He Said/She Said: Japanese Fashion

He Said/She Said: Japanese Fashion

When you hear “Japanese fashion”, what do you think?  Middle-age men wearing Disney World hats, Las Vegas t-shirts and enormous cameras?  Or do you think the Harajuku women, dressed up like dolls, anime characters, and the occasional horse head?  Are their fashion choices representing craziness or self-expression in a repressive society?  Read our takes then have your say in the comments below.




Fashion in Japan is interesting.  “Interesting” used in a Minnesota-nice sort of way, as in, “it’s not my thing, I’m not sure about it, actually it makes me a little uncomfortable, but I can’t say that because…well I’m a Minnesotan.”  I’ve been told that in other parts of the country people would say something like, “God bless their heart, I wouldn’t be caught dead in that!”  I think many of the fashions are absolutely crazy, the pedophile soliciting schoolgirl outfits, the dancing Elvises, the anime characters!?!  I don’t get it.

I don’t understand why people want to walk down the street and have people gawking at them.  I don’t get why people want to become a tourist attraction.  I really can’t comprehend why some of them get annoyed that tourists take photos of them, after all, they are the ones drawing the attention to themselves with their choices of clothing.  More over, how long does it take these people to get all done up like this?  Caking on the layers of makeup, doing up their hair, buying all the clothes, putting themselves together the way you would a Barbie Doll.  The time, effort, cost and ogling makes the whole production seem unrewarding.

Are those shoes comfortable?  Whatever you used to make your face look like that…is it toxic?  What if it doesn’t go back to “normal”?  Do you even care?  What do you want to be?  What feeling does it give you to do yourself up like this?  Why, why, why?  Maybe I have too many question, maybe I’m too cerebral for fashion, maybe it’s me that’s crazy, not them, but I’m pretty certain it’s them.

There is one thing I do like in Japanese and in broader Asian fashion: super short mini skirts.  If wacky english worded slogans on shirts, strange makeup combinations, or odd styles are what we have to accept to get super short shorts on a daily basis then I could be converted…




I have never been nor will I ever be a “fashionista” I am much more a fashion victim than fashion forward.  However, I enjoy seeing what the creative minds at Gucci, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana churn out because it’s usually something that I would never dream of wearing (or affording).  To me fashion in Japan is much the same as high fashion, it’s a form of self expression and an outlet for creativity.  I loved seeing the woman and even some of the men all dolled up (literally) and strutting their stuff in Harajuku.

To me their fashion choices made total sense, in a culture where everything is controlled and many of your choices are made for you your clothes are a safe way to “rebel”. Japan is proven to be one of the most stressful countries to live in with some of the world’s longest work hours and highest suicide rates.  I figure if dressing wacky helps to alleviate some of that stress and let your true colors show, go for it.  That’s the most harmless way to let off some steam I’ve ever heard of.

I also appreciated the entertainment value of their outfits and can’t fathom the amount of time and effort that it takes to put their ensembles together.  The hair and make up a lone must take hours.  While it’s not for me, I will happily people watch as grown woman dressed like preschoolers walk by along side woman dressed like seductive vampires.  Unlike thinkCHUA I didn’t feel any of them had a problem with my staring or slack jawed gawking, maybe being female helped.  However, I was so busy just watching them that I didn’t even get too many pictures.

The Harajuku area of Tokyo is a must-visit even if you don’t make it there when all the girls are out showing off.  The stores alone will give you a good idea of what you’re missing and probably provide a laugh. Most likely you’ll even see a few dressed up girls and guys.  Visit with an open mind and remember self expression is an important part of growing up, where would you be without having gone through your rebellious teens?

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» Pan :
May 2, 2012

Yes, their fashion is totally wacky! I was just looking through my Japanese albums a couple days ago and I came across a picture of two girls at Tokyo Disney that had on shoes with platforms about 6 inches high. Still yet, Japan is one of my favorite places of all time!

LOCAVORista Reply:

Pan, I agree Japan is an incredible place and the fashion is way out there. It seems platform shoes with 6 inch heels is the norm!

» Ayngelina :
May 2, 2012

I love Japanese fashion, it is so unabashedly out there.
Read Ayngelina’s awesome post Would you, could you, rule a mule?

LOCAVORista Reply:

Ayngelina, I agree Japanese fashion has no shame and that’s what makes it so fun!

» MomA :
May 9, 2012

When we were in Tokyo I am so sorry we didn’t get to Harajuku when you were 8 years old. It could have made all the difference in your fashion sense. But it may not have even been quite that out there in 1990. I’m curious to know.

LOCAVORista Reply:

Mom, maybe not visiting Harajuku helped my fashion sense…but I think you agree that you should have fun with your wardrobe! It would be fun to know exactly when the Harajuku girls started strutting their stuff though.

» BKA :
May 17, 2012

The picture with you and the Kabuki performer in Tokyo in his full regalia is still a priceless look at “fashion” and culture from wide eyes of two 7 and 10 year olds……your travels continue to keep me in awe and dis-belief….be safe……peace…..dad

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About the Author

thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.

About the Author
thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.


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