A scene from the classic book 孔雀东南飞.
Sukebans, Late 1960’s to Late 1970’s
A pack of though-looking teenagers sits smoking cigarettes in a huddle near a Japan Railways train station. Everything about them, including their style of speech, is tough as nails. Hands clutch barely concealed weapons, including razors and steel chains, should a fight break out. And it’s only a matter of time until one does. Their collective body language bristles with a threat of imminent violence. Local yakuza gangsters proctecting their turf? Neighborhood bad boys daring straight, polite Japanese society to knock the chip off their shoulders? Well, almost. It’s a group of schoolgirls known as the Sukeban, Japan’s very first all-girl gangs.
The name comes from the Japanese words for “female” (suke) and “boss” (ban). Althought they enjoyed only a brief vogue in the early 1970s, the Sukeban made for a truly unforgettable social disease: shoplifting, pickpocketing, and rivaling the very worst of the menfolk for misbehavior and outrageous acts of violence.
Why weren’t they all rounded up and thrown into the slammer? Says bad-teen historian Nobuaki Higa, “In Japan, outlaw society is right out in the open. Yakuza gangsters can even have their own office buildings. Even though you are unacceptable, especially if you are young. The cops know it’s just a matter of time before bad girls will grow up and walk away from the lifestyle. Being in a gang is something you can graduate from.”
Today, classic Sukeban fashion, typified by a long, flowing skirt and immense Afro-like hair, is considered woefully out of style. But the Sukeban’s way of life- a revolutionary mix of to-the-death sisterhood, ironclad rules, and an underworld-style flair for organization- continues to influence Japanese schoolgirls whenever they gather in packs.
One major aspect of Sukeban styke can be seen to this day. Indeed, it is major contribution to the universally accepted image of the Japanese bad girl. The Sukeban religiously wore their school uniforms, of the Sailor Fuku variety (the classic forces female students to wear), no matter what manner of naughty behavior they engaged in. The tradition has struck with generations of girls since, from the Kogals of 1990s right up until today’s Shibuya District Gals (although the skirts have since gotten a whole lot shorter).
The Sukeban gangs did not appear in a vacuum. When they first began sprouting in Japan during the mid-1960s, the girls took their inspiration from numerous bad-boy gangs that surrounded them. Male classmates who would have once joined the yakuza were instead beginning to forms their own local gangs in a pint-size imitation of the grown-up underworld. Fierce territorial battles with other rival schools and hoods soon resulted.
Such all-male groups and their members were “Bancho groups” (the Japanese term for schoolyard boss was Bancho). They had power and status, and it was only a matter of time until the girl’s demanded a piece of the action for themselves.
The first Sukeban gangs probably began with just a few girls sneaking cigarettes in the school bathroom. But within a few years, the ranks of female gangs began to swell and organize with impressive virus-like efficiency.
During the mid-’60s, the gangs ranged in size from Tokyo’s United Shoplifters Groups, which numbered eighty girls in all, up to the Kanto Women Delinquent Alliance, the single biggest Sukeban organization, made up of some twenty thousand girls from across western Japan. Like a real corporate entity, the alliance boasted within it’s ranks a president, an adviser, and even an accountant.
The Sukeban phenomenon peaked in 1972 with the emergance of the single most fearsome Sukeban in histiry. Hailing from the Tokyo suburbs of Saitama, K-Ko the Razor commanded a private army of fifty women warriors. Her nickname came from her weapon of choice: a razor tightly wrapped in cloth and tucked between her breasts, whipped out with superhuman speed to slash her enemies’ faces.
Few Sukeban cast quite as menacing a shadow as did K-Ko, whose exploits became an urban legend of sorts, but physical violence of one sort or another was an everyday fact of life for many. Not only were there plenty of rival factions to tangle with, but there was also ample opportunity to inflict damage on members of one’s own gang. Breaking the rules (and the Sukeban loved to make rules) could result in a physical sanction known as “lynching.”
Lynching involved several degrees of punishment, beginning with a lit cigarette applied to bare skin, which was considered getting off easy. The same cigarette applied to more- intimate parts of the body ranked as ”medium.” The hardest of punishments rival anything in the annals of the Spanish Inquisition and are simply too terrible to mention here.
Reasons for lynching were numerous and different from gang to gang. They might include showing disrespect to the senior members, speaking to “enemies,” or being caught doing drugs (although sniffing paint thinner for a quick and cheap high was common among Sukeban and, indeed among bad girls and boys everywhere) the most common cause of a lynching was fooling around the opposite sex. Cheating on a boyfriend (inevitably a bad boy or a Bancho gang member himself) would surely lead to a lynching-that is, of a member even bothered with guys in the first place. Because of the emotional nature of the relationships between the girl-gang members, jealousy and crushes on other members could lead to intense, soap opera-style drama.
In spite of all the petty crimes the Sukeban casually indulged in, the girls themselves were convinced that they were living by high moral standards. Perhaps the chasteness of the Sukeban (take those long skirts, for instance) was a reaction to the permissivess of sexual revolution of the 1960s. Dressing sexy and wearing too much makeup were frowned upon. These girls who wanted to look and act tougher and older then they actually were. but the chain- and razor-packing Sukeban were surprisingly conversation when it came to matters of dating and romance.
You wouldn’t think so based on the “Sukeban” films churned out by the exploitation-minded Toei Studios. Full of nudity and Switchblade Sisters girl-gangs mayhem, the movies probably said more about the fantasies of male audience and filmmakers than they did about the lives of the girls themselves. Still, the films are a heck of a lot of fun.
Even as the actual Sukeban gangs began to decline in numbers, their myths continue to endure in pop culture. The long- running Be Bop High School comic books, animation, and live-action films and television shows serve up comedic bad-boy and bad-girl action for the masses. There is also the Sukeban Dekka (Sukeban Cops) franshise, which depicts undercover teenage police women in sailor suits fighting crime with razor-sharp origami cranes and yo-yos.
But the actual Suken phenomenon itself had gone on the skids by the mid-1970s. Gang members were growing up, graduating from “the life,” or slowly becoming integrated into society. And next generation of teenagers would soon be dancing in the streets intead of just sitting in them.
-Source, Japanese Schoolgirl Inferno
Read about the real revolution:
“There was no unemployment, and the price of living was still extremely low; you saw very few conspicuously destitute people, and no beggars except the gipsies. Above all, there was a belief in the revolution and the future, a feeling of having suddenly emerged into an era of equality and freedom. Human beings were trying to behave as human beings and not as cogs in the capitalist machine. In the barbers’ shops were Anarchist notices (the barbers were mostly Anarchists) solemnly explaining that barbers were no longer slaves.”
Beatrix Potter: The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies
Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama.
A heartwarming tale about how even if you’ve got a Christian Kenyan father, an atheistic white American mother, an Indonesian Muslim stepfather, a biracial half sister who has had to fight for literally everything you’ve ever gotten in your life, a whole bunch of folks are going to call you a Muslim terrorist Nazi socialist elitist who “only won because he’s black”.
1890s Blacks were tortured in German concentration camps in Southwest Africa (now called Namibia) when Adolph Hitler was only a child. Colonial German doctors conducted unspeakable medical experiments on these emaciated helpless Africans decades before such atrocities were ever visited upon the Jews.
Thousands of Africans were massacred. Regrettably, historians neglected to properly register the slaughter—that is, to lift it from the footnote in history that it had been relegated to—until now.
In an attempt to give the incidents their rightful recognition in the historical context of the Holocaust, Dr. Firpo W. Carr has authored a new book entitled, Germany’s Black Holocaust: 1890–1945. In it, he reveals the startling hidden history of Black victims of the Holocaust. The mayhem and carnage date back to the turn of the 20th century, many years before there were ever any other unfortunate victims—Jew or Gentile—of the Holocaust.
Carr conducted three incredibly revealing interviews with: (1) a Black female Holocaust victim; (2) the Black commanding officer who liberated 8,000 Black men from a concentration camp; and (3) an African American medic from the all-Black medical unit that was responsible for retrieving thousands of dead bodies from Dachau. (White medical units were spared the gruesome task.)
“Kay,” the Black female Holocaust survivor, laments: “You cannot possibly comprehend the anger I have in me because of being experimented on in Dachau, and being called ‘nigger girl’ and ‘blacky’ while growing up.”
Testimonials from the Black commanding officer and African American medic are memorialized, for the first time ever, in Carr’s book. The research is based on voluminous documentation, and more.
If you are like most people, you simply have never heard the unbelievable story of Black victims of the Holocaust. You are invited to read about the human spirit’s triump over events that occurred during this horrible piece of hidden history.
This reminds me that there were black anarchists in Spain during the revolutionary war because they saw the rise of Fascism linked with the KKK and Jim Crow terrorism in the US. How many untold stories are there?
"She missed it by a fraction. She nearly cut it, but not quite. She went in just right, Case thought. The right attitude; it was something he could sense, something he could have have seen in the posture of another cowboy leaning into a deck, fingers flying across the board. She had it; the thing, the moves, and the she pull it all together for her entrance, pulled it together around the pain of in her leg and marched down 3Jane’s stairs like she owned the place, elbow of her gun arm at her hip, forearm up, wrist relaxed, swaying the muzzle of the fletcher with the studied nonchalance of a Regency duelist. It was a performance. It was like the culmination of a life-time’s observation of martial art tapes, cheap ones, for a few second, he knew, she was every bad-ass hero, Sonny Mao in the old Shaw videos, Mickey Chiba, the whole lineage to lee and Eastwood. She was walking it the way she talked it."
William gibson,neuromancer (via foxhole143)