If you use Twitter or MySpace, and you’re a fan of Japanese fashion, you’ve likely stumbled across some of the girls who use the term “Harajuku Barbie” in their usernames and updates. Last week, “Harajuku Barbie” was even a trending topic on Twitter, causing some confusion.

Why the confusion? Maybe because the girls who actually frequent Harajuku are Japanese, and most of the Harajuku Barbies online seem not to be. Or maybe it’s because the girls using “Harajuku Barbie” don’t seem to post much about Japan other than that one phrase. Whatever the reason, a lot of people were left wondering, “What is a Harajuku Barbie and where did they come from?”

It all started with a New York rapper named Nicki Minaj…

Harajuku Barbie Nicki Minaj

Nicki Minaj is a female rapper from New York who has worked with Lil Wayne. She was discovered after posting songs on her MySpace, and was signed to the hip hop label Dirty Money. What does any of that have to do with Harajuku? Not much, but somewhere along the way Minaj came up with the phrase “Harajuku Barbie” based on her admiration for – or at least her admiration for her perception of – the girls in Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan.

Check out this video of Nicki Minaj herself explaining the origin and definition of “Harajuku Barbie”:

After Minaj started using “Harajuku Barbie” in her songs, interviews, web pages, etc., her fans picked it up and it seems to have become viral over the last year or so.

As far as the Harajuku Barbie video interview – the image used in the video to illustrate “Harajuku” has nothing whatsoever to do with Japan. It appears to be something related to American singer Gwen Stefani, who is definitely not Japanese. Stefani herself is often criticized by bloggers for her exploitation of the real Harajuku and for her fake (and always silent) “Harajuku girls” dancers.

So, now we have an American singer promoting Harajuku Barbies, and another promoting Harajuku Girls. Where’s the love for the beautiful and fashionable men of Harajuku?

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143 Comments

  1. FRIST OFF NICKI MINAJ IS NOT EVEN ASIAN SHES Afro-Trinidadian AND Indo-Trinidadian SO U GUYS ON HERE NEED TO GET UR FACTS STRAIGHT

  2. none of yall no what that means on here yall be talkin trash and every thing lyke nicki dont no what she talkin about she does i lived in japan for three years and the harajuku gurls are every where there its also a place but thats the name of the culture there kind of lyke geisha gurls

  3. Love love loooove Nicki Minaj.

    But haters gonna hate.

    <3

  4. IF NICKI IS A HARAJUKU BARBIE OR IS JUST CALLING HERSELF THAT THEN THAT’s HER BUSINESS IT AINT MINE YOURS HERS OR HIS BUSINESS THAT’s ONE OF THE REASONS I ADMIRE NICKI SHE HAS HER OWN STYLE NOT TRYNA BE NOBODY BUT HERSELF AS SHe SAYD STEP YO COOKIES UP BEFORE THEY CRUMBLE AND I HAVE MY OWN RAPZ THAT I MADE UP ON YOUTUBE But what I’m saying is get off her clique everybody that’s on here being haters harajuku barbie or not she still got stacks taller than yo house so let her be and be yoself n if you wanna be lyk her then be different shout outs to nicki and for th eones who say they aint worried abt her obviously you are or you wouldn’t be critisizin her let her do her NICKI MIRAJ KEEP UP THE GOOD WOK

  5. wow…I’m so disappointed. I thought she was smarter than this…I like Nicki’s music, please don’t get me wrong. But her explanation to this entire look and style is terrible!!!
    She should really watch what she is going to say before opening her mouth…better do that while rapping and singing because she sounds really ignorant :( sorry.

  6. -FacePalm-
    way to butcher a culture.
    “kick ass, ya know, like pop, rock and roll… what ever the fuck…”
    Whoever you are, your persona strikes me more as a ghetto trashy attention whore type of know-it-all, FAR more, then a Japanese Harajuku Girl.
    btw, your breasts hanging out of your top like that, is a desperate cry for attention. i find you obnoxious.

  7. 1. Nicki Minaj is NOT Chinese or Japanese she is mixed Afro-Trinidadian and Indo-Trinidadian ; look it up on wiki..
    2. All you Japanese ppl should be happy Nicki is interested in Japanese culture whether she got it wrong or not!
    3. Harajuku is a place as much as it is a culture; do you guys not know anything about the Harajuku girls?!
    4. Overall ppl shud stop hating on Nicki. She’s just making her way as a rapper and i think she’s doing a good job. If you don’t think then oh well don’t say anything if you don’t have anything nice to say! Jheeeez! I’m so sick of ppl hating on Nicki!

  8. Khaoticfolks

    Okay…so I’m a little late on this whole thing but it really sad. Nicki Minaj is ripping a whole Japanese fashion sub-culture called Lolita. If you’re going to comment, please read up first like she hould have been told to do by her PR dept. Here’s a wikipedia link (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lolita_fashion) and visit your local library. There are tons of books and articles out there by Japanese Popular culture scholars about the style she is proclaiming as her own. The movement is already popular (and has been long before Minaj or Gwen started adopting it as their style) among Anime Convention goers in the US and is a style that really belongs to J-Rock and J-Pop bands and artist in Japan. The fact that no one seems to be bothered by the fact that she has adopted this style without really knowing its origins or paying homage to a whole country and its artist (her fellow recording artists she has ripped it from) is baffling an insulting.

  9. Kasasima

    So, erm, I was totally with the criticism of this Nicki person, until Gwen Stefani was mentioned. Like, it’s obvious that Gwen isn’t Japanese, and you don’t have to be Japanese to appreciate Japanese style, create Japan-inspired art or clothing, or be interested in the culture. So what if Nikki can’t explain what Harajuku is very well? I mean I don’t really get this whole Harajuku Barbie thing either, but it’s no reason to jump on her… I can’t believe people are saying that Gwen or Nikki are exploiting Harajuku. So is it like bad to have an iconic style? What if it was London Girls and London Barbie? I think we’re being a little hypersensitive. Totally agree with colemedina^^^.

  10. @KenMinaj4Ever

    why yall mad at her at least she representing for yall and for ya info nicki was out in tokyo last week on business #Thatisall

  11. Wow, it’s really cute how many people Nicki Minaj can motivate to troll a website that they clearly have no interest or knowledge about. It’d be nice however, if even 50% of them could communicate clearly and spell correctly. It’d also be nice if they had more reasons to defend her besides, “she’s half chinese” (which she isn’t and wouldn’t be relevant because Harajuku isn’t in China) “you’re all haters” (and I give a shit about you thinking I’m a hater because?) “she has a lot of money and you’re broke” (so money buys intelligence? Because if it does, most of you are really showing how “broke” you are)
    Point is, when people like her or Stefani adapt a well known culture in their platform of entertainment to feed to unknowing people who would’ve never cared about it in the first place, it sends the wrong message to people who actually care about this culture or know anything about it. “hey we are like you, we share your same interests” When in reality they’re saying, we’re just selling you bullshit and making up catchy phrases to get people to buy our stuff. We could really give a shit about the people who know about this, or the people that this represents”. At the end of the day, it’s bullshit, and if you want to buy it that’s fine, but the rest of us know crap when we see it, and no it doesn’t make us envious or “haters” because honestly, who gives a shit if you like Nicki Minaj and who gives a shit if I don’t. It’s a free country and just like she has the right to be a moron, I have the right to not listen to her be a moron. End of story.

  12. stick to what you know…Gwen Stephanie started Harajuku girls,nicki just slotted the barbie thing…so gwen started and publicized while nicki stuck to what she knows best, plagiarism.

  13. This is totally ridiculous..it doesn’t matter WTF it actually means it’s about her own individuality and her opinion of the phrase. At the end of the day she’s still the s**t and she will continue to use the phrase and people will still love it and use it. If you’re looking for someone to be politically correct then you’re on the wrong effin site! Try Webster silly haters

  14. P.S, who in their effin right sense of mind would would copy from Gwen stephani?!? Nicki made more w/ her underground mistake then Gwen in a lifetime! When’s the last time Gwen has been on the cover of a mag or in a video? 2000? Shes not even worth cameo appearances

  15. “Wow, it’s really cute how many people Nicki Minaj can motivate to troll a website that they clearly have no interest or knowledge about. It’d be nice however, if even 50% of them could communicate clearly and spell correctly. It’d also be nice if they had more reasons to defend her besides, “she’s half chinese” (which she isn’t and wouldn’t be relevant because Harajuku isn’t in China) “you’re all haters” (and I give a shit about you thinking I’m a hater because?) “she has a lot of money and you’re broke” (so money buys intelligence? Because if it does, most of you are really showing how “broke” you are)

    Point is, when people like her or Stefani adapt a well known culture in their platform of entertainment to feed to unknowing people who would’ve never cared about it in the first place, it sends the wrong message to people who actually care about this culture or know anything about it. “hey we are like you, we share your same interests” When in reality they’re saying, we’re just selling you bullshit and making up catchy phrases to get people to buy our stuff. We could really give a shit about the people who know about this, or the people that this represents”.

    At the end of the day, it’s bullshit, and if you want to buy it that’s fine, but the rest of us know crap when we see it, and no it doesn’t make us envious or “haters” because honestly, who gives a shit if you like Nicki Minaj and who gives a shit if I don’t. It’s a free country and just like she has the right to be a moron, I have the right to not listen to her be a moron. End of story.”

    ^^^^^gosh i wanna repost this evry where <3 <3…

  16. Nicki Minaj I L O V E Y O U :)

    look, does it really matter what it actually means, she can say her opinion on the phrase.. well at the end of the daay she is the shit and i love all her music aye :)

  17. So what??? I know that in Japan there is a big trend for Japanese men to dress like American greasers from the 1950’s. You don’t see any American people complaining about wanna be greasers in Japan. I think its cool that people in Japan like an American custom or style so much they want to try to emulate it. Imitation is the highest form of flattery…or something.

  18. Mrs. Lautner

    Forget all yall haterzzzzz. Nicki Minaj is the ULTIMATE Harajuku Barbie. Yall talkin bout Gwen Stefani, wen wux da last time she made a song and wen wuz her last hit song. EXACTLY!!!!!!!!!!!!

    WE LUV U NICKI!!!!!!!!!!

  19. gemechis goOG

    it dont matter where she from if do it wright. we love u nicki

  20. HaRaJuKu GiRl

    IT’S REALLY FUNNY CUZ LIKE EVERYBODY CALL THEM SELF “HARAJUKU” BUT IF THERE WAS A TEST TO BE ONE ALOT OF THEIR ASSES WONT PASS HAHA *AND I QUOTE*

  21. yall are just hatin on niki minaj you just need to keep your mouths shut and watch her do her thing because she know wht she doin and damn well know what she talkin bout so stop hatin bitches!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! luv ya niki

  22. IT ‘HARAJUKU BARIBIE’ The name, the place, the style, the culture, n so on is wat it is n is like every NOUN Ect. Will be a creation of one’s thought n more……….Y say anything good or bad if it’s not ur own thought tht COUNT 4 anything tht matters 2 UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU.

    DO U a favor “get ur own sh-it y u ridn minds” Coodoos 2 the real & da fake cuz u make s-h-it happen.

  23. Kiki-Chan

    For all these half people in the top Thank YOU!!!!!!! (Arigato!)

    Obviously Harajuku is an area of Tokyo its between Shinjuku and Shibuya its not just a Name.
    Ive been studied about Japan for 19 years of my life seriously. and
    never been in Japan. “YET” But soon.

    I’m an African american I about go to school in Hino, Tokyo

    I dunno whats a “Barbie” doing in her last words. lol
    I didn’t Nicki Minaj til now I listen to her music. funny I’m not a music person much. she’s probably wants
    people to like her style. and i like her style. but she’s needs a little bit more listen about what Harajuku is all upon. Im not calling her dumb.

    I like about her style and still put Americanize in her fashion that’s her personality.

    But All I know Most Japanese teenagers and young adults Likes mix clothing Gothic Lolita, Ganguro, Manba,Punk, and Some Cosplays. in Yoyogi Park. not just for fun. its people who are expression there selves on “their” personality. Its art.

  24. Harajuku Bxtch Barbie

    Holdd upp , Let Nicki Do Her && uu worry about yourself . Shes a bad bxtch && she puts harajuku barbie as how she thinks of it . so what if yall think it means somethinq different . she thinks of it another way && she can do that . everybody has a different oppinion about thinqs & oviously hers if different from yalls . of corse me i love Nicki Minaj , She is My Hero . && She is beautifull . && forr all you haters ;; Yall aintt doinn nuthinqq buhh makinn uurself look dumbb . So FXCK OFFF !
    i Lovee uu Nickii Boo aka : Harajuku Barbiee <333

  25. PARRISB@RB!3

    WOWshe is so creative. -AND ALL YOU HATING NIQQAS CAN CATCH A BOUQUITE_ drake

  26. Why dont you guys just let it go. she is just someone who loves another culture, whats wrong with that? at least shes not hating on it.

    And if that is her definition of harajuku just let it be :)

  27. nicki explains to her self that she thinks that harajuku can means something else but in japan it means somethings else. But i think it means people hating on other people. IS THAT A HABIT OR WHAT? WTF……..

  28. Tina-Tetto

    well…u guys seem 2 knw a lot. sh dznt hv 2 go 2 japan, y dnt yall opposers make ur own definition of Harajuku…it cud b in tight pants 4 ol I care. it dznt hv 2 b in japan…iv got my own harajuku in my bedroom. go Onika

  29. Pingback: Nicki Minaj Boosts Japanese Designer Shojono Tomo in TV Appearance

  30. I used to be upset with Gwen years ago for misrepresenting Japan and Harajuku. But I got over that and fell in love with her definition of Harajuku and Japanese Street Fashion (around late 2005; it’s not like I just got into her. I was a Gwen fan for years and I still am). No, it’s not the real thing, nor does it represent Japan, but she was just having fun. It’s not like she was hating on it or something. She just has her own style and her own fashion sense and she wanted to project that in a sort of Japanese-inspired way. I don’t recall Gwen ever saying that she represents Japan or anything. Same with Nicki Minaj. It’s not like she goes around saying she’s some Japanese Fashion Guru. She might not know alot about Japan and Japanese Fashion but she’s having fun with it. Just let her be her and do her thing.

  31. 1. Nicki is not japanese either chinese.
    2. Harajuku culture does exits but referring as culture is not the exact word for expressing the term. All the girl in japan use the term of such area to be cultural expression of their selfstyle. Like Osaka Shibuya … etc

    In japan there are different style of dressing and living.
    Sooooo if you havent been in any culture in japan
    you would assume all the girls would have the same thing going on.

    It depends on the area you hang out and different style you dress,
    For Nicki she is truly harajuku girl and barbie would be most suitable for her.

    FYI for most ppl who dun understand its like Columbia and NYU there are different things.

  32. hahahahah!! look at all the Nicki haters. lol.

    trust me, Nicki don’t give a shiz about what y’all think. he’s cruising in here Big Boy!

  33. any way some of yal r rong i no Nicki she lyk a sister 2 me
    and hommie she tighter than a face lift flyer than as spaceship hatterz
    Makaya & Julany LUV U *ONIKA*

  34. Rina Kozumi

    Firstly, I am not against Nicki Minaj. I truely hate the way she yaps about a culturally relavent sub-culture and tries to make it her own.
    It isn’t, maybe if she followed the strict rules within each community, but she doesn’t.

    This pisses me off. As a Japanese person, who has lived in Japan, this fucking pisses me off.

    I am insulted at others ignorance of catagorizing all Asians as one race.
    We are not, we don’t look the same if you use your eyes and we have COMPLETELY different cultures.
    I’m quick frankly disgusted you’d all catagorize them as the same to stand up for ”Yo homiegrl”. If she is wrong, she’s wrong.

    This isn’t about her music, or her style.
    It’s about how she words what ”She’s about”. If she was ”about” it, why wasn’t she doing this before it was considered cool?

    Okay, listen here, Harajuku is a sub-culture of Japan, named after, obviously because of, it’s location and it’s often mixed up bith Kuro/Kawaii/Visual Kei/Shiro/Gothic and Sweet Lolita/Ganguro/Hime/Cosplay AND DECORA.
    WHAT SHE REPRESENTS IS NOT HARAJUKU AT ALL.
    SERIOUSLY, GOOGLE THEM.

    In short, she has no idea what she’s going on about. I don’t really care if it is ”what it means” to her, it is wrong, labelling and extremely insulting on a few levels.

    I will also repeat, JAPAN AND CHINA ARE TWO FUCKING DIFFERENT COUNTRIES. TWO DIFFERENT CULTURES. COMPLETELY. DIFFERENT.

    I’m out. Hope your critically low IQs rose a bit.

  35. From a Fellow Harajuku Enthusiast

    well i read a lot of the comments and I agree that this should not be a big thing. firstly i dont have a clue how the grammar of others is even relevant in this conversation. secondly i also dont approve the way that gwen steffani is going about with this “harajuku girls”. third nikki minaj is just trying to show tribute to a culture, yes harajuku is a culture just like how rap is a different culture and living in Minnesota compared to new york are different cultures. cultures are not just different between countries. Plus you dont know how much knowledge she has of the harajuku culture. I see the harajuku culture as a way of mismatching clothes in a different ways. My view may not be exactly what “harajuku” means, but that is what i got from it. I see it as a fun, stylish, and different way to dress. Plus the style of harajuku is constantly changing with new versions. instead of bashing her could anyone one plz praise her for not being a stereotype rapper? or mabey for a least trying to enlighten others on a different culture. Minaj is trying her best and doing harajuku in her style. Harajuku is a style of freedom, not hate and critique.

  36. This article is so low on factual information. Nicki Minaj signed to YOUNG MONEY by Lil Wayne and NOT Dirty Money. Get the facts right!

  37. MrSkillz

    Fuck all ya haters. Nicki Minaj is my Harajuku Barbie. Do ya thang mama.

  38. capchamama

    Some of you people are telling us Japanese to “stfu because you’re in tokyo and you don’t know shit about the US.”

    How about you guys don’t know anything about Japan? I mean honestly. And I have been living here in the US for a while and US isn’t too hard to learn about. You people are so stereotypical about Japan. I mean yes, they have very unique fashion here, but you guys exploit it as some sort of kawaiidesuuguu fashion anime loving country. I’m just going to tell you guys, Japan isn’t as welcoming as you think to foreigners. Especially ones that are dumb enough to assume that you’re going to come here and live the Otaku lifestyle. Otakus are looked down upon over here! And if you’re smart enough, you’ll know that Otaku means “freak”. As for Harajuku, Harajuku is not kawaii all the time. And Harajuku isn’t a ‘culture’ either. It’s just a fashion. Just like Emo. Emo isn’t even a fashion, it’s a music genre. Some of you people need to get your heads on straight and do your homework a little more. As for Nicki, she’s wrong. Completely wrong. And I know you guys are in denial about it because she’s your ‘idol’, but she’s an idiot. A biased idiot.

  39. Chrissy*

    UGH. wow the Nicki trolls strike again
    i come back here in 1-2 years… and there are still nicki sheep commenting.

    no you guys don’t know any thing about japan, and im not gonna lie i dont know much about japan either (“Don’t know till you go”). but i HAVE noticed just like Gwen this is an old gimmick to make and artist seem more “cultured” and “unique”…

    its like a reverse version when Japanese people try to “appreciated” black culture by dressing with a lot of hip hop influence and dressing like “tribal Africans”, gangsters, rappers, jazz, and pop singers with; braids hats and sometimes fros. but we all know that’s not how a lot of black people dress. i know i don’t dress like some one straight off of “106 and park.”
    American artist are doing the same with people in Tokyo/ Japan as a whole.
    so since this is “Tokyo Fashion” it is only common sense that they post this to help dispel this “harajuku culture” myth/ what ever.
    just like African-American sites try to dispel the “all black people dress in hip hop” fashion myth. Even here in America the “Native-American tribal clothing” trends are going on now. they continue to stereotype and offend Native-Americans without listened to what they have to say about those exploits.

    not done,

    so i understand that many of you fans have been trained* by you’re favorite artist (and critics) to call any one and every one a “hater” for disagreeing with the artist on any issue (even thought its there opinion to not like him/her as much as you do).
    ex: like the music hate the style< "HATER"

    he/she can do so much better than this…< "HATER".

    "i think Jean Grae is better than nicki manij in my opinion" < "wtf?? who is she?! no one kno who dat is… HATER!"

    this artist has the facts wrong< "HATER!"

    ________insert credible argument of the opposite opinion here_____< "HATER"

    a lot of you guys are dismissing the argument bc you guys are so rapped up in fandom you cant even see the bigger picture
    best explained here: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FanDumb

    ^this really does rack in the popularity points for someone. no likes being considered a "hater".

    and now i'm gonna save someone a comment:

    "HAAAAAAAATEEER, YOUR A HATER! GO NICKI!!"

  40. shantae d barbie

    sum of yall shud jus get off nicki’s case ok d girls like harajuku n barbies so she combines em big deall jus shut d hell up,,

  41. fluffy?!

    uhmm… why do i feel like the cameraman is trying to focus on nickis chest ._.

  42. She didnt look like a harajuku girl. Does she even know what harajuku is? And lolita, fairy-kei, decora, cosplay, kigurumi, gothic, and all the other styles girls AND BOYS wear in harajuku? Does she even know Kyary Pamyu Pamyu?!?!?! She is like someone trying to be sexy and stuff and black and then they hear another pop star ohhh yeaaaahhhh harajuku! And then she is like yeah man! And not even knows what it is, thinking the other pop star is a harajuku girl and then says i’m like her, i’m harajuku barbie!
    …………..
    Jeez

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