Cosplay in Japan

The term alone is a broad overview of a much wider and more diverse culture, where these cosplayers or reiyas devote time and effort into perfecting their roles. It is not uncommon to see these individuals in public places like Tokyo’s Harajuku district for it is considered a popular meeting ground. Attention to detail from simple to elaborate wigs, make-up and costumes – many of which are hand-crafted – are the highlights of observing cosplayers as a first time visitor to the city. However, even though there are a wide range of characters, the most popular ones, and fan favorites, are maid and high-school girl uniforms.

Another popular trend amongst reiyas is the smoky-eyed look; most commonly seen with those who prefer the Lolita fashion. Although Western culture attributes the role of Lolitas to underage girls, in Japan, it is not regarded that way. Those engaged in Lolita fashion do not see themselves as cosplayers, but distinct trendsetters who take great pride in their craft, ranging from Gothic to Punk. However, the inspiration for their look comes from the Victorian era, and the ensemble is mostly composed of a dress or skirt of knee-length, a headdress, petticoat, blouse, knee-high socks and platform shoes. Lolita fashion, in Japan, was believed to have started in the 1960s, and today many high-end boutiques have devoted sections to this growing trend.

Another instance where one might see ‘costumes’ on the streets of Japan, is during the Coming-of-Age Day festivities. This is held annually on the second Monday of January, and it is a time when young people who have reached the age of 20, are officially recognized as adult members of society. Young women can be seen wearing brightly-colored furisode (a style of kimono with long sleeves) and zori sandals. Since these outfits are considered expensive, and a little difficult to wear, the women either borrow them from relatives, rent them and prefer to get prepared in local beauty salons. For the men, the traditional dark kimono with hakama is sometimes seen, although many now prefer to wear Western suits.