Harajuku's Link to the Olympics

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  • Monday, 16 September 2013 09:13
Harajuku's Link to the Olympics  Photo courtesy of Kjeld Duits

Harajuku’s Forgotten Link with the Olympic Games

The 2020 Olympics will envelop Tokyo’s youth district of Harajuku, world famous as Japan’s center of street fashion. Every day tens of thousands of people come here to shop, hang out and see the latest trends. This square mile area is jam-packed with boutiques, fashion malls and chain stores – and it is located right at the center of the planned Olympic district.

Hopefully, the huge crowds and security presence that the Olympics would bring to Harajuku won’t smother the irreverent energy of this incubation center of Japanese pop culture. That would be painfully ironic because Harajuku partly came into being because of the Olympics.

The area was originally a small village inhabited by low-level samurai. Harajuku’s start as a center of fashion and youth culture came after WWII. U.S. Army barracks, called Washington Heights, were built in the nearby Yoyogi neighborhood, a former military drill area of the Japanese Imperial Army. Shops catering to American military families followed, and this attracted young people curious about Western culture.

When the 1964 Summer Olympics were held in Tokyo, Washington Heights became the Olympic Village for housing the athletes. People from all over Japan came to Harajuku for a chance to meet the athletes. The influx of young people persuaded young creators to set up shop in Harajuku. World famous Japanese fashion designers like Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons got their starts in small apartments in the area.

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Written By:

Kjeld Duits

Residing in Japan for over 30 years, Dutch photojournalist Kjeld Duits is Tokyo Journal's Street Editor. In addition to managing one of the first fashion blogs on the net, and the first to cover Japanese street fashion in English, he owns a vast collection of vintage photographs, illustrations and maps of Japan between the 1860s and 1930s (Meiji, Taisho, and early Showa periods) and covers news stories and natural disasters for media organizations worldwide.



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