January 27, 2013

The Emperor and the Harajuku Girls

From austere imperial gardens to vibrant youthful shopping areas, each neighbourhood in Tokyo had intriguing characteristics that set them apart from one another. Seoul, which at times is an endless loop of convenience stores, office buildings, cafes, cosmetics stores, apartment towers, and plastic surgery clinics, seems bland in comparison to the eclectic environs that Tokyo has to offer.

During the Meiji Restoration, the emperor regained control of Japan from the hands of the military generals who ruled the nation in all but name. As the time of shoguns and samurais drew to an end, the Empire of Japan embraced industrialization and modernization. During the Meiji period, the nation transformed into the military powerhouse that would wreak havoc on its Chinese and Korean neighbours in the decades to come.

Amidst a large evergreen forest in the centre of Tokyo lies the Meiji Shrine. The Shinto complex was completed in 1921 to honour the spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. The architecture is understated, lacking opulence but not grace. A short walk from the Meiji Shrine is youth oriented Harajuku and Omotesando, the premier fashion district in Japan.

In South Korea, the youth dress alike. As barely anyone has developed a taste for individual style, they follow the latest trends without question. The women dress exquisitely well and take care of their appearance. As for the men, it does not really matter what they wear. Nonetheless, it is safe to say that pants as tight as leotards, large purses, and eyeglass frames without lenses are not entirely flattering.

Japan has developed certain subcultures, so everyone is not a carbon copy of each other in the fashion department. Gothic lolita, punk, and visual kei are just some of the styles adapted by Japanese youth. Cosplay, where people dress up as characters from comics books, movies, or video games, is a popular hobby. The famous Harajuku girls gather in the area to show off their fashion sense every Sunday, but I did not notice any eye catching outfits when I was there. The locals, on the other hand, noticed an eye catching Indo-Canadian Temptation.


There are bugs that even eat knotweed. There's no accounting for taste. ~ Japanese proverb