Japan: the country of geishas, Pokémon, and vending machines…
As a current resident of Tokyo studying abroad at the International Christian University (ICU), I can tell you with certainty that, contrary to popular belief, Japan is not just a place for obsessive otaku or Lolita fiends. In fact, Japan’s culture boasts unique combinations of the West and East and the modern and pre-modern that define the country of the Rising Sun. Through my exploration of this extraordinary country, I have learned that Japanese fashion is the epitome of these paradoxes.
Upon leaving America for this exotic land, countless questions raced through my mind: what do Japanese college students wear? Do they all cosplay (short for “costume play”) in class or do they wear basics from MUJI and Uniqlo? What is the must-have accessory to bring to class? How different will it be from the college-scene in America?
In search for answers to these questions, I’ve learned that in the rigid routine of cram school to college to “salaryman” that pervades Japanese urban society, college is the only time fashion choices are not dictated by one’s institutional affiliation. High school uniforms are the norm for most schools (yes, Sailor Moon outfits were a thing in 1927 too), and business formal is the protocol for working men and women, leaving college as the critical time to experiment with one’s image and riskier styles.
The most pervasive fads in Japanese college fashion include the following:
1. Delicate Fabrics
Whether in the form of a flowery skirt, silk blouse, or soft scarf, feminine fabrics in pastel colors and lace are all the rage. Many girls wear nearly transparent silk shirts with a bodice underneath — simply explore the brands in Shibuya 109, the mecca of young female shoppers, and you’ll see this trend everywhere.
2. Combinations of Baggy and Slim
For the fashion-minded Japanese college students, comfy and baggy isn’t cutting it… A little effort is a must, so they opt for combos like big sweaters and tight leggings. This is one trend that is definitely fashion forward, even back at Penn!
3. Tights & Socks
Tights and socks are crucial, regardless of temperature or humidity (I’ve seen girls wear tights when it was 100 degrees Fahrenheit). There is a common understanding in Japan that tights are a necessary wardrobe staple, not just a way to keep you warm. Tights and socks are so ubiquitous that Harajuku (one of the high fashion shopping areas) is lined with stores that sell only socks. There are legwear boutiques too, for the über-dedicated.
You have to admit, the vintage-anachronism of the scrunchie is adorable. Silk, big, and colorful scrunchies are everywhere in Tokyo. Note that the better the fabric, the less it will damage your hair. If you’re feeling creative, try making one on your own.
5. The 100 Yen Transparent Umbrella
inally, the most essential accessory of all time in Japan. Available at every 100 yen store (equivalent to the $1 store), these umbrellas are the most indispensable, life-saving accessory in Tokyo.
Take a tip from these top Tokyo trends to add some fun flair to your college wardrobe.
– Tania Vasilikioti