Author: Thomas C. Card

ISBN:  1861543476


Who could resist opening a book with the cover of a cute Japanese girl adorned with 15 pieces of hair jewelry, colorful stars sprinkled across her nose, and arm candy up to the elbows? Certainly not I. 

Page after page of superb photography left me amazed, stunned, mystified, and confused. The first thing I wanted to do after gazing through the pages of young women—and sometimes a mother-daughter pair—in the most elaborate fashions ever was to go back and look at it all again. Who were these people; and moreover, why are they dressing this way? Clearly, each and every outfit took a lot of time, care, planning, and imagination to create. What was it all about?

Photographer Thomas C. Card does not comment, letting his images do all the talking. However, he does say that he traveled to Japan after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami to document the surge of self-expression in Tokyo. He writes, “This series is a response to and celebration of that self-expression, a celebration of personalization, a celebration of Tokyo and the thriving culture that supports this open pursuit of the individual self-presentation.” 

Left wanting to know more, I took my questions to a woman named Yoko, a nail artist working in Greater Seattle, who was born and raised in Japan. Thankfully, she had answers. This is Lolita Fashion, a popular subculture in a district of Tokyo called Harajuku that is known for fashion. According to several websites, it has become world-famous. Popular Japanese singer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu wears Lolita for her concerts. Pamyu’s fans—much like fans of American rock groups—emulate her style.

Lolita fashion in Japan has nothing to do with the American novel by the same name. Japanese Lolita is darling. It is a little-girl style, elaborate and sexually modest. It’s a style American six-year olds would die for. It is a princess all grown up, yet still a princess. And in Tokyo, it is beautiful, not weird. Gothic Lolita is a subset, and this book includes a couple of those models as well. 

When we see a youngster walking in a U.S. city dressed in Star Trek attire, we smile. If the costume is elaborate and authentic enough, we might even admire her or him for the creativity that went into it. So it is with Japanese Lolita. And like Trekkies here, the Lolita fashionistas get together socially for parties or tea. It’s a way to bond and have fun.

Unfortunately, none of this is explained in the book. Simon Doonan wrote the Introduction, a piece that I believe Japanese people will find inaccurate, ignorant of eir culture, and insulting. He writes, “Japan is a freaky scene. It’s a lethal combo of beauty and perversity.” And it gets worse as it goes on. I am sorry that the editor or the photographer himself did not nix that introduction before it went into print. I could see this book as wildly popular among the large Lolita fashion followers if it were not for that. This book would make a lovely gift—if you tear out the offending Introduction first.

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