Tokyo's Weekly "Costume Play"
|Harajuku is a district in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo situated next to the
Meiji Jingu shrine. A nearby bridge over the Yamanote railway line is the hot spot for some of the most imaginative
and bizarre manifestations of youthful exuberance found anywhere in Japan.
Every Sunday groups of mostly teenage girls gather in Harajuku to be hip, to be seen and to express themselves
through what is known as "kosu-purei" (costume play). These young folks whose previous generation was
known as the "Takenokozoku" (bamboo shoot tribe), get together with their friends in a ritual that might
be best described as carnival, punk, SM, cross-dressing, Halloween and a circus freak show all rolled into one.
The girls spend hours creating their costumes and putting on their faces, not unlike kabuki actors preparing for
a show. Their purpose is to be as different as possible from anything that resembles the ordinary. Ironically it
is all executed quite deliberately like clockwork at the same time every week, in the exactly same manner, in the
same place...all in its proper context, much like the rhythm of mainstream Japanese culture. In fact, the various
fashion styles even have names. For example, there is "lolita fashion" or the little girl look, "cyber
fashion" or the futuristic look, and "visual fashion" or the look of imitating styles from popular
music groups. And, like any other artistic form of expression, it mutates over time. Styles come and go quickly...what
was once shocking no longer surprises anyone. Eventually the teenagers grow out of it and become properly-mannered
"shakaijin" (member of society). But...it sure is a wild and crazy spectacle while it lasts!