ShowsBefore You GoBulletin BoardContactAboutSearch
Show and Features |
Culture Watch | Question of the Week | Letters of the Week |
Traveler's Aid | Library | Host's View

Japanese Crossing

Writer Sharon Moshavi lives in Tokyo, and if you've ever been there and seen the ultra-trendy kids shuffling from store to store in the Shibuya district, you know that Japanese teenagers take fashion and style seriously. But Sharon, by her own admission, is not one of these kids. I'm not saying she has no style at all, but, nevertheless, when I asked her to go out and find Tokyo's trendiest corner, I didn't know what she would come back with. As it turns out, I was right: knowing what's in and what's out is a mystery for Sharon. But knowing where to find it, is another matter entirely.

Japanese Crossing
by Sharon Moshavi

Real Audio Listen with RealAudio          help Need audio help?

Hachiko crossing is the gateway to Tokyo's Shibuya district, the mecca of the young and trendy. It's mobbed most days and nights, but if you can bear the crowds, as writer Sharon Moshavi recently did, you'll experience the best people-watching in Japan and a window into a changing society.

Sharon: "When friends from the U.S. come to visit, the first place I take them is here, to Hachiko crossing. It's the heart of hip-ness in Tokyo, and the place where you'll experience the ultimate in sensory overload. Everything is bright and loud and dizzying-the signs, the people, the clothes. It makes Times Square seem downright sleepy."

Sharon is now at Hachiko crossing, where she describes the scenery.

Sharon: "There is the Love board in front of you, a giant screen where you can leave a message for your loved one, countless TV screens blaring out every kind of ad imaginable, thousands of people amassing like opposing armies waiting to cross the street, waiting for the light to change, and it does inspire a little bit of fear."

Junko: "When you get to Shibuya and cross this road, you feel excited, let's go shopping!"

Junko Hasegawa is a 22-year-old student and my guide to the corner. For her, Hachiko crossing inspires not fear but exhilaration. She's come with me to explain the scene, especially the most common denizen of this neighborhood, a creature known as the Shibuya girl.

Junko: "A Shibuya girl is: you dye hair light brown, and wear kind of like pink, passion pink."

Sharon: "What is the personality of a Shibuya girl?"

Junko: "First of all young, a teenager, less educated. Dumb, dumb, hmm, maybe."

Junko Hasegawa became quite amused while talking about Shibuya girls and some of their distinct characteristics.

Junko: "A tanning studio tan, white eye makeup, short skirts, mile-high platform shoes. If you don't look like a Shibuya girl here in Hachiko crossing, and I confess I don't, you're treated as a second-class citizen. No one will hand you flyers for cool clubs, certain boutiques will practically throw you out the door."

Japanese Crossing

When Sharon finds herself alone again on Hachiko crossing, she runs into a group of young Shibuya girls.

Sharon: "Talking to Shibuya girls is an experience all its own. They use the Japanese equivalent of valley girl speak. Eriko Terehaka and Meiko Tanaka, two prime examples of Shibuya girls, tried to explain their fashion philosophy to me."

Japanese girls (translated): "We just choose whatever we like, whatever we think is pretty, but we also have to work very hard to keep up with the new fashions."

Japanese companies, such as a cell phone company that Sharon Moshavi ran into, can be spotted trying to take advantage of the trendy crowd.

Sharon: "This company set up a booth on the edge of Hachiko crossing, trying to convince the young and trendy its mobile phones are the hippest. You realize quickly that everything, and I mean everything, is subjected to the trendy-ness barometer: the type of cell phone you carry, the kind of bra you wear, your barrettes, the gum you chew. And it can all go out of style in seconds. For many tourists, it's a great spectacle. One of my visitors climbed onto the top of a subway entrance and spent hours photographing the frenzy and the fashions. But some of my friends have cast a more critical eye on the style on display in Hachiko crossing."

Debbie: "On the whole, I would not say that I'm impressed."

Sharon: "This is my friend Debbie, who's visiting from New York. The corner, she says, offends her Elle magazine sensibilities."

Debbie: "I don't see people put together quite as well as you might on Madison Avenue or Paris, for example. People seem to be combining older clothes they have in their closet maybe with one item that's trendy at the moment, like a pair of shoes."

Sharon: "Shoes in fact are in mid-trend as I speak. I had expected that Debbie and I would see everyone wearing 12-inch-high platform shoes. But after reaching towering heights, footwear seems to be coming down to earth. Back-less mules are in these days, albeit with a higher, thinner heel than most American women would wear to hang out and shop. And in a development that will no doubt come as a relief to podiatrists everywhere, the lowly sneaker is gaining popularity this fall."

Again, Sharon Moshavi.

Sharon: "Hachiko crossing is a great place to witness Japan in transition. There's not a blue-suited Japanese businessman in sight. This place, with its rainbow hair and clothes, is all about breaking out of that mold. Hachiko crossing has a way of consuming all who walk it, even tourists like 16-year-old Joao Paulo from Brazil. Thanks to this corner, he'll be returning home with pigtails ala Pippi Longstocking, and a pierced eyebrow and tongue."

Joao: "I'm not strange with these and my strange hair. It's like a common people. I like it. But if I make like this in Brazil, it's not so good."

Sharon: "After a few hours here, even I'm starting to feel the urge to change my image. Hmm, I bet I could get a good price now on some platform shoes. This is Sharon Moshavi in Tokyo for Savvy Traveler."


American Public Media
American Public Media Home | Search | How to Listen
©2004 American Public Media |
Terms of Use | Privacy Policy