About once a month, fashionable kids from Japan and around the world-- both visitors and residents-- gather at JR Harajuku station’s Takeshita exit for a simple event to celebrate this neighborhood’s unique fashion culture. At the “Harajuku Fashion Walk”, participants walk around the neighborhood to both show off their outfits and to socialize with like-minded people.
Last April, I finally got the chance to join the event after months of knowing about it (and missing a few due to being pretty busy). As with all the other participants, I came in my favorite Harajuku fashion style. Unlike the other neighborhoods in Tokyo, Harajuku stands out with its distinct youthful and eccentric vibe. Since its time as the site of the Olympic Village in 1964, Harajuku has always been a center for youth culture with many shops catering to the ever-fluctuating tastes of fashion-forward Japanese youth.
So what’s Harajuku fashion?
Very unlike the fashion one might see on the runways at Paris or Milan, Harajuku fashion is always changing. Yet, at the same time, a common train of thought behind the youth fashion in Harajuku is expressing one’s difference from normal society. While one style tribe might be loud, colorful and eccentric, another could be elegant and doll-like. Usually, such fashion is worn only in the company of other friends wearing the same. However, at the Harajuku Fashion Walk, all these people with different tastes and cultures come together in a single event.
Nowadays, Harajuku fashion is not as visible as it used to be. With the majority of people in Harajuku now being tourists, shops catering to the local Japanese youth have closed up or moved to other places. In their places are more shops catering to visitors. Because of this, most of the fashion enthusiasts who used to enjoy visiting Harajuku have begun to go underground. Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter also made it possible for people to share their fashion snaps without traveling to the neighborhood, too.
Because of this, the Harajuku Fashion Walk has become a pretty big thing for both visitors and those who simply love Harajuku fashion. While a good number of the participants are locals who have come to either meet new friends or reconnect with familiar faces, there are also a lot of tourists who come to join, sporting their fashionable best. During the Fashion Walk I attended last April, I got to meet fashion enthusiasts from Germany, Italy, and Brazil. Sometimes, Japanese youth from other parts of the country come to join the walk, too! During that same walk, I got to meet two girls from Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture, Northern Japan.
How do I join?
Interested in joining the Harajuku Fashion Walk? The best way to is to watch out for updates on the Harajuku Fashion Walk’s Twitter account. Though updates are written in Japanese, the dates and times of the next walk should be easy to figure out. For May 2016, the next one will be on May 22, Sunday, at 2pm. Just like the last one, the meeting place will be at the Takeshita exit of the JR Harajuku station.
To be a part of the walk, it’s definitely recommended to come in your best alternative fashion: whether it’s gothic, punk, or even all pastels or forest fairy-like. But there’s no need to follow a particular fashion if you’d just like to take photos. The Fashion Walk includes three big stops for big group photos, so even if you aren’t following the train of dressed-up people, you can definitely catch the group for a photo in front of the Takeshita exit, in front of the Moshi Moshi Nippon box, and in front of the Harajuku Belle Epoque in the deeper parts of the neighborhood’s back streets.