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Japanese Professionals Put on Full-Body Lycra Suits to Escape Pressure of Everyday Life

In a bid to de-stress and break free from the tensions of daily life, Japanese students and professionals are taking to a bizarre trend called ‘Zentai’. It’s a community consisting of people of all ages and walks of life, donning full-body lycra suits and meeting on internet forums, in clubs, at barbecue parties, and sometimes just on the street.

It’s ironical, but the tight suits are actually able to help stressed individuals loosen up, because such behavior is probably frowned upon in genteel circles. Many of the Zentai perceive the trend as a welcome break from the pressures of living in Japanese society that values conformity to tradition over individual desires.

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“My family is conservative,” said university student Yukinko, a member of the Zentai club. “They like me to be quiet and feminine, but in secret I wear all over tights and let loose. I’m a different person wearing this. I can be friendly to anyone and feel as if I can do anything.”

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The anonymity that the stretchy suits provide is another factor that pulls many people towards the trend. “People can’t see us and it’s difficult to see them,” explained Zentai leader Seiwa Tamura. “So whether one is a teacher or public servant, we become without identity and our true self emerges.”

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According to Miu Fujitsuka, another Zentai leader, “There is the Japanese phrase ‘elegance of silence’, which means the more you hide the more attractive you are.”

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One Zentai member in her 20’s works office clerk whose conservative makeup and hairstyle helps her blend with any crows, but at night, she puts on the full-body lycra suit and sits in bars, alone but liberated. “I have led my life always worrying about what other people think of me. They say I look cute, gentle, childish or naive,” she said. “I always felt suffocated by that. But wearing this, I am just a person in a full body suit.”

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For a few members, it’s not the anonymity or the freedom, but the physical sensation of wearing lycra that attracts them to Zentai. They find sexual pleasure in wearing tight lycra suits and in touching others dressed the same way. “I like to touch and stroke others and to be touched and stroked like this,” said Nezumiko, a 36-year-old teacher.

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There are currently about 3,000 Zentais in Tokyo, and the number is growing as more and more people sign up every day. Facebook is filled with groups like ‘zentai addict’, ‘zentai fetish’, ‘zentai ninjas’, and even ‘zentai Pokemon’. Zentai has spread to other parts of the world too – there’s an organisation called the Zentai Project in England, where members transform from “normal” people to a source of “amusement” for others.

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Ikuo Daibo, a professor at Tokyo Mirai University, thinks that the trend of wearing full body suits might indicate a sense of societal abandonment. “In Japan, many people feel lost; they feel unable to find their role in society,” he said. “They have too many role models and cannot choose which one to follow.”

 

He believes that Zentai gives these people a chance to erase outward appearances thus allowing others to know them as they really are, rather than based on their looks. “In a way, they are trying to expose their deeper self by hiding their own identity. I find it a very interesting way of communication,” Daibo concludes.

Photos: Tokyo Zentai Club, Zentai Gallery

Sources: ABC News Australia, Japan Times

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