Vintage Photographs Portrayed Japanese Youth in Revolt in the 1960s

In 1964, LIFE photographer Michael Rougier and correspondent Robert Morse spent time documenting one Japanese generation’s age of revolt, and came away with an astonishingly intimate, frequently unsettling portrait of teenagers hurtling willfully toward oblivion.

The teens and other young adults portrayed in Rougier’s pictures, Morse noted in a 1964 LIFE special issue on Japan, are “part of a phenomenon long familiar in countries of the Western world: a rebellious younger generation, a bitter and poignant minority breaking from [its] country’s past.”

Kako, languid from sleeping pills she takes, is lost in a world of her own in a jazz shop in Tokyo.

Yoko, 17 years old, Tokyo, 1964.

A group of "motorcycle kids," one of numerous subsets of teen subcultures in Tokyo, 1964.

Japanese youth, Tokyo, 1964.

Listening to jazz, Tokyo, 1964.

Lost in the music, Tokyo, 1964.

They find violent release in homegrown Japanese Beatles.

Dancing to the "Tokyo Beatles," 1964.

Rocking out with the "Tokyo Beatles," 1964.

Rocking out with the "Tokyo Beatles," 1964.

A fan (right) and a "Tokyo Beatle," 1964.

Screaming for the "Tokyo Beatles," 1964.

"Tokyo Beatles" backstage, 1964.

"Tokyo Beatles" backstage, 1964.

Japanese youth, Tokyo, 1964.

Japanese youth, Tokyo, 1964.

[Yoko] often ends her long nights sprawled on a futon in a friend's room.

Naron" (at left, stretching) and friends at dawn after an all-night party at the beach.

Japanese youth, Tokyo, 1964.

Japanese youth, Tokyo, 1964.

"Naron" and an unidentified girl at dawn after an all-night beach party, Tokyo, 1964.

Japanese youth, Tokyo, 1964.

Japanese youth, Tokyo, 1964.

The teen in the center is the 17-year-old leader of a pill-popping crew of jazz fans. He's known only by his nickname, "Naron," a popular sleeping pill brand. Morse wrote in his notes that Naron was "bright and amusing when he's off the pills."

Japanese youth, Tokyo, 1964.

Japanese youth, Tokyo, 1964.

Japanese youth, Tokyo, 1964.

Yoko, 17 years old, Tokyo, 1964.

Yoko, 17 years old, Tokyo, 1964.

Sometimes [Yoko] goes down to the port in Yokohama to watch the ships sail off to the places she only wishes she cold go. At sunset, her 'day' begins again.

(Photos: Michael Rougier—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

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