Having been infatuated with the Tokyo’s gritty and outlandish youth culture, I set out my sights on contacting some of the most influential fashion icons of the underground scene of  in Tokyo. As a 19 year old fashion photographer born in Brazil and raised in the USA, with no connections in Tokyo prior to the trip, I networked strictly through Instagram. I searched the web for the most flamboyant of people. My vision grew from watching a variety of 90’s movies such as “La Haine”, “The Pusher Trilogy”, “American History X”,  and “Fudoh: The New Generation” to name a few. Many of those photographed are seen mixing the vintage pieces of the 90’s with contemporary streetwear and high fashion brands. The strict upbringing of many Japanese children consistently results in depression many, but I chose to highlight those who were able to shake off the chains and expectations set by their parents, and decided to live for themselves.


Arriving in Tokyo, I was a bit clueless as to what I was getting myself into. I knew it would be populous, given its the most populated city in the world with a population upwards of 37 million. However the only real “landmark” I was familiar with was the Shibuya Crossing, which many tourists visit to record the famous intersection in action. Shibuya was an area of Tokyo I had grown familiar to hearing as it’s home to the underground youth culture and incredible clothing stores I was in search of, which makes it an extremely popular destination for all types of artists to visit. Tokyo has always been a second home for hip hop. From the Beastie Boys to A$AP Rocky to Kanye West, hip hop culture loves Japan and Japan loves not only hip hop culture but western culture in general.


The Japanese youth are often brought up in an environment with many strict expectations. They are expected to dress in what society perceives as “normal” and to reach certain levels of achievement in school and life in general. This is similar to the west and around the world of course, but talking to many Japanese kids whom I befriended, I was amazed by how much I underestimated what they tend to go through in their youth. Around the world it is known that strict parenting results in sneaky children. This is true in government, the office and just about any situation where there is a “boss”. As someone who is lucky enough to have accepting parents, I didn’t have to do too much sneaking around and was able to express myself the way I wanted to. The flexible nature in which I was raised in gave me the confidence to wear whatever I felt like without the worry of judgement. My mission in Japan was to familiarize myself with the underground youth culture that is host to the most creative, innovative and stylish kids in Tokyo.



After a brief stint of networking on Instagram, I had a very busy but exciting project in the works. When I arrived in Tokyo, the first thing I noticed and I’m sure anyone will notice, is the cleanliness of the entire city. Even the subway is spotless. New York City, take note. I began the project on the rebellious youth of Tokyo by linking up with my good friend Marzy (@marzy_prpr), a DJ/Producer who resides in Tokyo. I was relieved to discover that he could speak amazing english as he did his studies in Oregon. Another thing you will come to realize, which should not at all be a surprise, is that English is not that common in Japan. Marzy and I talked hip hop, fashion among other things while shooting and he showed me around Harajuku, an area of Shibuya where many kids go to shop as it is home to an array of vintage stores. After shooting, Marzy took me over to Social Club Tokyo, where he would be performing later that night. It was at that night club where I discovered how nice and welcoming these kids are to foreigners, and it was overall an incredible experience and I was lucky enough to meet a variety of kids who shared common interests  despite being raised on the other side of the world in a totally different culture.




Later that same night, I met up with Hiroyuki (@hiroyuki_bdkmv) who, along with his partner @yumiansummer, owns and designs for BDKMV TOKYO, a streetwear brand based of course in Tokyo. Hiroyuki was super dope and overall a great person to be around, I knew I would not be disappointed as I am a huge fan of his designs and style in general. We shot our photos around Harajuku, where he spends works at Banny Store, a vintage clothing store, on Harajuku Street.



The next day, I would go on to meet up with Kyolo,(@_kyololon_), who also works with Hiroyuki, we hadn’t planned to shoot anything, but I was and still am a huge fan of her look and style. We had an impromptu shoot in  Shibuya, and although we didn’t have much time, we were greeted with great results.



Bowy (@yesbowy) and I had been planning a shoot since before I arrived in Tokyo, and I was lucky enough to run into him and @hsmt_ that night. It is hard to categorize what Bwoy does, he does everything. From modeling, to singing and performing, he was another person who was just a pleasure to vibe with. @Hsmt_ was nice enough to bring me along with him and his friends where we explored a rooftop in the night life of shibuya on halloween.





Lastly, after doing all these shoots I hadn’t had anything planned for the remainder of my trip. I was
contacted by Luis Zakharoff (@luiszakharoff), a 20 year old australian living abroad in Japan, He asked me if I wanted to get photos taken of me that day, and I of course I said yes. We shot around Shibuya, Harajuku, and Shinjuku. We also met up with his friend Jasmine (@jasmineyamamoto), a native of Tokyo who studied in Vancouver. Jasmine was a pleasure to work with and gave us valuable insight on Japanese culture considering she had been raised their and experienced it head on herself.



Overall, this experience opened my eyes to an entirely different culture and subculture where a crazy style and personality is appreciated and admired. I loved Tokyo and the people I had the opportunity to hang out with, and definitely plan on returning in the future as there are endless opportunities in not only Tokyo, but elsewhere in Japan.



Text and photography by @rafastinks