Translation of this article. For those of you interested in the realities of the Japanese rock scene, a great illustration of just how much sexism in Japan is still alive and kicking.
Fifty Years Old, but Still a Girl Inside! The "Obangya" Returns to the Live House When Her Children are Grown!
We know "bangya" (short for "band girls") as women addicted to visual kei. The usual image is of a teenager, chasing bands, but these days, the kids who got hooked on Buck-Tick and X Japan have finished raising children of their own, and returned to the live houses as "obangya" ("old band girls.") To find out more about what motivates these women, we interviewed four self-identified "obangya" in their 40's and 50's.
It's Important to Make Family Time
Manga artist Yumi Enomoto, age 50, explains, "When I go to live shows several days in a row, my husband starts to get annoyed. That's why I promised him that when I go to live shows on week days, I'll make dinner in advance, on weekends, I'll be sure not to go out all day, but leave some time for family, too. I have to fight for the time to attend live shows, in between house work, taking care of the kids and spending time with my husband."
Potentially the biggest problem for an obangya is gaining the understanding of her family. If other family members are not visual kei fans, it becomes difficult for an obangya to continue her band-following lifestyle unless she gains her family's understanding.
Next, we spoke to Ms. E, 41, whose daughter is also a visual kei fan.
"I liked X Japan when I was in middle school, but then when my daughter reached middle school age, she became a fan of Nightmare, and this is what led me to return to my bangya life. Since I usually attend live shows with my daughter and her friends, I don't really feel like an obangya.
At an age when most young teens are seeking to break away from their parents, mother and daughter attending a show together is a heart-warming sight.
The Internet Made Me a Bangya Again
The proliferation of the Internet has had the biggest impact on the bangya lifestyle.
"My daughter is 18 now, but when she was about ten, the Internet started to be more accessible, and I decided to look up what my favorite rocker was doing these days. I discovered he was still playing in bands, so I went to see him perform again for the first time in 23 years. He was just as beautiful as ever, and my bangya soul was revived!" says Ms. R, 52.
Without the internet, she might never have known that her favorite rock star had re-started his old band.
The Tragedy of the Single Bangya
Being an obangya isn't always fun. Ms. M, 49, tells us about "the tragedy of the single obangya."
"I think it's really sad that there are a lot of obangya in their forties and fifties who are still single, still live with their parents, and work part-time or temp jobs. To make matters worse, these obangya usually have horrible fashion sense and don't take proper care of their skin." [Burrrrrn!!!]
Ms. M tells us, "When I thought about marriage, I knew it was best to pick a nice normal man." Ms. M did not want to marry a rocker, so she married an average salaryman. No matter how much they may love their lifestyle, the choice of whether to be practical and marry, or stay single and continue to follow bands to their heart's content depends on the individual obangya.
When I Get Wrinkly, I'll Stop Going to Shows
So, how long do these obangya plan to continue going to gigs?
"I don't want band members to see me when I'm ugly, so I think when I get wrinkly, I'll just stop going to shows. In their memories, I want to always be beautiful," says Ms. R. So long as the band members themselves are beautiful, in her heart, she still feels like a young girl.
In this interview, we focused on the difficulties of life as an obangya, and the problems obangya must overcome. However, they all told me that when they go to see a great show, dance and headbang till their necks hurt, they feel a wonderful sense of achievement when they leave the venue, and think "I'm glad I'm an obangya after all." Gaining the understanding of family and making sure they themselves look their best is no object. Perhaps that's what truly defines the bangya lifestyle.
Note from Cayce: I would never have translated this if I didn't think it were spot-on accurate, but it is. Now readers, let's pick up the red flag and challenge some antiquated gender norms, shall we?