Wednesday, June 3, 2009
More on the Harajuku Girls
So, someone has already posted a blog with a picture of some Harajuku gals. I know there are a few people on the trip who are obsessed with the Harajuku culture and know more way more than I do on the subject! Nonetheless, I think it's worthwhile to post another blog on the subject because Harajuku fashion is fabulous.
As described on the Wiki: "Harajuku (原宿 "meadow lodging") is the common name for the area around Harajuku Station on the Yamanote Line in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo, Japan. Harajuku is known for the patrons that visit the area every Sunday. Every Sunday, many young people dress in a variety of styles that include gothic lolita, visual kei, and cosplay, among others and spend the day in Harajuku socializing. The fashion styles of these young people frequently vary and are rarely conformist to one particular style and are usually a mesh of many. Most young people gather on Jingu Bridge, which is a pedestrian bridge that connects Harajuku to the neighboring Meiji Shrine Area. However, Harajuku is not just known for its Sunday visitors. It is also a well-respected fashion capital of the world renowned for its unique street fashion. Harajuku street style is promoted in Japanese and international publications such as Kera, Tune, Gothic & Lolita Bible and Fruits."
So, Harajuku is an acutal place, and the gals that hang out there are named after it. My Lonely Planet guidebook has this to say about them:
"It's an organic rather than organised group, a constantly evolving conglomeration of mostly teenage girls, often those who are bullied in school. By inhabiting alter egos, they find freedom and acceptance in subcultures whose 'official' garb is wildly creative."
I laughed when I read that- a little blunt, isn't it? The guidebook also warns:
"Weekends draw the cosplay-zoku (costume-play gang) from the suburbs of Tokyo to Jingu-bashi, the bridge linking Meiji-jingu with Omote-sando- which, in turn, draw hordes of tourist-paparazzi excidedly snapping away as the girls pose, sulk and preen resplendent in all their crazy finery."
Having found myself in many a scene growing up this of course makes me wonder if there are some "underground" Harajuku spots where everyone complains about how the kids on the bridge are posers :P Even so, I would love to see them.
Ms. Gwen Stefani (a decidedly guilty pleasure of mine) is also responsible for another disambiguation of the word "Harajuku". She hired her "Harajuku girls" as backup dancers in 2004 for "Love. Angel. Music. Baby." After appearring in numerous music videos for the album they became Ms. Stefani's entourage of sorts. Stefani appeared on Friday Night with Jonathon Ross and introduced the girls as her "imaginary friends." Amusing!
However, not everyone gets a kick out of the girls. Again from the Wiki: "In an interview in the January/February 2006 edition of Blender magazine, American comedian Margaret Cho calls Stefani's Harajuku Girls a "minstrel show" that reinforces ethnic stereotypes of Asian women. Writer Mihi Ahn said of Stefani's Harajuku Girls: "Stefani has taken the idea of Japanese street fashion and turned these women into modern-day geisha"."
Nakasone disagreed with Cho's accusation and responded that Stefani was inspired by the Japanese fashion culture and that she felt honored to have been in the group.
Who knows? Cho is, after all, criticizing a group of backup dancers who draw from a subculture in Japan that ultimately draws on the sexist and confining styles of the Victorian era and a novel about a 12 year old girl who is molested by her step father. But, whatever the inspiration, the result is certainly interesting.