Tokyo's Troubled Teens

Ok, this has nothing to do with Harajuku, just liked this bike I saw parked next to the road in Tokyo
Ok, this has nothing to do with Harajuku, just liked this bike I saw parked next to the road in Tokyo
Harajuku Girl trying to avoid the camera.  Many have been stalked so are now wary of being photographed.
Harajuku Girl trying to avoid the camera. Many have been stalked so are now wary of being photographed.
Harajuku Girls.
Harajuku Girls.
Two Elvis Boys.
Two Elvis Boys.
I'm very impressed that cars stop at zebra crossings in Tokyo.
I'm very impressed that cars stop at zebra crossings in Tokyo.

Harajuku Girls

Gwen Stefani brought Harajuku Girls to the world's attention when she used some of them as back up dancers and singers for her music videos.  But just what are the Harajuku Girls?

Harajuku is a district in Tokyo where teens indulging in Cosplay hang out.  For the uninitiated, Cosplay is where you dress up like fantasy, science fiction, Manga or Anime characters and you behave as if you really are that character.  The costumes, wigs and accessories are amazing and if you are in Tokyo on a Sunday, then that is where you have to go.  There you'll find girls with long blonde wigs and pony tails dressed up as Little Bo-Peep, chatting to full-on Goth characters with death mask make-up and dog collars and other S and M gear.  You'll never see such a bizarre sight, as the entrance to the Harajuku Metro on a late Sunday afternoon.

In the park near Harajuku Metro-stop, you'll find young men dressed up as Elvis, strutting their stuff, girating their pelvis to hits from the fifties and sixties.  A few girls, not part of the Harajuku sub-culture, are dressed in their fifties diner dance dresses with the huge skirts, and bop away with the Elvis-types. 

Just across from the Harajuku Metro-stop, is Takeshita walking street, with tiny shops jam-packed with the most outrageous clothing you've ever seen!  If you indulge in sexual role-play, then this is the street for you.  You can buy your sexy maid's uniform, or rip off nurse dress, complete with sexy corsets and garter belts.  If you are more into the dominatrix role, then you can buy your whips, chains and handcuffs when you buy your S and M outfit.  In the area, are also Love Hotels where randy old men can disappear for a few hours with a Harajuku Girl wanting to supplement her income.  The Image Clubs have replaced some of the once popular Karaoke Clubs, and the girls that go there sing a different tune.  They specialise in sexual Cosplay, where young girls can dress up in school uniforms and other erotic outfits and indulge in sex play.  Many Love Hotels rent out Cosplay costumes as well, should you wish to check in for a few hours and have fun dressing each other up.

Have to say that a sign that said, "We Go Takeshita'" did appear to my totally random sense of humor.
Have to say that a sign that said, "We Go Takeshita'" did appear to my totally random sense of humor.
You can buy your Cosplay Sexplay Maid's outfit in Takeshita.
You can buy your Cosplay Sexplay Maid's outfit in Takeshita.
Or Better still, if you like dressing in S and M gear.
Or Better still, if you like dressing in S and M gear.
You you can dress like a cute bunny rabbit.
You you can dress like a cute bunny rabbit.
Then, you might prefer shopping at Nudy Boy.
Then, you might prefer shopping at Nudy Boy.
And of course, don't forget about the 'too die for' fluffy lilac shoes!
And of course, don't forget about the 'too die for' fluffy lilac shoes!

Are the Harajuku Girls a sign that Japan's teenagers are troubled?

In a culture where people are expected to conform and success is highly valued, Cosplay is a way to show the older generation that you are a non-conformist. After living in China where people push and shove and spit on the sidewalks, Japan was so civilized. People wait for the train to stop and for the people getting off to actually get off before they get on. When the train is full, out of nowhere, old men with white gloves suddenly appear and gently, like they're doing Tai Chi, push the people onto the train so that everybody fits. Another strange phenomena, was people waiting for the little man to turn green before crossing the road, and cars actually stopped at red traffic lights. all of that, is quite alien in many parts of China, Beijing and Shanghai probably being the exception.

So in such an ordered and civilized society like Japan, Harajuku didn't quite fit in. It is not polite to eat in public like on the train or on the street. It is very important not to do anything where you are seen to 'lose face'. For the girls and boys who frequent Harajuku, they are escaping from the pressures their parents and society have placed on them. So much pressure is put on these teenagers at school to achieve, that taking a Sunday out to non-conform relieves a little of that pressure.

School is not an easy place for teenagers, as bullying is rife and a huge problem. Teenage suicide and pleasure cutting incidents are higher than they should be. Many girls sell themselves to old men for money to buy their Cosplay outfits, so that they don't have to ask their parents for the money. Japan's teenagers are definitely troubled. More incidences of violent behavior by teenagers are being reported in the newspapers. Many parents, not wanting to lose face, are sending their troubled children overseas, to study in English Language Schools or putting them into boarding school.

It is ironic, that the Harajuku Girl sub-culture was started by young girls trying hard to non-conform and now, if you want to conform and be like your friends, you have to practise Cosplay and non-conform in solidarity.  So, would that make you a conforming non-conformist, or a non-conforming conformist?  That, is the question.  Either way, the older generation in Japan are not too happy that Harajuku and its girls are becoming a major tourist attraction.

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Comments 50 comments

Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

I really don't miss Japan! The pressures on kids to conform are really stringent, as you say. Great hub!


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Thanks teresa, I have to say, I'd have a fit if my teenage daughter came home dressed like that!


Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

My sister lives in Japan and I asked her to send me either a samurai or Harajuku girl. She sent me neither! ;( What I got instead for my bday last January was their national mascot - Hello Kitty! Talk about crying in your party if you want to! :D

Subcultures are a form of rebellion, but when they catch on and become mainstream they become tourist attractions. Not bad for tourism :D


shamelabboush profile image

shamelabboush 7 years ago

Sometimes, people really misunderstand the term freedom where if they go to extremes, they label this abnormal acts as freedom of speech and expression. But, I think their society is used to this... So, what the heck!


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Cris, what can I say, Hello Kitty eh?

Shamel, these girls are trying to make a statement I guess.


TheSandman 7 years ago

I love fun hubs that also teach me something and this one was both , Gee I had no idea, is the day of the Geisha dead ? :-)


Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

Nah it was a joke. A teeny weeny hello kitty stuffed toy that is washable. So when I took out the stuffing inside, guess what! Japanese Yen! So there was no crying that day! LOL


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Sandman, yep think Geisha are history, it's now schoolgirls selling services, sometimes just getting paid to accompany a man to dinner nothing more

Cris, you don't have to justify Hello Kitty. I understand, it's okay.


C. C. Riter 7 years ago

They aren't any different than any other kids who have freedom. We all went through those trying times as teens too. Great hub cindy. Cris, you have to go and get yer own girl.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Hey CC, long time no chat. Howzit going?


C. C. Riter 7 years ago

slow my dear, from Dr visit and the vampires too.


Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

LOL Cindy. Okay I won't but don't go telling everybody I own a Hello Kitty stuffed toy okay?

Btw, where is Pest?

Hi C.! :D


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Take care, CC. Have you heard from Pest lately? He's been very quiet since the weekend. You think the hunter managed to hunt him down?


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Cris, great minds and all that, was just asking Cc if he'd heard from Pest. Okay, now I might have to do a hub about your Hello Kitty stuffed toy.


C. C. Riter 7 years ago

He had a hospital visit yesterday. He was resting. I may call him later.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Okay, tell him to drop me an email. I decided not to let them operate on my son. We would have had to spend another 6 days in Hong Kong, too pricey and I think it'll heal okay in a sling.


C. C. Riter 7 years ago

Well that's good news. thanks for reminding me. I hope he mends alright now. I got to go. see ya later.


Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

OKay, that should explain the uncomfotable silence, Thanks C. :D

Hey Cindy what happened to your son? Anywway whatever it is, I wish him speedy recovery :D


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Have a great day, CC!


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Cris, my son did an awesome shoulder charge tackle at rugby on Saturday and ruptured his AC joint, popping his collarbone out of the socket-thing.


Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

Ouch! Oh well I think it's part of the game. I mean not part part but... oh you know what I mean. Anyway, as he is still pretty young, he'll heal fast. That I know for certain. :D


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Yeah Cris, he's already managing to move his arm to type to the girlfriend on MSN


Cris A profile image

Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines

Ahhh young love! Nothing is more powerful! Aha! A new hub! LOL


ratcliffe07 profile image

ratcliffe07 7 years ago

wow. that is really interesting. I never heard of it. It is like halloween every sunday. I would rather not conform at all, but just be who i am and if i happen to fall into a certain category than so be it


Hawkesdream profile image

Hawkesdream 7 years ago from Cornwall

Great info Cindy, I think teens are troubled all over, its a shame.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Cris, don't talk about young love, you should see what he bought her as a present from an adult shop in Hong Kong yesterday!

Ratcliffe, it is a bit like halloween on a Sunday

Badcompany, I went to Japan last year for a workshop, went to check out Harajuku on a Sunday late afternoon and took the pics

Hawkesdream, think you're right, teenagers elsewhere just express their troubles differently


goldentoad profile image

goldentoad 7 years ago from Free and running....

sounds like a good place for me to go hang out, bring on the crazy girls!


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

And there are plenty of love hotels close by, Toad!


Emma Harradine 7 years ago

I love this post! I spent a few years working closely with such teenagers (and adult males who like teenage girls a little too much) as both customers and suppliers. My job often involved visiting cosplay expos and dressing up so as to relate to them more easily.

I will never forget the forty-something year old, fat, hairy, sweaty man, dressed as a teenage girl, in a fake leather mini skirt, who asked me to attach his freckles for him... Eurgh! Gross!


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Lol Emma! A fat forty year old hairy male!~ Wish I was there to see it!


blondepoet profile image

blondepoet 7 years ago from australia

Ooooooooooooooooo I have been waiting for this one. Isn't it all amazing.I really want to go there and dress up to


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Well BP, maybe they do cosplay in Oz somewhere you can join in lol


Mrvoodoo profile image

Mrvoodoo 7 years ago from ?

Sounds amazing, I'd love to see this, not least because I have a bit of a thing for the japanese girls (think I watched too much Manga when I was younger.)  But like someone else noted above I think all subcultres become mainstream pretty quickly, punks, hippies, mods, rockers, etc.

Very interesting read, great hub, Think I'll have to make Japan the next place I visit.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Ah Mrvoodoo you men and the young girls....


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 7 years ago from St. Louis

I have never heard of this before and found it most interesting. Fun place to visit, but...

And what did you dress up as on Takeshita walking street, hmm?

Don't let B.T. see the bunny costume. He'll be on the next plane!


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

lol Christoph! There were some weird outfits in that street. Blondepoet is on the next plane going shopping!


Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 7 years ago from St. Louis

Is that street pronounced, take-a-shit-a?


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Yeah, I love it, don't you?


shibashake profile image

shibashake 7 years ago

Great hub! I knew cosplay was big in Japan but didn't know they had a whole district for it. There are people in the States who cosplay as well. Some of them are actually very good - usually the women. Most of the men who do it are usually men who shouldn't be doing it :)

I must confess that I am very into anime so I also enjoy looking at good quality cosplay. Beats out Halloween costumes in my book ;)


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Hi Shiba, yeah Harajuku was fascinating and some of their cosplay of anime characters really brings them to life


GeneriqueMedia profile image

GeneriqueMedia 7 years ago from Earth

Good stuff!

I think Japan is the ultimate culture vulture. On one hand, you have deeply held beliefs of the past. On the other...you've got a younger generation looking to branch out.

I'd love to go there sometime...

G|M


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

GM, thaks for your fanmail, made me feel valued! Japan is worth a visit, but gosh, sooooooo expensive!


japanese words profile image

japanese words 7 years ago from Japan

Japan is expensive (and now even more so with the dollar falling), but it isn't actually bad if you know where to go. Even Tokyo can be cheap once you get out of the Touristy spots.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

I think JW, that if you know the city, yu are right, you can still find bargains!


RipVanWinkle profile image

RipVanWinkle 7 years ago from Denver, CO

Well, as a cosplayer and researcher on Japanese mythology, I find your insights on the culture interesting. Though I have been wanting to see Harajuku for myself and consider the facts. Then again, I'm more of a language researcher and mythology researcher. Thank you for giving a good insight.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Glad you enjoyed the hub, Rip!


AAzwan profile image

AAzwan 7 years ago

very the gothic of japan....what's the problem.?who knows..god knows why.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

They are a strange kettle of fish, AAzwan!


lovelygurl1324 5 years ago

so basically the hub is just where people dress outrageously?


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 5 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Hybridjon, glad you found the hub informative.

Lovelygurl, this hub is about troubled teenagers making a statement.

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