Samurai Dave: The Roving Ronin Report

Rambling Narrative of Travels, Thoughts, and Embellishments

Tokyo’s Rockabilly Dancers of Harajuku Park

Tokyo’s Rockabilly Dancers of Harajuku Park
The last of the old takenoko-zoku group still rocks away

Tokyo rockabilly dancers of Harajuku Park.

Tokyo’s Harajuku Park has become internationally famous over recent years mainly for its collection of high school students decked out in wild Goth outfits and makeup. Just about every Sunday they can be found sitting around in groups with their similarly attired peers coolly ignoring the camera flashes exploding all about them.

One of the current Harajuku Park denizens.

But they were not always there. Before them, a more active and lively group ruled the park with a leather-gloved fist. They didn’t sit around chatting or trying to brood darkly. They moved and swayed to the beat of good old rock ‘n’ roll.

Takenoko-zoku were once a familiar sight in Harajuku.

They were the takenoko-zoku or bamboo shoot kids. They were named so because they just sprang up sometime in the ’80s. One group went in for the ’50s-style look of leather jackets, pompadours, slicked back hair, white T-shirts and blue jeans. Basically, they looked like extras from a Japanese production of “Grease.”

Every Sunday these rockers danced or rocked out with their local bands. Harajuku grooved to an old-time beat for many years … until one fateful day.

It’s never really been explained to anyone’s satisfaction why the authorities felt the takenoko-zoku were such a menace to Japanese society. But in the mid-’90s the police showed up in force and drove off all the rockers, greasers, twisters and bump-n-grinders.

Into the vacuum trickled the goth Lolita crowd. Far weirder but quieter they slowly took over the former territory of the takenoko-zoku and became its main attraction in time.

When the old takenoko-zoku were driven off, a weirder crowd replaced them.

Goth maids took the place of bobby sox girls.

A block over from their old stomping grounds at the entrance of Yoyogi Park, some of the rockabilly takenoko-zoku still gather to rock the Sunday away. The last of a dying breed, they resist change and do what they have done for years — dance.

Rock on!

Yeah, daddy-o!

May 15, 2008 - Posted by | 1950s, Blogroll, culture, dance, entertainment, Goth Girls, Harajuku, japan, life, rock, rockabilly, takenoko-zoku, tokyo, travel


  1. Great pictures. Thanks.

    Comment by Street Photographer | July 29, 2008 | Reply

  2. […] Bjorn, and John have a new video out that references The Rockabilly Dancers from Tokyo’s Harajuku park. Japan is just so tantalizing. more about "The Citrus […]

    Pingback by Power of Potential 2/07/09 « To Fear It Is To Know It | February 8, 2009 | Reply

  3. Hi there. Thanks for putting up some things about the Rockabilly scenes in urban Japan. I was wondering if you would clear something up for future blog readers. As a follower/wearer of lolita fashion for five years, I would like to clarify that the girl in the maid outfit is not really a lolita. She’s just wearing a maid outfit (possibly because of the growing popularity of maid cafés in places like Akihabara) or in other words a costume. If you have any other photos of actual lolitas, could you replace it?


    Also, gothic lolita is simply a category/style of the fashion. There are other styles such as sweet and classic (so the “lolita crowd” instead of “goth lolita” crowd would be of a more appropriate term). Lolitas have been around as early as 1980, but it’s gone through a lot of evolving and popularity grew in the 2000s due to advancements in telecommunications (aka: the interwebs).

    Comment by Lily A. | July 11, 2009 | Reply

  4. sorry, wrong link. I don’t know what happened there

    Comment by Lily A. | July 11, 2009 | Reply

  5. i have to say.. i asked some of the swing dancers to dance while i was there and they straight out rejected me and my swing dancer friends. =( nice pictures though!

    Comment by jokidoki | September 16, 2009 | Reply

  6. Was in Tokyo last June; no Goth Chicks or Rockabilly Dancers, just butt-ugly girls with piercings all over their faces making obnoxious twits of themselves.

    Comment by Maureen | October 17, 2009 | Reply

  7. I loved to watch the takenoko-zoku members rocking on Ventures and Beatles – when I first visited Japan in 1989. The new generation at Harajuku with the weird makeups and dresses look so ugly compared to the older generation

    Comment by CNA | December 28, 2009 | Reply

  8. leather jackets can really make you look good, they also make you feel warm and comfortable *’,

    Comment by Fire Grate | November 16, 2010 | Reply

  9. Every one has their own way of living and this post demonstrates exactly that. Long live innovation and tradition.

    Comment by Temples of India | February 6, 2011 | Reply

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