Boat will be in Japan next week for the making of Issue 5 Kyoto. Fashion blogger Kjeld Duits gives us a glimpse into the mis-matched lollipoped Harajuku street style that could only be Tokyo.
Kjeld Duits launched JAPANESE STREETS in 2002, making his the first English language site about Japanese fashion. Born in the Netherlands, Kjeld later moved to Hawaii for 2 years, then onto Kobe in Western Japan. From Paradise to Disaster: Kjeld was there when the Kobe Quake of 1995 hit, launching his career as a journalist and photographer. At the time Japanese street fashion was exploding onto the scene and Kjeld found a way of sharing it with the world. In 2011, about five months after the tsunami devastated North Eastern Japan, he moved to Tokyo where he now runs JAPANESE STREETS. We caught up with Kjeld to get a glimpse of the kind of fashion that only Japanese girls would dare to leave the house in.
Which neighborhood do you live in?
I live in Yoyogi, a quiet residential area squeezed in between the busy shopping and business districts of Shinjuku, and the huge Yoyogi Park and peaceful shrine grounds of Meiji Jingu. Everything that you could possibly want in a big city is within walking or cycling distance, the energetic youth culture districts of Harajuku and Shibuya are just a 10 minute bike ride away. It always amazes me that right in the middle of this huge and hectic metropolis you can find friendly residential areas with family homes and neighborhood shops.
What is the name of the street JAPANESE STREETS is based?
With a few notable exceptions, few Japanese streets have names. The area is named and then subdivided into numbered divisions. Within these divisions each building has a number. That’s why the fax machine became popular so quickly in Japan and is still used today. People used them for sending each other maps, because it is so difficult to find an address. Even taxi drivers in Tokyo assume that the passenger can direct them, because addresses rarely make sense to them.
Is there a specific area you send your fashion photographers out to?
To make sure that we have a consistent JAPANESE STREETS look, I actually I do all the shooting myself. I usually roam the streets of Harajuku, but also shoot in or near Bunka Fashion College, the best known fashion school in Japan, which is just a a 6 minute walk from my home. Harajuku is great, because the area is really small and many of the cool people in Tokyo get together or go shopping here.
What is the best look/trend you have come across this week?
Not really this week, but one of my favorite recent looks is worn by Taiwan born fashion stylist Tsumire. She studies at Bunka Fashion College and has amazing creativity. In this shot she updated the traditional Japanese kimono with a very modern take. I love the way that she has managed to bring together totally different colors, textures and styles in one look.
What kind of words come to mind when you think about Tokyo street fashion?
Creativity, creativity, creativity. Breaking fashion rules, matching and mismatching, layering. I think that thanks to their exposure to kimono, and manga and anime, young Japanese are able to come up with amazingly original looks. So original and different from what we are used to in the West, that many people in the West have trouble understanding it.
I often compare it to avant-garde artists like Van Gogh, Mondrian, Dali and Picasso. It is often said that they were ahead of their time. This is humbug. They were their time. It was the other people that were behind and needed time to catch up. It is the same with Japanese street fashion. The people on the streets of Tokyo live now, dress now. Their styles define what it means to live in Tokyo now. The rest of us, we are just playing catch up.
Where is the first place you would take someone visiting for 24 hours?
That’s easy. Harajuku, to have them experience the creativity of Tokyo.
Where is the last place you would take someone visiting for 24 hours?
I live quite near the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku. With 48 floors, and at 243 metres (797 ft), it is the second tallest structure in the city. I love watching sunsets from the top, which you can enter free of charge. At the right time of the year, you can see the sun set behind Mt. Fuji. A glorious view!
What makes you miss home most when you’re away from home?
Tokyo’s amazing street fashion. I really miss the colors, creativity and the sheer outrageousness of it all.
Who or what inspires you the most in your neighbourhood?
If I confine myself to my neighborhood, I guess I find the modern architecture most inspiring. There is a lot of garbage, but there also a few buildings that are truly genius. I also like the colors that you find in the shopping streets nearby Shinjuku Station. Not even a snow storm or the darkness can drown them out. If I go beyond the strict confines, the amazing public transport system inspires me immensely. Even though I live in the very center of one of the most modern cities in the world, I am within a short day trip of very traditional culture.
What is your favourite memory since you have lived on your street?
Snow is a bit rare in Tokyo, but in the past two years we have had two fairly heavy snow storms. The two parks I live close to, Yoyogi Park and Shinjuku Gyoen, were transformed into fairy tale locations. It was a true delight to walk through these parks after they were blanketed by the snow.