From the 22nd to the 25th of August the Metro Toronto Convention Centre was filled with the people who wore the costumes of their favourite characters and acted like them.
It was FanExpo Toronto, but not only anime fans had fun in this event.
One who stood out amongst the crowd was Misako Aoki. With her hair arranged into two ponytails and wearing a fluffy cream-coloured dress with many ribbons, laces, and sparkles on it, the eyes of the crowd coming and going were glued to her.
This fashion is called ‘Lolita Fashion’ and has come under the spotlight in recent years. Lolita Fashion originated in Japan and was born by arranging Rococo fashion in a Japanese style. Aoki is enthusiastic about introducing Lolita Fashion to the people all over the world and getting them interested in Japan through it.
Aoki’s career as a Lolita Fashion model started when she was discovered in Harajuku, Japan at the age of 15. However, she wasn’t a big fan of Lolita Fashion at that time. Her first encounter with Lolita Fashion was when she went to the studio for taking pictures for the teen magazine KERA. She had an opportunity to wear Lolita clothes there. She didn’t have confidence in herself at that time, but she has been getting more confident through Lolita Fashion and has been absorbed in it.
“I have more than 100 pieces of Lolita clothes,” she said. “I wear Lolita clothes when I go to convenience stores, when I take an airplane, and wherever I go. I don’t have any other kind of clothes,” she said with a laugh.
A major turning point for Aoki was 2009 when Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan created ‘Cute Ambassadors’ to introduce Japanese pop culture to the world. Her main job is to expand the circle of Lolita by taking part in events as a guest, participating in tea parties that Lolita Circles around the world organize, and so on.
“A person from Foreign Affairs came to the studio to see and interview with me. After that, he told me that I might be asked to become ‘Cute Ambassador’ and go abroad,” she said. “But I hadn’t heard from him for a few months, so I thought it was cancelled. All of a sudden, he called me and I became Cute Ambassador. I didn’t think it was a big deal, so I took it with a light heart, however, I gradually noticed that it became a huge project at Foreign Affairs. I didn’t understand what was going on at the beginning.”
The circumstances surrounding her changed dramatically after she became Cute Ambassador. “I didn’t go abroad so often before, but I visit foreign countries twice a month recently. This month, I’m going to three countries, Indonesia, China, and the United States,” she said.
Aoki is also a president of Japan Lolita Association. It was established this year, but it has more than 3,000 members already. Surprisingly, more than half of the members are from foreign countries. According to her, Lolita Fashion has unstoppable momentum now in foreign countries rather than in Japan. Therefore, she appoints Lolita Cute Ambassador in each country because she thinks it will be easier to pump up the activities of Lolita Circle if there are central characters in each country. There are the Ambassadors in Mexico, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Brazil, and now in Canada as well.
She is as busy as a bee; however, she also has the task of home-visiting nurse. The half of a week is Nurse Misako Aoki.
“Japanese women tend to be devoted themselves to only one job that they have decided to live for,” she told us during our interview.
“I think they are interested in more different things, but they can’t try any other thing because they are busy. But I think we don’t get stressed so much if we try a variety of things and have different faces in each field. When I’m in Lolita Fashion, I am Lolita Misako Aoki. When I work as a nurse, I am Nurse Misako Aoki. When I shift from one another, there are various versions of myself and the stresses are cut into half. I think they should have more faces and try many things that they are interested in,” she said.
Aoki has an important role in a model, a nurse, Cute Ambassador, and a president of Lolita Association. What is more, she has debuted as a singer and an author. She can’t often take a rest, however, she doesn’t intend to give up any of her careers at all. Where is her next stage to flourish? She is proud of herself as Japanese and as Lolita. We would like to give a warm cheer for her.
This article was republished from Nikkei Voice’s September issue.