Very Loose Fashion Observations PART 2: JAPAN!

by Sharon -- May 20, 2010

My last post illustrated my raw, previously untapped talent for categorizing an entire country into two categories: floral dresses and acid washed jeans.  Now that Jason and I are spending one week in Japan, I have decided to take on the following topic: Fashion in Japan.

I believe Japanese fashion is a whole different animal to tackle since the Japanese already have a very eclectic fashion persona on an international level; their “Harajuku” style is well known thanks to Gwen Stefani’s scary obsession with them.  Because of this, many people relate Japanese fashion to pigtails, plaid, and knee-highs.

So far, from what I’ve seen, this stereotype is not that far off from reality.  We spent all of our time in the cities of Kyoto and Osaka.  The strange thing we noticed was that although there were basic fashion trends found in both cities, there were also many shocking differences in the way people dressed in Kyoto compared to Osaka.  And by shocking, I mean it both in the comparative sense and the “what the hell is wrong with these people” kind of sense.

Here are my general observations about the more “tame” fashion trends found in both cities:

(I am proud to say that these are all my personal photos that I took while on this trip.)

  • Just like in Korea, almost all women sport very blunt, thick bangs.  One hairstyle in Japan that I believe is particular to Japanese girls, however, is the extra “side bangs”.  They are much longer and hang like a pair of fangs on the sides of their face when they wear ponytails or pigtails.
  • One major fashion fad that I’ve seen here are ankle length casualdresses, similar to the Maxi dress.  These dresses are always a floral print with a lacey hem. In fact, it looks like a style that would have been worn in the 1960’s.  These are usually paired with a short, jean jacket or a cardigan of some sort.
  • In addition to long dresses, an interesting style that is very popularhere is the floral printed body suit.  It sounds horrific, I know, but somehow these Japanese women pull it off.  The pants are always baggy with elastic at the ankles, and there is a built-in elastic waistband as well.
  • Hats are huge here.  Unlike in Korea, the women here wear only a very specific type of hat, called the Panama Hat.  It is similar to the Fedora hat but is made of straw.  They wear these with everything, and they are everywhere!
  • Even though it is cold here in Kyoto, women love wearing shorts (especially denim shorts) with black tights and really high heels.  In fact, most Japanese women don this outfit while they sightsee….  It never fails to confuse me.
  • Another unique trend here in Japan is the rolled up baggy jean. Women often wear baggy jeans that are rolled up to their shins in thick cuffs.  They are usually worn with heels, but are also worn with tennies or flats.
  • Cowboy boots.
  • Horizontal striped shirts.  These are often longer in length and are loose fitting or baggy.  Since it is still cold here in Kyoto, these are often worn over jeans.  I assume that in the warmer weather they will be worn separately as dresses.

Okay, now to the really weird stuff.  In Osaka, we were basically in jaw-drop form the entire time.  How do I explain this?  In a nutshell, the men looked like women in shiny suits and the women looked like… Well, they looked like Japanese animation hookers.  Come nighttime, the men looked exactly the same in spiky, over-volumized orange haircuts while the women pranced around in yellow hair (most likely wigs; there is no way these women spend hours on their hair every day) that stood up a good 10 inches above their heads in strange curls and spiky points.  Not only that, but each woman wore about $35 worth of make-up on their face and the men looked like they were all members of the Yakuza.  Basically, these people looked like they came straight out of a Japanese animation mafia cartoon.  Needless to say, our Friday night in Osaka was spent walking around town with Asahi beers while people watching.  (Unfortunately, I was not successful in getting any good pictures of this fashion phenomenon, but I will try to steal some from our friends that we traveled with in Japan.  Although their camera is really washed out….)

Of course not all of the Japanese people in Osaka dressed like this.  There were many Japanese who looked like they could have stepped out of San Francisco, but the amount of people that did wear these Osaka styles was shocking enough to write this post.
Random Thought of the Day: For a good laugh, walk around major areas of Japan and read their English signs and translations.  For some reason they don’t believe in having a native English speaker proofread ANY of their translations.  Here are just a few examples from a Japanese menu:

I sprinkled the soup which a crab was in to an omelet.”
(Not sure if I should be more alarmed that there was a crab sitting in my soup, or that they can sprinkle soup)

A beefsteak.  I wore roasted meat sauce.”
(One of the many uses of Haiku poetry #1,689: To describe food)

Enough crab was put on a fresh vegetable.”
(Phew, I was worried about how much crab was going to be on my vegetable, but this is so exact)

Be awesome and help us share:

5 Responses to “Very Loose Fashion Observations PART 2: JAPAN!”

  1. the tights and jean shorts…. ive seen it here a lot lately too. But only on asian women, clasping the arms of their very nerdy white significant others.

  2. wow - floral printed body suit? I’m not so sure about that look. I think if you have elastic around your ankles you better be coming out of a genie bottle!

    Thanks for that great fashion write-ups Sharon -keep ‘em coming!

  3. Fun stuff. When I used to go to Tokyo quite a bit, there was this park, I believe it was called “Yoyogi Park” or something like that, where there were probably about 20 or so punk rock bands right next to each other along the street, each one of them with a huge group of “girl fans” dressed in the styles you described. It was the weirdest thing. Each band was so loud that, although they were so close together, you could actually only hear THEM when you were in front of them. Then there was this other part of the park where guys were dressed up like Elvis/James Dean in the 50’s, with pointy shoes, the soles of some were taped together, because they had frayed from doing THE TWIST on the pavement to 50’s rock’ n’ roll, which they were playing on boom boxes.

    About the English: Poster shop on the Ginza: Mona RISA.

    You’ve got to love Japan. One of my favorite places.
    Love your posts!

  4. Thanks for the comments, and sorry for the late response!

    I agree about the floral printed body suit- there’s no way that would get near my wardrobe!

    Carmen, your account of Japan was hilarious! I loved the part about the frayed shoes from doing the twist! Also, Mona Risa is pretty ridiculous, I would have loved to see that. I think I will write a post in the near future about English translations in Asia. It’ll be sure to make for a funny read.


  5. Hi, I am from Korea and found your WONDERFUL blog!!!

    OMG I think this is the best blog that had the EXACT pronounce of the hard Korean words and this blog is the best blog to learn about new countries as a foreigner.
    I very very very REALLY love this blog.
    화이팅! 정말 멋진 블로그에요

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