How did it get so popular in otaku subculture?

What is the name of the proper name for name tag that's commonly found on female school swimwear? Sometimes it just says the name, sometimes just the class number, and other times both. What significance does it play both in-universe and in real life?

Ah so?

  • 1
    Maybe so they can identify their swimsuits if they leave them at school?
    – kuwaly
    Commented May 26, 2013 at 4:20
  • Here's a random YouTube clip of a Japanese school IRL. Commented May 29, 2013 at 5:37
  • It is probably what its like actually in schools in Japan.
    – Suzuka
    Commented May 30, 2013 at 10:27
  • It's the same for their bags, shoes and school uniforms. Because of the uniformity they implement at schools, almost all of their school things are identical so they put name tags on those to let them know which are theirs.
    – xjshiya
    Commented May 30, 2013 at 23:41
  • School uniforms are a fetish which gained popularity in anime. Most likely stemmed from school romance novels which was morphed over time into a fetish for lolicons wanting to have that rosy school romance with a childhood friend or something. Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 2:28

2 Answers 2


What is it called?

There doesn't seem to be a separate name for that kind of school swimsuit, but the the part with name and class written on it can be called either ゼッケン (zekken, literally meaning cloth) or 名札 (nafuda, literally meaning name tag).

Why is it popular?

I don't think there's a definitive or objective way to answer why school swimsuits are so popular in anime, but here are translations of some of the possibilities mentioned in various answers to a very similar Yahoo Chiebukuro question:

  • It's easier to draw everyone in school swimsuits than to make up a swimsuit design for each character
  • They make the character seem younger, inferior, and/or weaker
  • They expose some skin and show off a character's body while still seeming immature
  • It's moe (see related question: What does 'moe' mean?)
  • They have a simple design which is appealing
  • Lolicons prefer school swimsuits, and it's easier to please all of lolicons with school swimsuits than to attempt to please all the other groups with widely varying preferences

What is its purpose?

From the Japanese Wikipedia article for gym uniforms, which typically also include the same patch with a student's name:

In order to manage students and in the event of an accident while exercising, the student's name, class, attendance number (similar to an ID number), etc. are filled out on a white cloth name tag that is sewn or embroidered onto the clothing.

There was no relevant information in the article specifically for school swimsuits which is why I used the article for gym uniforms in general.


It's a bit difficult to find the name, though using the word from the Japanese Wikipedia page, it seems to be this: 名札.

To summarize the Japanese Wikipedia page on gym clothes:

It seems like there are two reasons to have these name tags. The first reason is for identification for emergency response. If a student is injured while exercising or, in this case, has a problem while swimming, they can be quickly and easily identified. Also, it allows for identification both to help people keep their clothing straight and to be identifiable to the teachers/other students in the class.

This is corroborated as well in the German Wikipedia page on mizugi, or Japanese swim-wear, where it states that the name-tags help teachers identify their students because identification is otherwise difficult due to the swim-caps.

The reason for it being so popular with otaku subculture is likely just that swimsuits in general are popular, and this is just one aspect of it. Additionally, they are used in schools primarily, so they likely show an aspect of innocence that is also popular.

  • Was this machine translated...? It's nearly incomprehensible.
    – atlantiza
    Commented May 26, 2013 at 20:20
  • Yeah. Sorry, but I don't know Japanese, and there isn't (as far as I can tell) a page on it in English. That's why I summarized it underneath the block text.
    – kuwaly
    Commented May 26, 2013 at 20:30
  • Relying on machine translation has skewed the meaning of the original text. The beginning of the first line reads "In order to manage students and in the event of an accident while exercising..." So it is more for in case a student gets hit in the head with a ball and passes out than if there is some major disaster.
    – atlantiza
    Commented May 26, 2013 at 22:06
  • Okay, thanks. I'll clarify that in the answer.
    – kuwaly
    Commented May 26, 2013 at 22:18
  • 2
    It's good that you removed the incomprehensible machine translation, but the fact that the answer is still based on it is pretty worrisome.
    – atlantiza
    Commented May 27, 2013 at 16:16

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