I was first exposed to Harajuku and it's out of this world styles from Gwen Stefani's debut album "Love. Angel. Music. Baby." For her music videos and world tour that followed, she hired female Japanese dancers with a fresh, quirky and somewhat weird style not familiar to the American eye. I didn't know what to think. Was it too busy? Was the style cool or corny? After awhile, I found out that there was a culture behind it and I kinda gave in.
Over a decade has passed and I got to go to Tokyo. I was not about to leave without visiting the infamous street and try to make sense of it all. When I finally saw it for myself, I noticed that as much as it looks like it's a free for all, there are certain rules the locals follow.
You will find the Harajuku area in between Shibuya and Shinjuku on the Harajuku stop of the Yamanote line. It's busiest street is Takeshita Street. This is where I found myself gawking in awe of the amount of people just walking up and down the streets. This long block consists of new and vintage clothing shops, souvenir shops, a Macdonalds, a seven-eleven and a plethora of crepe shops. The Japanese loooove their crepes. They have a wide array of sweet crepes with different kinds of fruits. They also have savory crepes stuffed with chicken, tuna or cream cheese. And yes I did try it.
I started feeling a large amount of anxiety because I really wanted to take a bunch of pictures of the people dressed up For The Gawds. But I was afraid I was going to get denied. It had to be done. So I got the courage and I asked one guy if I could take a picture of him. I thought that he wouldn't mind since he was working and he was outside yelling at people to buy his shit in the store. Alas, he turned me down. Can you believe that? He turned down my magnetic personality! I walked away feeling like I was dumped. Then I started taking pictures of people out in public. It's not like I was being creepy about it... Okay, sometimes I was stealth with it. But hey, they were in public, part of the scenery and I wanted to document their creativity. It's silly to think that these kids worked so hard all day to look amazing and then turn down a tourist like me for a picture. Have you ever seen a drag queen turn down a photo op? I didn't think so.
I did however find the balls to ask again after an hour. I just couldn't resist. She was flawless.
After spending a couple of hours on the main street, I decided I've had enough of not having any personal space. Harajuku on a Sunday afternoon is packed like a can of sardines. So I wandered off to other streets close to the action. I found small little clothing shops and food stores that were worthy of a neighborhood I would live in. I noticed also that the fashion trends in Harajuku translated to something more ready to wear that an everyday Japanese would get into. I stumbled upon a corner refreshment stand with outside seating that served beer. I planted myself front and center where I could take part in one of my most favorite past times: people watching. So I sat there sipping my unusually large Asahi beer and people watched. Here's what I noticed.
Blonde is in trend. For every 5 people, there was a blonde haired Japanese guy or girl. And the dye job in Tokyo is on another level. Nobody had black roots. The low lights and the highlights looked so natural, I thought it was a white person from the back.
I noticed that women loved to wear chiffon blouses, billowy skirts, anything princessy and pig tails. The girlie look was present whenever I turned my head. Even the way they talked resembled a prepubescent register associated with little girls.
Guys particularly stood out. They had hairstyles I've only seen on anime cartoons. I also found a lot of them were fond of uber tight jeans; the ones that take 10 minutes to take off. But what made me giggle inside was their affinity for clutch purses. Every 30 seconds there was a guy, straight mind you, carrying a clutch purse. I have to admit. I spend my money on traveling first then alcohol. Although I'm gifted in it, fashion is tertiary for me. Plus Americans don't accept fashion trends until a decade later when it's been worn out and thrown into a sale pile by our European counterparts. However, it's 2016. Gender bending is everywhere. So go 'head and "walk to the club purse first" my Japanese brothers. Live for that clutch!
If you have a free afternoon visiting Tokyo, make sure to check out Harajuku. The culture will open your mind to approaching style in another way. While you're there, grab a crepe and enjoy the copious amounts of people wildly dressed walking passed you. After all, who doesn't like people watching?
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