The Magazine “Olive” Made Japanese Girls Aware of The Rare Value of Girlhood and Maidenhood : The “Kawaii 2.0” Theory vol.6

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The Magazine “Olive” Made Japanese Girls Aware of The Rare Value of Girlhood and Maidenhood : The “Kawaii 2.0” Theory  vol.6

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On the subject of Japanese magazine culture and girls’ culture, there’s one magazine that can’t be overlooked. It was called Olive, and was founded by Heibon Publishing (now Magazine House) in 1982. This magazine, which appeared during the first wave of the “Kawaii Revolution”, completely stole the hearts of all the high school girls during this period. Translator and essayist Madoka Yamazaki recalls those days and describes them by saying,


“I really wanted to be like the heroine in this magazine’s story. That was the impression Olive left on me after first reading the magazine when I was 13. I had a burning desire to be the heroine in this magazine, more than just wearing and owning the clothes featured in it. I wanted to be called an “Olive Girl”, like the girls featured in the magazine.” (Madoka Yamasaki, “Olive Girl Life”)

I want to be an “Olive Girl”. That was the desire that began to blossom in the hearts of many girls in the 80s. But what exactly did Olive have to do with “kawaii” culture after the first wave of the revolution?

Read the past articles
vol.1 : Finding Where “Cuteness” Currently Lies
vol.2 : What is the Exact Origin of “Kawaii”?
vol.3 : Kawaii Culture Didn’t Exist at the Beginning of the Modern Age?!
vol.4 : Consumerist Society and the Birth of “Kawaii” Culture
vol.5 : The Word “Kawaii” Becomes Just for Girls, to Re-affirm Their Girliness

With the consumerist society that came about in the 70s, the word “kawaii” became a commercialized symbol. “Kawaii” became a target for consumerists, greatly increasing the desire girls felt. And so, magazines and other types of media began to capture this desire and sensitivity in girls. In our last volume we looked at how even now, the magazine an・an is still a leader when it comes to “kawaii” culture.



Going into the 80s this trend didn’t decline- it only became bigger. The launch of the magazine Olive is part of the backstory as to why. Originally Olive was published as a special edition of the wildly popular men’s fashion magazine, Popeye. In order to introduce a girls’ version of Popeye in light of the sweeping “city boys” fashion trend, it was launched with the tagline “Magazine for City Girls” and had many casual and stylish features.



Although the design of the magazine during its first period stuck out from the usual girls’ magazine framework, it suddenly halted publication in 1983. Then, about a month later, it re-debuted after going though a complete overhaul, without any of the city style left that it had before. Instead, it radiated girly romanticism from every page, and changed its tagline to “Magazine for Romantic Girls”. So it went from “City” to “Romantic”. One of the reasons for the magazine’s complete turnaround was the introduction as the “Lyceenne” as the ideal model.



If you look at the Volume 35 of Olive (from December 3, 1983), the cover reads, “Olive Girls try look like the Lyceenne!”. “Lyceenne” means high school girl in French. It referred to a girl who was sophisticated and stylish, like those in Paris. Unlike the American casual fashion it had run before, it was now about not imitating men’s fashion, and girly, chic fashion became its theme. For girls that grew up during this time, the humble image of the Parisienne Lyceenne was what they were supposed to look up to.


According to fashion researcher Reiko Koga, there were three types of “Olive Girl” styles. First was “dolling yourself up in ribbons and frills, lace, floral prints, and other ‘girlish’ styles. Brands that gave off a fairytale-like feel, such as Pink House by designer Isao Kaneko, were popular with girls that idolized this style. Second was the ‘boyish’ style worn by fashion idols like Kyoko Koizumi and Checkers. Girls would actively try to incorporate London and Paris street fashion into their style, or an ‘anarchistic sense of fashion’. The third type was a style with ‘a strong taste for small items and accessories’.” Koga comments that, “These girls would collect things that appealed to their sense of cuteness, and randomly mix them together in a mismatched manner. This ‘random mix’ expressed their individuality, or their own outlook on the world, but is likely what brought about the fashion sense that would later be referred to as Harajuku fashion.” (from Reiko Koga’s ‘Kawaii’ no Teikoku (The Empire of ‘Cuteness’)


‘girlish’ styles

‘boyish’ style

‘boyish’ style

Thus, the magazine Olive became an indispensible media source when talking about girl’s fashion since the 80s. Junko Sakai, and essayist who has continued her series of writings since the first period of Olive, states that: “Olive, for many Japanese girls who were frivolous with their limited period of girlhood or maidenhood, was a magazine that ‘spoke subjectively to what it was to be a girl’”, and among this, “the ‘Olive’ from the frequently printed words ‘Olive Girl’ taught girls ‘the value of being girls’.”

Additionally, being able to remain a girl. In a sense, it was likely a way to rebel against a society that wanted women to be mature. Olive, according to Sakai, was a magazine that played a major role because it “made Japanese girls aware of the rare value of girlhood and maidenhood”.

However, when we consider the relationship between Olive and “kawaii” culture, there is one issue that can’t be ignored. This issue, as Sakai points out, is that the words “kawaii”, or any particular slogan for that matter, were rarely seen on the cover of Olive. In the last volume we stated that the word “kawaii” born from consumerist society became a symbol, and that it awakened a desire in girls. But despite not using this specific symbol, Olive became a leader of “kawaii” culture. How exactly was this possible?

Let’s revisit Madoka Yamasaki’s memoir. She wrote, “I really wanted to be like the heroine in this magazine’s story. That was the impression Olive left on me after first reading the magazine when I was 13.” There was a story entwined in Olive, and it was the story of “kawaii” rife with romanticism and fairy tales. The Lyceenne were the heroines of the story, and readers strived to be like them. In this way, “kawaii” became the story of Olive, and became the raison d’etre (the purpose) behind each desired volume.

So “kawaii” went from a symbol to a story. “Kawaii” has had a great impact on magazine culture. On the other hand, it began to appear mainstream in an entirely different form, as seen on TV and with idols. But what did it look like after making its way through the CRT? In our next volume, we’ll pick up from here.

Translated by Jamie Koide

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Writer, Book Reviewer. Having the degree of MA. (Japanese Literature) I love Japanese Girl's Popular Music, such as YUKI, Chara, Makoto Kawamoto, and Seiko Oomori.

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