Have you heard about the latest fashion trend to take ‘Japan by storm’?

Flashing LED mouthpieces. They’ve quickly become the ‘must have accessory’ over here.

Check out these ‘Japanese schoolgirls sporting the latest look’…

All of the quotes above were taken from newspaper articles in the UK. But by now you may already have guessed that they are an embellishment of the truth. To say the least…

What began as a bit of misreporting on the NY Times Bits blog (now corrected) quickly spread – with added embellishments – to other major news outlets, including the Guardian and the Metro in the UK, influential trend-spotting site PSFK and many, many others.

It turns out that the lights were in fact created to feature in this bizarre ad campaign for Lafouret Harajuku’s winter sale and are not actually available to buy.

So what’s the moral of the story?

Well first off, never believe anything that you read in the papers! Whilst we might expect this kind of second-hand reporting from blogs (ahem!), it doesn’t play too well to newspaper’s arguments about them being the last bastion of ‘proper’ journalism.

But what this story also highlights is how quick Western journalists are to believe stories of ‘bizarre’ Japan themselves. The idea that Japan is an alien place and home to all kind of weird and wonderful trends, especially when it comes to fashion, is a deep-seated idea and frames much of the media thinking and commentary.

But what’s really got me thinking is the speed at which ‘information’ can spread around the world these days if deemed sufficiently ‘interesting’ (with interesting usually meaning wacky – and clearly pretty neutral to the truth).

What began as one piece of misreporting on a ‘trend’ in Japan in an American news source has been passed on through various networks, both personal and within the media, until the story has become newsworthy here. All the talk about a non-existent buzz has actually begun to create a buzz. So much so that the lights creators – Motoi Ishibashi and Daito Manabe – are now looking at a commercial launch.

So perhaps there’s new trend about to take Japan by storm after all.

Flashing LED mouthpieces.