>> Sunday, May 2, 2010
Welcome to Harajuku, home of the trendiest of Japan's fashion trends, and youth culture hangout.
Despite being one of Tokyo's most cutting-edge neighborhoods, Harajuku has one of the city's most charming old-fashioned stations.
It's a bit small for a station though, funneling lots and lots of people off the Yamanote line, the rail line that circles the downtown city.
This is the famous Harajuku bridge, where young people purportedly hang out in wild themed attire, like Rockabilly, Lolita fashion, and Kawaii (cute). I went to Harajuku a total of three times, and not once did I find young people hanging out on this bridge in costume. In the picture above, you can see one girl wearing a black maid costume, but she was handing out fliers for a maid cafe, so I didn't think she counted. I was pretty disappointed not to find people posing. There was a noticeable police presence once or twice though, so perhaps they are cracking down on people loitering on the bridge? I don't know.
Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street) is just across the street from Harajuku Station, and the decorations on the street sign are just about all you need to know in advance. Walk down this street, and soon you will find an explosion of cute--from cute fashions to cute idoru (idols) to cute toys and dolls.
Takeshita street isn't all cute though. In Japan, cute and punk, somehow, walk hand in hand. Here's a clothing store called "Nudy Boy."
The flagship "Wonder Rocket," which has a number of boutique shops throughout Harajuku, all of which are have "by Wonder Rocket" attached to their names.
The major fashion in Harajuku right now is loose-fitting flower-print dresses.
There are more extravagant fashions to be had though, like the outrageous clothes at Takenoko. Drag Queen heaven in here--but in Japan, the girls wear these clothes, not the guys.
This store had the body of a plane inside, painted pink. Jo dragged us in, but it was even too much pink inside for her, and that's saying something. Half-way through the shop, she asked to leave.
Just off Takeshita Dori is the Tamagotchi store. Tamagotchi are digital pets contained within an egg-shaped, keychain-dangle-sized game console. They're wildly popular in Japan, and have (of course) ancillary video games, manga, anime, and stuffed toys.
I think the store was called Tamadepa, for Tamagotchi Department.
The Tamadepa had a doughnut shop attached to it, and was doing a brisk business.
Before I went inside, all I knew was that the place sold doughnuts, had cute toys, and had a line of people waiting to get in. Naturally, I stood in line. When my turn came, the man at the door allowed me inside.
People are made to wait because the shop is a hole in the wall. You're looking at the sum total of it, as shot from just inside the front door.
Along the wall was a machine that, for a price, would allow you to digitally transfer new Tamagotchis to your device. I snapped a pic of this guy transferring something over. For himself, or for his daughter? I'm going to go out on a limb and say for himself...
Related Tamagotchi goods, overwhelmingly pink.
Also big on Takeshita Dori: crepes. There are dozens of crepe stalls up and down the street. Here, two face each other at the beginning of a side alley. It seemed like half the shoppers who passed us were eating them.
"Fresh and delicious, crepes are a casual treat," this one tells us. "Enjoy them anytime, anywhere. Give 'em a try." Jo gave one a try. She chose the strawberry, banana, and custard crepe, hold the custard. Most of the crepes use whipped cream, not custard, and seem to be mostly whipped cream. Jo liked hers, but it just looked to me like four strawberries and a banana wrapped in a soft tortilla.
At the end of Takeshita Dori lies Harajuku Street proper, though this is far less of a fashion destination.
Still, it made for and interesting and entertaining stroll.
Even if they weren't vamping on the bridge outside the station, Harajuku had plenty of funkily-dressed shoppers looking to be seen. I took snaps of a few of them, but all my pics came out blurry. (And it was just too busy on the street to ask anyone to stop and pose.)
After coming back the first time from Harajuku, I had to think hard to remember anyone I'd seen who was wearing anything outrageous. Then, upon reflection, I began to realize that many of the girls there were wearing clothes that would make other people's heads turn, but not mine. Perhaps I've become inured to radical fashion choices from walking the hallways at DragonCon several years running. After a while, seeing girls who look like this...
...just doesn't faze me.