What does Harajuku mean?
Harajuku is an area of Tokyo famous for its youth culture and street fashion. Harajuku can refer not just to the geographic region but also to the styles and cultural attitudes it’s known for.
Where does Harajuku come from?
The word Harajuku means “meadow lodging” in Japanese, according to the online Japanese dictionary Jisho. As a town or village, it’s been around since at least the 12th century. The Harajuku district is a part of modern Tokyo (near the Harajuku train station in central Tokyo) and has had a distinct identity of its own since World War II, when US army barracks were built there, bringing with them new shops for military families. When Tokyo hosted the Olympics in 1964, a new wave of tourism and crowds of curious young people fueled more commercial development.
High-end fashion designers set up shops in Harajuku, and by the 1970s, it was a popular destination for shopping, particularly after the Laforet mall opened in the district in 1978. In the 1980s, it became yet more popular when the roads were closed to vehicle traffic on Sundays, opening up the area for young people to hang out and for artists to perform.
By the 1990s, Harajuku had come to represent more than a geographical location. It stood for changing fashion trends and an ever-shifting exploration of new styles.
— 🌈😻じゅんにゃん / Junnyan 😻🌈 (@JUNNYAN69) November 28, 2018
Examples of Harajuku
Who uses Harajuku?
Harajuku is an adjective as well as a noun as used in constructions like Harajuku girls and Harajuku style. Harajuku fashion doesn’t represent one single style, but rather a certain creative, theatrical flair that can incorporate many styles and embraces freedom of expression.
16-year-old Sagumo and 17-year-old Mappi on the street in Harajuku wearing vintage fashion along with a red patent H&M jacket, an IKEA bag, F21, colorful leg warmers, Demonia shoes, and snakeskin platform boots #原宿 https://t.co/vDyQJL97yp pic.twitter.com/B36sBXZe5a
— Tokyo Fashion (@TokyoFashion) December 10, 2018
Common street styles associated with Harajuku are Lolita (a doll-like look inspired by Victorian children), Decora (a style that emphasizes bright clothes), and Gyaru (a look based on an exaggeration of fashions associated with American teenagers).
— Loot Anime (@lootanime) April 29, 2017
14-year-old Japanese aspiring actress A-Pon (@a_ponnnnnn) on the street in Harajuku wearing an oversized Ralph Lauren cardigan over a vintage print dress, a quilted backpack, hoop earrings, and WEGO fuzzy platform sandals #原宿 https://t.co/k9RD4kDIr9 pic.twitter.com/goEe02MIx5
— Tokyo Fashion (@TokyoFashion) December 15, 2018
In 2004, Gwen Stefani released a popular song and music video called “Harajuku Girls.” While many considered it an inaccurate representation of Harajuku–if not an offensive portrait of Japanese culture–the song did help put Harajuku in the Western spotlight.
good evening to gwen stefani’s harajuku lovers pic.twitter.com/3mJ5P13Olv
— lucky (@petitetaint) October 2, 2018
This is not meant to be a formal definition of Harajuku like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of Harajuku that will help our users expand their word mastery.