Harajuku: Fashion lovers’ playground

By Jamie Rockers

Stepping off the platform at Harajuku station on the Yamanote line in Tokyo, I surveyed the chaos unfolding around me. Fashion-conscious Japanese girls with hair extensions, stilettos, and brightly-colored shopping bags pushed past me. A group of gothic lolitas mingled outside of the train station, one wearing vampire fangs. Two older women wearing elegant kimonos ambled towards Meiji shrine. A young couple dressed in cosplay walked hand in hand in front of me, most likely walking to Jingu Bridge, where people displaying all sorts of crazy fashions gathered.

Harajuku is the place where anyone’s desire for worldly goods can be tested and where even the most yen-pinching people will have a hard time not spending any money at all. Harajuku is my favorite place in Tokyo, partly because it is next to Meiji Shrine, and this allows a visitor to experience both the new and old Japan, sitting side by side. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that the area of Harajuku and Meiji Shrine is the perfect depiction of modern Japan, old and new existing together in harmony.

I was heading to Omotesando shopping street, often referred to as Tokyo’s very own “Champs-Elyseés,” to go to Forever 21, the latest fashion import from America. Forever 21 is known for its low prices and funky, fresh fashions. Arriving there, I gasped as I looked inside through the glass window at wall to wall people.

However, I wasn’t going to let that stop me. Taking a deep breath, I entered and was immediately engulfed by the crowd. An hour later, I emerged, slightly traumatized but at least with a pair of new ripped up jean shorts and Greek-style sandals to show for it. The streets were packed with people and stores of various international brands and Japanese brands lined the street, each teeming with people. I took shelter for a moment in the entrance of a Starbucks to gather my bearings.

Harajuku wasn’t originally a place of fashion. It actually traces its roots to the end of WWII. U.S. soldiers and their families began to occupy the area and it became a place where people flocked to experience a different culture. It also attracted fashion designers, models and photographers. In 1964, when the Tokyo Olympics were held, Harajuku was developed further and the people who hung out there began to develop a distinctive and unique style different from the other areas of Tokyo.

Today, Harajuku is known as a fashion mecca and international stars such as Gwen Stefani get some of their inspiration from Harajuku. Several styles can be seen in Harajuku today; cyber-punk, Lolita fashion (actually created in Osaka), Kawaii, punk, "ganguro" (a style that supposedly symbolizes a California girl with bleached hair, dark skin, fake eyelashes, and nails), cosplay, hip-hop, skater, and visual-kei (refers to style of bands and their fan base).

Taking a deep breath, I decided it was time for some more shopping. Trying to time my jump into the stream of people moving down the sidewalk proved harder than I had imagined. However, I soon realized that there was never going to be a good time to jump in. It was now or never. Fashion was waiting and I needed to make a move.

© Japan Today

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Nothing like it used to be. Now it is the same store after another. 10 years ago Harajuku was the trend setters. Now just one small shop after another all selling the same thing.

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Tokyo's Champs-Elyseés?!? Comeon this article is written by a clueless foreigner who lives overseas. The last thing we need is an article describing how we first saw Japan decades ago. This is for people reading travel advisor.

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Was this article written in 1996?

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I gasped as I looked inside...Taking a deep breath, I entered....Taking a deep breath, I decided....

sounds like too much hard work for me.

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The article starts weirdly- "stepping off the platform at Harajuku station" does not put you straight onto the street (or at any other station in Tokyo for that matter). Try "shuffling up/down the stairs, along the walkway, and fighting my way though the crowds of people who are trying to get into the station while I am trying to get out". Every time I go there I wonder why they don't do something about that station- it's a crushing accident waiting to happen.

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Obviously this article was written for people (like me) who have never been to Harajuku. It did it's job, as it has peaked my interest in visiting. (Of course I'll forget about it an hour from now)

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You went by train? Thats insane. I always walked to Harajuku from Shibuya. More fun. BTW I thought ganguro was already extinct heh.

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Poor;y written and full of cliches about Harajuku. Agree, not worthy of JT.

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