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Fine Arts

Japanese Art Scene 6

Japanese fashion and Arashi in the age of Globalization

Keiko Sakagami
Professor, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University (School of Culture, Media and Society)

On arrival at Haneda Airport, I am greeted with the banner saying "Welcome to Japan" and the picture of Japanese Pop group Arashi. When seeing the picture of Arashi, I really feel that I have returned to Japan. Having being away from Japan for some time during my term as a research fellow, the long absence only strengthens that sensation. Globalization is advancing today, and one feels that every field throughout the world, such as art, music and film, possesses the same kind of culture. However, it seems that the sense of beauty unique to Japan surely exists.

Take fashion for example. In New York, Paris, Seoul, the same brands are opening stores in all big cities today, and everyone is wearing similar fashion. In particular, symbolized by the global development of UNIQLO, with the expanding ratio of fast-fashion, the gap can be said to be getting even smaller. In spite of this, a city's "character" can certainly be seen in its fashion.

Many tourists from China and Japan visit Seoul, where I spent the past six months, but I could pick out Japanese females, young and old, in a single glance. Not from their facial features or physical appearance. I could immediately distinguish them from their different clothes. A "tunic" over "multi-layers of clothing." This style of dress can also be seen in Paris, but nobody wears it as complete as the Japanese. In Paris, and even Seoul, more conservative looks such as the traditional t-shirt and trousers or one-piece dresses stand out.

When I first went to Seoul, no matter what the brand, I was surprised at the many highly elaborate designs of clothes. I couldn't find simply-designed one-piece dress or skirts without tucks, pleats, bi-colors or anything like that. There were various additional elements such as decorated zips or pockets. In any case, there were many excessive designs. For me, who was used to the simple designs in Japan, I thought I couldn't buy anything.

However, one day a Korean student said to me, "Japanese wear clothes in a complicated manner so I like the straightforward manner of dress of Koreans." To me, who had always thought that Japanese designs were straightforward and Korean designs complicated, I was shocked by this unforeseen view. But, when having a look after being told this, there aren't many Koreans walking down Myeongdong wearing their clothes in a more "complicated" manner than Japanese. There are far more Japanese females wearing "multi-layers", many layers of various types of clothing such as shirts or tunics over tights or leggings.

The same goes for hairstyles. When I first visited Seoul, all the Korean males had the front of their hair down over their faces to the extent that I thought the town was full of K-pop stars. The layered hairstyle, like the members of Arashi, is characteristic of Japanese males.

Walking along the hustling and bustling streets of Tokyo when I returned, I notice the fashion seen in the special clothing in Seoul adds colour to the streets. Complicated multi-layers, Arashi hairstyles, it is Japan's unique fashion. That reminds me, in Korea when I asked, "Who is your favourite J-Pop singer in Japan?", many people from older men to young females replied "Arashi". You may think that Arashi possesses some of the "cute" (kawaii) image that has become synonymous with Japanese culture throughout the world, but it may also be a unique Japanese image not seen in neighbouring countries despite being in the same Asian region.

1. Assistant Teacher Lee Chunhee and Moon Arum from the Graduate School student, Hanyang University

2. Assistant Teacher Lee Chunhee, Hanyang University

3. Assistant Teacher Lee Chunhee, Hanyang University

4. Research Associate Rika Naito, Waseda University

5. Kyoko Shimada, Waseda University student

6. Kazufumi Takeda, Takako Tamai and Maho Tanaka, Waseda University Graduate School students

Keiko Sakagami
Professor, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University
(School of Culture, Media and Society)

She graduated from the School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I, Waseda University, majoring in History of Art. After studying at Graduate School of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University, she has assumed the present post. Her speciality is modern and contemporary art, comparative culture. Her major works include "Painters in Dream and Luminescence: Reconsideration of Modernite (Modernity)" (publisher: Skydoor/ Winning the new face award of Minister of Education Award for Fine Arts) and "Berthe Morisot: Modern Times Lived by a Female Painter" (publisher: Shogakukan Inc.).