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City Style Snapshot: Tokyo


Ginza district at night

Tokyo's mink mile: Ginza shopping district



Black Leggings & The Culture of Kawaii

By: Katherine Goulart

Tokyo/Yokohama, Japan


Saturday morning, I walk from my small apartment to Yokosuka-Central Station, pale blue sky overhead, and sundry shades of gray around me—the buildings, the sidewalks, little Peugeot and Honda cars.


But the crowd around me array themselves in bright pink, pretty floral, glam metallic, and Indian linen. On the Express train for Shinagawa, eight passengers in my car sit texting on phones that look more like hard candy than communications devices. One girl texts by the door, balancing beautifully in her Saddle shoe heels as the train speeds through the city.


“Mamonaku,” the announcement begins. The train will soon arrive in Shinjuku. This isn’t Mecca or Milan. This isn’t Jerusalem or New York City. This is the beating heart of Japanese street fashion.


The city is clothed in layers over earth, by streets and sidewalks, then railways and skyscrapers. Trees, kiosks, and smoking areas accessorize the pavement. Girls with false lashes and wigs walk together in very impractical-looking shoes. Black leggings are as ubiquitous as black eyeliner, adding that je ne sais pas to every style, whether demure or sexy—but always—always cute.


In this exciting metropolis, Asian tourists photograph each other making peace signs, while Westerners look out Starbucks’ windows, feeling intimidated and enamored all at once. Shedding the weekdays’ drab school and work uniforms, forgetting for a day their burdens of study and commerce, young women engage in the abstract expressionism of Japanese fashion.


Japanese fashion is hard to explain, but impossible to miss. It consists of delicate lace socks, cartoon images of sweets, and Hello Kitty coin-purses. But it also consists of patent leather platforms, neon-colored stockings, and every type and length of skirt. The Japanese have a keen sense of individual style, perhaps a result of their homogeneous society, and the drag of wearing navy blue and black in school and at work.


In any event, despite the multitude of fashions on the streets of Tokyo and Yokohama, there remains a unifying quality among them all, called “kawaii.” This adorable quality, childlike and endearing, but adult and appealing, gives Japanese fashion its distinctive look, and makes the statement:  This is Japan, don’t you just love it?



Kate works on avionics by day, but moonlights as a writer and artist in Japan. She enjoys running, practicing French, and getting lost in Tokyo. See what she’s exploring @kateroseearly on Instagram.

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