Tag Archives: lolita

When in Rome

Long time no see :O I’ve been really busy the last month, and also I was at a bit of a loss about what I should write about here when I seem to cover everything in various other places. Luckily a friend suggested that I write about Japanese perception of Lolitas, and voila! a topic was born.

Just as many people– specifically so-called Japanophiles– think of Japan as a magic land made of candy and brand where everything is beautiful and clean, they also tend to think of the Japanese (in Japan) as being an otherworldly creature. There are a lot of misconceptions about Japanese culture, daily life, et cetera, but of course it would take many volumes to cover such a vast quantity of information and that’s not what I seek to do anyway. I do think, though, that it’s at least interesting to take a look at how lolitas are seen in Japan.
This is based on my own experience living in Osaka and Nagoya, and visiting other cities, as well as using anecdotes from friends who are also into lolita or other fashion subcultures.

A lot of people ask me whether, because lolita fashion originated in Japan, people are widely accepting of it. I think the answer to this is no; certainly more people are aware of it, but the majority don’t understand it and mistake it for something else. Of course it depends on where you are while in lolita– a big city is going to be different from a small mountain town, whatever country you’re in. There are certain places in Japan, most famously Harajuku and Shinjuku– and in Osaka Shinsaibashi/America-mura, and in Nagoya Osu and Sakae– where lolita isn’t going to attract all that much attention, and is likely to get a more positive response than negative. The reason for this, though, is that these are fashionable areas, and the people that frequent them are used to seeing lolitas. That said, being a non-Japanese lolita is ALWAYS going to attract some amount of attention, just as being a foreigner at all is going to attract attention in almost every city (except perhaps Tokyo and some places of Osaka– even in Nagoya, Japan’s third largest city, people are often surprised to see foreigners at all).

One of the most interesting responses that I get, and many of my friends here in Japan agree, is that elderly women tend to be the most vocal about their love for lolita. Businessmen tend either to simply stare or to titter amongst themselves, young women are torn between admiration and disgust, and I’ve seen my fair number of boys get scared and run the other direction (quite literally– a group of friends and I, two of us in full lolita, came across a group of young men, who saw us and played a quick game of rock-paper-scissors to decide who was going to do whatever they had planned. The winner/loser stalked up to us boldly, but stopped several feet away and shouted “I can’t do it!” and made a dash back to his buddies. Things like this happen more often than you might think, but I don’t think they meant any harm). I have had people say inappropriate things to me and make situations quite awkward, but I don’t think these are because I’m a foreign lolita versus a Japanese lolita; I think it happens to all of us. And in some cases I think it’s more because I’m not Japanese, rather than the outfit I’m wearing. Like anywhere else, you should stay away from creepy-looking areas and just generally use common sense. Japan IS safer than most countries, but that’s not a license to be stupid.

At any rate, the general outside reaction varies greatly, but don’t be surprised to have people discreetly or not-so-discreetly snapping photos of you every time you stop moving.

While the general opinion of lolita is important to note, perhaps the closed-door opinion is even more important. What I mean is how your friends, (host) family, and coworkers are going to react when they find out your “secret”– even if you don’t consider it to be one. This may or may not vary from the reactions you already get in western countries, I’m not sure because it was never an issue for me in my home country.

I have been very lucky in Japan to have coworkers and students who more or less found lolita interesting and cute. I didn’t want anyone to know about it for the longest time, because I learned when I was a student in Osaka that many people confuse lolita with fetish/maid. As far as friends being accepting, I’m generally not worried about that because I firmly believe that a friend who can’t accept something as basic as my fashion choices isn’t a friend I really need.

I’ve gotten a few shocked “eeeeh?!” reactions, but nothing more serious than that, and it can definitely be more serious. I have had friends who were ordered by their superiors at work to never wear lolita in any place where the customers/students might see them (which, depending on where they worked, could mean never wearing lolita without leaving the city). I have also had friends whose host families had some trouble accepting a “weird” lifestyle– once to the extent that the family eventually demanded the host daughter be removed from their house, according to the girl solely due to their arguments about her fashion choices. While there are a lot of families that are fine with their new charges dressing strange, there are still many who are not.
Japan remains a country with a very conservative core, and despite what the world knows of Japan through its pop culture, there are more people on the conservative side than on the wild street-fashion (giant-robot-riding) side. Young Japanese lolitas and other street fashion wearers are noted for carrying suitcases around with them at all times– frequently this is because they carry a change of clothes with them. If Japan were as open-minded as people in the West believe, kids would probably be able to change clothes at home. But whether their fashion choice is a secret from their families (which is possible because many post-high schoolers live at home and have a part-time job or two to earn money) or simply not accepted in that “not under MY roof!” way, a lot of people have to change clothes on the go.

A friend once said, and I totally agree, that being a lolita is a matter that should be handled with delicacy– kind of like coming out. A lot of people are perfectly fine with homosexuals– that is, until their child or best friend or employee comes out. It is a lot easier to accept something when it doesn’t have a direct impact on your life.
As terrible as this seems, it does make sense. In a society that prizes conformity, it’s tough to accept something that doesn’t fit that mold. When a business hires a foreign employee or a host family agrees to accept a student, theoretically they should also accept whatever idiosyncrasies that person brings, since we all have them. From the point of view of the family/company though, they may feel like they didn’t get what they “signed up for”. Coming from America, I can’t stand the idea of a business controlling what the employees do in their off time, but in Japan things are different and it does happen.

I’m not saying “When in Rome…” though, because being a hard-headed American I can never accept that. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t come to live or work in Japan, either. I’m just recommending some delicacy in a delicate matter. As a non-Japanese lolita in Japan you are definitely going to stand out, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing.


Ask not what you can do for your brand (3)

In this part I’m going to talk about fukubukuro (福袋), widely known as “lucky packs” in the Western world. Like novelty fairs and sales, fukubukuro sales occur for several occasions, and also like fairs and sales, they can depend on the specific shop or be nationwide.
Some brands release “special sets” along with their “lucky packs”– these aren’t really fukubukuro because you know the contents and the value of said contents before purchasing. Regardless, most people think of special sets as being a kind of lucky pack– maybe because they come in big bags too? I don’t know.

Fukubukuro from lolita brands are usually available for the basic prices of 5,000 yen or 10,000 yen, plus tax, and of course content varies by price. Some brands will release cheaper accessory packs. Kera shops carry fukubukuro from a number of brands usually, from Suppurate System to Marble, depending on the brands that particular store stocks.

Of course the most famous time for fukubukuro is New Year’s day (or the days just after, if the store is closed on New Year’s. Just about every store in Japan is having a huge sale (many with fukubukuro) on this same day, so you usually have to choose which brand you want and forsake all the others. Because the Lolita brands release such limited numbers of fukubukuro, it’s unlikely that you’ll get one if you don’t line up early. Because the winter sales are a widespread event, fashion magazines usually devote at least the news section of their December/January issues to listing special events by stores, including specific lists of what day (and time) fukubukuro will be released, so the smart shopper can plan well in advance.
The second most popular time for fukubukuro is in mid-summer, along with the summer sales. It’s less likely that special sets will be released at this time, or that special fukubukuro-only items will be produced, so the packs are likely to be full of a selection of items from the previous season.

It’s important to note about fukubukuro that, while the contents are (usually) worth significantly more than the price of the bag, these contents are also often items that didn’t sell particularly well in the last season, hence the availability of these items to be sold so cheaply. One should be wary of lucky packs released immediately after long sales periods because the contents are almost assuredly things that didn’t sale in spite of ever-lower prices. The value of the pack is usually posted somewhere (in a magazine, or sometimes right on the pack) but this does not reflect the “sale” value, of course. You might have saved money had you bought the items on sale instead of getting a fukubukuro!
Along with this consideration, of course the buyer has to understand that the contents of the pack are random, though most brands attempt to put together a coordinate or at least a similar color, and there is no guarantee that the things are going to fit or be flattering if they do. You would *think* that putting things that fit a wide range of sizes into the bags would be the natural choice, but as I have known people who got something as specifically sized as shoes in a pack, that’s not the case. Buyer beware 🙂

Along with other promotions, brands will sometimes have fukubukuro to celebrate other occasions, and these are usually advertised only in blogs or on the brand’s website– less likely in magazines. For this reason it’s important to keep your eyes open!

Angelic Ugly

(Or, Why are the AP Girls so MEAN?)

In Japan, as everyone knows, customer service is incredibly important and is rarely taken lightly. Because there’s really *not* that much competition as far as price undercutting is concerned, and also because of the importance placed on politeness in this society, you can expect to be treated like a queen when you walk into a Prada boutique– or into a McDonald’s. There are exceptions to every rule though, of course, and unfortunately, Angelic Pretty is a rather infamous exception to the rule of… well, good manners.

Evil Pink
At first, shortly after I moved to Nagoya and started shopping at AP, I was treated quite well. There was one particular girl on staff who always greeted me (it’s pretty common for certain staff members to attach themselves to specific customers, and vice versa). Shortly thereafter, though, that girl disappeared, and staff interaction became worse and worse. I thought it was just me, or just foreigners; perhaps they were afraid we wouldn’t understand Japanese, or perhaps in their xenophobia they believed we didn’t know anything about lolita or Angelic Pretty as a brand. I appeared in their store several times in head-to-toe AP and was continually snubbed. Perhaps they were racist.
All of my non-Japanese lolita friends reported similar stories. We had trouble getting staff attention when we needed help, we were not welcomed upon walking into the store. One of my friends with a good understanding of Japanese overheard the shopgirls making fun of her while she was shopping. I personally have been told– TWICE– that I couldn’t reserve certain special items because they had already sold out in reservation, only to find out later that it was totally untrue.

I stuck with this notion of possible racism until meeting a new Lolita friend– this one an adorable Japanese girl, born and bred, the perfect size for Lolita clothing. When she told me that she was also treated rudely, I started to wonder who, exactly, they WERE nice to.

I can’t begin to explain this phenomenon, though. Some have suggested that it may be due to the large “gyaru” (or “gal”) clientèle that AP (almost exclusively among the brands) serves. Gyaru are widely perceived to be snobbish and rude, so at first glance, that might be a logical explanation. I don’t think that’s really the case, though. Regardless of how gyaru behave on the streets, even in actual gyaru shops, such as Liz Lisa and the notorious La Pafait, a customer can expect to be treated with an overabundance of generosity– even if it’s obviously an act, it’s still present. After all, even if the customer doesn’t LOOK like they would wear/fit/be suited to your clothing, doesn’t mean you can’t make money off them. So it’s not the gyaru issue.

Angelic Pretty’s popularity has skyrocketed as the forerunner for the ever more excessive sweet lolita style. Aside from raking in the cash on all of their sure-to-sell-out prints, these very limited pieces have given the brand a sort of prestige that might have resulted in this snobby attitude.
Or maybe they’re just bitches. Who knows?

Anyway, don’t let that stop you from visiting AP, really. Many people on vacation, only visiting the store once, report only good things about the brand, so it’s possible that problems would only arise after multiple trips to the same store. Personally, though, I’m quite sick of it, and haven’t bought anything from their boutique for myself in quite a while as a result.
But then I’ll admit, that’s also in part due to the fact that they’ve either not had anything I want, or they have but not in the color/price range I want it in….
I might be carrying this soon:
boston bag

Ask not what you can do for your brand… (redux)

One of my favourite things would have to be novelty fairs. I love novelty items and limited edition goods!

Novelty fairs happen with a fair amount of frequency, and can be nation-wide or limited to only specific stores. Fairs are often timed to go with anniversaries or other store-based events, as well as national holidays/vacation periods, as well as the changing of seasons.
Usually novelties are really limited so to get one you have to get to the store quick! Also, there are set amounts of money one must spend in order to get the novelties; in big novelty fairs, the more you spend, the “bigger” the gift you receive– soon Baby will start a fair wherein you can get a cute pen for spending more than 10,000 yen, or a tote bag for spending more than 25,000.
Novelty items can be anything you can imagine really– from dishes to clothing to jewelry and so forth. Novelty items usually can’t be purchased otherwise so it’s really fun to have them.
Angelic Pretty novelty towel:
Metamorphose pouches:

Generally you can’t get multiple novelty items, but the Meta shop staff are awesome and let me because I spent the proper amount on two separate occasions.

Along with novelty fairs, brands will sometimes release limited edition items. These are usually for special events and are often limited to individual stores. I tend to think of “special sets” like the ones Meta and AP release around New Year’s as this kind of item, rather than “lucky packs” as most people consider them.
For example, I was lucky enough to get a limited edition color of a cutsew by Baby, which was released to celebrate a “t-shirt fair” by the mall they’re located in. Most brands in the mall released special shirts just for that week.

This part’s getting long, so I’ll end it here ^^

Ask not what you can do for your brand… (part 1)

A lot of people ask questions about sales/lucky packs, etc, so I thought I would try to explain some of it here 🙂

Lolita brands are infamous for being stingy with sales (though not as bad as major designer labels like Coach or Burberry, not even mentioning LV), generally having only two major sales per year: a New Year sale, and a mid-summer sale, both of which are for clearing out the previous season’s styles. All major stores in Japan have these sales, but to varying degrees. For the Lolita brands, discounts generally range from 20% off to 80% off, though of course the deeper discounts are applied later in the sale.

Some brands have a very short time in which these sales take place, maybe a week or two. Metamorphose’s sales seem to last forever (in fact, I think there are STILL some things on sale at the shop in Nagoya, a quarter of a year later…), but their prices don’t change dramatically once the sale has begun. Angelic Pretty and Baby, the Stars Shine Bright tend to allow their sales to run a month or so, and by the end of the sales you can get things for some ridiculously low prices.
example: I got my coat from AP for under 10,000 yen.
AP coat
In these cases, its about luck… and perseverance! Sales periods often coincide with vacation periods so the bored and/or diligent brandslave can spend a lot of time visiting the stores repeatedly, waiting for prices to drop.
And while that may sound odd– as if the prices are going to change throughout the day– it’s true! Shops will often have an “exciting” hour or something, wherein discounts jump by 10% (so something that’s 50% off is now 60% off). Sometimes these are advertised in the blogs, and sometimes just on a little notice somewhere in the store.

Aside from the major sales that everyone knows about, there are also smaller sales throughout the year. “B” sales and “sample” sales are for when a brand wants to get rid of any damaged, defective, or “used” (as in, used for displays or in photoshoots) merchandise. Generally the so-called damage is so tiny you wouldn’t notice it anyway, like a tiny dot of discoloration on the underside of a collar; also, sometimes the brands just have an extra piece from an old collection that they want to get rid of. Regardless of this, the prices are almost always marked down at least 30%, usually closer to 50% or 60% off.
B sales are usually announced in advance on the brand’s website as well as on blogs, and the duration of the sale varies greatly. In my experience, Angelic Pretty B sales last only one weekend, so if you miss it, you’re out of luck.

Other sales throughout the year occur for various reasons– for example, for that particular shop’s anniversary. Other reasons are not as… expected. My region’s baseball team is exceptionally good, and last year they won the championship. As a result, Baby, the Stars Shine Bright had a 15%-off sale for most of their merchandise… plus all the bunny-bear bags were wearing little baseball caps, and that alone was worth going to see xD

Whew! So that’s all I can think of to say about sales. If you have any questions, feel free to ask 🙂
I’ll continue to talk about lucky packs and other incentives (novelties, point cards) later.

Welcome :)

I wanted something a little more public than livejournal– and also a little less connected to my daily life– to ramble on about my thoughts and experiences related to lolita and Japan. And thus this blog was born! Hopefully it’s not a waste of space… Anyway. Welcome!