School Cliques in Japan: What Are Inkya and Youkya?

When you watch American school dramas, the reality of the school cliques is often expressed. And it exists in Japan too, though in a different form. The most common terms used to describe the types of people in the school are “Inkya” and “Youkya”.

Definition of Inkya and Youkya


Inkya, also known as Inkyara, is the term to describe the people in the lower rank among young people. “In” means “shadow”, and “Kyara” comes from the short form of “character”. Dark, introverted, and indoor characteristics are categorised as “Inkya” and are more likely to be bullied by “Youkya”.

Some people from abroad may even know this word because of the song “Inkya Impulse” from the anime “Asobi Asobase“. This song expresses the depressing feeling of being branded as an Inkya person, so please give it a listen.


On the other hand, the opposite of “Inkya” is “Youkya”. “Yo” means “sun” and it’s for people who have a voice and influence in the school. They have cheerful personalities and are surrounded by many friends.

Young people often use those two words, especially in high school, to classify the people around them. They are also referred to as “First Team” and “Second Team”, and the meanings are pretty much the same. Some students are overly afraid of being labelled as “Inkya” and at least try to be “normal” which isn’t classified as either “Youkya” or “Inkya”.

Other Terms

Apart from the above three types, there are other kinds of people inside the Japanese schools.

Pashiri (ぱしり)
“Pashiri” is usually around a group of delinquents. They will not be ostracised, but they are forced to obey the delinquents’ orders to go shopping. It’s what people call “messenger” in the US.

Bocchi (ぼっち)
Both “Inkya” and “Youkya” tend to work in groups, but those, who don’t fit in with the others but classified as Inkya, are called “Bocchi” and are forced to be alone. Some of them can’t bear to be seen alone and have lunch in the toilets. This type of people don’t have any other options except living school life alone, and without the help of adults, they often end up not attending school. Bocchi is a short form of “Hitoribocchi” which means “solitude”.

Lone Wolf
Some students are similar to Bocchi, but they actually enjoy being alone as a lone wolf. They have friends to talk to, but they don’t like to work in groups and can be considered independent students.

What Makes People Inkya or Youkya?

According to the survey among people in their 20s and 30s conducted by O-uccino Co., Ltd. in 2016, people ranked “Communication Skills” as the number one factor in determining people’s ranking in the school, followed by “Appearance” in second place. In addition, since “appearance” ranked first in women’s responses, women tend to think that physical appearance is vital for better school life more than men. Furthermore, one’s position in the school is not only determined by each individual’s skill or appearance, but also the club activities they belong to or family background.

pyramid of school cliques

How Teachers Are Dealing with It

Discrimination and bullying in schools are critical issues for teachers, and they are trying to tackle them in many different ways. The teachers consider the following points when planning the next year’s homeroom classes to even out the classes with as few problems as possible.

– Evenly split Leaders, Followers, and Targets into each class
– Place the students who are too close to each other in different classes.
– Make the academic level of each class equal

However, it is also true that trying to make the average to avoid problems has created the negative effect of having many people with no individuality in Japan.


11 thoughts on “School Cliques in Japan: What Are Inkya and Youkya?

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  • Hery Gunawan

    I’m introverted but I’m happy. Maybe it’s because in my mind that doing good is one of the responsibilities in life. So organizing the way of thinking and loving yourself and others in my opinion is the key. Greetings from Indonesia and I’m happy to meet introverts in Japan and share my experience as an Introvert.

    • Thank you Hery for your comment. Yeah, I totally agree with you. True happiness is coming from loving ourselves rather than caring about how other people look at us all the time.

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