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Color & style in Japanese fashion

For the young women of Tokyo, fashion is glitter, color, and the boldness of youth: an expression of flair - and freedom

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You can't possibly fail to note them on the streets and subways of Tokyo.

They're the youthful fashionistas of contemporary Japan, young women in their teens and 20s who glide through the urban landscape, flashing brightly colored leather miniskirts, teetering precariously on the edges of steeply heeled boots, and dangling clusters of kitschy miniature toys from the mouthpieces of their cellphones.

Although omnipresent in the city, they turn out in particularly large numbers at certain shopping meccas. One is Takeshita Dori, a funky pedestrian mall lined with inexpensive boutiques of flamboyant punk, secondhand, and nostalgia clothing, side-by-side with nail salons, tattoo parlors, and tacky gift shops.

Another is Store 109, a trendy Shibuya department store, where young women giggle together behind glittering clawlike nails as they rifle through racks of violently colored sweaters and skin-tight bell-bottomed trousers, and where the ultra-cool salesgirls reign as cutting-edge arbiters of youthful fashion.

"Japanese fashion today is all about adding color," agree Miyuki Masuo and Chiemi Yoshino, school friends who are eager to display a nubby-textured hot-pink and orange sweater, black-vinyl zippered trousers, and other goodies they're hauling home from Store 109.

To some adults, however, the styles speak of more than color. In the 1960s and '70s, when young Japanese started adopting in large numbers some of the more exotic youthful Western fashions, the older generation was utterly alarmed. They referred to these young ones as shinjinrui or "new human beings" - not a complimentary term.


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