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Japan is indisputably conformist, but not quite in the American or Western sense of the word.
In the West, conformism means to conform to one standard, the mainstream.
In Japan, people have
a choice as to what standards they wish to conform to. There's a large variety of subcultures that one can choose to sign up for.

What do I mean?

Let's say you're a young male, fresh graduate, working his first white collar job.
Congradulations, you are now a salaryman:

You are contractually obligated to do the following at least once a week:
  1. Get drunk and pass out in a train station or on a train if you can make it that far:
  2. Look like this when commuting to work:
  3. Enjoy Ramen with your boss (enjoyment is optional):
Oh and somewhere in there you have to also get some work done.

But this isn't the only thing you can do. You can also choose to be a shameless otaku on the weekends (or all week if you're a hikki/NEET and don't have a job):

There's a fairly rigorous set of contractual obligations to becoming a full fledged otaku as well. If you can't fulfill these obligations, you're not going to have many otaku friends.

Or hey, maybe you're more extroverted and just really want to have sex with as many women as possible, well there's a subculture for that too, you can dress yourself up to look like these... men(?):


In other words, there's plenty of subcultures for men and women in Japan to fall into. But in all cases, they are expected to conform to the norms of that subculture in order to be accepted in.

Browse photography at Denver.Gallery.