Japan pushes fashion boundaries like nowhere else

Many books have been published full of photos of the truly eccentric fashions, much of which is dedicated to the Harajuku district of Japan. Harajuku is a shopping district that caters for those that love designer labels, to those looking for affordable alternative fashion.

Every Sunday, youths gather on the pedestrian Jingu Bridge to show off their style. From Lolita to Cosplay, the area is an explosion of inspiring fashion and is a favourite for style bloggers. Fashion magazine ‘Fruits’ documents the best of the styles seen in the area monthly, and is a bible for Japanese fashion lovers.

One of the most noticeable and publicised fashions in the Harajuku district is ‘Lolita’, a style inspired by the Victorian era. There are many sub-genres within this style, but the most popular are the ‘sweet Lolita’ and ‘gothic Lolita’.

A ‘sweet Lolita’ dresses like a Victorian child, in baby pink dresses that reach knee length. Followers wear bows in their hair, and carry teddy bears to encourage the ‘cute’ look.


Japanese fashion has many reasons behind it, such as rebellion against the government. Photo: Jeroen020

A ‘gothic Lolita’ is a darker take on the fashion, sticking to a black colour palette. It can be compared to the western ‘goth’ look. Gothic Lolita’s dresses tend to dress in black lace versions of the Lolita dresses, and wear crucifixes alongside gothic make up.

Another major style in Tokyo is ‘ganguro’. This consists of bleached hair, a deep tan, both black and white eyeliners, false eyelashes, brightly coloured clothes, miniskirts and lots of rings and necklaces.

Japanese studies believe that ganguro is a form of revenge against Japanese society, due to the resentment of its isolation and neglect. There are now followers of the fashion in the western world, including the UK.

One rather striking style in the Harajuku area is ‘cosplay’, derived from the English words ‘costume’  and ‘play’. Followers of the cosplay phenomenon, dress as their favourite manga, anime, movie characters and pop stars, and show off their costumes, which are often homemade, to the public.

They attract attention from photographers, and there are often conventions held, to show off the costumes.

Although some of the styles seem too extreme for reserved Brits, there are ways you can incorporate the styles into your usual look. Be it a Lolita bow, or ganguro accessories. Camden market in London is a great place to find what you need to be part of Tokyo style.

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