Wednesday, December 19, 2007
One wonders if the success of Kill Bill had anything to these lone wolves taking justice into their own hands. I knew a guy who used to prowl round his house in the middle of the night with his sword when he thought there was a burglar abroad. Needless to say it was an immitation, those with the cash to pay for real swords crafted in Japan wouldn't be so daft. Right?
To view the full story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7139724.stm
Wow, I never realised that solving child abuse was as simple as teaching the abusers to smile, luckily that doesn't mean we have to tackle unpleasant issues like overwork, marital problems and abuse history. Lets just gloss over those issues with a big cheesy grin. Mind you, I wish Takayanagi all the best trying to get Japanese police officers to smile. That's one tough nut to crack.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Sunday, December 9, 2007
This restaurant is just down the road from my house in Ningyocho. It's the first evidence I've yet found that this part of Tokyo escaped the bombing to some extent during the war. The design is a wonderful mix of old Japanese and art nouveau with beautiful dragon's scale metal tiling that has rusted green. Tucked between nondescript modern brick buildings on the busy high street by Ningyocho station, it's very easy to miss. I'd rushed past it numerous times and only really noticed this wonderful design when I was taking a more leisurely stroll about. You have to stand to get a meal but, being so near Tsukji, the fish is very fresh and prices are incredibly cheap (me and my friend stuffed our faces and only paid 1,200 yen for the both of us). You also get free tea and miso soup.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Any self-respecting child should draw a moustache on their lips with their mum's eye pencil, get on some stilts and make it down to this bar cum sweetie wonderland. My knowledge of kanji is pretty sketchy but I think the gist of the sign above is: 'Please help yourself, you can spend awhile visiting your childhood but you can't return' (please send me your answers if you know the exact translation). Okay, the catch is that to drink here you have to pay a cover charge of 500yen but back in the days when I was at school with a hardcore penny chew habit, I could have easily eaten my way through double that amount. Unfortunately, the sign rang true, after sampling only half of the wondrously coloured delights above I began to feel rather queasy and had to make a swift exit, frothing at the mouth with a toxic mix of beer, e-numbers and sherbet.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Monday, November 26, 2007
Anyone who lives in Japan will be used to this kind of cossetting by private companies. My favourite is "it's dangerous so, don't put your fingers between the train doors".
Your boss doesn't notice you, your wife doesn't respect you, you're losing your hair, what's an ageing businessman to do? Well, for only 5,000 yen you can don this fine quality hairpiece and become a young blade about town again. And you needn't worry about anyone discovering your secret identity as this benevolent company provides its own shampoos and hairdressing services, so you'll be suitably fleeced for your wolfish pelt.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Doing a poo can be cute too:
These girls demonstrate how this dog has come disguised as a cat:
A present for the follicaly-challenged doll:
A new look for the bodily-challenged mannequin:
Some pretty pictures for masochistic, homosexual, Mishima fans check out www.yoiko-yokochou.com:
And lots and lots of live art action:
Friday, November 16, 2007
This bar seems to be located in another dimension (I found it after wandering aimlessly around Kabukicho). A sweet old lady in kimono told me the area, which probably holds the record for the densest population of world's smallest bars, is called Gozenga. This teeny tiny bar is featured in the Catsoup comics - which were condensed into the world's wierdest and probably most disturbing film (see http://www.centralparkmedia.com/catsoup/). I'm sorry to say that, put off by the 1,000yen cover charge, I didn't go in and have probably now missed my only opportunity to walk through into this particular space/time ripple. If you somehow manage to find your way there beware, there is a very small sign outside that reads: “Welcome, attention to foreigners, if you can understand Japanese, you can enter this yellow door”.
It seems that in order to become a host you must first get strung up upside down in a factory and get your head dipped into a vat of varnish and left out to dry until your hair sets into the requisite hedgehog style. After that you're outfitted with an identikit black suit and white shirt (opened low of course to expose a tempting expanse of bare chicken breast for those horny old ladies to feast their eyes on), finally you are allowed to show some personal flair by choosing your own individual diamond pin (from a collection of 20) to proudly show what a flash kinda guy you are. Now you are free to walk the streets of Kabukicho scouting for pissed up not so young women to dazzle with your glittery accessories.
This initiation, however, is soft core compared to the typical hours a host works. I met a sweet young boy tonight while wandering around Kabukicho, he was so FRIENDLY, I wonder why... He told me that he hadn't slept in two days (and probably his spiky hair hadn't moved in weeks). Poor thing, he appeared to have caught a bit of a cold and was sniffling away. It wasn't until I walked past a guy with similarly immobile hair with his nose stuck into a bit of paper that the light dawned on me. And here I was thinking these guys had such vivacious personalities. Oh well, I suppose it was naive to think that they could stay up all night every night and drink copious amounts of alcohol without some kind of chemical assistance.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
300yen entry, giant stamps to print on the walls, armies of cute plastic creatures and a huge couch festooned with square headed characters where you can chill out or read comics. Only four more days before this exhibition closes.
Monday, November 12, 2007
A few years back, along with the usual numbers of drunken men 'falling off' train platforms, JR rail had to deal with another problem of drunken girls falling off their platform boots on the escalators. It's usually the victims of Japan's fiercely corporate system that get our sympathy but spare a thought for the fashion victims who put their life on the line everyday for the sake of style. Just yesterday night I encountered a young couple in sunglasses weaving dangerously close to the kerb of a busy main road. Perhaps they'd spent their life savings on matching Prada shades and were determined to get their money's worth dammit! Having witnessed the tribes of young lemmings wearing woolly hats in 38 degree heat last time I was in Japan, I was not totally stunned by this do or die attitude to style. You may break your neck at the bottom of an escalator, walk blind off the pavement and get hit by a car or die of heat stroke but at least you were on trend!
During my first visit to a maid cafe I got to witness otaku (geek) love first hand in the form of a balding 30-year-old man crafting a love poem, illustrated with a picture of a kitten, to his favourite maid. The message was written with cranberry cream around the edges of his plate. At first I thought his affections had been swayed by the tiny maid serving us whose charm point was a dainty run across the cafe to meet prospective customers - arms pinned to her sides and eyes glued subserviently to the floor. I then noticed an even cuter maid in glasses who seemed to be skulking about kitchen door and concluded that the love letter was probably meant for her and she was taking time out from her stalker. She probably heartlessly dunked his tender missive straight in the suds without reading a word.
Although the whole Victorian-era maid cosplay thing was undeniably fun, it seemed to me that the maid phenomenon is now so popular that the cafes just aren't trying any more. The place (Cute M, Akihabara) had a shoddy, half-finished look about it. The only attempt at original decoration was a pitiful wall display of red feathers stuck amateurishly to a grubby wall with glue in the shape of a lopsided heart. I was prepared to be fleeced for the overpriced 1,000 yen (about £5) cake and drink set, but I thought they'd try a bit harder with the ambiance. In the queue to the entrance I met some girls going together with their mum, when I asked why they were going, they didn't seem sure themselves and answered that they “wanted to see what the fuss was about”. Perhaps the otakus will soon be driven out by family groups and gaijin sightseers like myself, which should be good news for the maid in the glasses.
A perfect antidote to the giddy, fizzy pace of Harajuku, I heard Caroline for the first time yesterday in a clothes shop while feverishly foraging through racks of frilly frocks and was instantly calmed.
Her gentle voice, reminiscent of Noriko Tsujiko, slows down and soothes, sounding out over dampened electronic percussion achieving a mellow diffuse effect without dissipating into formlessness. A hypnotic melody draws you in and opens you up to tiny nuances, so that the ting of the xylophone on Bicycle seems to resound down your spine.
Caroline's debut album Murmurs came out on the Temporary Residence label in 2006 www.temporaryresidence.com Check out her myspace: www.myspace.com/caroline