Japanese “Goth” should probably not be called “Goth” at all. Although the fashions sported by the alternative crowd in Harajuku (Tokyo’s equivalent of Camden) were largely inspired by the Western Goth movement, J-Goths tend to enter this subculture via different roots: either anime “cosplay” (dressing up as your favourite anime character) or through Japan’s own alternative music scene: Visual Kei, often thought to be started by the Japanese rock band X-Japan.
Visual Kei bands vary hugely in sound. They can either take the form of heavy metal (eg. Dir~en~Grey) or something more like cheesy Euro-pop (L’Arc~en~Ciel, Malice Mizer). What’s important, however, is the band’s look, which takes Goth, Punk and Glam elements and blends it all into a unique, androgynous combination. Very often, these mostly all-male bands will attempt to look as feminine as possible (to the point of dressing in drag).
This style has recently come full circle, with Westerners now borrowing fashion elements from the Japanese. The most popular and distinctive of these is undoubtedly the “Gothic Lolita” look (a kind of cross between Goth, Victorian fashions, Alice in Wonderland and French maid), which has now become a part of the Western Gothic spectrum.