When you think of Japanese youth culture and fashion you most probably think of visual kei, the Harajuku girls dessed as lolitas and styles similar to that. You do see these extreme styles in Tokyo, especially in the Harajuku area. But most young girls in Tokyo do not dress like that at all. The typical Tokyo girl has long beautiful hair, very high heels, a very short skirt and a top that covers well and shows no clevage at all. The clothes are usually in soft pastel colours, like vintage pink and beige, and you see a lot of lace decorations. A very soft and romantic style, modern with a vintage touch. They look so pretty! This style is typical for a young woman in Tokyo. You see a lot of ther styles as well, of course, but this is the most common one.
Where to shop
My favourite fashion area is the Harajuku area. I love the little boutiques along Takeshita Dori and could easily spend hours browsing the shops. I usually get off the train at the Harajuku station, walk along Takeshita Dori (it can take a while, haha), and then turn right onto Meiji Dori where you find larger chain shops like Forever 21, H&M and Laforet shopping mall. There are shops on smaller side streets as well so if you have the time it might be fin to stroll around and see what you find.
If you wanna buy cheap jewelry you should pay a visit to Paris Kids where a lot of their jewelry only cost 315 yen. Its located on the left hand side of Takeshita Dori if you come from the Harajuku station, and its in the beginning of the street.
Opposite Paris Kids, a little further down you will find a sock shop where you can find lots of cute socks! You can find sock shops here and there in Tokyo.
Avoid Takeshita Dori on Sundays if you dont want to struggle through the crowds, however Sundays can be more fun because thats when you have more chance of seeing the pretty Harajuku girls all dressed up.
I think the best place to get a really great look into Tokyo fashion is at Shibuya 109. Its located in – you guessed it – Shibuya, and it is easy to spot. The building is a tall silver cylinder and has a big red “Shibuya 109” sign. Inside its like a shopping mall. Each floor has around 10 small shops and this continues floor after floor… I think its about 8 floors high so there’s a lot to see. I find the easiest way to see everything is to take the lift up to the top floor and then use the escalators down. One floor has a cafe and restaurant area where you can have lunch and eat cakes.
Here’s a video from Shibuya 109. Youre not allowed to film or take any photos there, thats why the clip is shaking and filmed from a weird angle. I was trying to look like I was just casually walking around.
Each shop has its own distinct style and its a great way to see what kind of fashion Tokyo’s youth is into. You can find lolita dresses here, and lots and lots and lots of super cute truly kawaii clothing. But you can also find edgy styles, like the Japanese take on hip-hop and goth. You will find dresses, skirts, tops, bottoms, bags, shoes, accessories, make-up and all things cute and girly.
Its really an experience to just walk through this “shopping mall” and look at all the different clothes and see all the shop girls stand there and welcome you into their shop and the girls look so well dressed with perfect hair and makeup.
Im not the thinnest person, and Im not obese either. But since Im not a size 8, I thought my biggest problem shopping for clothes in Japan would be finding clothes that fit me. Most people in Japan have a healthy weight and you very rarely see anyone in Tokyo being overweight. I think I only saw an overweight person twice during the time we stayed there. A lot of the clothes you see in the shops are one size only, so when you find something you like, it either fits or it doesnt. No trying another size.
But imagine my surprise when quite a few one-size tops actually fit! It all depends on the model though, and after a few tries I learned what kind of tops would work and what kind wouldnt.
Instead I encountered another, very unexpected, problem – the length of the arms. They were very often too short! A top could look soooo nice, but the arm ruined everything. Had they only been a couple of centimeters longer it would have been perfect. Im guessing it is this way because Japanese people are generally a bit shorter than European people, thus their arms are also shorter.
My fiance didnt have all the patience in the world for me to try on every single top in every single clothing shop along Takeshita Dori, but I did find a couple of tops that looked normal on me there. I also found clothes that fit me in a shop called Axes Femme, but their style is very special, so might not be fore everyone. They have shops all over Japan. If you visit their site, axesfemme.com and click on “shop list” (run it through Google translate if needed) and you will find a list with addresses and maps.
Changing room etiquette in Japan
One thing you need to know about trying clothes on in Japan is that when you have found what you want to try, you must find a memeber of staff and tell them you want to try it. They will then show you to a changing room. Before you enter the changing room, even if its just a curtain you pull away, you must always take your shoes off and leave them outside the changing room. This is very important. If you dont take your shoes off they will tell you to do it. There might be some bigger clothing shops that allow you to keep your shoes on, like H&M. But as a general rule – take them off!
My favourite shopping area when it comes to clothing is Takeshita Dori. Where’s yours?