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Tokyo street fashion and culture: 1980 – 2017 (google.com)
298 points by drops on July 15, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 50 comments

If you want to discover Japanese culture via photography, I would suggest Daido Moriyama[1], [2], [3]. All NSFW-ish. He has a great look into what lies beyond the surface in Japanese culture. For more night culture, Kohei Yoshiyuki[4]





For any fans of Moriyama I'd also like to recommend Ko-Ji Yamasaki, who's been documenting his life in Osaka for more than twelve years now and publishing everything online: http://www.yamasakiko-ji.com/

The book "Setting Sun: Writings by Japanese Photographers" (Aperture 2005) is excellent and contains essays and photos by many of the greats (including Moriyama): http://aperture.org/shop/setting-sun-books/ -- however it's out of print now and used copies seem to be quite expensive, but libraries might have it.

> what lies beyond the surface

The disconnect I find as a westerner in Japan is that while we fetishize counter culture, there's so much codified "surface". We're obsessed with individualism, but that's a distorted lens to view Japan and much of Asia through. Universal conformity was the most unnerving attribute for me.

I dunno. It's part of their identity. It's just different.

It may be uncomfortable for foreigners to know how to navigate the different aspects of their society, but it's theirs and when I'm there, I adjust to them, while keeping my own. It's a balance and for me it depends on how much time you want to spend over there and in what manner.

If you're on assignment for a year or two, sure, make friends with other ex-pats, make superficial friendships with the locals. But if you're going to stay a while, forget the ex-pats, get engrossed in the local culture and adapt to it, make local friends, learn the language and culture. Not saying go native, if you were to have children there, that would be for them to do (as much as they can fit-in), but don't stick out like a sore thumb out of spite.

I couldn't agree more about ditching the expats. The flip side of "conformity" (a loaded word) is the overwhelming sense that you're in good hands and will be wherever you go, because people adhere to and enforce a high standard from the bottom up. When I return to America, I feel like the country has no footing, and gets more unwieldy by the minute. The important point is that all decisions are trade-offs, and neither East nor West has the standing or authority to really judge the other.

In my opinion, there's a lot of talk about how Japan or Asia is different, perhaps with truth and perhaps also with the idea of orientalism. In my view, the different cultures have different expressions of the individual, and likewise their expressions of conformity differ too. I also think that we may have trouble seeing this because it's all we have experienced, perhaps also the bias of categorising as conformity when there are many non-conformists.

The truth is that I've heard the line about conformity a lot, and it's made me think about how conformity exhibits itself in the West, and I think that fails at least partially because "the West" is such a big mass of different cultures, and of course the same applies to the East. You may deny this, but could that be a bias of assuming conformity when thre is little at play?

I don't mean to be attacking or even disputing your point, but personally it's an issue I have struggled with. Many humans desire to be the same, to be around the same people, so where might I fit in if I want to be accepted? To be either a perpetual foreigner treated well for being a foreigner, or a perpetual foreigner treated poorly for being a foreigner. These options are greatly saddening to me. Is it a matter of accepting my condition that I cannot conform by no fault of my own, or to attempt to steer society away from the pressure of conformity which drives many people to such sadness and suffering? Am I, as you say, obsessed with individualism to say this?

Sorry for the rambling post.

Not the person you were replying to, but just chiming in- I (white guy) spent my childhood in SE Asia, as my Dad was a US diplomat.

If I were to distill the entirety of my experiences down to a single, most-salient point, it was and is that people are stunningly similar across the globe. Sure, there are cultural differences. But for the most part, once you learn the base value structure of your new environment, the way people act is pretty much exactly like you would expect them to, given the variables and 'givens' in play. Yes, Japan, China, Korea etc are all different than the West. But it only takes a few months of effort before you figure out the basics, and it is just as easy to do as an adult as a child. You just have to be open to new experiences.

Well worth it, in my opinion.

That chimes with my experience travelling in China a lot in the late 80s and early 90s. I was travelling on business sometimes as much as two months at a time and working closely with local people installing and debugging machinery in factories. One of the most interesting places was Jiexi in south China four hours on a dirt road from the nearest airport. Most of the houses were rammed earth but the place had a lively market (it was a 'small' town of about 30k people) and a substantial concrete multi-story overseas Chinese hotel where we stayed. The hotel lobby was one of the few places in town that had a television so it was always crowded with locals watching it. In conversations with people there (mostly through our interpreter) it was clear that the ambitions of most people there were much the same as where I come from (UK but living in Norway); they want a house to live in, a fridge, a washing machine, a television, a decent income, and a better life for their children.

I'd include the late 90s books Fruits, and Fresh Fruits...

For images there are great finds in Pinterest and Instagram, but I'd start with this Gimages link:


I will say from personal experience that Japan is one of the few places in the world I have seen many male fashion victims. To be clear, I enjoy expressive fashion, and I don't mean people who have an expensive or even outrageous or ovewrought sense of taste, instead I refer to those people who read multiple fashion magazines and wear ALL of the things.

Yes, definitely. Pick up the early FRUiTS books by Phaidon for a great, enlivening and colorful overview of 90s street fashion and youth. These images of creativity are what first got me really interested in traveling to JP.

I know this has nothing to do with the article, but the UI/UX for this site feels so off-putting It's like a worse version of the windows 8 start screen. Can't even middle click the scroll wheel and navigate with gestures.

I wouldn't mind seeing a piece on Shiyuba fashion though

Agreed, its' pretty unusable.

It's also dry and and aesthetically displeasing given the content of the site.

Agreed. Very frustrating to use just like many of Google's content oriented sites. The only google property that just works is Maps. Everything else, I feel like they're trying to impose their silly UI standards on you and you have to work around them.

I was confused what you meant because I read it on my phone, where it just scrolls normally - vertically, with pictures followed by text and no scroll shenanigans. Then I clicked the link on desktop.

Kept jumping up even further after I scrolled up on my android tablet, which made it a total pain when it referenced earlier styles.

So, wait, what are we looking at?


Is this like a Medium.com content publishing platform?

From the about page:


Their javascript is complete crap. It is a pain in the ass to navigate on the phone and hardly better on desktop.

Enjoyable collection but somewhat a little bland.

You hear about all the wild stuff you'd see in Sninjuku and this was rather mild. The most provocative was one Ganguroo pic.

My uneducated guess was that these pictures represent the "official" and branded street culture.

That is these pics represent something you could actually buy with relative ease and not make yourself.

I didn't see any gothic lolitas and those are just something that westerners would know about.

There must be 100s of substyles that are one-offs and produced by individuals.

Anyone know of more "street" pictures?

I agree, I have been in Japan few times and love to see the diversity in fashion there.

I think a huge group (and the original reason I got interested in Japan) is the [Neo] Visual Kei (ヴィジュアル系) [1] movement. It was a cultural movement both from music and fashion that isn't even mentioned here.

Edit/note: for the more pictures, you surely want to find the fashion "branch", then find the name in Japanese and use that to search them (make sure Google is not limiting your searches as well). That is a part of a culture that mainly uses Japanese IMHO, similar to some parts of robotics that I see IRL but cannot find online.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_kei

> My uneducated guess was that these pictures represent the "official" and branded street culture.

It represents the prevailing trend of an entire year. Which is to say, what is the most popular. So yeah, its going to trim away the fringe, and that does end up being a lot to cut away.

Seems like it was a slice of fashionable items that a typical person would wear and no one would think was strange/what a lot of people would inspire to dress like.

There are some strange styles you'll see in Tokyo, but people there also think they're kind of strange (less so than in the US) and the wearers are trying to stand out.

I thought it was pretty bland too. Figured there'd be at least one or two rockabilly and heavy metal photos from the 1980s.

> There must be 100s of substyles that are one-offs and produced by individuals.

There are about as many styles as individuals if you go in Harajuku, so not sure if it makes sense to try to classify them at all in the end. It's changing constantly too, and while there are always trends there is a strong chaotic element to it.

these are the kinds of pictorials that cause me to discard the "America is the most creative" narrative i've been hearing all my life.

yes. America is creative. but so is, like, the rest of the world 'n stuff.

America is just kind of whatever plus guns.

Well that was surprisingly tiring! I started to imagine keeping up with all those styles as they were happening -- sounds expensive. Fashion is inherently, I think, of the moment... in the "now"... and to lay out 37 years' worth of it in a row like that, has the probably unintended effect of laying bare its impermanence, frivolity (not in a good way) and unimportance. Grandpa comment.

Aw. Cute.

For a good sense of what's happening now, see this walk through Harajuku at 2160p.[1] At that resolution, all the clothing details are visible.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiQ4YDH3g80

Note that this is from 2014 though. I'd say it's already quite different based on what I saw during my time there last year.

For me what I noticed was pretty demure, neutral colours, relaxed fits, back to focusing more on quality of texture, build and fit over everything else. Plus a dash of the streetwear/sneakerhead style that is super popular all over the world right now.

What is Google Arts & Culture? How long has it been around?

It's the new name of the Google Art Project, which has been around since February 2011.

The photos are all black and white until 1984, when they're all suddenly in color. Was there any particular advancement in color photography in 1984?

Not really. Most traditional photographers either tried or went color in the '60s. Some traditionalists insisted that real, serious photography was only done in B&W. This sentiment carries on to this day with film photogs. Some continue to think B&W is serious and color is for pop/sugary stuff/commercial.

Color was a bit more expensive but I don't think that was the main driver. On the other hand, if the photo was for mass circulation/publishing, printing in color was more expensive --but the photography itself not so much.

It seems like a lot of the simpler styles - even as far back as the mid 1980s would probably work without sticking out a whole lot even now. I suppose there's a universal lesson of some sort in that.

Funny thing... Most of these pictures are still valid today.

Just a heads up to UK residents, the BBC iPlayer currently has a wealth of Japanese culture videos, including street fashion

Last time I was in Japan, the "wolf boy" haircut (sorry, I can't remember the Japanese word to describe this) was still quite popular even though it was passé. Then I was at the airport in the Philippines and there were some Japanese flying to Tokyo, and all the boys had the same haircut. Man, that cut will never die.

There's a very well put together video about the history of Tokyo street fashion and music from the 70s till today on YouTube. Worth a watch for the visuals alone:


For those fascinated on the subject of Japanese fashion trends, I'm pleased to recommend http://neojaponisme.com/category/fashion-2/

If you liked the story, you'll like this video of 40 years of Japanese street fashion: https://youtu.be/xmsxWmKz-B8

Personally, I think the best way to get a snapshot of the fashion of the times (apparel, makeup, hairstyle, shoes) is to watch a few of the popular TV dramas from each year.

Ah I always thought that Gyaru and Gal were the same fashion style slightly lost in translation, but now I see that they were actually different styles!

"Gyaru" is simply how "gal" is pronounced in Japanese, so it's an inconsistency in translation.

However, kogyaru and ganguro are different styles. Gyaru is effectively a superset of the two, as well as some other styles.

Néojaponisme has an interesting look back at the history of gyaru and the different styles (though unfortunately the pictures are rather few, and I have no idea where Part Four is): http://neojaponisme.com/2012/02/28/the-history-of-the-gyaru-...

That (and inner links) is an awesome peak into Japanese culture, thank you

god damn it, that website feels like a fashion style itself.

What a horrible navigation. You can't freely scroll at your own pace, advancing with the keyboard is inconsistent, and what's worse, zoom is busted with keyboard and trackpad. This is a disservice to people with disabilities and people without them.

What's so wrong about regular scrolling? Why do designers feel the need to fight agains the browser? When a site decides to re-engineer basic user interactions (zoom, scrolling), the user has to focus on learning new behaviors instead of consuming your content (which is what they should be focused on).

The web has great UI patterns. Use them. Don't fight them.


For exactly this reason I did not go past page 3. If I want to flip pages I buy the book (or make my own).

Good thing Google lectures us on how we should design our apps and websites, they know how to do it.

Ever since the dot-com days, with print media started thinking they needed a web presence, there have been those that have tried to recreate the experience of flipping pages online.

Initially this was done using full window flash layouts.

These days it is an abuse of JS and HTML5.

What's up with the navigation? Horrific on mobile.

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