

WEB . . . : myspace,
TDR REPORT . . .: yesssssssssssssssss

Not sure whether to include them. They don’t have any Japanese elements. Their style is American. But they DO have a dramatic side that is more than just just costumes and candelabras.

Apparently their whole thing is based on the American “living dead dolls” , which are a goth niche version of Blythe mixed with Garbage Pail Kids. I had no idea. The actual dolls come with a death certificate which explains how they died.

So the band members are all dressed like dead goth dolls (which come to think of it, dolls are basically tied with alice in wonderland as the center of Japanese goth so maybe that is the "japanese tradition" angle). Anyway each band member plays the role of a doll and they do songs (and in between song banter) which explains the circumstances of each of their gruesome demise.


7 comments Tags:

7 Comments so far

  1. bolo August 7th, 2011 4:00 pm

    Might be worth mentioning that a lot of these angura type bands seem to cite punk band The Stalin as an influence. The Stalin were in cahoots with Suehiro Maruo, who did some artwork for them, and they cited Kan Mikami as an influence who was mentioned earlier. As for the lyrics, besides the political there seemed to be some bizarre mysticism thrown in and I imagine there was also an ero-guro influence. Just thought I'd let you know as they might be one of the shared inspiration links you might be interested in researching further.

  2. admin August 7th, 2011 5:25 pm

    @bolo: thanks! I appreciate your help. WHich bands do you think are influenced by The Stalin? I got a couple of bands coming up (not posted yet) that took their names from Stalin songs. I guess Inugami Circus Dan did also. But besides that, please tell me which bands.

    And who do you think was influenced by Kan Mikami? Do you know why Kan Mikami was liked by them?

  3. bolo August 7th, 2011 7:49 pm

    Well a theme I noticed with some of the previously mentioned names is that they had covered songs by The Stalin at some point. Inugami Circus Dan/Cali-Gari/ Kinniku Shoujotai/Togawa Jun/QP Crazy are some that come to mind. So I'm thinking maybe Stalin were a common figure of reference across quite a few strands of the whole Gekiteki thing.
    But for all I know The Stalin might have been huge over there and a big counter-culture/rock influence in general?
    By the Kan Mikami thing I meant that the Stalin guy was influenced by him and does a similar sort of folk thing these days.

    I don't know Japanese so I couldn't really give you much more insight than that but I hope it helps.

  4. sephim August 7th, 2011 8:41 pm

    The first band is awesome, the last band is fucking stupid.

    The bands in between… <shrug>

  5. François August 10th, 2011 11:09 pm

    Some quick fixes from my era of expertise:
    – 井上陽水 = Inoue Yosui
    – Tomokawa Kazuki is a man
    – J.A. シーザー should probably be romanized J.A. Caesar (Julius Augustus Caesar, you know)
    – 有頂天 is a sanskrit (梵語) word for one part of buddhist heaven, but is a used to mean extasy or rapture.
    – Since when is Saint Seiya (聖闘士星矢) shojo manga ? Look anywhere and that's shonen (your regular old "young guy finds he has superpowers. He meets powerful bad guys. Training then fight ensues. He gets more powerful and then meets friends and even more powerful badasses. More training and fight ensues…") Those guys look more influenced by Versailles no bara ! (fuck, I sound like a manga freak. Can't deny I like that shit, though)
    – 漁港 = fishing harbour
    – グルグル映画館 = rotating movie theatre
    I'll let people with actual knowledge of those bands fill up the more mysterious blanks.

  6. Steve August 12th, 2011 1:24 pm

    I just want to know when shironuri became the de-facto visual representation of ero-guro. Some of what I've read about guruguru eigakan says they were mostly inspired by 20s-30s ero-guro literature. Their first demo tape (and their 'theme) is cited as 'Shouwa Eroguro Innocence' (wordplay of the term 'ero-guro nonsense'), hence the 'innocent' schoolboy outfits and caps (though they always give me a total facist vibe for some reason).
    And just speaking of comics, there was a comic called 'Litchi hikari club' (~2006) based on a guro stage play from the 1980s. All the characters look like members of guruguru eigakan – and the facist overtones in ero-guro lit are not lost on the author. 

  7. admin August 16th, 2011 4:10 am

    @steve: I don’t know! That is a good question. I’m thinking of doing a separate project (along the lines of this) for ero/guro. I think the litchi hikari club is an influence on a lot of shironurikei bands but don’t know in particular. The manga was based on real life performance art troupe Tokyo Grand Guginol.

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