Kokura Spring 2005 Fashion Report, Day 4 Part 2

Continuing from yesterday’s post of pictures from May 5—today’s are from the same day—we’ll work our way back through the arcades near Kokura station and finish up at Riverwalk. We’ve got moms and daughters—two sets!—as well as a bit of navel gazing, someone who appears to have given up his worldly possessions for a higher purpose, and the usual short skirts. Thankfully, this is the final installment of my five-part series on this year’s spring fashions in Kokura.

If you’ve been with me from the beginning of this series, you’ll be glad to know that this is the last time you’ll have to read these references to the earlier posts. If you’re just joining the tour, make sure you look at these pages first: Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4, which the first installment of Day 4.

Day 4: May 5, Part 2

Here’s a mother and daughter in one of the shopping streets, walking towards the station. The mother’s the one in the longer jean skirt. In looking at her daughter’s attire, I wonder if it’d be polite to call the mom “madame?” Also note the kelly green shirt on the woman in the background.

a mother and daughter in one of Kokura's shopping streets

Another mom—with matching child—checking out the window display at a clothing boutique called Nix/Jam. Said establishment caters to the urban rapster look. It’s right next door to a Dolce & Gabbana shop. The girl in the pink shirt has recovered her composure, but a few moments earlier, she had been quite horrified and embarrassed when her boyfriend pointed out that her shirt had crept up to expose her belly button. It’s pulled down to a safe position at the waistline of her jeans, but this has left her chest looking bit cold. Her guy doesn’t seem to mind, though.

mom with matching child, in front of Nix/Jam in Kokura

Contrary to what I saw last year, and as I said in my introduction, exposed bellies aren’t as much of a taboo any more. This woman is a case in point. The photo is a cropped detail from the one above. The mom doesn’t seem to concerned about showing off her belly. Or her navel piercing. In fact, it’s pretty obvious to me that she’s flaunting it. She must have strong legs, too, considering the size of those boots. Each is bigger than her daughter’s head. And that’s saying something.

close-up of mom with matching child, in front of Nix/Jam in Kokura

A girl checking her cellphone while walking past Café Bongo, directly across the lane from Nix/Jam. Given the number and intensity of stares that Lia usually draws, it’s possible that this woman discreetly snapped a photo of Lia while we gawked at our attention was distracted by the matched pair in the previous picture. Regarding the skirt, I wonder if it’s an example of the style that hangs on the hips but has a flesh-coloured elastic tube to conceal the wearer’s belly.

A girl checking her cellphone while walking past Café Bongo

And further down the street, a plainly-dressed young man who looks unimpressed by something. Maybe it’s the vacant shop. Or perhaps he’s not completely satisfied with his afro.

plainly dressed man, with arms crossed and an afro hairstyle

Or maybe that’s just the way guys walk down the street these days. This pair walked the entire length of the street like this, keeping some distance but occasionally muttering to each other. I wonder if they’re aspiring rappers on a promo tour.

afro-man and his partner-in-crime

More layering. What little you can see of the man she’s with appears indicate that he has the standard middle-aged-Japanese-man-who-smokes-too-much-and-stays-out-drinking-with-the-boys physique.

a woman with multiple layers

Onward to Riverwalk yet again. First a short skirt. The shoes are a little bit large for her feet. Apparently it’s considered extremely attractive if a woman’s heels hang a centimeter or two off the back edge of slip-on shoes like this. I guess she’d fail the sexiness test.

short skirt and 'oversize' shoes at Riverwalk

And another short skirt. I’m not entirely convinced about the fanny pack with miniskirt combo. Though dropping the hemline by a foot would totally work. It’s obvious she’s having an identity crisis. Is she going for skanky streetwalker or comfy casual college student? I mean, even if she was going for the whole enjo kosai thing, she’s way off the mark. She’s much too old. And the guys who are into that expect schoolgirl uniforms anyway.

another short skirt, with fanny pack and bunnyhug (hoody)

Then there was this couple. The woman on the left is holding her shopping bag to shield her face from the aging effects of the bright afternoon sun that she’s walking directly into. I’ve seen a lot of women doing this. Perhaps someone spilled water on them and they’ve multiplied. Note as well the woman in layers walking towards us. Yep, layers and kelly green.

a couple in white, the woman on the left is shielding her face from the sun with her handbag

And here’s the “white couple” again, inside the building. It’s a boy! Not the kid—well, he is, too—the one in white, with the orange hair. He has the look of a wandering mystic but his heavy metal/punk t-shirt made me reconsider my first impression. Note to self: in the eyes of those who judge, giving up all your worldly possessions isn’t likely to count for much if you’ve simply done it so that your girlfriend can buy a pink quilted Chanel bag.

the 'white' couple again, sideview taken inside Riverwalk

That’s it for pictures. All you need now is some witty concluding commentary. Unfortunately, looking at and thinking about this much Japanese fashion has left me somewhat numb, but I’ll give it a try.

Kokura is the destination in Kitakyushu for people to shop and to be seen, so they dress accordingly. Plus this last day of shooting—May 5th—was in the middle of Golden Week—a major holiday—so even more people were out than usual. And a lot of them looked like they had just gotten off the overnight bus from La Ronge the middle of nowhere. Still, it says a lot about the number of fashionphiles around here that I managed to take the last twenty photos in an afternoon, without really having to work at finding them.

As I noted at the beginning of this series, standards of propriety are different here. Last year when I was helping one of my students prepare to go study in the US, I had to explain to her that what in Japan is considered “cute” would almost be grounds for being picked up by the vice squad in most North American cities. Her conclusion after talking fashion with someone who’s more in tune with such things than I, was that American college students look really unfashionable.

What else can I say? Keep in mind that although this is a random sampling of what I saw in Kokura over a few weeks, it’s not completely random. My choices of what to shoot and what to show are a bit skewed by a number of factors. I don’t have many pictures of people in conservative dress because that’s how things are at my job and around my neighbourhood. So they just doesn’t register as an interesting victims subjects for candid photos. I deliberately tried to include images of more plainly-dressed folks to balance things out, but I have to admit these photo expeditions are dominated by the extremes. I’m fully aware of the fact that it’s easy to trick people into thinking a poor photo is good simply because it has a high novelty factor. And let’s face it: it’s the bizarre stuff that catches my eye. Just read some of the other stuff I’ve posted on this blog and you’ll quickly understand what I mean. If I had wanted a “normal” life, I’d have stayed in Canada.

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