32 thoughts on “Japanese Fashion”

  1. That photo is indeed unfortunate. I doubt the author of the article chose the image to be associated with the article.

    The article’s author, Alexandra Harney, who I recently met and is fluent in Japanese, does have strong Japanese creds.

  2. This article is guilty of something most articles about Japan are guilty of, and that is the synecdoche where Tokyo *is* Japan. 109 or Harajuku may be where the fashion mags and foreign press go to scout out the latest trends in fashion (and thus publish them in magazines that may have country-wide readership), but I have a hard time believing that it represents under-25 fashion for the whole country or that it represents the canary in the coal mine for the luxury brands.

  3. But when it comes to fashion trend,Tokyo IS Japan.No?
    Anyway I’ll leave it to Marxy to do justice on this case….

  4. “But when it comes to fashion trend,Tokyo IS Japan.No?”
    I’m with Peter. Tokyo is definitely Japan’s center of mainstream high end fashion, but other regions do have their own styles, and even though Tokyo is very much the largest source and the largest market it is NOT the be all and end all. I’m about as far as an expert on fashion as you can get (as any of our readers who have seen me wearing clothes that I bought myself can attest to) but, as one minor example, at a party with people from my class a few months back I remember hearing some of the girls discussing fashionable hairstyles particular to Kobe, although please don’t ask me to identify what those might be.

    It is unfair to deride the article based on the photo though. At least, as long as the writer wasn’t involved. I mean, we all know the photo is more or less unrelated to the actual contents of the article, but is there anything really “wrong” in the article that isn’t due to both its intended audience and shortness?

  5. BTW, I believe Marxy has also on occasion been guilty of the “Tokyo is Japan” synecdoche. I do hope you come to Kyoto some time so I can show you around a bit.

  6. In the case of fashion, “Tokyo is Japan” is right for the most part because “fashion” is not a democratic phenomenon. When talking about Fashion — the industry — it revolves around Tokyo. Almost every magazine is here, plus all the major stores and boutiques, and the city is the arbiter of tastes. When it comes to fashion — the social act of wearing clothes — yes, there are regional differences. But lots of Osaka styles, for example, would be seen as gauche by the Tokyo standard — a standard which controls the “legitimate” style in the press. For example, Oniikei style is very popular in Osaka, and while popular in Tokyo, is seen as “bad yankii taste” by people high up on the Tokyo style hierarchy.

    Kobe does have its own style, based on the wealthy families that lived there. In the late ’70s, there was the Nyutora (New Traditional) boom where Tokyo girls looked to Kobe shinise as the country’s most stylish place to buy clothes. So it does happen when non-Tokyo styles move into the pantheon, but it’s rare and usually conditional. Hamatora was centered around Yokohama — another rich port city. Fashion follows money, and Tokyo usually has all the money too.

    As for the luxury brands, the data I have seen suggests that Kansai young women are still enamored with Louis Vuitton etc, while Tokyo girls are “over it.” There are differences, but the Japanese themselves weigh Tokyo tastes at a much higher importance than other ones.

  7. I see a LOT less LV etc. around Kyoto than in the past. The pawn shops are just full of the stuff. I imagine style varies quite a bit between Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe. Lately I’m seeing a lot more women (of various ages) with bags from 一澤帆布, which is local a Kyoto brand that actually dates back to the Edo period.


    Amazingly I ran across an NYT article about this store from 1988! Interestingly, the 1988 article does not mention the large woman’s purse style bags that I think have become their mainstay item.


  8. 一澤帆布 has been popular among those who flock around MUJI shops for years.Not particulary a recent phenomenon.
    I believe they had somekind of family fued with between the CEO and his brother,NO?

  9. No it’s not new, but I’m noticing it more. Of course, that could just be ever since my friend made me take her there when she was visiting from Taiwan.

    There are actually two Ichizawa stores, almost exactly across the street from one another. The original is 一澤帆布工業 (Ichizawa Hanpu Kogyo) and the breakaway is 一澤信三郎帆布 (Ichizawa Sanzaburo Hanpu), which formed in 2006 when some kind of succession disagreement led the younger brother to split with a bunch of the staff. My friend was very amused by this situation, as she said that it happens constantly in Taiwan with similar businesses.

  10. I had the rich port city fashion, as well as what I remember as being fashion–in this case, the social act of wearing clothers–from living in Saitama, Kanagawa, and both sides of Tokyo.

    My point is not only that articles for which the intended audience is probably unfamiliar with Japan shouldn’t necessarily use Tokyo as a microcosm for Japan, at least without making mention of that use. This particular article didn’t especially bug me, but the implication for all but two sentences of the article is that women who once bought high-ticket luxury items are now dressing like rodeo clowns. And the western fascination with wacky news from Japan only gets fed by these misconceptions (citation needed?).

    The author’s message in this article is perhaps that the relatively voracious appetite for high street luxury brands in East Asia is dropping off, while the industry of inexpensive fashion seems if anything to be growing. That to me is more of a “Tale of Two Cities” type of article; or, given my gripe about the overuse of synecdoche, maybe it should be the tale of just one…

  11. Considering “The Atlantic” was the very magazine that had cover story titled “Containing Japan” by James Fallows twenty years ago,I see the report pretty harmless.

    Not exactly a fashionista,but I was born in Chiba,lived in Saitama,studied in Kanagawa and has been working in Tokyo for the past thirty years and still don’t see much difference in the fashion taste.I know people walking the streets in Daikanyama are more fashionable than people wondering the malls in Funabashi.
    But that doesn’t mean there’s a huge difference in trend nor any local culture of dress codes.Now living in Nagoya and I can still say the same.

  12. “And the western fascination with wacky news from Japan only gets fed by these misconceptions (citation needed?).”

    FN – See Neojaponisme, Mutantfrog posts for the last half decade.

  13. I think you mean more Neomarxisme. After all, his new site is only a year old.

    “This particular article didn’t especially bug me, but the implication for all but two sentences of the article is that women who once bought high-ticket luxury items are now dressing like rodeo clowns.”
    Yeah. As is well documented there are loads of girls in Japan who are into luxury items and loads of girls in Japan who are into dressing like rodeo clowns, but these are pretty damn discrete categories. Although I’d like to see a photo of the tiny bit of overlap in the Venn diagram.

  14. Others have made the point before but we really shouldn’t blame the authors for the photos & headlines which accompany articles because they are rarely, if ever, involved with the selection. Of course, as far as the casual reader is concerned, they serve to make up a whole, so the sub-editor’s contribution can’t simply be ignored. However, the comment by Peter that “the implication for all but two sentences of the article is that women who once bought high-ticket luxury items are now dressing like rodeo clowns.” doesn’t seem right to me. Most of the article is about what people aren’t buying: there isn’t much on what they are buying. Whatever else its shortcomings, it is the photo that gives the rodeo clown impression and not the text.

    I criticize foreign coverage of Japan on a regular basis but we perhaps need to be careful of demanding standards which are either not suitable or not attainable. What is perhaps more interesting is when an article, like the one in the Washington Post linked below, mentions in apssing how our view of Japan is skewed and yet still manages to refer to the country as a “small island nation”.


  15. If Japan is a “small island nation” then what is Britain, Ireland or Taiwan, or poor Singapore?

  16. And has a higher population than Australia, which doesn’t count as a “small island nation” because the geologists somehow qualified it as a continent.

  17. I remember when I was interviewed by Mongolian daily reporter,she used this “small island nation” along with me being entitled “the man who fell in love with Mongolia and it’s woman”…..
    Well,no doubt Japan is a “small” and “island” compared to the U.S and Mongolia,so they are not wrong about that!

    Harney is fluent in Japanese according to this interview

    re:Photos and headlines that accompany articles
    I remember wt least two authors had been criticized in J-media twice.
    Ian Buruma wrote a piece for NY times magazine titled “A New Japanese Nationalism”back in the ’87 with cover phpto of Umehara Takeshi standing with Torii of Yasukuni Shrine in the back.Umehara complained this over Chuo-Koron and two made the debate for two month with Ivan.P Hall wedged in later.

    Another was by Selig Harrison,former WaPo Tokyo Bureau chief in the 70’s and now director of the Asia Program for Center for International Policy.Harrison has some connection with Pyongyang and visit there periodically as some sort of a messenger.Now he wrote a piece in WaPo(I think) on potential Japanese nuclearization during the Korean nuclear crisis in ’94 with a cartoon of a big mushroom cloud.Mainichi made an interview with the author and cross-questione what is the basis of his observation and what’s with the cloud.Mainichi only got thew usual “I-didn’t-pick-the picture-editors-did”reply.But then,we all know Harrison has been saying this out loud to elsewhere and that is partially why he has some credence from Pyongyang and thus appointed as the errand boy.

  18. It would be hard to argue that Japan is a small country by population because it is still 10th in the world with twice the population of France or the UK….

    Anyway, let’s face it, when most Japanese or Americans say that Japan is a “small island nation” they mean compared to the US.

  19. This is off-topic, but I have to say so far I really like the idea of Asahi Globe and I hope they will expand this approach to their domestic coverage.

    And where else can you find any Japan media coverage of 経済学者ヌリエル・ルビーニ

  20. ”Globe” is brain child of Funabashi Youichi,who is now the senior editor of Asahi Shimbun.Reading the various reports,it seems he originally wanted make a whole new quality paper that is completely independent from Asahi but turns out to be impossible considering the current decline of ad income.
    Not sure how the future is going to be,but considering Asahi is now losing money for the first time in 130 years,the fate of Globe is connected with Funabashi.If he goes,so will Globe.

  21. Governor Ishihara said this about the Beijing Olympics and Tokyo’s bid (no link):

    “Returning to Japan, I was asked, ‘How was the opening ceremony?’ In a sense, I thought this was good example of what we should not do. Compared to China with its one billion-plus population, Japan, with just 130 million people, cannot easily do anything so manpower-intensive.”

    As M-Bone points out, only the United States, China, India, Indonesia, Brazil and Russia have significantly larger populations than Japan so the idea of not being able to manage something manpower-intensive seems a little odd.

  22. I saw on the ACCJ job site that he is looking for a gaijin assistant to help research foreign affairs… wonder what is up with that.

    Well, I am hoping that the Asahi imprints will start a really aggressive online presence that can maybe live on after the papers themselves collapse. I would love to see an Asahi-inspired “media for smart people” site, kind of like the new Daily Beast:

    I think if he weren’t tied to Asahi maybe he could have done somethng like J-Cast and lost money for a few years in a long-term effort to make money.

  23. “As M-Bone points out, only the United States, China, India, Indonesia, Brazil and Russia have significantly larger populations than Japan so the idea of not being able to manage something manpower-intensive seems a little odd.”

    Meh, I say If they ever get the chance to do an Olympic opening ceremony again, they should play on their strengths. Meaning: robots.

  24. Funabashi has been hiring group of researchers for his works at Asahi,mostly for “World Briefing” on Weekly Asahi and “Japan@World”on Asahi proper.He also writes books occasionary.

Comments are closed.