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A Japanese Subculture: Visual Kei


The music based subculture named Visual Kei (ヴィジュアル系; Vijuaru Kei) Pioneered in the late ‘80s by Hayashi Yoshiki from a band called X Japan, Visual Kei as a term was abbreviated down from visual shock kei, derived from a slogan on X Japan’s 1989 album “Blue Blood”. Inspired by the punk, glam metal, new wave and gothic rock movements and just like these movements, Visual Kei has its own style. The artists wear makeup and dress up in its own specific and androgynous styles.


Would you be surprised if I told you there are a lot of subgenres of Visual Kei? I assume if you are into subcultures or variety of music genres, you wouldn’t -as you should-. Visual Kei subgenres usually depends on the style of clothing and the theme of the band’s era. Lyrics and topics also differs from one genre to other. For example, while Tanbi Kei songs are about love and royal life, Menhara Kei brings up topics about psychology.


Here’s some of the subgenres of Visual Kei.

Oshare Kei means “Fashionable Style” which is about looking appealing and wearing colorful. The songs are cheerful as well as the fashion. An Cafe is one of the Oshare Kei bands.

Angura Kei comes from the word “Underground” has been well-known for its expression of Japanese ideals, culture, tradition and of course, look. The Japanese Shironuri (White face) makeup style and traditional clothes such as kimono and yukata is commonly used in this substyle. We can assume the band Kagrra as Angura Kei.

Tanbi Kei which is one of my favorites translates to “Aesthetical Style” is more of a substyle that is heavily influenced by European culture and fashion, mainly from Baroque, Victorian and Rococo periods. Costumes are very elaborate and have a royal, elegant demeanor. Lareine known as one of the Tanbi Kei bands.

Kote Kei, known as “Old School Visual Kei”. A band needs to be in a certain time period (from the mid-eighties to the late nineties) in order to be considered Kote and its the “First style” of Visual Kei such as Jakura.

Menhara Kei comes from the words “mental” and “health” a controversial subgenre overseas for usage of mental health. It brings about topics like self harm, depression and suicidal ideation. The subgenre is typically used for projecting mental health struggles. Kaneto-juusei and Gulu Gulu are examples of Menhara Kei.

Although X Japan is the creator of the subculture, the most known Visual Kei bands are Versailles, La’cryma Christi, Shazna and Malice Mizer.

We can’t talk about Visual Kei without mentioning Mana; he is the face of Visual Kei with his songs and feminine style. He was member of Malice Mizer in 1992 but after years, Mana formed the band “Moi dix Mois” as his solo project.

Visual Kei is such a vast subculture that almost everyone can find their interests within this culture. Visual Kei is welcoming for metal-heads, goths and those who likes rock or orchestral music. You can find yourself feeling like a vampire living in the year 1800 or a rock-star in ‘80s or even a scene teenager from 2000s. I like every style of it and I personally like japan so there’s no way for me to dislike Visual Kei. If you are searching for a different culture, fashion and life style I can suggest you take a look at Visual Kei and I assume you would like it, because who wouldn’t?

Kadriye Hazal AKŞİT