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Pop Culture in Japan: Games and Gyaru

Golf was the sport of the boom decade, but is in the bunker now that recession is biting and casual players can no longer afford the ultra-expensive membership and green fees. When Japan's corporate warriors retire, as often as not they can be found down at the neighbourhood park, mallet in hand, enjoying a round of gateball, a form of croquet and a favourite pastime of senior citizens.

Japan's most popular game is baseball. While you'll hear a lot about O Sadaharu, the Yomuri Giants player who broke the home-run record of America's Hank Aaron, it's his old team mate Nagashima Shigeo who still hogs the limelight and has earned the nickname "Mr Giants". Nagashima had clocked up seventeen years as a star player by the time he retired in 1974; he has since made his mark as the Giants' manager, a sports commentator and all-round media personality.

If you want to catch the latest fads, check out the Gyaru, or Ga l, movement of fashion-victim girls staggering around in atsuzoko butsu (towering, thick-heeled boots), ultra-mini skirts, bleached hair, and bizarre make-up (also see Yamamba). This look is all the rage, despite those platform shoes, some up to 25-centimetre high, being implicated in several deaths as girls topple over on the street or fail to brake properly while driving. The Osaka police have gone as far as to ban people from driving in the boots.

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