, 2022-09-27 14:00:00,
The well-documented pressure in Japanese society to conform is sometimes summed up by the idiom ‘the nail that stands out gets hammered down.’ For a long time, Harajuku, the celebrated fashion and shopping neighbourhood in the west of Tokyo, was blissfully hammer-free. Through the 1990s and early 2000s, it became the international poster child of Japanese eccentricity, a hub of genuine counterculture where young Tokyoites spectacularly rejected the standards of so many of their peers by dressing in madly creative costumes.~
Today, the commitment to bombastic fashion has lessened and the fashionistas are becoming an endangered species in their one-time stronghold. Clinging on to the petticoated Lolita styles of that era are Ai Akizuki and Hamuka (the latter, like all good eccentrics, refuses to offer her age or surname). The ladies are committed to their looks, which is to say that they dress up with Victorian-style bloomers, bonnets and parasols every day — for them this is an unending lifestyle, not just an option for events or, worse, Instagram.
“Things are definitely become more boring,” says Ai, who’s leading me on the Harajuku Kawaii Tour around the neighbourhood. “It was inevitable that things would change — that’s how fashion works.”
‘Kawaii’ means ‘cute’ and is properly spelled with just two ‘i’s but is typically said with many more, elongated as though someone has stepped on the speaker’s toes. “Kawaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii,” says…
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