Harajuku, an area around the Harajuku train station in Toyko, describes Japanese Street Style as much as its geographic location. Certainly the two definitions are inextricably linked. The area has a long history of youth-attracting and as nexus of creativity. Towards the end of WWII, the area was inhabited by occupying US soldiers, whose presence attracted curious Japanese youth, eager to expose themselves to Western culture. In 1958, with the completion of the Central Apartments Complex, which drew fashion designers, artists, photographers, and models as inhabitants, the area’s reputation as an artistic hub solidified. Post-1964 Olympics, the area was further developed and the distinct Harajuku culture truly emerged.
Today Harajuku is an international fashion epicenter, full of young hipsters in full regalia and scores of boutiques and fashion houses, both local and international (Milk, the famous Japanese fashion label, launched here in the 70s and today has neighbours including Chanel and Louis Vuitton). Each weekend Harajuku welcomes congregations of youth in their most fashion forward outfits, with looks from Gothic Lolita, Visual Kei, and Cosplay on full display (in Cosplay – short for ‘costume play’ – fans dress elaborately as their favorite character from manga, anime, or video games). A mix and (mis)matching of various trends is a prominent feature of Harajuku, which is a style in its own right.
The next post will focus on the Lolita trend – no relation to Nabokov.