Rollers Cool


Below is a new ad for cigarettes using an image of the late ’70s/early ’80s Yoyogi-koen rock’n’roll dancers — the so-called Rollers. In the group’s prime, this weekend subcultural activity was considered to be the height of youth immorality and rebellion. These Harajuku ’50s dancers were no media-created market segment — they were real high-school rebels who fought the system by doing crazy things like… smoking cigarettes. Parents and the local law enforcement community held many a meeting to find solutions to this weekend “hankou” (反抗, rebellion, insubordination) — dear God, they are smoking… and dancing in funny ways to the Oldies!

If you don’t believe me, there’s a great NHK documentary about the Rollers’ weird kung-fu disco cousins Takenokozoku that was made in 1980 called Wakai Hiroba ‘Harajuku 24jikan’. In one scene, a young greaser lights a firecracker, and the police immediately take it upon themselves to beat the living shit out of the young lad and haul him off in a police cruiser. The other interesting thing is that Tokyo used to fully shut down around 7pm, so all these rebellious kids would just go home at around 6 in the evening.

Now in 2004, the Rollers sell you the product that society desperately tried to stop them from using.

Editor’s Note 2/2011: NHK destroyed their archival copies of the documentary Wakai Hiroba ‘Harajuku 24jikan’ after someone featured in the film sued.

W. David MARX (Marxy)
November 25, 2004

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

One Response

  1. Laura Says:

    Is it a coincidence that they look exactly like the West Side Story cast performing “Cool”?