When it comes to street culture and trends, Tokyo is undoubtedly at the top of the food chain. Every gadget you could ever dream up, a never ending stream of accessories, the brightest and most obscure cartoon characters and toys ever conceived of by the mind of man and a never ending supply of luminous wigs, stockings and outfits to choose from round every corner. One of Japans’ 47 prefectures, with a population of 8.653 million people living in Tokyo’s 23 wards, life in the city is a constant buzz of rushing feet and bicycles.
The place to start if we’re talking trends and fashion is he Harajuku district. Harajuku is famous the world over as the place that’s host to hordes of Japanese teens and their crazy cosplay outfits. Harajuku was originally an area for the families of US soldiers to call home during WW2. The clothing stores in the area brought middle and upper class Japanese and American clientele from across the city, and turned Harajuku into Tokyo’s fashion forward district. Today it has two main shopping streets, Omotesand and Takeshita Street. Takeshita Street is where the cosplay addict can dive into any of the tiny stores and emerge a hundred different colours and a completely different character. If you aren’t as brave as that, the head over to Ura-Hara, for the brand name stores that peddle the more day to day brand name clothing. Goth, Lolita, Rockabilly, Punk or character styles are all available by the bucket. Harajuku is Tokyo’s answer to the Champs-Élysées, but for the new generation. Another common site, are the Japanese gamblers that have become obsessed with instant play casinos. You will often find people, from the technology crazed generation, strolling down the street, wearing out their thumbs, whilst playing their favourite casino game on their Mobile Phone. When you enter Harajuku, you enter a wonderland where normal kids can be any manga, game or cartoon character they want, and carrying a snowboard down the street while wearing 20’ heels is perfectly normal: the best way to fit in is to stand out.
If art on canvas instead of art on people is more your thing, then Tokyo is still the right city to be in! The Japanese have a very unique style when it comes to art, be it contemporary or classical. There are a couple of them that look like the casino games you would find on the strip. There are hundreds of incredible art attractions spread out across this mammoth city, bit I’ve chosen a few to elaborate on.
Scai- The Bathhouse: Located in Yanaka, this converted gallery stands where a bathhouse stood for 200 years before it. An eye catching combination of contemporary and traditional architecture itself, the buildings naturally lit rooms have seen many an exhibition by world renowned artists in their time.
21_21 Design Sight- This venue inn Roppongi is directed jointly by one of my personal favourite designers Issey Miyake, Naoto Fukasawa and Taku Satoh. This is a venue I would suggest visiting for its workshops which try to negate preconceived ideas of design.
Hara Museum of Contemporary Art-Since 1938, this once private residence of the Hara family has been home to artworks. This museum has an exhibition plan that includes well known and unknown artists, allowing for massive growth in the Tokyo art scene. There are permanent installations by artiste such as Yoshitomo Nara, another one of my Japanese favorites.
Nakaochiai Gallery- Named after its location, this gallery has a long history as a home, a garage, a shaved ice store, and a sweet shop, but was converted into a gallery in 2004 and hosts a diverse range of programs designed to interact with the community.
Life in fast paced Tokyo can get crazy at times, but it’s worth it to visit or live in a city with such a rich heritage, and such modern cultural diversity.