My Way Your Way

Self-Expression through Fashion


Expressing My World through Shironuri

Tsunoshi (21 years old, Tokyo)


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© Hongo Jin


Tsunoshi (nickname), a 21-year-old in her fourth year of college, likes drawing, putting frills and ribbons on the clothes she wears when she's in shironuri--white makeup--and making hair accessories. She has appeared in Getton☆, a spinoff of the "gyaru" magazine Egg.

Showcasing a wide range of styles, including gosurori (gothic Lolita), classical Lolita, and fairy, Harajuku is the kind of place that's open to all different kinds of fashion. Attracting particular attention here in recent days are people clad in particularly unique clothing who wear shironuri, or white makeup.

One of these people is Tsunoshi. She's into wearing white makeup, and hangs around town with friends who also paint their faces white. She says she likes the surreal landscapes and worlds that she can create within her everyday life.

Creating a Surreal World in the Everyday

I was a second-year student in college when I first tried shironuri. Four or five of us who were interested in white makeup started getting ready at around noon on a Sunday and went out to Harajuku in the early evening. From the on, I began going to underground events like Tokyo Decadance in shironuri.

I'd been really interested in white makeup before then. I used to paint my friends' faces white. I believed that shironuri was something that girls with nice figures did, and that it would just look pathetic on a fat girl like me. But eventually I went ahead and tried it anyway.

At first, I couldn't bring myself to walk around by myself in white makeup, but now I'm fine with it. I even take the train in shironuri, and only when I notice people's quizzical looks do I remember that I'm wearing white makeup. I don't take crowded trains, though. It's more like I gratefully take the train if it's sparsely occupied.

I didn't have any confidence in myself in white makeup at first. But after I started going to events, realized that I needed to improve my shironuri skills, and worked hard at it, I started to gain confidence. Honestly, I don't think I look great in white makeup, but when I put up photos of myself on my blog, I get a response from people. I also get stopped on the street when I'm wearing white makeup, and attract attention. That makes me happy.

Making Friends through Shironuri Meet-Ups

My friends and I were talking about how fun it would be if about 20 of us in shironuri walked around town together. So last May, we organized a meet-up through various channels, including social networking sites like Mixi, Ameba, and Twitter. We ended up with 23 participants. The people who came had told me of their intentions to come, so I had a general sense of how many people would be there that day. But the others didn't know until the day of, and were surprised that there were so many of us. Some people were really happy that they were able to meet others with the same interests.

At the next meet-up we organized, in August, there were over 40 people. We didn't advertise the third event much, and just announced it to the shironuri community. We had 30-plus people then.

All three times, we walked the streets of Harajuku in white makeup. I think we were able to create a really bizarre world amid the everyday.

Time Spent with Shironuri Friends

It was surprising that over 40 people came to our second meet-up. But it was a lot of people and hard to organize. People in shironuri often get lumped together, but everyone has different motivations and goals for doing it.

Through my experiences at those meet-ups, I came to realize that what I'm aspiring to is shironuri as art. I can't put a whole lot of accessories in my hair because it'll fall apart, or get really detailed with my makeup because it'll come off, but what I want to do through shironuri is express the world--a surreal one--that I love.

I love spending time with people I've met through shironuri. My tastes really jibe with those who see shironuri as art. We get really excited talking about art and movies. I guess I like spending time and wearing white makeup with friends I can share my world with. Now that I've made my shironuri connections, I don't think I'll organize large meet-ups anymore.

© Hongo Jin

Tsunoshi eats okonomiyaki with a friend at Harajuku's Sakuratei--a restaurant that she and her shironuri friends go to a lot when they get together. Sakuratei is very welcoming of shironuri customers.

What Shironuri Means to Me

I love art. Shironuri is kind of like drawing a picture, it's the creation of a piece of work. Since I was little, I'd had this desire to go to a world that was far removed from daily life. I create and draw things that depict that world, and I express it also through shironuri.

When I'm putting makeup on, I feel myself turning into a new me, like I'm performing a new me. In my white makeup, I become a part of a surreal world. I love that it allows me to go into a world that's different from this one.

I'm not trying to spread the world of shironuri. But I'd like those of us who partake in it to be recognized. I want people to know that our world exists.

© Hongo Jin

A Shy Child

When I was in first and second grade, I was a really quiet child. I didn't have friends. I switched from a school in Shinjuku to one in Shibuya when I was in third grade. The day I transferred, a classmate came over to play, and we grew close right away. From that day onward, I became an outgoing child.

When I drew a self-portrait in fifth grade, everyone said it was intriguing. Because I went to a school where being unique was considered a good thing, I was really able to be myself. I'm still close to the friends I made at the time.

Once I started junior high, though, things regressed. I went to a junior high that I'd had to pass an exam to get into, and there was no one from my former elementary school there. I was fat, so I think I gave a bad impression, too. The boys treated me like I was some kind of germ, and I always felt heartbroken. I figured things would be better if I were thin, so once I lost 25 kilograms in three months. But because I'd lost weight without eating, I got dizzy. After that, I gained back all the weight.

I gradually made friends, little by little, and I stopped trying to lose weight. I figured I'd stay the way I was.


© Hongo Jin

First Encounter with a "Bijuaru-kei" Band

When I was in my third year of junior high, a friend introduced me to a "bijuaru-kei" (visual style) band.

My first impression was, "Ew!"

But my friend insisted that I listen to them, so I did.

I was shocked. I didn't know such music existed. The band was so different from the musicians I'd liked until then, like Fukuyama Masaharu. I started listening to different bands, and eventually came upon Buck-Tick.

From there, I really got into the band. I wanted to learn everything there was about them, and did a lot of research. As I looked up what had influenced the band, I learned about and came to like Terayama Shuji and gothic culture. My world quickly expanded. I learned about shironuri.

If I hadn't encountered "bijuaru-kei" bands when I did, I don't think I'd be the person I am now. I'm so glad that I did. Because I was able to find something I could be passionate about, I was able to create my own world. I no longer cared that I was fat, or that boys harassed me.

There are a lot of kids who say that school's no fun or that they're bored everyday, but I wish they'd just look outside themselves and find something. There's bound to be a place for them somewhere.

Fashion that Only I Can Pull Off

I currently attend a school that specializes in medical care. I'd actually wanted to go to an art school, but I'm an only child and have to support my parents, so I chose this path, which will allow me to get a job that'll always put food on the table.

My friends at school have a strong desire to help other people. I figured everyone had that kind of feeling, but honestly, I'm not confident that I do. But partly due to my encounters with people suffering from psychological problems, I now want to work in the mental health field. I've never really been in a terrible psychological state, and I want to confront something like that head-on.

Now that I think about it, I think I've been blessed with wonderful family and friends. They've been accepting of my tastes and the things I do. My grandmother, especially, tells me that my drawings and the things I make are cool. She's just like Yubaba in the movie "Spirited Away." She's got superhuman looks, and she's so "grandma" on the inside and in her taste! All her clothes are handmade, because she can't fit into the ones that are sold off the rack, and they don't suit her anyway. She buys fabric that she likes, and has her clothes tailored according to her own designs. They look great on her. No one else could pull it off. Her fashion totally shows off the way she lives her life.

I aspire to fashion that is an expression of my life and who I am, and the kind that only I can pull off. I want to grow up to become an old lady like my grandmother.


© Hongo Jin

Shironuri 101

1. Tsunoshi without any makeup.  


2. Spreading white greasepaint on her face.


3. Attaching fake eyelashes. It's a crucial part of the look.


4. Drawing dark, thick lines with eyeliner.


5. Attaching a black cloth on her chin to make her face look smaller.


6. Putting on her wig and carefully combing it out.


7. Topping it off with her favorite hat.


8. Checking carefully in the mirror and putting on the finishing touches.


9. Shironuri is complete!


All photos © Hongo Jin

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