Creator: Shoichi Aoki
Date Published: (Fruits) 2001 & (Fresh Fruits) 2005
Pages: Both 268 photograph pages, 272 in total
Size: Both 6 1/4 x 8 5/8 in
When people think of Japan a sense of refined, minimalistic subtlety comes to mind. They think of the traditionally conservative and the honor of the samurai.
‘Fruits’ and ‘Fresh Fruits’ shows another side of Japan by taking us to the Tokyo district of Harajuku through the eyes of photographer Shoichi Aoki. Harajuku has become synonymous with youthful eccentric fashion. It was recently popularised in the western world when Gwen Stefani composed songs about her experiences and influences by Harajuku, and also enlisted the ‘Harajuku Girls’ for back up dancers in her film clips. Aoki established a magazine to document the growing subculture of street fashion in Tokyo and the images were eventually published in these twin volumes.
The product is an impressive testament to self expression in fashion. Each page of ‘Fruits/Fresh Fruits’ is a full colour photograph featuring between one to five people, but usually one or two. At the bottom corners of the page details of the person’s outfits, age, name and current obsession are outlined. This offers some background behind their outfit choices and a small slice of their life. Most of them are between 12 and 27.
The outfits themselves are incredible and one can study the details for hours on end. I have brought the books out at family gathering and watched people of all ages pour over the images. It is interesting to also spot the reoccurring people. The selection could put a mardis gra to shame, with many denizens of harajuku donning flamboyant outfits that seem to be anime come to life. They are colourful, fun, Gothic, eclectic and some down right strange. They project attitudes that range from youthful self expression to outright revolt against the mainstream. The vibrance of their outfits seems to fight out against the constant backdrop of cold, hard concrete buildings and Tokyo cityscape. Small details leap out at you – like the way Japanese women tend to stand with their feet turned inwards and how they still manage a clever outfit despite the freezing temperatures at times. Littered amongst the portraits is an occasional random shot of a part of Harajuku life (for instance a Samoyed dog). Aoki captures the persona of the subjects beautifully.
Most of all, you care about these people. Their humanity shines through. I worry about them – I wonder if they get teased at school, whether their teachers and parents give them a hard time because of their unconventional styles or whether they will ever be accepted by general society. With these images catching them at their most lively, it comes across as important to let people express themselves.
I notice that following the success of ‘Fruits’ and ‘Fresh Fruits’ the concept is now hastily being copied by other publishers, with anthropologys on western street fashion and other styles coming out (which they say is the ultimate form of flattery). ‘Fruits’ and ‘Fresh Fruits’ have a special place on my shelf. The images are great for new fashion ideas (many of Harajuku dwellers make their own clothes), for a laugh or for a inlook at another culture. The books offer something unique and a reoccurring sense of joy when I study the pages.
♥♥♥♥♥ – 5/5