Harajuku doesn’t disappoint!

From time to time I am forcing myself to stay open-minded and expose myself to an environment, which I usually don’t experience every day. Last weekend I went to Harajuku to find out what is popular now with young people. The goal was to explore and observe the trendy scene in Harajuku. But while being there why not check out Meji-Shrine at the same time. When I was moving towards Meiji-Shrine I was lucky to walk behind two younger women as pictured below – most likely university students – who gave me most likely a very good example of the challenges young Japanese are facing nowadays. They discussed why they have chosen to come on a Sunday morning to the shrine to pray: Insecurity about the future and hope for guidance.

“I wish someone could tell me what I should do with my future. It is so difficult to see what I can really do.”
“I know what you mean! I don’t know what I am good at. How should I be able to decide what to do in my future, when I don’t know myself?”
“Why is there no one who tells me what to do? How can I know what to do with my future if no one tells me what to do. I wish I knew a person who would know me and decide for me for my future.”
“Yes, that would be so great to have someone like this who would decide for me! I really would like that.”
“I really don’t know what I am good at.”
“Me, too. Let’s go to this shrine and then maybe we get lucky and someone will show us what we should do with our future.”

I had to force myself to stay quiet, because it seemed to me that these two women with their perceived insecurity were willing to throw away their self-determination for their lives. Yes, making big life decisions is not easy, but I strongly believe having doubts can never be a reason to give away your own power. I guess I can only pray that they find their strength to take their lives in their own hands.

Reminding myself that the goal of the day is observe and keeping an open mind without any judgements I headed towards the shrine. For sure it was a great idea to go visit on the weekend, because most likely you can see someone having their wedding ceremony at the shrine. I was lucky to see three couples, when I enjoyed observing an international couple.

Moving on next to the creative hot spot of Tokyo, I was curious what I will be finding this time in Harajuku. Although some fashion critics in Japan already consider Harajuku to become a tourist trap, arguing that most have already moved away to Omotesandoo and Shibuya, I still enjoy Harajuku as the place where unique Japanese creativity exists. Where else can you find such a creative mix and match of many styles?
Within the last 10 years it seems that Harajuku got its spot on the global map. Considering the nationalities that I have seen and heard during my explorations this fashion spot seems rather popular for Malaysian, Thai, Taiwanese, Singapore, Chinese, Italian, German and Spanish tourists.

For sure Harajuku is still the place to be for many teenagers from Tokyo and afar to get their fan goods from their favorite idols. One example of the typical “idol goods” store is as below.

While this kind of stores made me curious, on the other hand coming across a store for AKB48 caught my full attention. Finally I can get a better idea, who is actually their fan base. I was expecting to see many “Otaku” flocking to this store. I had honestly no desire to go into the store and see or even get some AKB48 goods, because I am solely interested to check out who is actually their customer base. I would have never guessed right, because most customer entering or leaving the store were young women and families with kids. For sure I was off on who favors AKB48 and have learned my lesson that observations of the real market is truly necessary to keep an open mind.

Observing the flow of people at Takeshita-doori, after a while I had noticed a younger guy wearing a cute flowery dress with tights (yes, correct I am talking about male person!). Hmmm, this is Harajuku so I should keep an open mind, because I might be completely unaware of the newest fashion trends. Moreover, didn’t I hear about the more female oriented young Japanese males in the media? This is just an example that the society might have some interesting outliers, but not worthwhile for me to think much about it. Just stay with the flow and observe…
What another one? This time although he was wearing glasses, I could tell he was in his late 40’s. I started to wonder whether I am really in Harajuku and not in the “Otaku scene” of Akihabara, but clearly I was in Harajuku. Let’s change my observation spot and let’s see what is going to happen. While heading to a different location I came across two older guys again, this time in pink stockings and rather thick layer of make up. To be honest with you after I had come across 10 guys roughly in the age range of early 20’s to late 40’s I stopped counting. They were not in a group, plus I had spotted them in totally different locations.
While I can understand that younger guys might have some desire to explore gender issues, I have to say I was struggling to understand older men, who dressed up as young girls. I needed a mental break from observing all those unique men and why not visit McDonald.
Guess what, I came across two guys again.

So far I believed I am rather open-minded in my daily life, but I guess that my recent visit to Harajuku showed, that I am still rather old-fashioned. I assume the examples that I came across are not typical examples on where Japanese men are heading. Or do I need to get used to the idea that Japanese men might be soon competing with me for the same clothes?

Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (伊藤シビル)

7 thoughts on “Harajuku doesn’t disappoint!

  1. Sibylle, that was an interesting read about Harajuku. Not a lot has change since I going there in the mid seventies. Harajuku was the hip place to go and the male cross dressers are just a little more bolder now than 1976. Reading you take on the Japanese girls was also interesting, that has not changed either. I have been coming or living in Japan on and off about 40-years, the culture is still the same. Tokyo still excites me when I go there on business from Tohoku, I visit places like Harajuku and others. Building have changed, but the people have not. Pretty cool that you as experiencing what I did many years ago for a different view point.

    • Dear Denny,

      thank you very much for visiting this blog and commenting.
      I honestly wish I had known Harajuku in the 70s. I am really surprised that you have not found much change in Harajuku for so many years. I can then only wonder what kind of male cross dresser I might come across in 10 years from now 😉

      All the best from cloudy, grey Tokyo,


  2. Sibylle–WOW! You are just the BEST tour guide! I loved the part best about the two young college women filled with self-doubts. I am in full agreement with you that they should not let others steal their power. And the crowds and stores and the apparel styles all tell me, all people everywhere are getting more and more alike!

    • Dear Granbee,

      now you let me blush with such a compliment… I am truly happy to see you here again.
      Maybe overtime we end up with one huge clothing company that manufactures one clothes line for men and women, any race and any age. Although I hope it will not come true, we might be heading this way.

      All the best,


  3. I enjoyed this, thank you! I just visited Takeshita Doori (for the first time) and saw lots of fashionable young Japanese girls – but after reading this, maybe some were actually guys?? Asian men can make very convincing ladies!

    • Dear Miss Zeta,

      thank you so much for taking time to visit this blog and to respond.
      For sure I am curious when I go next time to Harajuku whether I can still find so many “cute” dressed up guys. Let’s keep our eyes open.

      All the best,

      Sibylle Ito

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