You Don't Have To Like Fashion To Love Harajuku!

Harajuku Girls
In this wild district absolutely
"anything goes" fashion-wise!

Harajuku is located in the northern portion of Shibuya ward and even though I don't care for fashion or shopping, this is still is one of my favorite districts in all of Tokyo. Two things I appreciate most while traveling are uniqueness and art. If you had to describe Harajuku in any two words except for the obligatory 'fashion' and 'shopping,' well it would undoubtedly be those.

The district, its' spirit, and of course its' original and indescribable street fashion is why the area is known worldwide as being not only the fashion capital of Tokyo but also the world. Countless ideas have sprung from Harajuku and numerous now-prominent designers proudly trace their inspiration to this humble little district.

Given the district's obvious status as a fashion-Mecca, it should be no surprise that Harajuku is also renowned for its clothes shopping. The area has two main shopping streets, Takeshita-dōri (Takeshita Street) and Omotesandō. Takeshita-dōri caters to youth fashions and has lots of small stores selling Gothic Lolita, visual kei, rockabilly, hip-hop, and punk outfits. If arriving via Harajuku Station you will most likely recognize the iconic entrance of Takeshita-dōri, located just a few feet from the station.

Upon exiting Harajuku Station visitors are greeted by the hallowed Takeshita-Dori

During my first visit to the district I arrived relatively early in the morning, anticipating a brief trip. The plan was to have a quick look around and then continue on to Yoyogi for more explorations there. As it turned out I was so impressed by the area and its unique spirit that I completely lost track of time. It was only when noticing shadows start to creep up the buildings that I realized the sun was setting and had spent my entire day in Harajuku.

The great gorilla of Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan

The streets of Harajuku, Tokyo, are always busy

While the vast majority of clothing and accessories here may not be a perfect fit to your style, that does not diminish the enjoyment of strolling the streets and browsing the stores. Everything little thing is incredibly interesting and so appealing that each second can only be described as a gift to your eyes.

  Yes, Harajuku is indeed a fantastic area for capturing great photographs. However when walking down Takeshita-dōri it is important to be polite and focus pictures more on the street as a whole and not single out any of the individual clothing stores. A vast majority of these stores have prominent English signs which read 'No Fucking Pictures' and 'Want Pics? Fuck Off!' and other colorful variations along the same theme.

Condomania, your one-stop-shop in Harajuku for all your condom needs

Progressing south from Takeshita towards Omotesandō the shops begin to transition from the gothic and youth-trendy independent shops into more upscale places aimed at the slightly older — or at least wealthier — shoppers also wandering the district. It begins gradually with Puma and Adidas and other brands along that tier but quickly becomes exclusively luxury stores. All the big names you would expect are there, such as Chanel, Prada, and Louis Vuitton to please all you ladies, but I was happy to see my personal favorite was also here: Burberry. (Touch is my scent after all)

Random old shrine in Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan

Although the prices along Takeshita-dōri were reasonable, the same cannot be said about the luxury stores of Omotesandō, which had clearly been built to satisfy local demand rather than entice visiting foreigners. None of these brands stock any extra mechandise that is unique to Harajuku. Instead their shelves are piled high with the same items found in their Western counterparts except at inflated prices, to reflect Tokyo's high cost of living. Keep that fact in mind as you shop and explore throughout the rest of this metropolis and be sure not to purchase anything that can be found at home for cheaper..

Turning down Omotesandō street the area steps up its level of quality by adding a small but soothing stream that runs lengthwise underneath the sidewalk and features regularly-spaced openings to highlight the flowing water. Following it will lead towards Omotesandō Hills, a mall with a decidedly unique and almost triangular shaped architecture. Inside the building several floors line the outer walls at a slight angle, allowing you to slowly circle your way up or down the structure, still passing each and every store along the way but without ever being obligated to transverse the optional staircases located in the middle of the structure. Although the architecture of this mall is quite intriguing, it is a shame that the same cannot be said about its' stores. The majority were aimed towards women yet none seemed to have anything really exciting.

Small corner coffee shop

Another notable section of Harajuku to explore is called "Ura-Hara" and its located off the main streets, in the alleys of the northeast. Ura-Hara is essentially just a collection of small, independent clothing shops with much more reasonable prices then the stores along the more prominent parts of the district. I found myself stopping in nearly every one of the shops I passed, mostly because everything was from Japanese manufacturers and no two had the same items.

The majority were fairly small — not quite as small as the bars in Nonbei Yokocho though — and they were definitely directed at a more youthful crowd then the shops of Omotesandō. The bulk of items for sale were still clothing, as with all of Harajuku, but this specific area was decidedly more about trendy t-shirts and other hip items more suitable for college students.

Regardless of which subsection you may be wandering, the shops of Harajuku are a wealth of clothing possibilities, even to those who may initially be skeptical of the style or worried items might clash with their wardrobe back home and never get worn. Given the large number of one-of-a-kind stores and their wide assortment of clothing, accessories and jewelery, finding a few fresh items to compliment your style is just a matter of recognizing the underlying potential of what you see. Being open to new ideas never hurts either.

Worth pointing out is that despite Harajuku's notoriety outside of Japan, the clothing sold here is targeted towards the locals and sizes offered are much better suited for people of a slightly smaller frame and stature than myself. Here is an easy rule of thumb: If you notice while walking the crowded Tokyo streets that you are significantly taller or wider than the folks which surround you, well I apologize for being the bearer of bad news but that unique Harajuku clothing just was not designed to fit you.

  What I Learned Clothes Shopping Along Takeshita-Dōri
  Female visitors will have a much easier time and more successful shopping experience thanks to the high number of stores specializing in ladies apparel. They also fare better at being able to fit into the limited range of sizes found here.
  Guys hoping to pick up some new clothes here will have a slightly tougher time, primarily due to their restrictive size. I would advise individuals taller than 6'1"-2" or with a waist size larger than a 32, you not to get your hopes up. Same goes for anyone with large biceps. Japanese shirts feature very narrow sleeves, several of mine became unwearable after the first wash.
  Even if the clothing hunt is not a complete success, everyone will still get immense pleasure and enjoyment from the scenery and sights while strolling through Harajuku.
  The near-endless supply of jewelery and accessories also sold in these shops is a great source of souvenirs for friends back home.

  Do you like people-watching? Perfect, Harajuku is one of the best places in the world to do it!

More Harajuku Girls

This is a district where crazy costumes, extreme hair and strange accessories are all just part of daily norm here, making the simple task of people-watching here unlike anywhere else. Local residents have long been recognized as possessing a great sense of style but that alone is not enough to stand out in Harajuku anymore. Individuals must also be highly-creative and fresh-thinker if they hope to stand any chance at designing a look that is worthy of representing Harajuku. And finally they must be able to pull it off. You never see anyone out here bring anything less than their A-game, especially on Sundays.

It has become a kind of rountine for local youths and cosplayers to come out every Sunday dressed to impress. Some outsiders may consider this gathering to be a simple or even silly social event and escape from reality, but to those involved it is often much more than that. Most are also quite proud of their costumes and treat these sundays as an opportunity to demonstrate their creativity and bold sense of style. After all, in a metropolis of nearly 37 million its no surprise than so many strive to be unique.

Visitors taking photographs of the weekly gathering and its participants are acceptable, although its advised to ask permission first (either verbally or with hand gestures) prior to snapping close-up shots of individuals or couples, as not all are comfortable being the center of attention. This is especially important with individuals encountered along the streets on normal weekdays.

The "Harajuku Girls" have always been my favorite and while most love posing for pictures, a few are still too shy. I've always been curious how many hours some of the have to spend getting all dressed up. Some of the hairstyles alone appear to have required hours of preparation!

  What do you think of the Harajuku style? Seen any wild fashion trends during your travels?

Published in Japan

So, you’ve been invited to a traditional Indian Hindu wedding. You are in for a treat, and also some work. What is rarely witnessed at these elaborate celebrations is all the effort, energy, and preparation that go into orchestrating the 3+ days of events, which marry colorful fabrics, robust, rich food flavors and pulsating rhythms. Then again, masters of any craft have the incredible ability of making the most difficult tasks look effortless.

>All that is required to breeze through and bask in the glow that is this stunning series of ceremonies is an open mind, the willingness to learn, and lots of (fun) practice. While it may be work, the fruit of your labor, getting an intimate glimpse into one of the richest cultures of the world, is well worth it.

Rule #1: During a first encounter with an elder (you can gauge age by comparing them to other folks around you, usually 70 yrs. + is elder status), greet him/her by saying “kem cho” (how are you in Gujarati) and reach down to touch their toes. This is done as a sign of respect.

  Event & Attire Shortlist

Don’t wear red (one of the bride's colors), or white (a color worn for Hindu funerals).

Mehndi (bride's family) (very casual)

women traditional-salwar kameez with sandals.
women western-maxi dress or comfortable pants/jeans and top.
men traditional/western-jeans or shorts and shirts and casual shoes.

Raas-Garba (bride and groom’s families and friends) (business casual)

women traditional- chaniya cholis and comfortable dancing shoes.
women western- nice/casual dress and shoes.
men traditional-kurta pyjama (also known jabho langho) and sandals or slippers.
men western-nice slacks and button down shirts and comfortable shoes for dancing.

Grah Shanti (bride’s family) (very casual)

women traditional-salwar kameez.
women western-casual pants and tops.
men traditional-kurta pyjama/jabho langho or pants and polo shirts. Shoes can be sandals or flats.

Wedding Ceremony (bride and groom’s families and friends) (formal attire)

women traditional-saree and sandals.
women western-elegant dress and heels
men traditional-sherwani and pointed slippers.
men western-suits and dress shoes.

Reception (bride and groom’s families and friends) (business casual)

women traditional- chaniya choli or saree whichever will be most comfortable.
women western-nice dresses and sandals, flats or heels.
men traditional-kurta pyjama/jabho langho or sherwani and dancing shoes.
men western-nice pants and button down shirts or suits.

Modern Hindu wedding guide: Mehndi party
Mehndi party

Mehndi (bride’s family) (very casual): This is a henna (tattoos made with special plant-based dye) party for the females, which happens the night before the Raas-Garba. The men usually hang out in a space next to where the women are getting henna-fied. They meet up with the women to help them eat (since they cannot use their hands for several hours) at the buffet-style dinner later in the evening.

Mehndi Clothing: Dress is very casual. Women wear traditional salwar kameez (skinny cloth pants and long sleeveless, cap-sleeved or long sleeved tops, a dupatta or scarf is optional). Choose clothing that will be comfortable while you sit for several hours. Maxi dresses or comfortable jeans and tops are options. Sandals are the typical footwear, although these are always left at the entryway in Indian homes. Men wear jeans or shorts and shirts.

Raas-Garba (bride and groom’s families and friends) (business casual): This event is similar to a Western reception. The night before the wedding, guests eat; drink, unless they happen to be in a dry state (which we were in when attending a wedding in Gujarat, India) or prefer not to for religious reasons, and dance Raas (male folk dance) and Garba (traditional Gujarat state dance). Let’s Do Garba Instructional Video

Modern Hindu wedding guide: Candle lighting at Raas-Garba
Candle lighting at Raas-Garba

The Raas-Garba begins with a prayer and lighting of a candle by the bride and groom. Guests form different circles (the goal is to dance in the largest circle, as people congregate to the best dancer’s circle) throughout the night and dance to non-stop music. Waiters usually walk around with trays of water to keep everyone hydrated. There is a buffet-style dinner of traditional vegetarian Indian fare, including dal (lentils and spices).

Modern Hindu wedding guide: Chaniya choli for Raas-Garba
Chaniya choli for Raas-Garba

Raas-Garba Clothing: Women wear chaniya (also known as lehenga) cholis
(3-piece traditional Indian dance outfit, which includes a cap sleeved blouse, skirt and dupatta, long piece of fabric, wrapped diagonally around the front to cover the exposed midriff, it is shorter than the dupatta used for sarees). Dancing can be done barefoot, or with comfortable dancing shoes that won’t slip off throughout all the turns and jumps. Closed-toed flats are usually best. Men wear kurta pyjama (also known jabho langho) (skinny pants and a long shirt with a slit neck). On their feet they can choose sandals or slippers. For Western clothing, women can wear nice dresses and nice slacks and button down shirts are appropriate for the men. Again, shoes accompanying the outfits should be appropriate for dancing.

Modern Hindu wedding guide: Chaniya choli and bungdi slid onto and tied to the dupatta (in order to hold the pattern)
Chaniya choli and bungdi slid onto and tied to the dupatta (in order to hold the pattern)

Modern Hindu wedding guide: Men's kurta pyjama/jabho langho. Right: Chaniya choli and example of braided hair extension
Men's kurta pyjama/jabho langho. Right: Chaniya choli and example of braided hair extension

Raas-Garba Accessories: Women wear an abundance of bungdi (bangles). Ladies select about a dozen for each arm in colors that will complement their chaniya choli. The bangles are arranged into a pattern, which must be the same on both arms. This can take up to 30 minutes to do. A ‘set’ (earrings, usually elaborate dangly ones, ring and necklace) is also worn.

Raas-Garba Hair and Makeup: These are usually done at a salon, similar to the process for Western weddings. Guests ask for a variety of up-dos or down-dos. In India, they also supply hair extensions or braid extensions (as shown in photo). Colorful flowers or similar hair adornments are worn. Makeup is done with a lot of heavy eyeliner, to accentuate the eyes and a sparkly bindi (gem pressed between the eyebrows) is worn to protect the wearer from bad spirits.

Modern Hindu wedding guide: Grah Shanti offering ceremony
Grah Shanti offering ceremony

Grah Shanti (bride’s family) (very casual): This is a type of puja (prayer) ceremony done the morning of the wedding. The family of the bride and those closest to her gather to make different offerings to the Hindu Gods to ensure a blessed ceremony and union. A priest blesses the fruits, nuts and small item offerings, which the bride’s family will give to the groom’s family later in the day.

There is also a ‘grab the sweet’ game. To play, a small mound of what looks to be clay, but is actually a grey-colored sweet called kuler, is placed in the center of a circle. The eldest male protects the sweet clay-like substance from capture by the eldest aunt by swatting at the her with a large, knotted cloth as she lounges for the treat. There is drumming, impromptu Garba dancing and a buffet-style meal.

Modern Hindu wedding guide: examples of different salwar kameez at Grah Shanti
Examples of different salwar kameez at Grah Shanti

Grah Shanti Clothing: Women wear the salwar kameez or casual Western clothing and men wear kurta pyjama/jabho langho or pants and polo shirts. Shoes can be sandals or flats.

Wedding Ceremony (bride and groom’s families and friends) (formal attire): The traditional wedding colors are green, red and white. Don’t wear red, or white (a color worn for Hindu funerals).

The three-hour ceremony takes place on a circular stage adorned with flowers and crystals.

Modern Hindu wedding guide: Wedding ceremony stage
Wedding ceremony stage

The groom arrives at the venue with a group of dancers and small parade. In India, he will ride into the venue parking lot on a horse. He and his family are the first to take the stage. Once there, the bride’s family comes to them to present the offerings, which were blessed earlier in the day at the Grah Shanti. Guests mill around, chat, and eat at the International buffet-style dinner, which serves dishes like Waldorf salad, pastas, and even Mexican fare. The bride and groom’s immediate families do not eat until the end of the ceremony.

Modern Hindu wedding guide: Groom's arrival at wedding, accompanied by dancers and drummers
Groom's arrival at wedding, accompanied by dancers and drummers

A cloth is placed in front of the groom to block his view as the male members of the bride’s family carry her to the stage. On the stage, the females in her family shake small, decorated cans filled with metal to ward off bad spirits. A bit of black eyeliner has also been marked behind her ear to keep the evil spirits at a distance.

Modern Hindu wedding guide: The sapta padi
The sapta padi

Everyone pays attention to the sapta padi (walking of seven steps/vows) around a sacred fire:

  1. Plentitude of food.
  2. Mental and physical strength and a healthy life free from ailments.
  3. For the successful performance of their spiritual duties.
  4. Happiness in all walks of life.
  5. Prayer for the welfare of all living beings.
  6. Bountiful seasons all over the world.
  7. Prayer and sacrifice for universal peace.

As in other ceremonies, there are small games to keep guests entertained. One of which is the groom’s shoe hide-and-seek. The groom’s shoe is hidden at the beginning of the wedding ceremony. Whoever finds it, presents it to him and asks for money as a reward. The groom, if he wishes that his marriage goes well, is obligated to give the cash reward.

The marriage is confirmed after the tying of the manga sutra (sacred thread) or with the sapta padi. After that, a receiving line forms and the guests congratulate the couple and gift them envelopes filled with cash (the standard Hindu wedding gift). At the end of the night there is an emotional farewell between the bride and her family, accompanied by sad, traditional songs. The luggage she has packed to take to her new family's home (the groom's family) is blessed and she is pulled away from her parents' embraces and whisked off to her in-laws.

Modern Hindu wedding guide: Examples of men's sherwani and women's saree
Examples of men's sherwani and women's saree

Wedding Ceremony Clothing (Accessories, Hair and Makeup similar to Raas-Garba): Men wear sherwani (a long coat, which can be paired with a sleeveless under-vest and pants). Pointed slippers are the shoes of choice. The groom wears this, in addition to a safo (also known as a turban) (head wrap). Ladies wear saree (petticoat in same color as the dupatta scarf, with the dupatta wrapped around the waist, tucked into the petticoat and pinned and pleated across the chest and midriff, a capped sleeve half blouse is also worn). Women wear sandals for footwear. If opting for Western clothes, men may wear suits and dress shoes. Ladies should put on elegant dresses and heels. How to Wrap a Saree Instructional Video

Modern Hindu wedding guide: Examples of sarees
Examples of sarees

Reception (bride and groom’s families and friends) (business casual): This is the last of the events and is hosted by the groom’s family. In India, the reception is literally just a receiving line. The bride and groom, along with the groom’s family, spend several hours on a stage greeting congratulatory guests armed with envelopes of cash. All of this is filmed and broadcast on a giant screen near the buffet tables. Again, International fare is served for dinner.

In the United States, Hindu wedding receptions tend to be more Western-esque, consisting of eating, drinking and dancing. In India, they are obviously much more of a cultural affair, and can vary greatly depending upon ethnicity and local traditions.

Reception Clothing (Accessories, Hair and Makeup similar to Raas-Garba): Women can wear either chaniya choli or saree whichever will be most comfortable. For a western style, a nice dress and shoes will suffice. Men too can decide between kurta pyjama/jabho langho and sherwani. And for a western look, nice pants and button downs or a suit are appropriate. Shoes, especially for receptions in the U.S., should be made for dancing.

Any Questions?

Published in India

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