Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Japan I love you: Street style

Japan was everything I had hoped for and more. We traveled through Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka before heading back to Tokyo again for our flight back to Hong Kong. Despite the frenetic energy and pace, the love of aesthetics is a huge part of Japanese culture. Hence the fact that most things from the people to the landscaping to the way meals are set out are groomed to perfection. It was a whirlwind of incredible food, people and sights to see. Although the lack of English speaking skills does make one feel a bit Lost in Translation, the Japanese still go out of their way to be polite, friendly and helpful. A place where the freshest sashimi just melts in your mouth, where modernity and tradition lie side by side in an urban jungle punctuated with stunning world heritage temple sites, where people wear both ed hardy and yukatas (casual kimonos) on the streets, a hustle and bustle of neon signs and karaoke bars.
Ah, karaoke. How I loath and love thee in equal measure, like a good rum cocktail. Time flies, all seems well with the world, but then you wake up and wonder if you have anything to show for time past except a good hangover and a raspy voice that you desperately hope passes for husky and sexy. My Tokyo karaoke experience is a hazy memory of all you can drink sake and cheesy inaccurate music videos that are hilariously mismatched to the songs, and yes, me attempting to rap to Jay Z. God forbid there is evidence of this in a video somewhere and so I wait, fearfully, with bated breath, clutching my laptop, ready to untag such Facebook monstrosity....

I saw him perform live at the Summer Sonic festival a few days after. His rendition of New York was fairly standard...but if you ask the random group of fellow hostel travellers who had the luxury, nay the PLEASURE, of watching me drop it to the beat (not sure if that's the correct lingo? Word...) I am sure they would say my version was far more entertaining. Booyah, Jay-Z, to the izzle. And all that. (Somewhere in Holland, a fan club will spring in my name...just you wait!)
Now onto street style. For those of you who are actually reading this as opposed to skipping straight to the photos, kudos. Japan is famous for it's street style, and as an avid reader of street style websites/ magazines etc etc, words cannot describe how excited I was to actually be there and photograph it for myself. As a contributor to an online magazine in the works, sadly most of my best work is not here, but I kept some cherry pickings for myself :).
Generally, in the cities, the Japanese make a great effort with their style, looking perfectly coiffed and styled. It wasn't unusual for us to see girls at 10am during the week in heels, full on makeup and hair and styled to perfection. Hair tended to be dyed a light brown, and most girls had on fake eyelashes and lots of blush, very doll-like. They clearly were not headed towards a cubicle or a desk somewhere either. As averse to the sun as many Hong Kong citizens, layering was key. Many wore plain t-shirts under long dresses, jumpsuits or playsuits, which tended to be in a multitude of flowery prints. The women's style tended to be very feminine, again almost baby doll-esque.
I have my fair share of one-piece rompers: A lazy woman's styling fix as it saves on having to decide what top goes with what bottoms etc. And they're so comfy! Although a jumpsuit is much trickier - one can easily go from looking Lauren Hutton 70's chic to belonging to the illustrious group that is the people of Walmart. You have been warned. Unless you're a svelte and fabulous Japanese woman who can pull off a loose print:
Surprisingly, style is not as extreme or quirky in most of Japan as I thought it was pre-trip. The famous Harajuku street style shines brightest on the weekend and is quite tame during the normal weekdays. Boater hats were very popular, apparently inspired by the fixation on schoolgirl style and manga. Although there was one point of contention, stylistically: scrunchies. I saw many many impossibly sophisticated women wearing scrunchies. I know what you're thinking: scrunchies and sophisticated in the same sentence: a stylistic oxymoron perhaps? A fashion paradox? Two words that should never share residence in the same sentence? Perhaps as someone who matured during the 90's and suffered numerous awkward moments during a generally very awkward adolescence, any style associated with this period may tend to get a thumbs-down from me. But as I fight my negative bias of the-thing-that-shall-not-be-named, perhaps I should keep an open mind. Quite honestly, the ladies of Japan don't make them look so bad after all....
This photo illustrates quintessential Japanese style: boater hat, scrunchy, t-shirt under dress and a cute stuffed toy key chain. Let me tell you, running around the streets of Osaka and Tokyo asking people to pose for my camera was scary but giddy fun in equal measure, aided by a loosely translated text (thank you Google translate) that somehow managed to get the message across of "Hi I am a photographer you look pretty now pose bitches" (in obviously a much nicer way- this is the country that brought the world ninjas and nun chucks after all. No, I did not see either. The closest I came to a Samurai was a fruity cocktail we had in a bar called Bar Moon Walk one night. Yes, it was tasty. Where is this aside going you wonder? Or are you wondering why you are still reading this random tangent of irrelevant thought? I wonder how the Japanese type LOL. Okay I'll stop now....hehe) . 私の日本語は素晴らしいです!クールセクシーなセクシー. See? Positively fluent.

Everyone should travel to Tokyo at least once. If purely for the hedonistic pleasure of shopping and eating. And for the street style, of course. And so I leave you with this salient thought: