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What is Japanese Street Fashion: [Beginner's Guide]

Japan has it all - rich culture and unique food and architecture - but, did you know that it also has a vibrant fashion scene?

Japanese street fashion represents a cultural revolution against the Japanese lack of methods of self-expression.

In Japan, there is usually a dress code for everything, so the Japanese youth created a movement where they wanted something different, and create a fashion style with some pretty extravagant outfits.

Keep reading to find out all you need to know about Japanese street fashion, from its beginnings to the latest trends.


What is Japanese Street Fashion?

Japanese street fashion includes many styles of modern clothing in Japan.

Created from a mix of foreign and local fashion brands, Japanese street fashions usually have a unique flair. Some of them are considered to be avant-garde and eccentric, similar to the haute couture styles we can see on European catwalks.

Although they were extremely popular in the 1990s and early 2000s, many trends saw a decline in popularity in the 2000s and onwards.

The rise and fall of these styles had been photographed and published by Shoichi Aoki since 1997 in the magazine called Fruits, which was an important magazine for the promotion of Japanese street fashion around the world.

Western fashion is all about making a statement, while fashion in Japan is more of a lifestyle choice. People’s fashion choices are a representation of their interests, their friends wear similar clothes, and they don’t differ much from what makes them comfortable. 

Instead of getting into all the trends of the internet, Japanese street fashion encourages experimentation of interesting silhouettes and colors.

Japanese street style requires committing completely to your style. 

Harajuku is the nucleus of all things street style and fashion largely around the world.

A Harajuku girl is universally any girl who wears this “street style”. There are many different colors, styles, subcategories, and themes that are the foundation of Japanese street style, and they can also be seen in the Aoyama, Odaiba, Ginza, Shibuya, and Shinjuku districts. 

Harajuku fashion symbolizes the freedom to wear and be what you want.

All the subcultures born in this area are characterized by a creative approach to style so that one's clothes represent an expression of one's personality.

If you visit Harajuku, you might feel inspired by the uniqueness of the clothes worn by the young people there.


Where and What is Harajuku Fashion?

When you say Japanese street fashion, the one name that pops to mind is Harajuku.

But where and what is Harajuku, and why is it so popular? 

Harajuku is the area between Jingumae-machi and Sendagaya and is situated between the Shibuya and Shinjuku wards in metropolitan Tokyo.

The Harajuku district is most known for its extravagant street fashion.  

Harajuku has long been a gathering place for artists and young people. There are many well-established art galleries, clubs, and art studios in this area, along with unique cafes where young people with an individualistic style like to hang out. 

If you would like to experience Harajuku fully, then you should go to the center of Harajuku street fashion: Takeshita street, where most fashion designers opened their own boutiques.


Takeshita Street 

Takeshita Street (Takeshita-dori) is a popular location full of small brand shops that sell unique items, created by young designers.

All these cute little shops attract young customers all the time and give Takeshita-dori an interesting and youthful vibe. 

It is a pedestrian-only street filled with trendy stores, fast food, dessert, soft ice cream, and crepe stands, 100 Yen shops, thrift shops, and a few cafes and restaurants.

You can find fashionable and one-of-a-kind:

  • skirts
  • tops
  • dresses
  • printed socks
  • jackets
  • shoes
  • accessories

and much more in Takeshita street's boutiques.

You can also buy eye-catching street fashion clothes, such as goth-loli, cyber-punk, decora, hipster, sweet lolita, and other styles. 

The visitors in Takeshita street are often young high school girls.

The street is not only famous for the best accessory and clothes boutiques, but also for various fast food stalls.

Big names such as McDonald's and 7-Eleven are there too, but most stores in Takeshita street are run by small entrepreneurs.

Clothes, accessories, and shoes sold in this area are usually cheaper than that of Ginza and Shibuya but are still of great quality. 



Another shopping district in Harajuku is the posh area of Omotesando.

Compared to Takeshita and its nearby streets which are populated by less expensive indie clothes, Omotesando belongs to the higher fashion class

Omotesando Avenue is famous as "Tokyo's Champs Elysee" and is full of expensive brand name shops. 


Brief History of Japanese Street Fashion

Japanese street fashion started with three designers –

  • Yohji Yamamoto
  • Issey Miyake
  • Rei Kawakubo (founder of Dover Street Market and Comme des Garçons).

Thanks to their creative minds, these three cultivated in the 1980s what we know as Harajuku fashion today.

Street style and fashion peaked in popularity during this time and represented an authentic way to express oneself, especially to escape the tedious everyday work life in Japan. 

In 1997, Shoichi Aoki’s photographs started to document this individuality and put together a story of the evolution of street fashion. Aoki published the photos in the famous magazine that later had a cult following of its own, FRUiTS, that lasted for decades.

FRUiTS was a big part of the fashion community because It showcased the new social trends of Japanese street fashion, entwined with technology.


Related Questions

What are the types of Japanese street fashion?

In the past three decades, street fashion in Japan has been through thousands of changes - and there are too many styles to name in only one article.

However, there are two trends that have been popular in Harajuku street fashion since the late '80s and early 90's: Lolita fashion and eccentric pop fashion. 

The currently popular eccentric pop fashion consists of clothing with neon and pastel colors and with unexpected or unusual accessories, such as seashell-shaped backpacks or flamingo headbands.

Pastel-colored hair and hair chalk streaks are popular with both women and men, and there are almost no rules concerning how many patterns an individual can combine in one look. 

The point of the eccentric pop style is to be unique, so finding what suits you well and putting together an outfit is a long process that the followers of this style take very seriously. 


Lolita Fashion

Lolita fashion is the fashion style that features Edwardian, Victorian, and sometimes Georgian-inspired dresses that come in various patterns and light pastel colors, and with plenty of lace and frills.

These outfits require some serious planning since they include panniers, stockings, bloomers, headbands or bonnets, and sometimes corsets and other items of clothing in order to pull this look together. 

There are five main subsets to the Lolita genre, among which the Gothic Lolita is the most common one.

The Gothic Lolita style comes with an emphasis on the darker side of fashion. Dominant colors are black, grays, and burgundy - imagine a cute version of Victorian mourning fashion and you will have an idea of what this style looks like. 

Lolita and Gothic-Lolita fashion are also becoming popular overseas. One reason for this is the Visual Kei bands, such as Vamps or X Japan, as well as many other bands. Many of the band members also wear Gothic-rocker style and similar outfits for their performances.


What are famous Japanese street fashion brands?

Famous Goth-Loli and Lolita brands are:

and more. Popular brands for eccentric pop fashion are SPINNS, galaxxxy, jouetie, Jeremy Scott, Candy Stripper, and many more. 

Although these styles have recently seen a decline in popularity, Japan still seems to remain the world’s capital of over-the-top street fashion and unique individual style.

Article| 17/05/2021 | Fashion


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