Tokyo (Shibuya) [Part II – Subcultures and Fashion]

Centre Gai

One of the more interesting places to venture is up Centre Gai.  This small street and the small streets surrounding it, provides you with a glimpse of Shibuya’s fashion.  This is not to be confused with Harajuku.  Here, you’ll see the infamous Yamamba.  This has been literally translated to be “Mountain Hag”.  It is a subculture of Tokyo and consists mainly of teens coming from the rural areas surrounding Tokyo.  They tend to wear pajamas or anything in a pastel type colour.  Guys tend to do the same, but they also include gray clothes.  The biggest shock is their skin, make-up, and hair.  First, they usually go to tanning salons until their skin has such a dark tan, it looks brown.  Their hair tends to be bleached blonde, and then they add various pastel colours like pink or baby blue.  As for make-up, both men and women wear white make-up that goes around the eyes and white lipstick.  This is to give an image similar to a reverse panda.  They can usually be seen around the Centre Gai entrance to HMV.

As you continue to head up Centre Gai, you go from the Yamamba hang out near HMV to the shoe outlets, and on to the hip hop centre of Shibuya.  The closer you get to the NHK studios, the more the influences from Hip Hop fashion and music becomes apparent.  You can find lots of shops selling Rastafarian style clothes and some Japanese style Hip Hop clothing.  You can also see NYC Records, which is one of the more famous places for DJs to pick up vinyl.

Shibuya 109

Probably the most well known place in Shibuya, especially for women, is 109 (ichi maru kyu).  This building can easily be seen from Shibuya crossing when looking west.  This is where all of the young teens and early 20 year old women go to get the latest fashion.  It is also popular for the gyaru fashion.  Gyaru is a broad term for various young women’s fashion.  It can range from a princess look with big hair to the Yamamba’s that I mentioned earlier.  While I would say the majority of gyarus in this building would tend to be more of a princess variety, it isn’t impossible for you to see almost any type of young girl entering and exiting this building.  You can also see many of their boyfriends happily in tow as they cruise looking for the next big thing in fashion.  I have heard that Madonna and Gwen Stefani enjoy visiting 109, and various other celebrities have been known to drop by.  It’s unlikely that any of the girls here would care though.  For guys, there is 109-2, which is just north of Shibuya station.

Shibuya Love Hotel

Heading towards 109 leads to a fork in the road.  Head left and turn right at the second street.  This will take you to Shibuya’s, Love Hotel Hill.  This area is called Dogenzaka, but in reality, it’s a compact area where every street has a love hotel.  If you don’t know what a love hotel is, it’s basically a hotel where you can stay for one or two hours.  The rooms tend to be large and each hotel works hard to protect your privacy.  The main purpose of a love hotel is for young couples to have a place to enjoy some personal time together in a private bedroom (a.k.a. sex).  To the untrained eye, you may easily skip over one of these hotels.  However, there are several easy signs to spot one.  First, look for a tacky looking building.  They can be built to look like a Romanesque mansion, like a castle, or some other crazy theme.  Many of them just occupy a plain building, but all the windows are tinted or mirrored.  Another sign that it’s a love hotel is to look, or listen, for a fountain.  Traditional hotels would never put a fountain in front of the hotel.  The entrances for the hotels are almost always hidden to protect the couples’ privacy, and if there is a sign out front, they’ll have two prices, rest or stay.  If you search the internet, you can find a lot of crazy love hotel rooms.  Some are themed after Hello Kitty, Anime scenes, trains, buses, planes, and almost any fantasy you could want.  From what I heard, all you have to do is enter the building, select a room from a picture by pressing a button, and enter the room.  To get out, you just put money into a machine on the wall and the door opens to let you out.  You will never see a single person while you are there.

This is Part II of a III part series.  To continue reading about Shibuya, please continue on to Part III.  You can also read more about Shibuya in Part I of this series.

Shibuya Information:

Shibuya Gyaru Pictures: