Haikara (ハイカラ)

"Haikkara" is a Japanese word that means airs, persons, and things and so on that suggest westernized appearances and way of life. It is a vogue/slang word which appeared in the 30's of the Meiji period (1897), used frequently particularly from the Taisho period to the early Showa period. Moreover, the verb "haiakaru" deriving from the word haikara also appeared and was used as a "haikatta person" and so on. However, from the late Showa period to the Heisei period, when western culture became widespread, the word was less frequently used in its original meaning, rather used frequently in symbolizing the fashions of the time when this word became popular or in producing a retrospective atmosphere. Therefore, it is sometimes used in the dramas, novels and so on to reflect characters' ages or the periods they lived in.

Origin of the Word
It comes from high-collar (haikara) shirts that were very popular as men's Western clothes in the early Meiji period. Hanzan ISHIKAWA in the Yokohama Mainichi Shimbun, referring to politicians and government officials in their high collar clothes, began to use expressions such as "Haikaraa Sect" or "Hai-karaa Party" in his column "Tosei Jinbutsu Hyo (Contemporary Personal Criticisms)" from about 1899 to 1900, which caused the word "haikara "to become popular. Some books suggest that this word was first used on June 21, 1900, however, it had been used before that time, which makes this suggestion untrue.

At the beginning he mocked at conservatives as "Chonmage (Topknot) sect", and, in contrast, criticized affected manners of people who advocated opening Japan to the West and liberals by calling them haikara from their symbolic high collar clothes. Therefore, the word originally had a strong negative meaning referring to westoxication/ flirtatious manners of following only outer aspects and patterns, but came to include an affirmative meaning of progressive/modernized/gorgeous/decent/fashionable and so on.

Background of Popularity
Hanzan's "Tosei Jinbutsu Hyo" was made up of unconventional and outpoken expresions and had a style easy to read fast and with full of new and coined words, and he said that he created other new words such as "Chiyomumage Party", "Pistol Party", "Cosmetic Party","Necktie Party" and so on, but he said that "these words did not become popular only with an exception of haikara, which became extraordinarily popular" (ISHIKAWA,1912).

Kendo ISHII explained the reason that only the word haikara became popular in the "Chapter of the Beginning of Haikara" in his "Meiji Jibutsu Kigen"(1908). The Chapter says that the word became popular because of newspaper reports that in a farewell party at the Metropaul Hotel for Yosaburo TAKEKOSHI, who was going to study in Europe, one of the guest speakers, Midori KOMATSU made a funny speech, in which he said, "Being haikara means rather being civilized and Hanzan (he was attending the party) himself, who was mocking at haikara, is here in this evening party, wearing high collar clothes".

Explanation by Hanzan ISHIKAWA Himself
Hanzan ISHIKAWA, who invented this word, wrote about its origin in the chapter of "The Guido Verbeck's Second Pistol " in his book "Uhitosoroku" as follows (old-style kanji are changed into new kanji):

-Start quote-

Origin of the Word Haikara (p17/p18)

The word haikara I began to write has been used very often today in our society and the reason I wrote this word is to contrast it with a pistol in Verbeck's story, that is to say, I wrote in my Tosei Personal Criticism in the Yokohama Mainichi Shimbun that "Aritomo YAMAGATA, Koyata SHIMAO, Tateki TANI and so on belong to a conservative budanha (party of hawks), Nippon Party of Jyoiha (exclusionists sect), stubborn/unwise Party of hawks, Chiyomumage Party or Pistol Party, while Shigenobu OKUMA, Hirobumi ITO, Kinmochi SAIONJI and so on belong to a Liberal Party of doves, Oka (Westernization) Sect of Kaikoku (opening of Japan to western countries) party, free-spirited Haikara Party, Necktie Party or Cosmetic Party", which became the origin of the word haikara, and among them this word alone has become extremely popular, but today many people use it without knowing that I invented the word, which has become one important Japanese word, however, I originally wrote this word haikara (pp.18-19) in the newspaper five or six years after the interview with Mr.Verbeck.


"The Pistol in Mr. Verbeck's Story" is a story that when Hanzan met Verbeck in the Marumo Hotel in Matsumoto city, where he was boarding, Verbeck told Hanzan that he was advised by his European friend not to go to Japan because it was dangerous in Japan with people wearing chonmage, which was a pistol with which to shoot Europeans. The story came out from regarding chonmage, which looked like a pistol, as a symbol of anti-westernism/conservatism.

Explanation in the 'Meiji Jibutsu Kigen'
The ''Meiji Jibutsu Kigen' written by kendo ISHII is a book that explains things and events that started in the Meiji period, based on the past newspapers and magazines, and the origin of the word haikara is described in the book (pp.67-69) as follows (old-style kanji are changed into new kanji):

- Start quote -

The beginning of Haikara
From 1898 to 1899, Mr.Hanzan ISHIKAWA, a journalist of the Mainichi Shimbun, often used the word haikara in his newspaper to make sarcastic remarks on people including Kentaro KANEKO, who returned from Europe. The air of a person in high collar clothes and his serious face, somewhat suggesting that he has recently returned from Europe, are in the extremity of snobbery. However, on August, 1990 in a farewell party for Yosaburo TAKEKOSHI, who is going to Europe, one of the guest speakers, Midori KOMATSU stood and made a funny speech about being haikara, in which he said that a majority of the world were using the word haikara as a meaning of derision (pp.67-68), but it was not true, rather it meant being civilized or a clean, noble character of a person. In fact Mr. ISHIKAWA, who attacks haikara, is here in this evening party in high collar clothes, and the speech set the house laughing. Since the article appeared in various newspapers, the word haikara has been popular. At first the word was used to mean affectation, impudence and so on like calling hikara an affected manner of dividing or cutting hair, or abusing too long hisashigami as haikara, but as Mr. KOMATSU predicted, the word has widened its meaning including a fashionable person or being up-to-date and it has become a popular word both in the upper social class and in the lower social class. A particularly interesting thing is that even elementary school kids sometimes say that a so and so person is haikara because he or she has a mitsudo or a coat on.
How could an innocent strange word be so widely used!
Speaking of a strange word reminds me of the Rotan (Russian Spy) bribery case at the early Russo-Japanese War, and after this people temporarily abused others, saying rotan rotan.
I've heard that in theaters some people, angry at a long intermission, start shouting "rotan rotan" (pp.68-69)
We should know that among temporarily popular words there are some unimaginable strange words that came out by chance.

- Unquote-

This passage is rerecorded in the "Revised and Enlarged Meiji Jibutsu Kigen", in which there are only a few revisions such as deletions of Mr. from personal names and partial adding the case making particle "no".

Quotation from Yosaburo TAKEKOSHI
Yosaburo TAKEKOSHI, for whom a farewell party that triggered the word haikara to become popular was given on August 10, 1990, refers shortly to the party and the word haikara in the chapter of "Kinmochi SAIONJI Sensei" of his book "Heishu Josanki".
It is quoted below (ib. pp. 125-126 and an old-style kanji are changed into new-style kanji):

- Start quote -

A farewell party was given for me, who was going to study abroad, by my acquaintances and old friends, and a friend of mine in a group of young scholars who studied in the U.K. or France made a speech about a merit of wearing high collar clothes, and while I was studying abroad the word high collar (haikara) party started to appear in the newspapers after the party, used as a tool for attacking young scholars and when they were almost being knocked galley-west, Duke Saionji willingly declared himself before journalists as a don of the haikara party with a purpose of receiving all attacks against young scholars; I think that no one would dare to take his place as a don of the high collar party in an honest sense, and he, who is a match for Lord Rosebery in the U.K in that he has sympathy for the common people in spite of being a nobleman, has a noble character and excellent insights. (snip)

- Unquote -

There is a phrase in the passage that "while I was studying abroad the word high collar (haikara) party started to appear in the newspapers", however, in fact, as mentioned above, the word haikara had been used by Hanzan ISHIKAWA long before the TAKEKOSHI's farewell party. However, this passage, on the contrary, proves Kendo ISHII's theory that the farewell party for TAKEKOSHI triggered the word haikara to become popular.