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高校デビュー (koukou debyū) is a Japanese slang word that literally means “high school debut”. This term describes an introvert who, upon entering high school, tries to change himself/herself dramatically and becomes a social and extroverted person. Some people successfully reinvent themselves and fly up the social ladder at school, while others fail to keep up the masquerade and fall back to the bottom of the social hierarchy.
Here are some examples of common behaviour when one “debuts” at high school (or university):
- start using contact lenses instead of wearing glasses
- dye their hair light to offset their gloomy vibe
- become (awkwardly) hyper around their new friends
- start using hair wax or makeup
- disparage and shun nerds to show that they are not part of them anymore
Some people get carried away or behave quite awkwardly, in which case they end up being mocked as a wannabe or poser by their classmates.
Why “debut” at High School?
A myriad of Japanese people try to make a “debut” when entering high school. This is mainly because people usually part ways with their old schoolmates and start making new friends at high school; before high school (i.e. junior-high school, elementary school), most Japanese people attend the closest school to their home, meaning they know their schoolmates very well for a long time since their childhood. Therefore, the time when people enter high school can be a great opportunity to get rid of their old self and start a new life/character. Some people make a “debut” at a later stage in life, e.g. at university or when they join a company. Those types of “debuts” are called “大学デビュー (daigaku debyū; university debut)” and “社会人デビュー (shakaijin debyū; businessman debut)”, respectively.
Another Meaning of “Debut” in Japanese
In Japanese, デビュー (debut) is used in various ways. For instance, it means “start or experience something for the first time” when it’s combined with another noun. Here are some examples of “something debut”
- コンタクトデビュー (contact lenses debut) = start using contact lenses
- 一眼レフデビュー (DSLR camera debut) = start using a DSLR camera
- スマホデビュー (smartphone debut) = start using smartphone
- 漫画喫茶デビュー (manga café debut) = go to a manga café for the first time
- 海外旅行デビュー (trip to a foreign country debut) = travel abroad for the first time
Besides, デビュー can also mean “(to make) a first appearance” as in English, e.g. ‘あのバンドは去年デビューした‘ meaning ‘The band debuted last year’.
Because I changed myself dramatically in high school, I’d never want to meet my friends back in junior high school.
It is my 黒歴史 (painful memory) that I dyed my hair pink for my “university debut”.