Monday, November 26, 2007

Safety first

Yokohama subways have just started a campaign to stop people walking on escalators, claiming the practise is dangerous. Motivated by a flood of complaints from customers (the most poignant that of a grandparent whose grandchild was roughly shoved aside by a busy commuter - the beast!) the subway company decided to act.
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".

A sheep in wolf's clothing

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.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Design Festa

I went to Tokyo Big Sight on Saturday and spent hours wandering around looking at fabulous and weird things. Here's some highlights.

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

And lots and lots of live art action:

Friday, November 16, 2007

The world's most tempting door?

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 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”.

Hair today

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

Devil Robots at Parco, Shibuya

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.

That's a weight off my mind

You may be a whale but at least you've got pals.

Spotted in Akihabara

I so hope this person does not know what this means to the Brits.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fashionistas do or die

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!

Heart on a plate

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.

Sweet Caroline

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 Check out her myspace: