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Date of Award

Spring 2012

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Studies--Asian Studies

First Advisor

Jeffery Bayliss

Second Advisor

Vijay Prashad

Third Advisor

Janet Bauer



Japanese shape shifting is the ability to transform into the appearance and even the lifestyle of another race but revert back to Japanese when desired. When I visited Japan for the first time during the summer of 2010, I was immediately captivated by the varieties of appearance. Japan is well known for being innovative in the fashion industry, but some styles I observed consisted of more than just trendy clothing and cute frills. I noticed that appearing as another ethnicity was also a form of fashion for some Japanese youth who, for example, sported blonde hair and blue eyes or brown skin and cornrows. Upon seeing this “stylish” race-play, I thought to myself, “Is what I’m seeing really just fashion, or is it something deeper? Do some Japanese young people truly wish to be of another race?” In this thesis, I attempt to answer these questions by examining modern and historical Japanese standards of beauty. Changes in culture, identity and appearance due to westernization, as well as the influence of hip-hop music in Japan are key factors in understanding Japanese shape shifting. The concept of modernity and imitation are recurrent themes used in describing Japanese fashion culture. What may be the most fascinating, however, is that some Japanese youth who participate in shape shifting believe dressing as another race is not an imitation, or offensive, but merely a “cool” form of self-expression.


Senior thesis completed at Trinity College for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in International Studies. Accessible to members of the Trinity community only.