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Harajuku Lovers

Submitted by Jillian on July 1, 2009 – 1:24 pmComments

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Gwen Stefani brought Harajuku to Western attention with her lyrics in “Rich Girl”, along with her Japanese quartet of Love, Angel, Music, and Baby and their matching perfumes, but after my visit to the neighborhood yesterday, I can assure you that Harajuku is less for lovers and more for serious shoppers.

Harajuku Street is crammed with stores displaying discounted goods, while storekeepers yell out the daily special while the sidewalks swarm with shoppers.  On a normal day, this would be fine, but 45 minutes into our excursion, the heavens open and humidity took a solid form in heavy raindrops.  Our Japanese friends lead the way to an intersecting street, where we found ourselves in a line; I had no idea where we were going but I wasn’t terribly interesting in standing next to people with the precipitation pouring down.  But after we rounded a corner, the destination became clear: we were in a massive line for Forever 21.  Getting into the store was not the relief I hoped for; while guards controlled the mass outside, it was nothing compared to the wall-to-wall sea of shoppers, which continued for four floors.  I can easily say it was the most stressful American shopping experience that I have ever had in a foreign country.

Aside from shopping, one very amusing part of visiting Harajuku is the people watching, especially seeing the “gaijin”, or foreigners, who come to visit Japan in the hopes that they have finally found some fashion soul mates.  These are the kids who dress kind of nerdy back in the States; they wear the cat ears and the rainbow socks and they think that they are emulating Japanese style, but they miss the mark in Japan.  Japanese style, even at its wildest, is not some random amalgamation of layers that look like a rainbow exploded in the form of hearts and stars onto clothing.  There is a science to Japanese dressing; a careful composure to create an outfit that is cool and unique, but also conforms to the society’s style expectations.  Maybe it stems from the honor code of the Samurai or the delicate layers of the Geisha kimono; but Japanese style seems be in the genes.

The lesson I learned is that I can borrow from Japanese style; I can shop the stores and I can try my best to be a Harajuku lover, but I will never be a naturally suave dresser of Japanese style—so hopefully, the Japanese can enjoy my Southern California wardrobe in all its gaijin glory.

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