Hi Everyone, I'm sure you have heard of Harajuku, a fashion style that was probably introduced to the masses "West" by Gwen Stefani's trendy backup singers, "The Harajuku Girls." Here you can find out some background information about this crazy fashion trend and the crazy subcultures that were born out of it. What I find so interesting about the Harajuku culture is how it's made up of tons of different cultural influences and is so different from any fashion styles I have seen pop up in the West.
Harajuku (原宿 "meadow lodging" is the common name for the area around Harajuku Station on the Yamanote Line in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo, Japan. It has a reputation as a gathering place for trendy teens.
Harajuku's main strip.
Harajuku is also a fashion capital of the world, renowned for its unique street fashion. Harajuku street style is promoted in Japanese and international publications such as Kera, Tune, Gothic & Lolita Bible and Fruits.
Many prominent designers and fashion ideas have sprung from Harajuku and incorporated themselves into other fashions throughout the world.
Harajuku is also a large shopping district that includes international brands, its own brands, and shops selling clothes young people can afford.
The area has two main shopping streets, Omotesandō and Takeshita Street (Takeshita-dōri). The latter caters to youth fashions and has many small stores selling Gothic Lolita, visual kei, rockabilly, hip hop, and punk outfits, in addition to fast food outlets and so forth.
The History of Harajuku
Harajuku as it is now traces its roots to the end of World War II during the Allied occupation of Japan. U.S. soldiers and government civilians and their families lived in a nearby housing area called Washington Heights. It became an area where curious young people flocked to experience a different culture and stores in the area stocked goods marketed towards middle and upper class Japanese and Americans.
In 1958, Central Apartments were built in the area and were quickly occupied by fashion designers, models, and photographers. In 1964, when the Summer Olympics came to Tokyo the Harajuku area was further developed, and the idea of “Harajuku” slowly began to take a more concrete shape.
After the Olympics the young people who hung out in the area, frequently referred to as the Harajuku-zoku, or the Harajuku tribe, began to develop a distinct culture and style unique to different groups and the area. From this distinct style grew the culture of Harajuku as a gathering ground for youths.
The term "Harajuku Girls" has been used by English-language media to describe teenagers dressed in any fashion style who are in the area of Harajuku. This fashion infuses multiple looks and styles to create a unique form of dress. The cyber-punk look takes its influence from gothic fashion and incorporates neon and metallic colors. In 2005, Gwen Stefani introduced Harajuku Girls as her Backup Dancers:
Check out this NY Times Article about Harajuku fashion and consumerism if you want to take a closer look at this topic.
Punk style in Harajuku is more of a fashion than a statement. Its fashion mainly consists of dark colors, plaid, chains, and zippers. Punk style is also one of the more gender-neutral fashions in Harajuku.
Ganguro is a style that symbolizes the average American teenager. The term translates to ‘black-faced’. The basic look is what Westerners would call a ‘California girl’, with bleached hair, dark skin, fake eyelashes and nails. It is not clear how Ganguro came to be. Many assume it originated in the early 1990s, and was meant as a way of rebelling against the traditional Japanese ideas of beauty (pale skin, dark hair, etc.) This is the style I find the most interesting because it is a big cultural difference between the West and Asia. Pale white skin is sought after so greatly that it very common to find whitening products such as soaps and lotions. For more info click here
Cosplay is more of a costume-based style. A cosplay enthusiast will usually dress as a fictional or iconic character from a band, game, movie, anime, or manga.
Ura-Hara is another section of Harajuku, which caters to a mostly male population interested in a hip-hop, graffiti, and skater fashion and culture. Ura-Hara is seen as the opposite of Harajuku in that it’s more hidden and reserved.
In addition to Harajuku is its counterpart, known as Visual Kei. this refers to the style of bands and their fanbase. The term Visual Kei literally means a ‘visual style of music’. The melodies of the music these bands perform often resemble eighties rock, heavy metal, or techno; in some cases, the sound is a good mix of the three. The fashion began in the 1980s, when American metal bands were popular. Japanese fans loved how their idols would dress frantically and paint makeup wildly on their faces, so they began to emulate their style. This mimicking is also known is costume play, or cosplay.
I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about these fashions and the way these subcultures are influenced by western subcultures. Thanks for reading!
Sources of Information
The post is made up of the author's original content, or is a compliation of material from various places.