As much as my agenda in Tokyo was about uncovering a growing fashion industry as the Western world sees it, the movement I was the most excited about seeing was Harajuku. My best friend growing up was obsessed with Manga, Cosplay, and all things Super Kawaii (indeed, we all chipped in to buy her a Sailor Moon costume for her 18th birthday), so I was no stranger to the concept – I’d just never seen it in person.
My first encounter almost took out my left eye with her Lolita parasol while leaving Harajuku station during peak hour on a Monday morning. No Japanese commuters so much as flinched at her lampshade skirt and enlarged (painted-on) eyes, despite the fact that she wasn’t even Japanese – a tall, gangly Caucasian girl, who had planted herself amongst her cartoon character fascinations, in one of the most vibrant cities in the world.
While filming on Takeshita St a few hours later, it was pretty evident that Harajuku Girls, so to speak, are what they eat. Think whipped cream with sprinkles and cherries on top – their costumes are supposed to embody this innocent sweetness, and yet sex appeal at the same time, which I certainly grappled with. A week on, I’m still not sure how I feel about pink tulle, garters, bows, ribbons, and push-up bras being in the same equation. This is not to detract from the phenomenon, though – the amount of effort that goes into preparing ones face (think double eye-lid tape, rosy cheeks and faux freckles) and get-up is absolutely mind-blowing.
And then I met Kumamiki (only the most adorable name in the history of the world). Where most Harajuku characters go to a lot of trouble to have their legs on display, Kumamiki is more about creating a new character for herself each day. On this particular afternoon, she was about candy allsorts and the Kimono she’d made and modernised herself. We went for a quick bite to eat, and she opted for a sundae over my sesame salad. When I ran into her a few days later, she’d switched out her fairyfloss hair piece for a razor sharp black bob, chunky Lolita boots, a kilt and Librarian glasses.
It was so lovely to have met you, Kumamiki! Good luck with your craft lessons and I can’t wait to see what colour your hair is next.