The End of Little Shrimp?

One of Japan’s most popular models, lovingly called Ebichan or ‘little shrimp’, appears to be heading toward the end of her career. For only the second time in about four years, Ebichan will not feature on the cover of CanCam.

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Yuri EbiharaEbichan, whose real name is Yuri Ebihara, has been at the forefront of the mote-kei trend.

Mote-kei is a very popular style in Japan. It is the pinnacle of femininity without showing off with sexual appeal or individuality. The idea is to attract the widest possible interest from men, mote meaning ‘being popular with the other sex’. The poster girl for mote-kei is CanCam model Yuri Ebihara.

“I make it a point never to forget to smile,” Ebihara was quoted in a 2006 Japan Times article. “If someone doesn’t find me cute, I want to know why because then I’ll work on it to get better at being cute.”

Ebihara’s influence on young women has been enormous. She has modeled for f*ing MOTESTO, Shiseido cosmetics, FujiFilm FinePix cameras, Meiji Seika’s Fran and McDonald’s even featured her as their model to push their shrimpburger.

Clothes that Ebihara wears, invariably become big sellers. When she appears on TV programs, ratings go up by a minimum of 1 percent.

The mote-kei trend has especially been championed by CanCam. The fashion magazine pioneered the use of senzoku models, models who appear exclusively in a single publication.

But CanCam’ main target is women in their early 20s and Ebihara is 28. CanCam has seen circulation dive from over 650,000 to below 500,000 this year and is searching for younger talent to take over Ebihara’s role as the magazine’s face.

“We got a new chief editor in July and figured it was a good time to re-start the magazine. One of the features of those changes will be Maki Nishiyama appearing on the next cover,” weekly magazine Shukan Gendai quotes a source from Can Cam publisher Shogakukan.

Ebihara was one of a trio at CanCam. Fellow model Moe Oshikiri has moved on to AneCan, CanCam’s new magazine to cater to women who have graduated from CanCam. She also works for an English educational program. Yu Yamada has become a TV reporter for Formula One racing.

Ebihara doesn’t appear to have this option, though. “She’s appeared in several dramas,” Shukan Gendai quotes a Fuji TV drama production source, “and the evaluation of her performances has been pretty much unanimous: she can’t act.”

She may get into fashion, something she knows a thing or two about. It has been reported by Japanese media that a bag that Ebihara designed is selling quite well.

Although her talent agency Pearl dismisses all rumors about Ebihara retiring and moving into fashion, Ebihara will find it difficult to remain the face of mote-kei as she runs towards 30.

Kjeld Duits About the Author

Inspired by the stunningly creative street fashion that exploded on the streets of Tokyo and Osaka in the late 1990’s, photo-journalist Kjeld Duits launched JAPANESE STREETS in 2002. This makes JS one of the first fashion blogs on the net, and the very first to cover Japanese street fashion.

Recent articles by Kjeld Duits:

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