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Hip-Hip Harajuku!

Updated on February 18, 2013

Step into the psychedelic world of Tokyo's street fashion.

If there was a catchy slogan for 'Harajuku fashion', it would probably be this - "Wearing your imagination while it's on the rampage". And that's exactly why this formerly niche genre has invaded the fashion industry globally. The little street at the heart of Tokyo has since inspired major designers from the likes of Gwen Stefani ('Harajuku Lovers') to High fashion labels like Dior and Comme des Garons and has become a mecca for cosplayers all over the world.

Takeshita Dori (Street) is a shopping haven for both tourist and locals.
Takeshita Dori (Street) is a shopping haven for both tourist and locals.

The Harajuku Neighborhood

The Harajuku neighborhood is a fashion hot-bed which births not only homegrown indie designers but also various fashion scenes. Take a stroll around the Harajuku district on a Sunday afternoon and you'll see youths adorning elaborate 'costume-like' apparels hanging out at cafes and shopping as usual.

Cosplay communities usually hang out at the Jingu Bridge.
Cosplay communities usually hang out at the Jingu Bridge.

Be sure to drop by the Jingu Bridge - a social hangout for cosplay cliques and a tourist hot spot for fashion-watching. Tourists will get a chance to snap shots of the zaniest cosplayers as they parade along the bridge, but be respectful and ask for permission before taking anyone's picture. Most cosplayers don't take kindly to being treated like zoo animals!

Cosplayers are usually a friendly bunch and will oblige to pose for photos when asked.

Cosplayers are usually a friendly bunch and will oblige to pose for photos when asked.
Cosplayers are usually a friendly bunch and will oblige to pose for photos when asked.
Visual kei band Versailles. In case you were wondering, all the members are guys.
Visual kei band Versailles. In case you were wondering, all the members are guys.

- Visual Kei -

A tribute to J-ROCK

If you have music from bands like 'L'Arc-en-Ciel', 'The Gazette' or 'Malice Mizer' in your ipod, you'd probably be well-acquainted with the Visual Kei scene. The movement is inspired by Japanese Rock musicians whose music ranges from Heavy Metal, 80s Goth Rock and Hardcore Punk.

Hardcore VK

Hardcore VK
Hardcore VK

Soft VK

Soft VK
Soft VK

Clearly 'tame' isn't a word in a Visual Kei rebel's dictionary - From their heavy kohl-ed eyes, butterfly tattoos, shaven eyebrows to sky-high hair, VK cosplayers usually dress loudly and proudly to show their love for their J-rock idols. A side note to all aspiring J-rock cosplayers, androgyny is key, so whip out your eye-liners and stage make-up and go eccentric!

Go deep into the VK realm with An Cafe - VK band An Cafe shows us a sneak peak of the Visual Kei culture

A Gyaru showing off her intricate manicured nails.
A Gyaru showing off her intricate manicured nails.

- Gyaru -

Passion for Fashion

Gyarus are the personification of Materialism - it's all about the glitz and glamour in a Gyaru's world. Derived from the direct Japanese translation of the English word "Gal", Gyaru embraces every girl's dream of pampering themselves with bags and shoes. Always ahead of the trend, these label-chasers take pride in dressing like daring divas or elite socialites and favour a more westernized lifestyle making them 'rebels' of the traditional Japanese society.

Gyarus spotted on Harajuku street!
Gyarus spotted on Harajuku street!

A full-fledged gyaru will never leave her house without her basic fashion weapons - false lashes, perfectly embellished nails, coloured lens, bleached hair extensions and not forgetting...her fur and bling.

EGG, Gyaru's #1 magazine.

EGG, Gyaru's #1 magazine.
EGG, Gyaru's #1 magazine.
A typical gem-ed up gyaru handphone
A typical gem-ed up gyaru handphone

Naturally these fashionistas have a huge influence in Japan's Fashion and Beauty industry. Shopping districts like Shibuya and Ikebukuro have dedicated an array of shops catering to their gyaru customers.

Hime (Princess) Gyaru style

Hime (Princess) Gyaru style
Hime (Princess) Gyaru style
A gathering of Gyaruos
A gathering of Gyaruos

Oh yes, this fashion scene isn't just for the ladies. Gyaruo is the guy version of Gyaru, more commonly known as a metrosexual.

Want to achieve the Gyaru look?

A quick and easy eye make-up tutorial for aspiring Gyarus.

- Ganguro -

Black Beauty

Rebelling against Japan's traditional depiction of beauty, Ganguros and Gonguros (guy version) tan their naturally fair skin to a dark chocolate colour to make their fashion statement. They do a 'reverse-contrast' effect by having dark skin and making it distinct with platinum blonde hair and eye make-up.

Ganguros - the sub-culture of Gyarus.

Ganguros - the sub-culture of Gyarus.
Ganguros - the sub-culture of Gyarus.

Ganguro Kigurumi style

Ganguro Kigurumi style
Ganguro Kigurumi style

They further enhance their bizarre appearance by pasting stickers and facial gems on their face and by sporting bright neon colours and baggy clothes. Some say that Ganguros are a spin-off from African American girls due to their dredlocks, woven extensions and chunky tribal beads; while others argue that they aimed to recreate their own version of the Californian beach babe. Either way, the Ganguro trend is a unique genre of its own and is still much alive and kicking.

Male Ganguros aka Center Guys

Male Ganguros aka Center Guys
Male Ganguros aka Center Guys

From the streets : Ganguro

Japanese game show host checks out a usual day in the shoes of a Ganguro

Yamanba takes the Ganguro look up a notch. Roughly translated as "Mountain Hag", the picture says it all.

Yamanba takes the Ganguro look up a notch. Roughly translated as "Mountain Hag", the picture says it all.
Yamanba takes the Ganguro look up a notch. Roughly translated as "Mountain Hag", the picture says it all.

Yamanba Fashion

Yamanba Fashion
Yamanba Fashion

Chic or Freak

Girls and guys that dare to defy the mainstream's ideal perception of beauty and in doing so, create a new species of humans -- Ganguros, the anti-beauties!

What do you think about the eccentric Ganguro make-up?

I wouldn't be caught dead wearing that make-up! Why would these beautiful ladies do this to themselves?!?!

I wouldn't be caught dead wearing that make-up! Why would these beautiful ladies do this to themselves?!?!

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    It's avant garde waiting to be discovered! I think their make-up is perfect for fashion runways. Thumbs up for defying the norm!

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      Pink is a uniform colour for all Decoras.
      Pink is a uniform colour for all Decoras.

      - Decora -

      The more the merrier

      Have you ever tried drowning yourself with accessories? Decoras are probably working their way towards that. By squeezing as many clips, strings and ribbons on their hair and hands, they create a crazily cluttered outfit that would make you go dizzy with just one look. A branch-out of the Kawaii (Cute) look, the Decora scene loves anything Kawaii and decoras will hide themselves under several layers of 'cuteness'.

      Like a magnet to cute keychains and toys.

      Like a magnet to cute keychains and toys.
      Like a magnet to cute keychains and toys.

      Keeping it eccentric, Decoras

      Keeping it eccentric, Decoras
      Keeping it eccentric, Decoras

      Never too old to be Kawaii?

      Teens and young adult decoras dress almost like preschoolers. What do you think about that?

      Grow up. There should be an age limit for dressing up like a kid.

      Grow up. There should be an age limit for dressing up like a kid.

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        Everyone can dress however they want. It's all about wearing your heart on your sleeves, and they are young at heart! ;p

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          - Lolita -

          The Living Dolls

          With Manga and Anime firmly rooted in Japan's culture, there's no surprise about the never-ending fascination with the kimono-hybrid get-up, sailor uniforms and Victorian frocks, which are amongst the endless elements that 'Lolita' entails.

          Gothic Lolita on a casual day

          Gothic Lolita on a casual day
          Gothic Lolita on a casual day

          Although the Lolita community is made up of various sub-cultures, they have one thing in common - the obsession with the Victorian Era. With manga fuelling its popularity, the Lolita culture continues to thrive amongst the youth in Japan. One of the more prominent crowds would be the Gothic Lolitas. These dark mistresses of gloom are usually seen adorning elegant gowns while strolling down the town with matching parasols. They make gentle and soft movements in order to achieve the look of a living porcelain doll.

          A page out of 'Gothic Lolita Bible' Magazine

          A page out of 'Gothic Lolita Bible' Magazine
          A page out of 'Gothic Lolita Bible' Magazine

          Dolfies are usually found cradled in a Lolita's arms or sitting on her shoulders, completing the creepy look.

          Dolfies are usually found cradled in a Lolita's arms or sitting on her shoulders, completing the creepy look.
          Dolfies are usually found cradled in a Lolita's arms or sitting on her shoulders, completing the creepy look.

          Lolita garments never shy on lace and frills, if anything, most gowns resemble a deliciously decorated wedding cake. Speaking of cakes, Sweet Lolitas look so sugary-sweet they could give you a toothache! Be it puppies, strawberries, cherries or bunnies, you'll find these icons of sweetness printed all over their dresses and bags.

          Sweet Lolitas

          Sweet Lolitas
          Sweet Lolitas

          Take the front row at Japan's coolest Lolita fashion runway!

          Baby, The Stars Shine Bright Runway show

          Classic Lolita or EGL (Elegant Gothic Lolita) is the more mature cousin of Gothic Lolita. It involves dressing up like a Victorian Era aristocrat. A Classic Lolita's wardrobe boasts leather boots, shirt ruffles, corsets, top hats and anything that's worth Victorian nobility.

          Elegant Gothic Lolitas (EGL) at Jingu Bridge

          Elegant Gothic Lolitas (EGL) at Jingu Bridge
          Elegant Gothic Lolitas (EGL) at Jingu Bridge

          Creepers, the preferred Lolita shoes

          Creepers, the preferred Lolita shoes
          Creepers, the preferred Lolita shoes

          Guro Lolitas play on blood and gore

          Guro Lolitas play on blood and gore
          Guro Lolitas play on blood and gore

          Curious to see what's hanging on the racks at a Gothic Lolita boutique?

          Gothic Lolita Coordination test

          The Harajuku street culture is constantly redefining itself with fresh styles and cutting-edge trends -many of which have already caught on like wild fire after being internationally commercialized. Simply put, we can be sure that this unique culture will only continue to flourish and that the Harajuku neighborhood will remain a sanctuary and experimental playground for Japan's youths to freely express their individualism and creativity.

          Harajuku Fashion Walk

          Japan's youths tell us what Harajuku means to them.

          Experience Harajuku!

          If you haven't already done so, don't miss out on a visit to Harajuku for a mind-blowing and refreshing experience!

          Kings of Harajuku

          Vote for the coolest, most unique street style that rule the streets of Harajuku.

          Which fashion scene does it best?

          See results

          Love it or hate it, we wanna know! - What do you guys think about Harajuku?

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              Max Wong 5 years ago from Singapore

              @julieannbrady: So you were the pioneer of Harajuku fashion, JaguarJulie! :)

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              julieannbrady 5 years ago

              I have loved Harajuku and Kawaii for a lot of years and realize that this is where I belonged when I was in my 20s and 30s and couldn't find a lot of people who understood my style. Love it.

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              AngelaKane 5 years ago

              I think their style is unique and different. I think their fashion can be worn to a party, school or any event where you want to stand out.

            • squidoopets profile image

              Darcie French 5 years ago from Abbotsford, BC

              I've recently become a fan of the Kawaii look - what a fun dress up party page!

            • Musicalcroc LM profile image

              Musicalcroc LM 5 years ago

              I'm not a fan of the style but they do have some interesting ideas.