Japanese Street Fashion

While considered by many as daring, outlandish and provocative, Japanese fashion has come a long way from being just about kimonos and school uniforms. Their eye-popping and flamboyant outfits have largely been influenced by Japan’s huge underground club scene. Tokya and Osaka is where Japanese Street Fashion is at its best. By adopting a mixture of current and traditional trends along with foreign and local labels, Japanese youth have created their own unique blend of fashion.

Japanese street fashion has a variety of trends and styles. Youth were more elaborate in their dressing patterns and make-up. Bright colours, eccentric patterns, hand-made garments, heavy jewellery, mixing and matching jeans and tank tops with traditional wear like kimonos, is their way of making statements about their cultural influences and way of life. Lolita, Kogal, Cosplay, Ganguro are some of the most sought after styles that Japanese youth display on the streets.

Lolita is a style with many subcultures, such as Punk Lolita, where chains, beads, lace and wristbands are popular accessories along with pink and peach colour prints. Gothic Lolita focuses on styles emerging from the Victorian age such as dark colours, black make-up, heavy brooches, and ribbons.

The Ganguro art of dressing is similar to North American youth trying to replicate tanned and blonde celebrities and models. The look consists of light or dark tanned bodies, bleached or dyed hair, summer dresses and platforms. Their exaggerated looks and outfits, is their attempt at westernizing themselves dramatically.

The Kogal style is where young Japanese women display their wealth through various tastes in music and fashion. Wealthy parents often support young girls who are into this style. They keep themselves up-to-date with Japan’s ever-growing mobile technology. They adorn themselves with big boots, skirts pinned very high, dramatic make-up and the latest in American fashion brands. Many see the growth of Gothic Lolita to be a reaction to the materialism desire that emerges with the Kogal trend.

Costume Play, shortened to Cosplay is a trend where dressing of characters from manga, anime, fantasy movies and videogames is encouraged. The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and The Matrix series are some Hollywood films which increased the popularity of Cosplay artists. Japanese youth styled in Cosplay attires are often seen at various public gatherings such as amusement parks, nightclubs dedicated to like-minded dressers and many high profile Cosplay parties.

10 Striking Japanese Erotic Shunga Prints Portraying ‘Barbaric’ Strangers

Few Japanese of the 18th and 19th Century travelled abroad and fewer returned, so that a rendez-vous with strangers was only possible in their own homeland. Nagasaki had a rather international atmosphere, with its section of Chinese and a limited group of Europeans and their enslaved Indonesian servants. Shunga (erotic print) fans were interested in these residents, and all are portrayed (though in unequal frequency) in images and stories. The following ten are colourful and striking examples (in no particular order):

10) Chõkyõsai Eiri ( act. 1789~1801 )

This Eiri design from his Models of Calligraphy (c.1801) was inspired by Utamaro’s masterpiece (see No.2) Utamakura (Poem of the Pillow) and features a Dutchman (most probably a Dutch Captain) having intercourse with a Japanese courtesan. These prostitutes were known as Oranda-yuki (‘those going to the Dutch’), as opposed to the Kara-yuki (‘those going to the Chinese’) and the Nihon-yuki (‘those going to the Japanese’).

Incense burns on a table next to them. Some Japanese believed that this was necessary because of the funny smell these red-haired barbarians produced but in reality these incense burners were cleverly sold by the Yotsumeya, a shop specializing in sex paraphernalia, as an enhancer of the sexual appetite. Striking in this design are the Western influences emulating the tone effect of Western copperplate engraving.

9) Yanagawa Shigenobu ( 1787~1832 )

In this distinguishing surimono (commissioned) print (c.1830) Shigenobu depicts his protagonists, a Western couple, as god-like figures (the woman is stunningly beautiful) set in a heavenly setting. Underneath the genitals of the woman vaginal fluids are collected on a plate. The inevitable incense burner on a small table in the background.

8) Keisai Eisen ( 1790~1848 )

This design from Keisai Eisen’s series ‘ Midare Gami (Hair in Disarray / Tangled Hair)’, c. 1817, depicts a Dutchman coupling with his wife and is one of the early applications of the tone effects of Western copperplate engraving in shunga. Also striking is the rich color gradation of the female’s clothing.

7) Kitagawa Utamaro ( 1753~1806 )

A very early rendering by Utamaro (c.1790s) of a Westerner making love to a Japanese courtesan. A comic detail is the motif on the Dutchman’s green suit which also appears on his phallus while the pubic hair resembles the hair on his head. Just like in Eiri’s design (see No.1!) the hands of this European stranger have long cat-like fingernails.

6) Katsushika Hokusai ( 1760~1849 )

From Hokusai’s famous Young Pine Saplings -series (c.1814) the depiction of a Chinese couple collecting vaginal liquids with a ladle. The man is wearing a ring around his penis called namako no wa. The belief that the Western strangers, Chinese as well as Europeans, were very enthusiastic on gathering vaginal liquids for medicinal or other uses, was very popular in Edo (nowadays Tokyo) Japan.

5) Yanagawa Shigenobu ( 1787~1832 )

This composition of a Western couple from the‘ Willow Storm’ -series, late 1820s is unique within shunga, not only for the subject-matter but also for the attempts at shading, most likely in imitation of Western copperplate etching. It is interesting to speculate about which Western examples circulating in Japan at the time would have provided the inspiration for this print. Perhaps they were prints based on the drawings in or later eighteenth century imitations of Il Modo by Giulio Romano (1499-1546).

4) Yanagawa Shigenobu ( 1787~1832 )

This truly astonishing shunga is archetypal of the print designs in Shigenobu’s album Willow Storm. It represents an event already known in the work of Katsushika Hokusai (see No.6!) – the acquiring of vaginal liquids. The tiny feet of the woman and the curled plait on top of the man’s head emphasize their Chinese origin.

3) Utagawa Kuniyoshi ( 1797~1861 )

A small koban (small-sized) print from the Utagawa school (possibly Utagawa Kuniyoshi) published c.1861. The square cartouche in the upper right displays the English flag of Saint George, gehind whoch is a puff of steam, presumably from a steam engine. The three fully clad foreign girls accost a Japanese man, and the text, printed in negative (white on grey), in the bottom left corner reads, ‘Isn’t it too much, can’t I have a break?’ (Lane and hayashi 1995-98/2000: supplemental vol.1,132). Although this print concerns a shunga design it’s not explicit in its portrayal; only a subtle insinuation of one of the women’s pubic hair.

2) Kitagawa Utamaro ( 1753~1806 )

In this rather unflattering image of an intimate Dutch couple Utamaro depicts the man as a rude barbarian (the hat suggests he could be a captain) with almost cannibalistic tendencies. Or as described by Timon Screech in his ‘Sex and the Floating World ‘: “… a wind-blown seadog with a woman seemingly of his own ethnic group although dressed in the costume of a different epoch”. This oban print is from Utamaro’s ‘Poem of the Pillow’ – series (c.1799) which is considered to be one of the great highlights in shunga and Ukiyo-e.

1) Keisai Eisen ( 1790~1848 )

A Westerner penetrates a sleeping courtesan who’s laying with her head on a salon table. In front of the couple on the floor lays a sachet containing an aphrodisiac for women called nyoetsugan. This egoyomi (calendar print) design is meticulously printed with various gauffrage and pigment details, published in c.1810s and attributed to the artist Keisai Eisen (1790-1848).

Fashion Adventures In A Girl’s Life With Anna Sui

It takes a lot of hard work and determination to reach the Top of the fashion business, and Anna Sui has certainly succeeded. Time Magazine included her in the list of five most important fashion gurus of this decade. She was born in Detroit in 1955 and moved to New York City after High School. She enrolled at the prestigious Parsons School of Design and went on to work as a stylist for the fashion photographer, Steven Meisel.

After designing clothes as a young woman, inspired by the models in magazines, Anna Sui found her own style. She developed her designing business throughout the 1980s and was ready to put on her first runway show in 1991. The models included Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista. Anna launched her own clothing line the following year and opened the first of her boutiques in New York City. Eventually she would have boutiques in Tokyo, Osaka, Hollywood and Los Angeles. She has continued to be particularly popular in Japan, and has designed the costumes for an anime (Japanese style animation), Television series.

The collection is sold in over thirty countries, and commands premium price tags as befits a top designer Label. The range of dresses, tops and skirts etc. has a modern feel about it, and Anna Sui says she was inspired by the rock chic look. There are also accessories for sale such as bags and belts. Her status Is sealed by the endorsement of an impressive list of Celebrities including Madonna, Christina Ricci, Cher, Courtney Love and Patricia Arquette. James Iha of the Smashing Pumpkins is also a fan.

In 1997, the footwear collection was launched. Shoes, boots and sandals are available as casual day wear and for formal, evening occasions. There are several different materials used, including silk, shearling, suede, patent leather, velvet, and snake and lizard skin. The Anna Sui Fragrance, aftershave and cosmetics line came out two Years later. The fragrance bottles are particularly Creative, and include a butterfly shape and a model Head design. Toiletries include Eau De Toilette Spray, Body Cream, and Bath and Shower Gel.

All of the collection is available to order online, and there are sales items posted on the web site. Anna Sui continues to bring out her collections, drawing from different inspirational ideas each time, and the shows are always well received. She is always open about the source of her ideas, and still keeps an eye on what’s in the magazines, mixing that with some typical looks from the past.