I've always been fascinated with Japan and if someone offered me anywhere in the world to visit free of charge, I would definitely go there!
So when my darling friend Grahame won a scholarship allowing him to live, work and study in Fukuoka, I can't deny I almost died a wee bit of jealousy.
Since moving, Grahame has started his hilarious blog Japanter - a merging of all things Japanese and banter.
It features antecdotes from his trips outside Fukoka, diary-like entries abut his day-to-day life (my favourite being his ongoing war about where to park his bicycle), small posts about funny offbeat occurances (otherwise known as "Bite Sized Japanter") as well as some vocab thrown in for good measure.
When I called for guest posts, Grahame very kindly offered to do a peice on fashion in Fukuoka with his friend Ina, focusing especially on living on the cheap in a country with such a high cost of living.
Be sure to follow his adventures in Japan over at his blog.
PS: This is a bit of a bumper post since he sent me so many wonderful pictures!
Your loving reporters, Grahame and Ina, were sent by the Messy One herself to Fukuoka in southern Japan. Our mission: to investigate all that is cool, kooky and crazy in the city that has, more than once, been called the world’s greatest retail city.
Fashion in Japan has some important social functions that are less accented in the West.
For instance, it is common to see women, young and old alike, bedecked in kimono, face painted white, shuffling elegantly. Not only is it gorgeous, but it’s a statement of Japan’s cultural identity and distinctiveness, something we in England rarely feel inclined to do.
Here are some pictures - from a fashion show we were invited to snap in central Fukuoka – of costumes designed for girls’ coming-of-age ceremonies. Pretty no?
Uniformity is important in Japanese culture and, as the wonderful and clever and cultured and enlightened among you may have read on my Japan blog (japanter.blogspot.com), it is not uncommon for schoolchildren to wear their school uniforms every day of the week, weekend included.
This is contrasted, however, with a (probably/possibly reactionary) love of all things weird, wonderful and, as we discovered, vintage.
Tenjin, in west central Fukuoka is the city’s beating heart: the place to go out, see and be seen. At the top of “Tenjin Core” one of the bigger department stores (actually, it’s the 8th floor, the very top, the 9th floor, has a Gothic Lolita fashion mega-boutique) is a gorgeous, oldy-worldy style vintage shop with a treasure-trove of a second hand section. We discovered shirts for 300 yen (around £2.70), accessories for less and dresses for as little as 100 yen (less than £1).
The most striking thing about ‘Hanjiro’, however, is the glorious décor.
Look at those changing rooms!
Just as in the UK it is popular to adorn one’s body and skin in Chinese characters, so in Japan English writing is a popular decoration for clothes and shops: except it’s not really English.
Our next destination was the fascinating, if slightly worrying, ‘Ace in the Hole’. They had some wonderful but pricey stuff:
Vintage is a big deal in Japan, and can range from the super-expensive to, as in Hanjiro, super-cheap. In general, living is very expensive over here, so cheap quality will always be popular.
As the Messy One herself is so fond of saying:
Grahame and Ina