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Home » Archives » August 2004 » Selling Fruits to the World

Selling Fruits to the World

Wednesday, August 25, 2004 Posted: 11:06 PM JST [PHOTOS]

Photos of Japan by Kjeld Duits Thanks to his book FRUITS (more than 100,000 copies sold worldwide), Shoichi Aoki's street magazine Fruits is now better known abroad than in Japan self. The magazine with an almost cult-like following in Japan has been documenting Tokyo street fashion since 1996. I had an exclusive interview with Aoki.


You can't imagine that this is the photographer of the wildest fashion Japan has seen this century, possibly ever. Simply dressed in a white t-shirt, busily pushing boxes around in his small office, Shoichi Aoki (1955) looks more like a harried graphic designer who has too much work to do.

Aoki first started documenting street fashion in London in the mid 80's. "I taught myself how to take photographs from books. At the time Japanese fashion wasn't free at all. The normal street fashion in the UK was free and really cool." Inspired by the free street fashion of London the young Aoki decided he wanted to do something about Japanese staleness. "In Japan there was not a single magazine that showed the London style of street fashion. I figured that if I would introduce that kind of fashion to Japan things would change. I also saw the clothes as art and I wanted to preserve a record of this 'street art'."

To show the Japanese kids this 'free street art' of London, Aoki started Street magazine in 1985. It sold well and introduced the street fashion idea to tens of thousands of Japanese teenagers.


In the early to mid 90's things were beginning to change in Japan. The Harajuku area in Tokyo had its main thoroughfare closed off on Sundays and this was attracting more and more bands and show offs. The 'pedestrian heaven' (hokoten) as it was called became a laboratory and incubation center for new trends in music and fashion. "In Japan everybody had always dressed the same. Whatever was popular was worn by everyone. Everybody would wear Comme des Gar�ons or Ivy or whatever brand was 'in'. But suddenly Harajuku became free. People started to feel that it was cool to coordinate your own clothes. Harajuku fashion became really interesting and fun." He recalls: "You had this small group of trendsetters, perhaps 10 to 20 people. Whenever they came up with something new, others would soon imitate them. But these imitators weren't as cool as the original trendsetters so the trendsetters didn't want to be identified with them. To differentiate themselves again they came up with new things. It just escalated. They kept on trying to escape from their imitators right into "decora" (editor: fashion style sporting lots of decorative stuff and strong bright colors). They figured nobody would follow them into wearing clothes that crazy." To record this creative explosion of fashion, Aoki started up a second magazine, Fruits. Fruits almost exclusively focused on these wild Harajuku trends.


Fruits is not your average fashion magazine. It is printed on relatively cheap paper without all the expensive advertising of the mainstream fashion magazines. There are no fabulously looking models which you will never ever meet in real life. Instead there are real people, usually staring zombie-like straight into the camera. The first five years Aoki shot the photos himself, wandering around the streets of Tokyo day after day. It was hard work. "On an average day I'd perhaps shoot 5 people," he recalls. He didn't just photograph his subjects he also delved into their souls. Each photo in Fruits contains information about that person's favorite place in Tokyo, their favorite shop and brand, what they want to buy and the kind of work they want to do in the future. "You start to understand the character of that person a little bit," Aoki explains. "You also get to see the trends in jobs. Now everybody wants to become a nail artist."


Since he started documenting the Harajuku trends Aoki has seen quite a few changes. "From '96 through '99 you had a boom of young designers like Triventi, Beauty Beast and so on. After that, second hand clothes became the cool thing to wear. Recently you see a a lot of people wearing foreign designers again." The kids themselves also changed according to Aoki. "They are much freer in expressing themselves and can think for themselves. They even decide their own hairstyles now. In the mid 90's it was truly revolutionary when people started to dye their hair and choose their own color. You eventually saw all kinds of colors: green, red, anything."


Unlike in the West, clothes are not a social or political statement in Japan according to Aoki. "Instead of expressing yourself, it is a way of communicating with the members of your group. A message without words. You show your feelings, your awareness of fashion. It has no social context whatsoever. They don't care at all about how other people in society or how other groups see them." This group feeling is so strong says Aoki that members of one group will never meet or communicate with members of other groups. "Harajuku girls would never become friends with Shibuya girls. It is a different universe."


Aoki wonders about the future of Harajuku. Several years ago the "pedestrian heaven" system which functioned as a germinator for Harajuku's wild fashion trends was terminated. People living in the area complained about the noise. "Now when something new surfaces it quickly evaporates. There is no place to make it grow. Fashion is like farming, it needs fields. If you have seeds but no fields the plants fade away." There is nothing to take Harajuku's place at the moment. "Harajuku is unique. It has Meiji Jingu Shrine nearby, many large stations and a very special spirit. Daikanyama is also good, but it is more of a quiet kind of place. It won't go wild. It has always been that way."

But Aoki doesn't feel hopeless. "I feel something new emerging. I just don't know what yet. When I see it, I'll know."

FRUITS magazine covers: © copyright AOKI Shoichi.

Keywords: people_focus trends_lifestyle pop culture

Related Links:

  1. The official FRUITS site
  2. Portrait of Shoichi Aoki
  3. Photos of Japanese street fashion by Kjeld Duits
  4. JAPANESE STREETS, site about Japanese street fashion

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19 comments so far post your own

1 | At 04:36am on Feb 02 2005, Emme Lee wrote:
Hi there,

This was a great article. One of the best I've come across in my research of the artist Shoichi Aoki.

Thanks for writing it.

I'm wondering if you could help me get in contact with Shoichi Aoki - I am having trouble finding an email address / website / phone number, anything.

I live and work in Vancouver, and I'd like to consider interviewing him for our TV program. Our show is called ZeD - a CBC Television program, about arts and culture.

Please let me know if you can help.

Thanks so much!

Wardrobe Coordinator, ZED, CBC Television
cell: 778-882-7472
Vancouver, BC, Canada
2 | At 04:40am on Feb 02 2005, Emme Lee wrote:
Oh, never mind, I found the website right after I wrote this. You can take my post down.

Thanks anyways.
3 | At 04:13am on Feb 19 2005, fabrice wrote:
hi, i'm from Brussels and i want to know the best wonderful place in Japan to find second hand clothes and accessoiries from the 50's 60's 70's..i'm coming soon in your country..
tokyo? osaka? kyoto?
if something can help me ..
thank a lot and see you soon.

4 | At 05:20am on Feb 19 2005, Kjeld wrote:
There are a lot of used clothing stores in Tokyo (esp. Harajuku and Cat street) and Osaka. In Tokyo visit at least Chicago in Harajuku, In Osaka go at least to San Kyu Shop (39 shop) in Amerika Mura.

Most people in these areas know these shops, so just find the area first then ask around for the shop.

5 | At 07:26pm on May 01 2005, jasmine wrote:
I love the style and the photos very much.I live in Australia and want to go to Tokyo because i want to be a photographer.Shoichi Aoki has done a great book.I hope to be as good as him someday.My style of clothing that i wear resembles the type of clothing as fruits.Aoki hould be proud im glad he has shown the worl the great style
6 | At 08:28am on May 08 2005, laura wrote:
hi um...iv never done this before but i truly love japan!!and there fashion!!!!!!!!!!!!!
7 | At 11:30pm on May 24 2005, Lena wrote:
FRUiTS is so awesome. i love 'em. i only have 3, but i always wish i could have all of 'em! harajuku is so cool too... the people have amazingly awesome taste in fashion
8 | At 11:38pm on Nov 26 2005, Sarah wrote:
i'm so glad i found this article!! i've been collecting FRUiTS for 3 years now, so i'm a big fan! they're so inspiring and motivational, i love it! besides onatako.com and asiajam.com (my new love!) , are there any other places i can buy japanese clothing online??
9 | At 01:13am on Jan 14 2006, naruto4 wrote:
There's this store called PLANET-WALRUS on ebay that sells more unique fruits & kawaii stuff for way cheaper than Asiajam. I think the ebay user id is easterngypsy or something..
10 | At 11:18pm on Feb 23 2006, Alice wrote:
im a 2nd year fasion student currently studying in the UK. i am basing my final dissetation on japanese street style (the fruits book has inspired me!). i would be gratefull for any information provided, any idea where i can research more about the subject of japanese fashion? if you know anything (or even better, if you are Japanese and is involved in this fashion phenonem), please do not hesitate to contact me!

E-MAIL: Fashionistali@yahoo.co.uk
11 | At 02:47pm on Mar 03 2006, Jessica wrote:
man oh man it really shocks me to know that kids like me exactly like me loveand dress in the same style as me i thought i was alone always an outcast but man tokyos 4 me i luv JApAn THanKs so much Aoki.you inspired me to be as i am and never change which i will never do thanks! : )
12 | At 07:22am on Apr 29 2006, Vanessa wrote:
I've been shopping from onatako and asiajam as well. asiajam is cheap and have great outfits in their stocks. its a very friendly place and i had lots of freebies everytime i ordered something. luv that shop.
13 | At 05:28am on May 16 2006, Leesa wrote:
I'm a HUGE fan of Planet Walrus also!!! Never been to Asiajam , tried Onatoko, but Walrus seems to have the quirkiest Japanese styles around...they definately rock in my book!!!!
14 | At 08:24pm on Aug 03 2006, lisa wrote:
Well, actually I found all my asian fashion clothing from asiajam.com. Never shopped at planet walrus though.
15 | At 06:26pm on Aug 09 2006, Vicky wrote:
Just checked out Asiajam the clothes are ok but the colors are too loud and everything looks to be pretty much the same, checked out Planet Walrus also, they have bigger variety and not as many tacky things. Nevertheless I don't shop online.
16 | At 06:32pm on Aug 09 2006, Vaneessa wrote:
Actually, I got my stuff from Planet Walrus , most of their items are unique and interesting , also priced affordably plus their service is great haven't heard of that other one,...do they sell fruit jams from Asia?
17 | At 04:22am on Aug 15 2006, Petunia wrote:
You might wanna check out www.korean-fashion-online too
18 | At 04:23am on Aug 15 2006, Petunia wrote:
19 | At 04:24am on Aug 20 2006, Ayu J wrote:
I think asiajam's stuff are quite tacky and outright ugly... Japanese people don't wear those things, are you kidding me? Their stuff is like for clowns. I've lived in tokyo all my life and Harajuku's fashion is NOT LIKE THAT. What a fraud.

I also tried tokidoki and Onatoko. They are both great.
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