Everything You Need To Know About Harajuku
by Jordan Mounteer
There are a lot of different subcultures in Japan, and despite the Western view of Asian cultures being more or less homogenous there’s an incredible amount of diversity – especially when it comes to Japan. One of the more interesting subcultures, which has spawned its own mythos and fashion, is the notion of harajuku, and this is better seen nowhere else than in Tokyo. That’s because Harajuku, as a trend or fashion statement or youth culture, shares its name with a famous district in Japan’s biggest city. So, what hallmarks each?
First and foremost, you can spot a follower of harajuku by what they wear, especially when it comes to women. In essence, it tries to mix and blend different styles, often in very clashing and odd ways that emphasize bright colors or contradictory themes. What most foreigners to Japan do get right is that the culture is predominantly one where trying to fit in is something one endeavors to do, but when it comes to teens and kids their avenues for rebellion are somewhat limited. Except when it comes to clothes. There are whole divisions that range from the cosplayer harajuku that likes to dress up as famous characters from anime or manga, the goth harajuku that tends to be very monochromatic and these connoisseurs can be spotted with black lacy clothes, hats, and collars as well as dark lipstick (think Tim Burton meets the Victorian age).
There are also those who like to go for color: bright beads, gaudy and flamboyant kimonos, and of course wild hairstyles with purple, orange, and green highlights tend to be favorites. And of course, when it comes to accessories, you can’t help but be impressed, from hair clips to stickers to eye patches, if it makes a fashion statement that defies the norm, you can pretty well be guaranteed to have found a good harajuku spot. And while it might be easy for some of us to criticize their fashion sense, in many ways it’s a healthy and productive creative outlet for many Japanese youth, and there is something charming about running into a group of teenagers who look like they just came from an 18th century dinner party.
The main area of Harajuku can be reached by foot from the Shibuya Crossing and there are notable tourist attractions here including the infamous Shinto Meiji Jingu Shrines which features a huge wooden torii gate that was dedicated to the Emperor Meiji. Also be sure to check out the gigantic rows of iconic sake jugs along the walkway – known as kazaridaru in Japanese, these are the traditional vessels for sake that is designated for ceremonial purposes, and don’t worry: they’re just for decoration and not full of wine, although their sacred function gives them a lot of significance. The large Yoyogi Park is here as well and is beautiful in the spring when the cherry trees bloom and carpet the canopy with their fluffy cloud-like pink blossoms – and you can also sometimes see another harajuku subculture here, the notorious rockabillies that dress up like 1950’s greasers with slicked back hair, jean jackets, and shades, and dance to classic Elvis songs. You’d be remiss if you didn’t check out the Omotesandō as well, which is a tree-lined highway that is a popular place to walk along and is also part of the Meiji Shrine.
If you want to bridge your experience in Harajuku between exploring the sights and getting a taste of the same eponymous fashion, than a visit to Lafloret is a must – I only visited here briefly, and was overwhelmed by the amount of clothes stores they had here. Marketed as a department store that features the most recent and trendy styles, even if you’re not into the whole Goth-Punk-Go-Go-Victorian attire it’s still an extremely interesting place to simply window shop.
WhyNot!? party is the biggest party for International minds in Osaka!
If you wanna make local Japanese friends, WhyNot!? party is a perfect venue!!