Think Piece: Nostalgia or no fun?

Were things really better when we were younger? This opinion piece was prompted by Fuki, one of the members of FANATIC magazine, who said that Takeshita Dori used to be so fun when she was in elementary school. Obviously not being from Tokyo, I cannot deny or confirm this statement.

But even to me, Takeshita Dori has completely lost what it was once famous for.

Where are the alternative shops on the edge of fashion, with hordes of alternative fashion wearers visiting on the weekends? Everyone who has visited Harajuku would know to avoid Takeshita Dori like the plague because of the amount of people parading around the street, especially on the weekends. But is it just that we’re all yearning for something that was only perceived as better because we liked it better when we were younger? Because—let’s face it—everything is cooler and more exciting when you’re younger.

In my teen years and being from London, I remember thinking Camden was the coolest place on earth. The market was always buzzing and the vendors were always different so you would never know what to expect. It was always a fun day out at Camden. And obviously, having gone through an emo phase during my teen years like everyone else on the planet during the 2000s, Camden was the absolute best place to buy new clothes, chill in a really cool atmosphere, and eat cheap food. Not to mention, a number of the stalls sold anime t-shirts and figurines (which were probably a knock off, but my tween self did not care in the slightest) which added bonus points to Camden’s “cool factor”.

Now, when I visit the area, it feels like there’s no adventure. Nothing new to find, see, or do. I suppose the huge fire that occurred last year that devastated the marketplace didn’t help either. Even so, the feeling of fun had long since gone. I began to notice the steady increase in vendors whose products were all copies of each other. You couldn’t walk two metres without seeing multiple “Just Did It” t-shirts or a t-shirt with a Star Wars-related pun. One or two of these stalls would have been fine but the market began to feel mass-produced and has lost its authenticity. A number of shops along the main road were closed and replaced by fast fashion brands like H&M. The last man standing seems to be Cyberdog, but at this point I’m wondering what the future of that will be, too.

With areas such as Camden and Harajuku, pulling in mobs of tourists every day, it is not surprising the areas feel like they have lost their charm.

Big brands want to put their stores where the people are—so small vendors are pushed out. Additionally, the tourists themselves do not promote a healthy atmosphere by gawking, taking unsolicited photos of people, and treating alternative clothing like a clown suit just for funny photos.

Despite all of this, many people, and—particularly young people—still visit these areas. Why? I’m not too sure to be honest. But there must be some excitement or reason to go. I still see groups of Japanese teens on Takeshita Dori every time I visit. For them, it isn’t relevant to go because it is nostalgic, it’s just relevant to them. Areas change as much as fashion does and it’s usually the younger generation that make the rules. Maybe these areas haven’t changed, only our perspectives have. The shops and stalls might have swapped owners, but to the younger generation the feeling is still the same as the one we felt. Who knew in my early twenties I’d already be proclaiming “Well back in my day…” as if Camden High Street is a relic of the past!

What do you think? Nostalgia or no fun?

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