Kumamoto City, the capital of the Kyushu prefecture of the same name, has always been in a bit of an awkward position. It doesn’t really have the metropolitan appeal of Tokyo, or the world-famous nature and hot springs of northern Japan, or even the tropical island allure of Okinawa. Plus, it’s a heck of a long way away from the capital. So why would someone decide to visit Kumamoto?
The answer just might be fashion. For the past several years, Kumamoto has steadily been building itself up as the fashion capital of Japan. Now, it’s come to the point where some would say that if you want to see the future of Japan’s fashion, don’t look at Tokyo, but look at Kumamoto instead.
Has Tokyo, the fashion king of Japan, finally been dethroned?
Kumamoto City has a history of attracting high-end fashion. In 1985, the designer menswear store Paul Smith opened up their first store in Japan in the city, leading all the way up to today when the American boutique Need Supply Co. will open its second Japanese store in Kumamoto later this year. Considering their first store was opened in Shibuya, going right to Kumamoto second has to be indicative of something.
Perhaps it’s because of all the other luxury brand stores in Kumamoto City, where the likes of BEAMS, Giorgio Armani, Gianfranco Ferré, and more are common sights. Sure, simply having a bunch of high-end names like that might not seem incredibly relevant, but it’s important to keep this in mind: expensive stores like that can only exist if there’s a demand. And there will only be a demand for luxury brands if people in the area are fashion-conscious.
But why would the people of Kumamoto be so concerned about fashion? There are a couple of theories, the first being that because the population of Kumamoto City is much smaller compared to other cities, fashion tends to spread quickly and burn out even quicker, so people go through trends faster than anywhere else. That combined with the people of Kumamoto having a tendency to like to show off a bit is a recipe for everyone trying to create the next big fashion boom.
That’s part of the reason so many high-end fashion stores have opened in Kumamoto. Since the population is so fashion-conscious, it’s the perfect “barometer” to find out what products will sell and should be continued in other stores. This kind of marketing by luxury brand stores has led to an interesting phenomenon: something that is hip and happening in Tokyo might already be “so last month” in Kumamoto.
In fact, riding the fashion waves is so popular in Kumamoto that there’s even a local word for someone who always strives to be on the cutting-edge of whatever is popular: wasamon. The next time you see someone trying real hard to look cool, call them a wasamon and see what happens.
Here are some photos from the fashion-conscious in Kumamoto. What do you think? Are they wasamon or just whatever?
▼ Would you pick up these fashionable hitchhikers?
Clarke Hosp (@hospdesign) March 10, 2015
▼ Looking classy and setting trends.
GU（ジーユー） (@gu_global) January 28, 2015
▼ The beret is back, you saw it here first in Kumamoto.
GU（ジーユー） (@gu_global) October 06, 2014
▼ A little bit of cheating since Disney is always in fashion. (Click to enlarge.)
KO-KI@COLORS (@COLORSkouki) July 29, 2015
▼ You know it’s super high fashion when you have no idea what’s going on.
某ドレス屋さんとsho_maaが コラボすることになりました。 詳細はまた後日！ #熊本 ファッション コーディネート http://t.co/jdDNby6d0H—
sho_maa (@sho_maa1) April 19, 2015
▼ And then of course there’s Kumamon, Kumamoto’s adorable bear mascot that everyone loves. He looks good on anything.
熊本の最先端ファッションです 参考にして頂けると幸いです http://t.co/3VihFo8b0z—
熊本育ちの久留米人 (@SSJ_YY_1021) January 05, 2015
ねえねえ。 これって熊本がだいぶ認められてきたってことよね？ ファッションだよもはや熊本はファッション！！ http://t.co/A68THUbHM7—
プチ沼 (@puchinuma) June 19, 2014
くまもん 靴下お気に入り http://t.co/D9BpFIQufZ—
坂田梨香子 (@sakarika1216) October 11, 2015
While we’re not quite sure if Kumamoto City has quite overtaken Tokyo in the fashion world just yet, they are certainly on the right track to getting there. And if their fashion sense is anything like their awesome preschools and party buses, then Tokyo had better step up its game fast.