after catching a ride on the friendly limousine bus, i arrived in downtown tokyo. i was not 10 feet onto tokyo soil before a suited man ran across the street, grabbed my breast, and then calmly walked away. welcome to tokyo!
but seriously, tokyo was an awesome city, crammed with colorful characters and salary men, all of whom seem to cross the street in shibuya at the same time.
i stayed with my endlessly generous and similarly inquisitive partner in crime paige ferrari who, while i was in tokyo, published a delightful article on slate about tokyo’s first hooters restaurant. some highlights from our exploits and my general observations about tokyo:
the craziest harajuku outfits you see in the US are just the starting point for the absurdity you see on the streets of tokyo: wild hair extensions accented with all variety of hair flair, every manner of hosiery imaginable (including the ubiquitous leg warmer), and, of course, boots with the fur. actually, everything with the fur. so much so that i saw a woman at the 109 mall whose job was to lint roll the floor to collect the roving masses of renegade fluff.
also at the 109 mall: hooker shoes with rose buds in the soles:
we went into a cos play store on takeshita street where women made absurd sartorial choices to a caffeinated techno remix of disney songs. honestly, the "cos play" stores are almost indistinguishable from the regular stores where squealing girls purchase hats adorned with animal ears to the tune of “it's a small world.” entire shops sell nothing but postcard-sized photos of j-pop stars. paige explained the phenomenon to me: "remember the 90s when americans were all into boy and girl bands? well, that's like eternity in japan." the collectible cards feature androgynous teens singing, preening, and seductively biting into ripe fruit. but the guy who posed with a squash is definitely my favorite.
paige and i felt particularly dweeby cruising around harajuku in our jeans and t-shirts. "flair is highly valued here," paige explained as we perused the neighborhood's impressive array of false eyelashes. please note that the most absurd designs sell out immediately.
we took a walk through yoyogi park to see the japanese maples…
…and stumbled upon a dog park where not one dog was without sweater, vest, or sweater vest. my most surprising shopping find came at a store for dogs where, one would assume, such canine sweater vests are purchased...along with doggie panties and, i kid you not, doggie maxi pads:
day two was more cultural. we visited the sensoji temple, where we’d apparently just missed the annual extravagant shoes fair.
we walked across the water to the asahi headquarters, which appeared to feature a crowning sculpture evocative of a gargantuan parsnip. think of it as building flair.
we finished the day in akihabara, the electronics and comic book district where costumed girls lure anime-toting young men into the ubiquitous maid cafes. i saw knock-off ipads and an 8-story comic book store complete with a "tournament play" arena, and a pornographic section featuring a warning graphic of inexplicable intended meaning:
without question, my favorite tokyo experience was visiting a photo booth arcade. the final exam for one of my classes included an analysis of the business case for print club, one of the leaders in the japanese photo booth industry, so it was particularly exciting to see them in the wild. the arcade is packed tightly with booths, all of which claim to use special technology to make you look cuter (bigger eyes, smaller mouth).
hordes of teenage and twentysomething women (and some men) stand in line to pick a booth in which an elaborate series of touch screens queues them for their photo shoot. after emerging from the booth, they descend upon the print-out kiosks, styluses in hand, to quickly decorate, email, and print out their photos, all while battling a countdown clock ticking in the corner. the entire process is overwhelming, horrifying, and surprisingly fun. clearly novices, it took paige and i a good hour to navigate the whole process, but i think the results are indisputably kawaii.
fascinating visit. from the municipal speakers humming pleasant music to the high prices to the rampant costumery and pervasive consumerism, tokyo was very much like disneyland...minus children...plus seaweed.