Harajuku: Land of Cosplay

Tucked away in an alley between the sprawling shops of Shinjuku and the bohemian Yoyogi Park lies Takeshita. This alley in the middle of Tokyo’s concrete and steel jungle is perhaps most famous for its cosplayers. On a given weekend there are thousands of people crowded into the narrow alleyway to shop, take pictures and of course show off their impressive costumes.

The culture of Harajuku was influenced a lot by the post-war experience of Allied-occupied Japan and the mingling of young locals with Western civilians and military personnel. Over time fashion designers came to reside in the area and the area grew due to the tourism generated by the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.

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1964 Olympics

In the shops of Takeshita Street it is possible to find a dizzying array of items from souvenirs to luxury clothes, hats and even art by local young artists. Food from around the world is readily available there. The most popular items, interestingly enough, are crepes but these are markedly different from French crepes. Those in Japan are filled much more generously with ice cream, sweets and fruit.

There is no denying though that the real attraction is the youth culture that is expressed through fashion. By far the most popular and notable fashion around this area is Lolita style though with a Gothic twist. That’s to say emulating Victorian and Edwardian style clothing of dolls but also blending in dark colors into clothes and makeup.

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Where’s Waldo?

If you visit around Halloween like I did, you can see the famous parade in Harajuku or participate yourself. In Harajuku people go all-out for their costumes so don’t be too surprised if your costume is completely upstaged. Regardless, Harajuku is and will remain an integral part of fashion, youth culture and a bit of weirdness making it a really cool place to experience.

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