Before you go to Japan, you may have all sorts of thoughts about what the popular fashion trends are. Kimono? Yukata? Fundoshi?
Okay, hopefully you don’t think fundoshi (sumo undies) are the latest trend in Tokyo, but just like almost every place, Japan has its own set of stereotypes made up by foreigners.
Here are a few Japanese fashion stereotypes:
“Everyone’s super fashionable”
Japan is pretty well known for all of its fashionable youngsters and trends, with many people wearing brightly colored, crazy clothing and dying their hair every color of the rainbow. (You might be thinking, “Oh, I can finally dye my hair green and fit in! This place is for me!” “Platforms here I come!”) With all the street snap websites around, showing multiple pictures of different fashionable young people, there’s no wonder that you might think everyone’s fashionable. But of course, not everyone dresses like this. I’m pretty sure you won’t see your Japanese friend’s grandmother sporting rocking horse shoes and ash pink hair (but that would be pretty cool sight). The street snap websites I’ve seen almost always have pictures from the Harajuku/Shinjuku area. Just like where you come from, there are people who choose whatever clothes they want to wear regardless of fashion. Sometimes, it also depends on what the person does for a living, like students in sailor fuku and salarymen in suits.
“The Japanese wear kimonos everyday”
When you think of Japan, the words ‘geisha’ and ‘kimono’ probably come to mind. So you might think, “Yeah the Japanese wear kimonos everyday duh.” This used to be the case until about 60 years ago when other types of clothing gained popularity over kimono. Nowadays, Japanese people rarely wear kimono and yukata in everyday life, although you might see a traditional obaasan sporting one once in a while when going out. A lot of people in Japan don’t even own a kimono because they are so expensive. A yukata is a more casual, less expensive version of a kimono and is appropriately worn at Japanese summer festivals. During Coming of Age Day, on the second Monday of January annually, everyone who has turned 20 in the past year dresses up in kimono and yukata and celebrates with friends and family with parties and such.
“In Japan, everyone cosplays!”
Perhaps you’re one of those people who have watched a lot of anime depicting maids, cosplayers, mascots, etc. walking around the streets of Japan. “Wow, this is my country! I have to go there!” You might say. But if you’ve watched enough anime (like me), you know that not all anime depicts real life situations (uhh magical girls, gundam, titans?!). Even during an anime convention, you will most likely not see cosplayers walking around outside the convention area. In Japan, there are designated areas to dress up in your cosplay during a convention, and it is advised not to ride on public transport in cosplay. There are also maid and butler cafes in certain areas of Japan, so you might see a maid handing out flyers here and there, but not really walking around the city. Mascots may be seen more often around, promoting a store or something, but I wouldn’t recommend you jump in a fur suit and go shopping.
Japanese fashion is not one clear cut stereotype. It’s normal to have those first ideas about a certain country, but if you’re going to travel to Japan, it’s best to keep an open mind. And don’t worry about having to change your fashion to fit in with the Japanese population, unless you want too.
Know of any other Japanese fashion stereotypes, post it in the comments below?