Harajuku fashion gallery -- mind-bendingly awesome subculture


JapanForum's group gallery of Harajuku fashion is gigantic, fantastic and mind-blowingly weird. William Gibson once described his "Sprawl" as being "designed by a bored researcher who kept one thumb permanently on the fast-forward button" -- Harajuku is like that, only more so. Link (via IZ Reloaded)

78

  1. On some days, Harajuku is even more awesome/odd than these pictures depict. Some of the people dress up every day they can, slightly different every day. It’s insane how fast the trends can change in there.

  2. I’ve never been there. But what I can gather is that they dress up like that and then just hang out and have their picture taken.

    Double u
    tee
    eff

  3. i had a girlfriend who was into the “Gothic Lolita” japanese fashion.

    itsnot nearly as hot as it sounds and basically comprised of her crapping on and on with her friend about silly japanese stuff.

  4. I really wish people would understand that what goes on on the bridge isn’t fashion. It’s cosplay, emulation done by young teenagers trying to find a group to belong in.

    Harajuku as an emerging fashion movement has been dead since hokoten was dissolved and all that’s left now are a lot of out of town tourists.

  5. Yes, this is not “fashion,” this is the same thing I did with my gothy friends in high school and college (and for a few years after): Dress up and go out to see other people you kinda know dressed up and hang around looking cool. But it’s not like you wear a corset to school.

    These guys are just having fun. This is their hobby. Go to school all week, get dressed up on Sunday morning, go stand on the bridge between Harajuku station and Yoyogi Park / Meiji Jingu, and hang out. Back when I was an exchange student, I always wished I lived close enough and had enough money to play too.

    It’s just for fun.

  6. You guys have an extremely exotic definition of fashion that somehow excludes “Clothing you wear to look distinctive, establish group identity, and please your aesthetic sense.”

  7. Harajuku? That’s that thing that Gwen Stefani came up with, right?

    Gwen Stefani, thanks to her Hot Topicisation of Harajuku (ripping off the Superlovers brand as “Harajuku Lovers”, putting it in malls everywhere, and co-branding crappy digital cameras with HP) is probably personally responsible for Japan taking a big hit in the soft-power rankings and ending up behind Sweden.

  8. Without shame admitting need to look up Harajuku on Wikipedia in order to not sound clueless!…..

    It is like punk, but much more glitzy, colorful and gadgety (with japanese/anime/manga edge, that is):

    Not at all splendidly vile like Sid Vicious or Joey Ramone. Much more of a polished artfulness. (well, after browsing the gallery for a bit, it is clear that there is much variation to this geographically specific fashion scene and any pigeon-holing may meet with many exceptions)

    Like Hot Topic meets Disney World.
    Like frilly Victorian meets Geisha.
    etc.

    Pretty cool.

  9. I was in Tokyo on business for a month in 2000, and I went from a somewhat aimless wander from Shibuya on a Sunday afternoon. I found myself in Harajuku (which I had not heard of) completely by accident. This was one of my better “What is this place?” afternoons.

  10. Ths pst s stpd. Why s thr bttn t “fvrt” ths pst, bt n ppst bttn t dslk t? Ths “fshn” ddn’t vr vn mnt t trnd. ‘v gt sm frnds wh lk t pt brs n thr hds nd rn rnd n th wds; why dn’t y cm tk pctrs f thm?

  11. Fashion it is, for sure. But it’s also a fashion restricted to just one small bridge (the pillars of which you can see in the background of the main photo). I really wish I could see people dressed like that walking around the streets, eating in cafes, etc, instead of just posing for pics for a bunch of middle-aged tourists like a human zoo.

  12. @#12: favorite what you like, leave the rest behind. just like real life. smiling emoticon.

  13. Harajuku is not fast-forward and it’s not Gwen Stefani. It may have had its heyday years ago before some event changed everything, but Harajuku remains impossible to translate into Hot Topic because it is just incomprehensible to the West (or so I’d have you believe).

    You can identify Gothic Lolita, Gloomy Bear, and various manga tropes of course, but nothing will prepare you for it and you won’t be able to predict what you see. It is entirely hermetic to those for whom English is a primary language. Sure, that’s a nice lace skirt on that girl with the funky army regalia, but what’s up with her friend who is wrapped head to toe with toilet paper like the monster from the end of “Turkish Star Wars?” Or the boy made up as a bloody panda. Whatever influences you think (or have been told) it is comprised, it is not complete. Frankly, I don’t want to know because it is extremely valuable to me that subcultures exist outside of my understanding. Paul@10: The pigeon-hole is where the observer resides; the scene is comprised entirely of exceptions.

    These kids take the train in from all over the place, use lockers in the train station malls to store the clothing they had to leave the house in, then dress up and hang out with their friends. Personally, I couldn’t take any pictures of them because it was such an Ugly American scene of fat white dudes with expensive cameras.

  14. To me, this seems like a very superficial sort of escapism. I would only define this as a subculture in the loosest sense of the term possible. By definition, a culture has something of value to offer beyond its immediate appearance. This “subculture” is pure pretense.

    Also, I find this to be very reminiscent of the late 90’s Rave “subculture” that existed in the US, in which people wore similarly random clothing and hair-coloring and indulged in multifarious illicit substances. Harajuku is the same, minus the dancing and the decadence.

  15. Personally, I thank you for this post. I think these styles are unique and inspired, not to mention cute.

  16. @Foofer

    By definition, a culture has something of value to offer beyond its immediate appearance.

    Not sure where you got that definition of culture, but I’ve never encountered it before. And if it is accurate, who decides what is valuable?

    @Cory

    an extremely exotic definition of fashion

    Thank you! I was thinking the same thing. It has always seemed to me that all clothing is a costume of one sort or another. From jeans and a t-shirt to suits to gothic lace with purple hair.

    Considering BB tends to feature a great deal of truly weird stuff, people in this thread seem to have some pretty narrow definitions as soon as things stray from the “norm” (whatever that is).

  17. Apparently a lot of more mainstream labels in Japan send people down to harajuku regularly to look for ideas that can be adapted to their purposes.

    Also, just around the corner, you can find adults dressing up as greasers (or, if female, in poodle skirts) dancing to music from the 50’s. Also, a wide array of live bands running their amps on generators.

  18. This “subculture” is pure pretense.

    Sounds like my Dad 20 years ago. Think of it this way: if you don’t understand why a group is doing something, it’s a subculture and you’re outside of it. Here’s a hint: it’s never random.

  19. Club kids without a club.

    I often wonder why it must always be defined in terms of a subculture. Why can people just go about in facy dress for the sake of entertaining themselves?

  20. @Radioguy

    That the term culture, or subculture, can be used so wantonly as to indicate nothing more than a fashion choice was my point. Such usage renders the term meaningless and, in some cases, offensive.

  21. Ack! Getting “I cannot connect to the ReviewPost database. [$php_errormsg]” messages right now. Hope it’ll be open again soon.

    Here’s another intriguing phenomenon: fashions with these edgy flavors are being brought (in increasing amounts) into Second Life, both by actual Japanese and others worldwide who love the styles. One of the foremost shops is called Curious Kitties, and there are even a pair of default Second Life avatars titled “Harajuku”.

    Tinies are definitely a happy rage too! For example:

    » http://www.flickr.com/photos/torley/sets/72157605375178906/

    ^ Lotsa colorful pictures.

  22. No, they’re right. This isn’t fashion or culture. And I don’t have an accent — I pronounce my words correctly.

  23. Yeah, looks like they’ve been BoingBoinged. Too bad; I’ll have to try ’em again later.

  24. @Dn Wnmn

    Wll lt’s jst mk vry wrd nlgs t vry thr wrd. Hw bt tht?

    Wth sch lbrlsm, t’s n wndr tht mrc hs bcm ntn f dts.

  25. My favorite undercover anthropologist game the moment is to walk around town and count the number of people wearing blue denim jeans. Try it next time you are out and about. They’re the new toga for the western world!

  26. how many here understand the realties of the daily life and schooling these children face when not playing at Harajuku or similar venues?

  27. Foofer,

    This is an article about a photo gallery. You are taking a superficial look at something and declaring the thing to be superficial. Calling opposing points of view “liberalism” does not make you right.

    As for the analogy between fashion and accents, both: a) are regional, b) change over time, c) mediate group identity, d) reflect age and social status, e) strike outsiders as peculiar — or, in some cases, “pure pretense”…

  28. Wow, you guys can take the fun out of anything.

    Let the kids be kids. I think this is awesome.

  29. @Dan Wineman

    No, I originally stated that it was my opinion that the Harajuku “subculture” was a superficial form of escapism. As such, I went on to challenge the usage of the term “subculture” to describe a fashion statement.

    Other people in the thread challenged me on the latter point. You made a sarcastic comment and I replied to you similarly, but you misunderstood me.

    m pntng t th dngrsly lbrl tttd tht s bng tkn n sng crtn wrds, wth dfnt cnnttns, hwvr brdly thy my b sd. srcstclly rpld tht w shld mk ll cncpts nlgs nd ll wrds synnyms. Tht wld ffctvly rndr ll wrds nd cncpts mnnglss. Ths sms t b th wrld whch w r hdng twrds, f th tttds f crtn ppl n ths thrd prvl.

    rcmmnd wtchng th flm “dcrcy”.

  30. The various subcultures of Japanese youth, as represented in this instance by Harajuku, are a profound form of escapism. Confusing costume with fashion is assigning too little importance to the intensity of emotional effort expended in establishing an alternate identity for these youth. Consider the elaborate expense evident and understand not all this children come from conspicuous wealth. The emotional investment of the meanest outfit constructed from toilet paper is frequently equal to the most complex garb shown.

  31. Lemme get this straight: you’re saying if we accept Harajuku as a subculture, then Clevon Jr. knocks up the cheerleading squad?

  32. The dull always envy the interesting.

    But, a question. Whenever I watch Japanese videos of street pranks or interviews, mostly everybody seems to be dressed in the schlumpiest, drab clothing. Does extreme raiment only happen in petting zoos like Harajuku?

  33. No, no, Clevon Jr. dictates what is and isn’t subculture; and I knock up the cheerleading squad (it’s a dirty job…)

  34. “Does extreme raiment only happen in petting zoos like Harajuku?”

    In my travels there (several months over the past 10 years) I only witnessed those styles in Harajuku. It was much more common to see Gyaru Gal styles all over Japan. Which to western eyes were pretty exotic.

    Having “goth” aesthetics for my first trip my friends and I visited some of the stores selling the garb seen in the “FRUiTS” magazine. The prices were quite astonishing, even in Japan.

  35. well, good for them…at least they still live in a country where you CAN take pictures out in public. :(

    ^m^

  36. Zing! Yeah, we’ll know we’re really in trouble when street photographers get hassled in Tokyo.

  37. Foofer,

    You’re wailing like a cat with its tail caught in a fan – in a thread about what teenagers wear on the weekend. Why don’t you save a little of that outrage for some actual atrocities?

  38. I would like to point out to Xeni (if she is reading ) that the link above (#26) leads not only to cute 2nd life avatars – but to come cute UNICORN 2nd life avatars.

  39. @45: It’s slowly starting, though – in all major new shopping malls (Roppongi Hills, Omotesando Hills etc.) there are signs “No photos” or pictograms signifying that you’re not allowed to photograph.
    Sad, but true.

    Harajuku today is the traditional place to get your fashion freak out – sadly, it has lost originality long ago. Times change, but Harajuku doesn’t move forward, it’s sort of … stalled.

  40. what’s wrong with traditional avante garde?

    Seriously now folks, Japan may have loosened up but the school these kids endure? And it’s not just the system, they enforce conformity on each other.

  41. I think we need to establish a scale for”mindbending”. Any proposals fornaming the units? “Learys”? Anyone?

  42. Would it be old fashioned of me to say they’re having fun and not hurting anybody as far as I can see?

    Of all the crappy things out there to be into nowadays, a little dress up seems to be very harmless, creative and entertaining to an outsider such as myself.

    I’m inclined to step out of their way and give ’em a friendly smile! :)

    -after all I might seem like a total freak to them.

  43. I always thought the Harajuku stuff was kinda cute, and it’s harmless enough. So I don’t quite get all the nerd rage in this thread.

    It’s kids playing dress-up, people. Seriously. Calm down and look at it. Kids. Dress-up. Go take a walk and clear your head, okay?

  44. …You know, maybe it’s just me, but outside of Halloween or maybe Mardi Gras, I can’t for the like of me figure out the attraction towards the Harajuku cosplay scene. To me, the best way I can rationalize it is a bunch of Japanese really reality-challenged Star Trek/Star Wars geeks all taking the wrong kinds of recreational drugs, and especially washing them down with the wrong brands of diet sodas(*). True, I may have dressed up as a Klingon in a business suit and gone to a Halloween party as a Corporate Raider, but *never* anything as totally retarded as about 92% of the cosplay mess I’ve seeb on Boing Boing and other sites.

    So tell me, kids – what sort of drugs do I have to do besides the Vicodin, Soma and Gabapentin I’m taking to keep “Stumpy” from waking me up at night in order to “get the joke” about the Harajuku cosplayers? :-?

    (*) It’s a known fact that Aspartamine, Saccharine and any other sugar substitutes will cause recreational drugs to have serious side effects that we don’t want. In fact, several of those claiming they took that bad “brown acid” at Woodstock claim they downed it with a Tab!

  45. If you are looking for something to justify the scene, imagine this. Some clueless tourist or salaryman takes a wrong turn and wanders into the scene. Brain explodes. Multiply this by the number of times it had to happen (mostly before it became an identified scene, but still) and you have all the justification this needs.

  46. I’m wearing tabi, a bathing suit, a Furi Kuri tee-shirt and an Alice band at the moment, so it’s hard for me to see what all the fuss is about.

  47. I’ve never been there. But what I can gather is that they dress up like that and then just hang out and have their picture taken.

    I have been there, and it’s exactly that.

    (Note: I like it, in the sense that I like street fashion. I also own the FRUiTS book. But I also recognize the tendency of “otaku” in the USA to exoticize it — a modern strand of orientalism. Really, it’s not any more or less profound than Vice Magazine‘s Dos and Don’ts.)

  48. I love Gloomy Bear and the Harajuku fashions… Gwen Stefani? Not so much. She did not “invent” Harajuku. She bastardized it, plenty. :)

  49. “I love Gloomy Bear and the Harajuku fashions… Gwen Stefani? Not so much. She did not “invent” Harajuku. She bastardized it, plenty. :)”

    …Agreed. According to most inside sources, Gwen hadn’t even heard of the Harajuku scene until someone showed her photos of girls – and guys! – cosplaying as Gwen Stefani. Same sources say she first considered trying to sue someone over it, then decided to embrace the imitiations and make a buck off of them as well.

    Ironically, there’s a lesson for the MafRIAA there, alas demonstrated by a fashion dolly who can only sing through her nose…:-/

  50. not to be pedantic (well, maybe a little bit), but gibson used the phrase “designed by a bored researcher who kept one thumb permanently on the fast-forward button” in reference to night city (in japan), not the sprawl (in north america).

  51. Thank you! I was thinking the same thing. It has always seemed to me that all clothing is a costume of one sort or another. From jeans and a t-shirt to suits to gothic lace with purple hair.

    Yes, precisely.

    There’s a Donnie Darko reference, and I’m not embarrassed to quote it:

    Donnie: Why do you wear that stupid bunny suit?

    Frank: Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?

  52. #37
    ‘Wow, you guys can take the fun out of anything.
    Let the kids be kids. I think this is awesome.’

    Absolutely! As my grandma used to say, It’s as cute as the dickens.

  53. between this, the rockabilly/greasers, and now Low rider/cholo subcultures…i swear i need to get over there and rule them with an iron fist!

  54. Reminds me of SoHo and the East Village back in the 1980s. Even Canal Street.

    Which makes me think of cost. Back in the 1970s and 1980s in NYC, you had all of these factories in SoHo that would sell their slightly damaged stuff to discounters downtown. Thus was born FLIP, Unique & Canal Jean. These places sold whatever they could get and we all benefited and it didn’t cost much. THAT’S why it was creative.

    Flash forward to now, and I’m not too sure of the Japanese supply chain, but there has to be some import of cheap goods from Taiwan and China to create the same sort of atmosphere.

    Not saying there aren’t a few girls splurging, but I’d bet there’s a strong/steady base of goods that supply these groups.

  55. ha ha ha I’ve been disemvoweled. Apologies for disagreeing with you guys about how mind-bendingly awesome this is. Or was, five years ago. I actually liked these kids too. They all lived way out in the middle of nowhere, and would commute for hours on the train to get to Harajuku, then get all dressed up in the station bathroom and hang out on the bridge all day and pose for tourists both foreign and domestic. But other than that, nice normal kids.

  56. takuan, i think that mindbending should either be in ‘dlynch units’, or ‘fellini’s’. just a thought. -el screwfly

  57. Foofer @16:

    To me, this seems like a very superficial sort of escapism. I would only define this as a subculture in the loosest sense of the term possible. By definition, a culture has something of value to offer beyond its immediate appearance. This “subculture” is pure pretense.

    You looked at some pictures. You don’t know anything else about this scene. You want to sound like an expert. You don’t.

    Also, I find this to be very reminiscent of the late 90’s Rave “subculture” that existed in the US, in which people wore similarly random clothing and hair-coloring and indulged in multifarious illicit substances.

    Sounds like you had an equally superficial understanding of that scene as well.

    Harajuku is the same, minus the dancing and the decadence.

    You’re asserting the equivalence of two things you scarcely know.

    JadedLion: All clothing is costume. A subset of it is fashion.

    RadioGuy @21: I applaud you. In this thread, that makes me fashionable.

    Jamie Sue @24:

    I often wonder why it must always be defined in terms of a subculture. Why can people just go about in facy dress for the sake of entertaining themselves?

    Because it’s more fun to do it with friends, who do it with their friends, and next thing you know someone’s calling it a subculture.

    Foofer @25:

    That the term culture, or subculture, can be used so wantonly as to indicate nothing more than a fashion choice was my point. Such usage renders the term meaningless and, in some cases, offensive.

    But that wasn’t your point; or at any rate, it wasn’t what you said. Also, what you’re professing to be offended by is your own interpretation of the Harajuku scene.

    Dan Wineman @36: excellent comment.

    Crazytree @50: it can be.

    Om @54, it’s necessary for the game of fashion at Harajuku Bridge that there be people for whom its mutations are incomprehensible. You’re in the demographic. So am I, mostly.

    Donkeymon @66, your disagreement threatens no one. You were disemvowelled for being rude.

  58. units of mind/realitybending: we start with the d-lynch units(little weird synchronicities, nothing too strange, #23 etc…). 10 d-lynch units = 1 fellini ( a mild acid trip, your eyes become wide-angle lenses, you speak to god). 10 fellini’s = 1 PKD ( god speaks directly to you through odd appliances around the house, everyone gains metal eyes hands and teeth, blade runners attempt to ‘retire’ you)

  59. 10 PKD’S = 1 gonzo(experimental C.I.A. drugs, one becomes a ‘manchurian candidate)?

  60. I love Harajuku style and I am loving La Carmina! The “Cute Yummy Time” author has an adorable little cat named Basil Farrow, and is a long time animal lover. I just read her latest interview with PETAAsiaPacific.com where she discusses her involvement in animal rights issues here: http://www.petaasiapacific.com/feature-LaCarmina.asp?c=papforpro. It’s so amazing to see such a big cultural icon stand up for the animals…and isn’t her little cat, Basil, just adorable?!

  61. I love Harajuku style and I am loving La Carmina! The “Cute Yummy Time” author has an adorable little cat named Basil Farrow, and is a long time animal lover. I just read her latest interview with PETAAsiaPacific.com where she discusses her involvement in animal rights issues here: http://www.petaasiapacific.com/feature-LaCarmina.asp?c=papforpro. It’s so amazing to see such a big cultural icon stand up for the animals…and isn’t her little cat, Basil, just adorable?!

Comments are closed.