In the 1980’s, New York’s, “St. Marks Place” was a notorious crime-ridden street that harbored numerous drug addicts, muggers, and Mohawk-wearing punk rockers, and was considered by many native residents to be the last place anyone should go for any reason. Thirty years later, it has become the epicenter of the city’s youth culture and the main spot to still see subjective, avant-garde fashion. Likewise in Tokyo, the famed area of Harajuku was once a large cluster of burnt building foundations as a result of the Great Tokyo Air Raid in November of 1944. Now of course, it is the main boulevard to see how Japanese youth are expressing themselves, no matter how bizarrely or with however many combinations of the endless styles and themes that exist. (Goth, Lolita, Decora, etc.) And finally, Amerika-mura, a series of streets in the southern part of Osaka is an area that was formed inadvertently as a result of the U.S occupation following the end of World War II. As soldiers began to bring their own forms of American pop culture to Japan in the form of vinyl records, comics, clothes, and candy, the Japanese youth began to take notice and it wasn’t long before large big-box department stores catering to the demand of western products began to appear along the streets in years following. So it seems that a city’s fashion district can often manifest randomly from some of the most unexpected locations. Be it in NYC or Japan.
Today, Amerika-mura stands as a sort of exaggerated synthesis of Western and Japanese DIY fashion and individuality. There are over 2,500 shops within the space, all of which are in some way western-influenced, either by the selling of fitted New Era baseball caps, or by the sight of Bart Simpson’s crude catchphrases decorating countless t-shirts in large hip-hop style font. A standard sight in Amerika-mura may often be young girls in platform shoes, young “Yankees” skateboarding on the steps of Triangle Park, or even the occasional heavily tattooed, pierced shop owner running to the nearest convenience store before going back to his establishment to polish nose rings and disinfect needles. It’s all become very grounded in terms of what the area’s main atmosphere is supposed to be, as designated by none other than the young residents themselves. It’s not uncommon to believe that most of the individuals running these fashion boutiques might be in their mid 20’s. As a result, the image and philosophy that Amerika-mura tries to represent becomes genuine in its residents’ sincerity, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a threat in terms of the place changing anytime soon.
Amerika-mura also caters well to the nightlife crowd, and features a number of bars and nightclubs. It’s also worthwhile to just grab a seat at Triangle Park and strike up a conversation with a stranger, an act which is not very common in Japan as a whole, but which appears to be quite natural in this particular area. The last time I went, I ended up chatting with a young fashion student. We went to a few bars, and ended the night at Club Cheval, which although packed with people, is a great place to go if you’re in the mood for electronic music. Many Japanese people will agree that Osaka natives are some of the most affectionate, friendly people you’ll find in the country; and this part of the city is no exception. It’s recommended that you check out Amerika-mura over the weekend, as there are often live shows that spring out of nowhere, and there is certainly an electricity in the air as you see all the punks, lolitas, rappers, goths, rude boys, and visual-kei themed youth as they speed walk through the crowded district, seeking the most intense addition of fashion to add to their own style and individuality.