Fashion for Health? Harajuku

Walking around Harajuku you can see a lot of youngsters dressing up in rather eccentric out of the ordinary clothes as a form of art and expression. There are also some styles that are specific to tackling mental illnesses. Let’s find out more.

Harajuku, a neighborhood in Tokyo known for its colorful streets, thrift stores, themed cafes and something you cannot miss ‘street fashion’. Fashion is very prevalent in Harajuku and for most people it’s a way of life. It’s a place where the youth of Japan freely express themselves by dressing up in various styles and stand out from the ordinary which is not usually what everyone strives for. Some of the few types of fashion styles you’d probably know are, Lolita, Visual kei, Cosplay, Punk rock clothing etc. 

But there is another type of fashion which is defying norms and shedding light on a topic that Japan is not very accepting of, Mental Illness and Depression.

The term used to describe this style is “Yami Kawaii” which means “Sick Cute” showcasing the dark depths of mental illness and depression. There’s also an alternative for this term “Yume Kawaii” a literal translation of this would be “Dream cute” which focuses on the soft and fairy tale kind of vibe.

Yume kawaii typically uses lots of pastel colors and has a soft touch of style whereas Yami kawaii focuses more on the darker elements, the use of motifs, medical and grotesque themes eg: a normal t shirt may have an illustration of a cute anime girl hanging from the fan, smiling. Not very pleasant.

Now the question is how does wearing a piece of clothing which most of us consider as disturbing help someone with depression or any other form of mental illness?

Well it’s a coping mechanism, the mere fact that people are able to discuss about this and portray their feelings in the form of fashion acts as therapy for most youths who follow this style. And seeing influencers on social media gives a form of reassurance that maybe I’m not the only one going through this.

Japan is known for the various number of mascots or characters it has for almost everything so it’s a given that Yume Kawaii also has a heroin.Meet Menhera-chan a character that has been designed by the illustrator Ezaki Bisuko, Question: Any idea as to what her name means?

Menhera is the Japanese net slang for people who need some kind of mental health care. Menhera-chan a mix between cute and sick has appealed to a wide range of audience and her fan base keeps on growing.

The sub culture of fashion Yami Kawaii at the end of the day is all about love and treating people who suffer from mental illness as humans and nothing less. It is a community which has helped the Japanese youth to express and own their faults and change to be a better person and help others like them. Even if we don’t agree with this whole idea of fashion using gruesome pieces of clothing we have to agree that it is doing well for the youth of Japan in one way of the other.