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Seeking liberation through body suits

A small subset in Japan is fixated with the idea of wearing outfits called ‘zentai’ an abbreviation of zenshintaitsu which means full body suit

Tokyo: By day, she is a mild-mannered office clerk whose modest make-up and conservative hairstyle allow her to blend in with any crowd.

Members of the Tokyo Zentai Club displaying their multi-coloured, skintight Lycra suits. Pic/AFP
Members of the Tokyo Zentai Club displaying their multi-coloured, skintight Lycra suits. Pic/AFP

By night, she dresses in a skin-tight, all-in-one Spandex body suit that covers everything including her eyes and sits in bars, alone but liberated, she believes, from the judgment of others.

Hokkyoku Nigo is part of a small subset in Japan with a fetish for wearing outfits called ‘zentai’ an abbreviation of zenshintaitsu, which means full body suit who say they are seeking liberation by effacing the physical self.

Some meet through Internet forums and through gatherings like the Tokyo Zentai Club, whose ten members get together every other month, just like any other group, to hold barbecues or parties. Unlike any other group, they are covered head-to-toe in skintight Lycra.

“I was always fascinated by hero costumes as a child,” said member Hanaka, 22, who was introduced to the club by her 25-year-old boyfriend, Popo. “When I was 13 or 14, I even tried to make a full-body suit myself, sewing stockings together.

But I stopped, thinking maybe I was doing something weird. I was really happy when I finally found out on the Internet that there were people like me out there,” said Hanaka, who always comes to Tokyo Zentai Club events with Popo.

While the hobby is a long way from being mainstream in Japan, it makes occasional appearances in pop culture. Among the most prominent was a movie of comedy vignettes that each focused on common but crushingly awkward social situations that were resolved through a conversion to zentai wearing.

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