What comes to mind when you think of Japanese fashion? You might say that you think of the Japanese yukata or kimono, a beautiful traditional modest dress featuring various colors and patterns, often accompanied with a paper fan or an umbrella. Others might suggest the lolita fashion, the “bubblegum princess” look that often mixes with other styles.
In the past few decades, Japanese fashion and beauty products have really taken off, creating new trends that are eye-catching and often bizarre. Cosplay – dressing as a character in an anime cartoon, a manga comic, a movie, or a video game and “acting” as them – is also extremely popular. What better place in which to spot some amazing Japanese fashion and cosplay than Harajuku?
Harajuku is located in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo and is easily accessible along the Yamanote Line, which circles through the main stations of Tokyo such as Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ueno, Tokyo Station, Shinagawa, and Harajuku itself. This area can also be accessed by Tokyo Metro on the Chiyoda Line and the Fukutoshin line by getting off at Meiji-Jingu Mae Station, which is adjacent to Harajuku’s main Station.
As soon as you come out of the station, you will most likely notice the amount of varying fashions worn by the young and old alike around this area. Meiji-Jingu shrine lies just behind the station and Yoyogi Park is down the road, making it a fantastic place to spend a day.
Takeshita Street, or Takeshita-Dori as called by the locals, is across the road from the station and is the central hub of fashionable boutiques and resale shops which are the lifeblood of new and exciting Japanese fashion. You will also find many crepe stalls and shops selling delicious fruit-filled pancakes, and many stores. Takeshita-Dori has shoe shops, sock and pantyhose shops, discounted goods, Tokyo and Japan-themed merchandise, restaurants, convenience stores, unique fashion shops, a figurine shop, a 100-yen shop, and much more!
It is a great place to visit whether you’re looking for speciality items or just want to watch in fascination as people dressed in crazy fashions, travelers, and city shoppers wander around the street spotting their favorite stores. Takeshita-Dori can get incredibly busy, especially on the weekend, so be prepared to be very close to a lot of fellow shoppers!
In the past, Sunday was the day to go to Harajuku if you wanted to see cosplayers gather on the Jingu Bridge, which is to the left of the station as you exit. Today, however, the area doesn’t see as many cosplayers as before.
Cosplayers are people who dress up as anime, manga and cartoon characters, in specific dresses or as members of popular bands. Lolita fashion is also popular in Harajuku, ranging from a wide range of genres including gothic lolita, fairy lolita, punk lolita, and the classic lolita.
Other big styles include the Visual Kei, which is a musical movement and subculture that involves J-Rock bands that wear a heavy amount of makeup, hairstyles, and flamboyant costumes. It can be likened to western glam rock. This style is usually associated with specific bands of whom the dresser is a really big fan, and can be seen in Harajuku.
There are many striking fashion styles in Tokyo and Harajuku. One very famous example is “Minori”, where the person dresses up and wears Shironuri-style makeup, which literally means “white face”. In contrast, there was a popular makeup style in the 1990s called Ganguro, where girls tanned their skin, bleached their hair, and wore a heavy amount of makeup. However, this style isn’t so popular anymore.
Kyary Pamyu-Pamyu, a Japanese singer who specializes in bizarre Harajuku-style fashion, actually started off here. Now she’s worth over ten million US dollars!
These are just some of the many styles you can see exhibited around the Harajuku area, and the styles are always evolving. It is definitely something to go and see for yourself while you are in Tokyo. If you are lucky, you might spot an up-and-coming fashion