We’re too old for this: how the word ‘millennial’ gets marketed in Japan

To kick off this blog post – a quick language lesson. ‘Gairaigo’ (外来語) are Japanese words borrowed from other languages that mean the same thing. They’re all in katakana, and sound kinda similar:

  • credit card – クレジットカード
  • ice cream – アイスクリーム
  • aircon – エアコン
  • escalator – エスカレーター
  • elevator – エレベーター
  • keyholder – キーホルダー

Every generation or so, the English name of a generation gets carried over into Japanese. They did it with baby boomers – ベビーブーマー – and now it’s happening to the ミレニアル gen too.

Do we need to explain to you what a millennial is?

You should know if you are or aren’t one by now. As of 2019, the core ‘millennial’ age range was 23 to 38. So that’s the whole DEJAPAN team, for a start…

Japan borrowed the word ‘millennial’ direct from the English, so it means the same thing and gets the same amount of hyped press coverage. Except Japanese news articles don’t accusing Japanese millennials of eating all the avocados. Nope, just that they drink a lot of wine and spend too much time on the internet.

Millennial culture’s repped in Japan in a few big, noticeable ways.

Millennial Pink – the world’s gone pastel-kei

A light, soft pink colour that’s been popular worldwide since at least summer 2017. It’s hard to say something’s ‘trending’ when it’s stuck around for over 2 years, but hey.

Japanese brands jumped on this colour with zero hesitation, and they haven’t let go yet. 100-yen store Daiso created a ‘Millennial Pink’ range – phone cases, keyrings, photo frames, stationery, and way more.

Missha named a lip tint colour after this hip new shade. And last winter, we saw Osaka supermarkets taking pre-orders for Millennial Pink Christmas cakes. Made with berry cream, and Instagrammable as hell.

We can blame some of this on Pantone, and their Colour of the Year. They picked Rose Quartz (a soft pink) for 2016… and the Millennial Pink trend rocked up soon after.

How come it took this long for a millennial colour to show so strongly? We guess it’s ’cause most of the millennials had to grow up and get into fashion trends first.

And then, how come Japan latched onto Millennial Pink so hard? That one’s easy: ‘it’s super kawaii, duh’.

Eva Millennials – the angsty teen trend-setters

If Shinji, Rei, Asuka, Kaworu and Mari had been born back when Neon Genesis Evangelion first aired in the late 90s, they might not even be millennials. 1995-6 is that awkward 2 years where it starts to overlap with Gen Z.

That hasn’t stopped Radio Eva launching a 10th anniversary ‘Eva Millennials’ clothes collection. Featuring the pilots as fashion models. If they weren’t hipsters before, guess they are now.

You can’t deny the collection captures a lot of typical millennial style – or at least, what everyone thinks is millennial style. Rei drinks coffee now, from an eco cup. Mari’s in sliders. Asuka’s wearing the Lance of Longinus on her arm. And the black and red ‘box logo parka’ feels like it’s trying real hard to look like Supreme.

The whole Eva Millennials range is online right here – you can use our item request form to put an order in, if the merch hasn’t sold out already.

Is it Gen Y ’cause we keep asking ‘why’ all the time?

Whatever generation you’re from, there’s probably something about Japan you like. Old-school 80s anime? Vintage and retro fashions? The new wave of kawaii 2D and virtual idols?

Use DEJAPAN as a proxy to buy from Japanese websites in English. There’s no commission, service fee, or payment processing fee to use our service. And we’re here to help you find stuff, whether it’s a new trend or a legendary rare bit of merch. Ask us any time.

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