Last Updated 28 Jan 2021

The Real Harajuku: Japanese Youth’s Unique Self-Expression

Category Clothing, Culture, Fashion
Words 1685 (7 pages)
Views 495
Years ago, a group of Japanese young people started hanging out at the Harajuku district. These trendsetting youth go there with their unexplainable fashion sense (Bartlett). The Harajuku fashion is just really so different because anything can be possible (Craft 26) and it is all about “creativity, theatricality, style, confidence, looking cute, and mixing and matching” (Knight). This was all made possible due to the fact that the youth still stayed at their parents’ home and their fathers provided them with the money they use up, meaning they can shop for whatever they wanted.

Although it may seem that girls are the only ones fond of these kinds of things, young men in Japan also like shopping and dressing up at Harajuku (Mead). The trendsetting youth had changed a normal neighborhood into a fashion capital (Johnson 14) and it has been said to be in the same class as the 1920s of Paris. Loic Bizel said, “The French are very poor in terms of fashion, in terms of creativity, compared to Japan” (Craft 26). “Visitors come to Harajuku to see and be seen” (Joerger).

A lot of people can get ideas and be influenced by the trends the youth set there (McCaughan 28). It has been well known that even though the district changed its name into Jingu-Mae, it is still known as Harajuku (Kubo 38). Harajuku has truly been recognized worldwide and outsiders tend to draw their own conclusions about it. Some people think badly of Harajuku, while others simply do not fully grasp the real concept of it. People who do not really understand the concept tend to make up their own explanations or tend to do things that they think are good but are actually not.

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Taking a deeper look into their culture can lead us to better decipher that it is all about the youth expressing themselves and somewhat escaping from reality. The youth go to Harajuku during the weekends wearing their own unique ensembles. They might seem like they just randomly put things on but they actually follow certain rules and guidelines. They have a sense of order (Kubo 39). “Japan is a place where everyone is individual – but in groups” (Knight). Their outfits greatly vary from all the kinds of getups that they have created.

Included in these are “cyber-punk, Lolita fashion [inspired by the Victorian era], kawaii [cute], punk, ganguro [symbolizes a California girl with bleached hair, dark skin, fake eyelashes, and nails], cosplay [most common name for “costume players” or those who dress up like Japanes animated characters], hiphop, skater and visual-kei [style of bands]” (Rockers). Their clothing can vary from shades of black to shades of bright colors and from plain fabrics to all kinds of different prints. They also change their hairstyles and hair color and they also put on makeup.

They truly aimed to look different from the rest in their attempt to fit in with the others (Mah). Because of how some of the youth dress up, outsiders think of the Harajuku youth as rebellious delinquents (Kubo 41). Since some of their outfits tend to be out of this world, some people are inclined to compare them to the London punks who loafed around at Trafalgar Square. The thing is that these London punks are these young people who act the way they dress. They can be aloof, disrespectful, irresponsible and such, which does not really give justice to the Harajuku youth (Knight).

Also, the way the singer, Gwen Stefani, introduced the Harajuku Girls in Hollywood led others to think of the original ones as “rebellious, underground, subversive, and rule-breaking” kinds of youth (Kubo 41). It has also been said that the youth are “devoid of perseverance, dependent upon others, and self-centered” (Cho). “Everyone imposes their own interpretation on the Harajuku girls – sees them through their tinted lenses” (Kubo 41). In contrary to what outsiders may think, the Harajuku youth are kind, respectful and accommodating towards other people (Kubo). They undergo complete transformations when they go there.

However, their looks do not dictate the way they act. They are actually nice and considerate, even though they are wearing their somewhat unconventional getups (Harden). The Japanese youth are clean and responsible. Their clothes do not define their attitudes as they can simply take off these getups that they put on (Knight). They might also seem antisocial, but they are actually easy to approach (Kubo). The so-called Tokyo punks are well behaved, having their pictures taken with visitors and most of them, if not all, do not have vises like smoking or such that the London punks have (Mead).

Also, they are quite considerate towards other people. In Harden’s article, the youth that he mentioned there were careful so that they do not displease other people who ride the train with them or people they are with when they commute. Because of Harajuku’s popularity, others are starting to use its name in wrong ways. A very controversial and probably well-known example of this would be Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Girls. “She's taken Tokyo hipsters, sucked them [Harajuku grils] dry of all their street cred, and turned them into China dolls. she's swallowed a subversive youth culture in Japan and barfed up another image of submissive giggling Asian women.

While aping a style that's suppose to be about individuality and personal expression, Stefani ends up being the only one who stands out” (Ahn). A photographer, Van Meene, also produced photographs that showed a “sexualized image of schoolgirls,” which is contrary to the sweet, adorable or cute look that some of them portray (Ahn). In addition to the misuse of Harajuku, big brand stores are opening up in the district, which may cause it to lose its very identity.

Patrick Macias talks about Harajuku possibly getting “a major makeover via globalization. ” Some of its gained popularity might not turn out to be a good thing. Some foreign clothing companies are beginning to open up stores in the Harajuku district. This can very likely mar the identity of Harajuku. “The special atmosphere of this place might be lost. ” If people would just go here just to buy branded items like Prada, Gucci, or such, they could have might as well shopped in some other place. Also, nothing would set them apart from other societies anymore.

Despite their unbelievable taste in fashion and the popular stores opening in their area, the Harajuku youth are not “simply slaves to a label. ” They splurge a lot of money to look different from the rest. A lot of companies produce only small quantities of their products so that their merchandise would be seen as unique or some limited edition item that most people want. Some merchandise can become very expensive one day and cheaper a few days later. “These outfits are…an expression of an authentic Japanese experience” (Mead). What people like and dislike can change really quickly, which can cause stores to close down (Fulford).

Brands or labels do not dominate the market of the Japanese youth, but rather, the youth controls what stores should put out and sell (Knight). One thing that probably induced the youth to dress up so differently was the uniforms they wore – they needed an escape from it all. They acquired a tendency to want to step out of the box. “Parading after hours in Harajuku is an antidote to the straitjacket conventions of weekday life. ” This is like a way of showing that they can be distinct from all the others. The Japanese are more of traditionalists and they are quite strict about rules and order (Craft 26).

They break free from this by going out to Harajuku and dressing the way they wanted to. They can wear anything they want and it can be anything at all. This makes it a little difficult to quite say what exactly they do there (Bartlett). They can mix all kinds of different things and make it look good (Ahn). They can look however they want to and it can be different every time. “Harajuku is perhaps the one place on Earth where every day is like Halloween” (Craft 26). “Harajuku had become a place to be seen, not a place to live in” where mostly young people flock to during the weekends (Johnson).

During the weekends, they put on these getups that would seem absurd to some people, but they return to their normal lives when they leave (Johnson). They wear normal clothes and live normal lives throughout the weekdays. They can be set apart from the way they dress during the weekends and the way they dress during the rest of the week (Knight). They go to school and help around the house. This is a factor why the youth do not become irresponsible delinquents. Some parents allow them to dress up any way they wanted, but they were not allowed to wear it around the neighborhood (Kubo 40).

The Harajuku fashion is merely for looks and pleasure. “The Japanese are fanatical about fashion in the way that the Brazilians are about soccer or the Germans are about cleanliness” (Mead). They can mix all kinds of different things and make it look good (Ahn). They feel delighted when other people take pleasure in what they are wearing. The youth, who actively participate with the gathering in the Harajuku district every weekend, sometimes commute for really long hours just to get there. They do not even mind waking up and traveling so long just to go to Harajuku.

They feel a form of sensation from all the other people who look at them and admire their own styles (Harden). The real Harajuku girls were thought of as mere rebellious delinquents, while all they really want to do is make a difference. They simply like the feeling of dressing up and having other people admire them (Kubo). “This is what Japanese teenagers do for fun” (Mead). Sebastian Masuda said, "Harajuku style was created by the passion of a young generation of people who gathered here [Harajuku] and made their own culture. It's more than just a look; it's a spirit” (Macias). “For real inspiration, go to Harajuku” (McCaughan).

The Real Harajuku: Japanese Youth’s Unique Self-Expression essay

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