One of the reasons many people visit Tokyo is the fashion, and with good reason too - Harajuku is the place to go for the most up-to-date trends within not only Japan, but the whole world. Whether you’re on a budget, feel like splashing out on some fine vintage clothing, or just want to wander about the pretty, intimate streets, it’s a great location to visit. Maybe your friend is dragging you along and you’re not even remotely interested in fashion, but it’s still an important place to see if you want to get a taste of Tokyo culture.
Harajuku is great for every shopper. There’s Forever 21, several large shopping malls with varying price ranges, little pop-up stalls around the place, and dozens of amazing independent shops which I personally believe have the best stuff. But what’s really interesting to many Harajuku-goers is the range in style.
When people imagine Tokyo fashion, they picture girls posing for photos with the peace sign, dressed in bright pink frilly dresses and platform heels, the ‘Lolita’ outfits that are so unique to Japan. They aren’t wrong - there are plenty of shops which sell this sort of style. For example, 6% DokiDoki is one of the best in Harajuku for the cute, neon aesthetic, and there are still Lolita shops around and about, despite that style being less popular than it used to be.
However, in reality, there’s a lot more going on in the Tokyo fashion world. You’ll find shops which sell stuff that looks like your grandma’s chiffon nightie from the 50s, worn over your average jeans and t-shirt. Pastel pink frilly things like this are everywhere; all things cute and girly are always ‘in’ in Tokyo.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, you get dark, grungy things - oversized t-shirts tucked into high-waisted jeans, frighteningly high platform shoes, studs, everything black.
Yes, what I’m describing is very 90s. This decade has made a huge comeback, it seems - you see it in London and New York and other major fashion cities, but Tokyo takes it one step further with the pastel colours, the baseball caps and bucket hats, classic My Little Pony and Care Bear items, clothes that make you think, ‘Wow, I owned a pair of those 20 years ago…’. Basically, the rule is - if it’s cute, it’s cool. And if it reminds you of your childhood, it’s even cooler. Disney Princesses, Pokémon, famous western cartoons - all of it is on the fashion forefront.
So, bear in mind that in Japan in particular, cute things are just as much a part of fashion as clothes and shoes and accessories are. And that means that badges, stickers, and cute plush-toys are up there on the list of things to buy when shopping in Harajuku. But you won’t find all of that on busy Harajuku Street - you need to go to Kiddy Land! If you really want a piece of Tokyo fashion, you need to browse the Hello Kitty and Rilakkuma aisles. A key ring or a little hand towel is all you need from here to up your Tokyo fashion game.
Fashion is always changing - it’s a fascinating world that’s always in flux, and the best place to go to keep up with it is Harajuku.