It’s no news that I’m a HUGE fan of Japan and its culture, so when I first visited this amazing country last April of this year, I wanted to bring home a unique souvenir. For sure I can just buy myself the typical kimono, some sweets, packs of weird anime collectibles, or maybe even a huge samurai sword — however, I really wanted something that was ‘fresh’ and out of the norm. (Sukajan Jacket)
It proved to be a bit of a difficult task though… until one day, I saw a striking photo online of a friend and she was wearing a stylish bomber jacket that had bold but intricate oriental designs. At that instant, I was unable to take my eyes away, and I started to have the strong urge to get my hands on one!
I immediately messaged her and asked what it was, where I could get it, etc… and that’s when she introduced me to the wonderful world of Japanese souvenir jackets called sukajan.
» What is a sukajan jacket?
A “sukajan” is a ‘souvenir jacket’ from Japan and it is usually made of silk or satin that combines the typical bomber jacket / Letterman jacket / varsity jacket style with bold yet classic embroidered Japanese motifs such as tigers, eagles, koi fishes, sakura (cherry blossom), and more.
If you’ve watched the 2011 film titled ‘Drive‘, you would probably recognize this kind of jacket being worn by Ryan Gosling.
Lately, there are a also growing number of celebrities (Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Harry Styles, etc), clothing brands, and fashion icons who have started to promote, sell and wear sukajan jackets — and it’s no surprise as to why!
TRIVIA: There are a lot of theories as to where the term ‘sukajan’ came from; some say that it is an amalgamation of the phrase ‘Sky Dragon Jumper’ in Japanese, or that it is a shorter term for the Japanese words: ‘Yokosuka Jumper’ / ‘Yokosuka Kanagawa’ (which is supposedly the place where this kind of jacket was first made).
The sukajan is said to be ‘born’ around post-World War II in Japan when American soldiers started to ask for Japanese designs to be hand-stitched on the back of their jackets as a way of remembering their time in the country — hence the reason why a sukajan is called a ‘souvenir jacket’.
Most of the designs showed eagles (as a way to represent the USA) mixed with Japanese elements such as dragons, tigers, cherry blossoms, trees, traditional maps, geisha, etc. At times, however, the art would look more Chinese than Japanese and that’s because, during those times, the Americans wanted more “Asian” designs on their jackets; therefore, the Japanese tailors would occasionally refer to Chinese silk pillows for inspiration.
By the 1960s, the Japanese’s obsession with the American style rose (called “Ametora” in Japanese) wherein a lot of people started to wear American clothing like jeans and button-downs. But there are those who wanted to rebel against that kind of trend, so some Japanese people started to wear a sukajan jacket as a statement piece of that defiance.
Over time, the sukajan jacket evolved into a symbol for those in the yakuza, those involved in gangs, or those who are simply delinquents. Nowadays though, the jacket has predominantly become a fashionable yet edgy piece, treated as a medium for self-expression and/or storytelling.
» My Sukajan Jacket
Since my first visit to Japan was during sakura season, I opted to go for a jacket that shows exactly that. And since I’m a sucker for anything dark (especially when it comes to my clothing), I naturally sought something in black.
My friend told me that they are selling these jackets on their ‘Japan Lover Me‘ store, so I immediately headed to their platform to pick a design that I wanted.
…I swear to you, I had a hard time picking because there were just SO many cool designs to choose from! Eventually, I found the perfect sukajan for me (pictured above): koi fish and cherry blossom prints on one side, and a silver patterned design of dragons on the other.
Clearly, the photo above shows 2 designs and that’s because most sukajan jackets are reversible; mine was like that and it totally felt like I purchased 2 jackets for the price of one. The value for this was around $200 — pricey BUT… with the quality, design, and reversible characteristic of this item, I absolutely felt that I got more than what it’s worth.
That being said, I absolutely love my sukajan jacket!
NOTE: Rest assured, there are cheaper sukajan jackets up in ‘Japan Lover Me‘ store, and some could start as low as $40!!!
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The sukajan jacket is truly more than just a bold and fashionable clothing since it can either be a piece that expresses your personality or a piece that retells your experience when you were in Japan.
Other than that, it can surely make for one unique gift or souvenir. So what are you waiting for? There are over hundreds of designs that are up for grabs!
To start, just go to the online store of ‘Japan Lover Me‘ to pick the jacket design(s) that you like. Upon checkout, you can choose to have it shipped to your address or you can also simply pick it up from them when you’re in Tokyo.