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YumeTwins Kawaii Culture BlogHarajuku: A Fashion Neighborhood’s Transformation

Harajuku: A Fashion Neighborhood’s Transformation

By Linh
July 19, 2023
A night time scene of Harajuku.

Wonder what is the current streetwear trend in Tokyo? Where do all the young fashionists get their outfits from? Come to Harajuku to pop into some shops, and you’ll find the answers! We often hear about Harajuku crepes and purikura, but it is hard to explain Harajuku fashion. Let us walk you through the transformation of this one-of-a-kind fashion trend!

Where is Harajuku?

Harajuku, nestled in Shibuya Ward, is the epicenter of Japanese trends. From Harajuku Station to Omotesando Station, the vibrant energy is palpable. Get ready to dive into the heart of Takeshita-dori, a bustling 350m shopping street.

Don’t be fooled by its size; this lively strip bursts with cutting-edge fashion, beauty treasures, quirky shops, and mouthwatering delights. But beware, the temptation to splurge is real! Department stores, brand boutiques, and second-hand havens await your exploration at every turn. Get ready for a shopping adventure like no other in Harajuku!

Takeshita Street, a colorful shopping area in Harajuku.
Takeshita Street is very popular during the weekend. Image via Shutterstock

Also, sweets and snacks on Takeshita Street are as appealing as their fashion. After a tiring shopping walk, there are plenty of cafes and shops to recharge your energy. Cotton candies, pancakes, sandwiches, and the must-try Harajuku crepes are just a few of the treats. 

To the South of Takeshita-dori is Omotesando, a spacious, tree-lined avenue full of high-end brands and buildings by famous architects. This area is another exciting facet of Harajuku for young people and wealthy adults.

What was Harajuku style like back in the day?

Harajuku fashion refers to this area’s unique, quirky, yet colorful fashion styles. Harajuku style started in the 1970s when Japanese youth gathered and dressed in their favorite alternative fashions in the neighborhood. People might wonder what Harajuku’s style is. 

The old Harajuku Station, which looks like something out of the early 20th century.
The old Harajuku Station is a national treasure but way too small for the neighborhood’s traffic. Image via Shutterstock

The answer is there needs to be a correct definition to describe the Harajuku style. It is a mixture of Japanese subculture and street fashion that cancels all the rules and encourages originality.

Harajuku fashion combines many styles: traditional and modern, Western and Japanese. The colors and textures of the outfits and accessories can express the wearer’s signature look. If you are just new to Harajuku styles, there are some iconic looks you might want to try out.

Are you looking for cute goodies for a Harajuku-inspired look? Check out YumeTwins! YumeTwins sends all kinds of kawaii character goods – from Japanese plushies to stationery – right to your door so you can enjoy your best colorful lifestyle at home, just like in Harajuku!


Gyaru is the transliteration of “gal” in Japanese, which means “girl.” Emerging in the 1970s, Gyaru is the trend of young Japanese women claiming to challenge traditional Japanese beauty standards. Instead of the typical idea of women with fair skin and feminine makeup, they pursue an image of sun-kissed skin, flashy makeup, and bleached, dyed hair. It has many subcultures, each with its characteristics, but the most prominent is the Ganguro style (ガングロ). 

Three girls dressed as gyaru fashion.
Gyaru fashion has many subcultures! Image via Japlanning

At its peak around the 2000s, Harajuku was the walkway for Ganguro girls to show off their elaborate makeup. They like to use false eyelashes to make their eyes look bigger. In addition, they use bold highlighters around their eyes and nose to accentuate their brown skin. Ganguro nails are very long with substantial decorative accessories. Chunky platform shoes, colorful outfits, and lots of extra jewelry are essential elements of this style.


The Lolita trend took Japan by storm in 1987 through Ryuko Tsushin magazine, but it was in the late 1990s that it came into the spotlight. Victorian and Edwardian costumes influence Lolita’s costume to express a sense of elegance. Thus, this style is usually expensive as the fabric and sewing must be done carefully.

A woman wearing Lolita style clothes, a frilly, gothic style popular in Harajuku.
Lolita fashion is very filly! Image via Shutterstock

Lolita comes in three different styles: Classic Lolita, Sweet Lolita, and Gothic Lolita. The most popular is Sweet Lolita, known for cute dresses, pastel colors, and feminine print patterns. They also love candy accessories such as strawberry-shaped rings or colorful bowels.

Classic Lolita looks more mature for its use of small, unique patterns, elegant colors, and more natural makeup than Sweet Lolita. Being the counterpart of Sweet Lolita, Gothic Lolita gives a sleek look, focusing on black tones, usually with cross patterns and chandeliers on their costumes. Gothic Lolita’s makeup style leans towards lighter skin with dark black eye lines.


Visual-kei is a unique fashion that goes hand in hand with the J-Rock music trend, inspired by the Western rock that spread widely in Japan in the 1990s and 2000. This Harajuku style is popular with bands such as X Japan, Buck-Tick, Luna Sea, and Glay.

A couple wearing Visual Kei style clothing, a gothic and edgy style popular in Harajuku.
Visual Kei is heavily inspired by glam rock. Image via Shutterstock

Contact lenses, dark lipstick, and many earrings characterize the style. Visual Kei’s influences include glam rock, gothic, punk, and cyber. The main characteristic of this trend is the manifestation of rebellion against Japan’s traditional humble and boring rules.


Decora comes from the word “decoration” in English. It is one of the most affordable yet colorful styles present in Harajuku. Complicated as it might look, Decora is quite simple – you just need to wear a plain shirt with a hoodie and miniskirt.

A woman wearing Decora fashion.
Decora fashion uses a lot of trinkets! Image via Shutterstock

The whole point of this style is attaching as many accessories as possible to your bag, coat, socks, face, and hair. To emphasize, Decora makeup often uses vibrant colors and colored contact lenses to make the eyes bigger. This trend is about going vibrant and being playful without fearing judgment from others.

What is Harajuku like today?

Although Harajuku in the current days is still lively, the vibrancy in Harajuku styles is said to fade away somewhat. It could be attributed to fast fashion brands like Uniqlo, GU, WEGO… have also been introduced into the areas. 

Not to mention, Harajuku is also home to many designer fashion labels such as Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garcons, and Japanese streetwear brands like Undercover and A Bathing Ape. Harajuku street styles mix Japanese culture and Western influence: oversized, mono-tone, and laid-back casual looks. 

Besides, high-end street fashion is also a new way for Japanese youth to exhibit self-image. Unlike the mainstream, these streetwear brands only make limited editions available at certain times, increasing the demand. Being opposite to the bright aesthetics of Lolita or Kawaii fashion, they all share one thing: self-expression for originality and freedom. 

What happened to the old Harajuku station?

In 2020, the official announcement to demolish the old Harajuku station stirred up a debate among residents. Despite being a world-famous subculture hotspot in Japan, the former station was relatively small compared to the number of passengers.

The new Harajuku station, which looks like something out of the early 21st century.
The new Harajuku Station is modern and can support the traffic. Image via Shutterstock

Moreover, the old station also needed to meet the current fireproof standards. Thus, in preparation for Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020, a new Harajuku Station was built on the south side of the old station building.  

Cute clothing stores in Harajuku

If you are looking for fluffy dresses and cute blouses for a princess-like look, don’t forget to drop by BUBBLES to immerse yourself in its unique worldview! BUBBLES is a brand centered on the point of view of a princess and is famous for its Instagrammable interior. Here your mood is undoubtedly to be lifted while shopping for your favorite clothes and taking some cute photo shoots with friends!

For Korean beauty lovers, you must take advantage of the first landing store of Stylenanda in Harajuku! Stylenanda is a famous Korean brand that sells both cosmetics and clothes. If you are hesitant to buy online, it is recommended to drop by since you can test out the actual color and try on the latest trendy cosmetic items.

The strorefront of AC/DC Rag in Shibuya.
Many Harajuku stores offer amazing clothes! Image via Shutterstock

Moreover, there are also punk and Lolita fashion brand shops. The ACDC RAG Harajuku Takeshita Street store is a typical example of this. It’s for people of all genders who like punk style, and couples can enjoy matching looks. In addition to punk fashion, they also have Lolita-style clothes, so it’s fun just to look around! This is one of the few shops in Harajuku where you can purchase punk and lolita fashion items at relatively low prices. 

It’s fascinating to witness how Harajuku has transformed over the years. From its early roots as a hub for alternative fashion and subcultures to its current status as a global trendsetter, Harajuku’s influence has undoubtedly reached far and wide.

The district’s unique blend of street fashion, cosplay, and individual expression continues to captivate fashionistas and inspire new trends worldwide. Share your thoughts in the comments below about the evolution of Harajuku, your favorite Harajuku styles, or how it has inspired your fashion choices! Let’s celebrate the spirit of Harajuku together!

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