Take the ﬁrst step in the Harajuku quarter in Tokyo and you straightaway realize this is an unconventional area not solely of Japan but of the world.
The area is a real living catwalk and one of the very rare areas in the country where the unconventional is rewarded. Here the Harajuku girls are also famous for being part of Gwen Stefani’s song, back in 2004. Nowadays the trend is becoming more and more famous around the country as every now and then a new celebrity coming to the countryside gets to the main page of National magazines in fashion, inspiring a whole nation generation of teens. Furthermore the young teens traveling from the countryside with a new sartorial innovation are increasing, new ones come into the scene every year while others are dying but the myth of the Harajuku quarter never ends.
Interesting enough is the hidden side I had the opportunity to visit last winter. What is unknown to most of the people are all the various accessories inspiring the generation of teens in Japan such as bondage gears, pills, fake blood, syringes and a whole range of fragility depictions the ﬁght between your emotions and our fragilities.
The group of teens you can see on your arrival look like a cartoon of the ’90s, the ones we all used to watch just after school during our early years. They wave to all people passing next to them, taking in Japanese even to the foreigners, but this is the way to learn a new culture, right?
I decide to walk along the main street a couple of times to analyze the situation and understand how to move in such an entertainment environment. So, on my second promenade along the shops I have noticed a very peculiar “Harajuku girl”, dressed in the same way as Sailor moon, the famous cartoon present at the end of the 90s and beginning of 00’.
The choice was done so me and my friend approached this teenager with the curiosity of a stranger for the ﬁrst time in Japan, being ﬁrst greeted in a strange manner which later on we realized they were the gestures we would have learned to play in the next 30 minutes in order to get a song sung by “our” Harajuku girl. Yes, you are then her property and she will give you a very original to say the least, set of ornaments. After that, you will order a coffee as it is still a kind of bar but at the same time while waiting your ‘girl’, you will be adorned with a rabbit hat, she will teach you a song in Japanese to sing and you need to get ready to go to the little stage where music is played. All of this in the general embarrassment for you and the people around you in the so called Bar. Well, then the time for the dance, little singing, photos and other embarrassments come and in the end I get the sense of this ‘perverted’ ceremony somehow, intricate in a society known for judging the people for their appearance is something very challenging for a foreigner to understand.
Locally these girls are seen somewhere between the celebrities for a generation of teenagers and the dark side of a society made of beautiful old stories of Geisha not all exempt of strange angles. All of a sudden I ﬁnd the way out, no music, no celebrations around me but the lights of Tokyo. It has become late and it’s now time to go to a sushi restaurant nearby while bringing the memories of the Harajuku girls with us.