Sprawling, dynamic and endlessly fascinating, Japan’s capital is a city of contracts. Whether you seek the traditional or the cutting edge, Tokyo will provide it. Serene pockets of calm are surrounded by the frenetic rhythm of the soaring high-rises, while the quirky and the super modern are embraced and harmoniously co-exist alongside the conservative and the conventional. Nowhere is this juxtaposition more vivid than Harajuku (surely you’ve heard of Harajuku girls, if not only in Gwen Stefani songs?), where the peaceful and historic atmosphere of Meiji Jingu on one side of the road is set off by the buzzy vibes and flashy street fashion on the other. Ladies and gentlemen, cue: Takeshita-dori. This pedestrian-only street is the hub for Japanese pop-culture and wacky trends you won’t find anywhere outside Japan. Starting right across Harajuku Station, Takeshita-dori stretches along half a mile and is lined up with the trendsetting shops selling the most garish clothing items to the swarms of Tokyo youth.
Every time I walk along this street I have a feeling young Tokyoites treat it as a catwalk by donning on some rather crazy eye-popping designs and fashion concepts. It’s a place to see and be seen for fashion-forward young adults who are not afraid to express their individualism by showing off daring avant-garde styles. Be prepared to see anything from kawaii (cute) to bizarre and everything in-between.
It definitely is one of the best places to people-watch in Tokyo. Instead of rushing through it, I love nestling in one of the discreet corners of the street and observing the swarms of youth ebb and flow in every direction.
I genuinely admire and love how the teenagers in Tokyo play around with different looks. They are not afraid to go bold, stand out and be original! Mixing and matching different styles and genres comes natural to them. They’ll be wearing the newest Air Max paired with a vintage bag and a platinum blonde mop. Sneakers, espadrilles and sandals, often paired with white, embroidered stockings is also a very common trend. And you know what? They pull it off so well!
Besides regular fashion trends like flowery headpieces and white socks on wedged shoes, Takeshita-dori is the place to be if you want to witness Cosplay in action.
Cosplay, short for costume-play, has been an integral part of Japanese pop culture for decades. Young people dress up in rather extreme outfits, usually inspired by manga/anime characters or other, more abstract, themes. Some of them look like sugar-sweet dolls, while others dress up in old military uniforms paired with gloomy, gothic make-up. I have also read that for many this transformation is a way to escape from everyday monotony, they give vent to their imagination and allow their inner personalities to come out for a day.
Sunday afternoon is when Harajuku’s magic really happens. I was particularly lucky couple of weeks ago when I went out on a “Cosplay Hunt”. After photographing a few impressive characters on Takeshita-dori, curiosity took over me and I decided to follow a few Cosplayers to see where they were all going after Harajuku. I secretly hoped they could bring me to a location where they all hang out on Sunday night. Well, guess what? That’s exactly what happened!
Apparently, that particular Sunday my visit coincided with a concert of some popular Gothic band at Yoyogi Stadium, so hundreds of young Tokyoites were dressed up in striking outfits influenced by Gothic style. They all seemed hyped about the event and enthusiastically showed off their costumes to one another. I couldn’t believe my eyes and stop gawking at their insanely creative imagines. I don’t think I have to write much as the photos captured that day will speak thousand words.
Well, what do you think? Impressive, huh? :) Harajuku is definitely a must-see spot in Tokyo if you want to immerse in Japanese pop-culture!
Sunday afternoon is the best time to visit Takeshita-dori and find Cosplay in Tokyo.
Please take into account that Japanese are very mindful about their photos being taken without permission. I have not been yet refused a photo, however, I was frowned at a few times I took a photo without asking first. Don’t be me. Ask first.
Nearest metro station: Harajuku.