Harajuku: The Place, The People, The Attitude

Much like the words ‘bohemian’, ‘rocker’ and ‘gothic’, the word ‘Harajuku’ represents more than just a colourful place, or a flash in the pan fashion statement. It is instead an all-encompassing style that fashion-savvy individuals live by. Harajuku girls and Harajuku boys have been dressing in outlandish outfits on the streets of Tokyo since the 80s, and today, Harajuku fashion holds a special place in Japanese culture and is known the world over. It’s fair to say that Japan is well known for its quirkier side, but where exactly did Harajuku fashion come from, and why has it resonated as the go-to fashion of a generation time and time again? This is Harajuku 101

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Image source: Flickr

What is Harajuku fashion?

While many would use words like miss-match, uncoordinated, colourful and unconventional to describe the characteristics of Harajuku fashion, others see it as the youth exercising their right to freedom of expression amid what is a fairly conservatively-dressed nation. Harajuku fashion knows no limits, fully encouraging the wearing of neon and pastel colours, odd accessories and the all-round eccentric with as many patterns as possible colliding on one single piece of fabric.

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Harajuku. Image Source: Flickr

Where did it come from?

Back in the 80s, when games consoles were in their infancy and Pokémon Go was just a pipe dream, it was common practice for young people to don their most bizarre and unique items of clothing on a Sunday before making their way to traffic-free Omotesando, a long street packed full of bustling cafés and fashion boutiques. Meji Shrine and Yoyogi Park have been serving as Harajuku fashion hang outs since the very beginning; places where crowds of Harajuku aficionados gather to show off their latest creations and purchases to adoring passers-by. Harajuku fast became the place to meet and perform alongside fellow fashion-lovers with a keen eye for the latest trend.

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Dance Party 2008. Image source: Flickr

How did it get so big?

Harajuku’s rise to fame in Japan speaks for itself. With the might of the youth championing the look for decades, in addition to well well-known celebrities jumping on board, it was a style destined for big things from the off. Harajuku fashion changes in the blink of an eye, lending itself to become both the hobby and obsession of those who want to remain on trend. Never letting it slip off the radar, Harajuku fashion’s loyal devotees have carried it through the decades to ensure it remains relevant.

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Young Harajuku Girls. Image Source: Flickr

Surprisingly, Harajuku has attracted attention worldwide, and perhaps this international recognition can be traced back to global pop icon Gwen Stefani, who in 2004, introduced the world to the Harajuku girls on her hit album ‘Love. Angel. Music. Baby.’

Where can I shop for Harajuku fashion?

Once a niche style with little place in mainstream culture, these days, Harajuku-esque clothing can be found in mainstream shops and malls all over Japan. Even big labels have started to emulate what they’re seeing on the streets to keep up. Head to Harajuku, the mecca of the fashion and you’ll find endless boutiques and independent shops stocking the latest in Harajuku accessories and clothing.

If you’d like to explore the city’s fashion-centric streets with a pro in the know, many luxury hotels in Tokyo provide shopping concierge services to help you get to grips with what’s on offer.

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Shinjuku Night. Image Source: Flickr

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