Login | Create Account Poll Currency Weather Facebook Youtube Search

Asia pop culture: Way, way out Japan
Thursday 17 April 2014, 08:01AM
Japan is a highly ordered society. The streets are squeaky clean, there are recycling bins everywhere, which everyone uses, smokers are corralled into little outdoor ghettos with ashtrays – and woe betide anyone who drops a butt on the ground. Traffic is quiet and orderly, with pedestrians always being given priority. Even in big crowds, on the sidewalks there is no shoving. Schoolchildren are all dressed in smart uniforms. You might think that such a society might frown on eccentricity. But the truth is quite the opposite. Being eccentric in public – though only in certain places – is not just tolerated, but is plainly enjoyed by the onlookers. The most out-there manifestations are the people who indulge in “cosplay”, short for costume play, dressing up as manga or anime characters. The place to see this is a pedestrian area next to Tokyo’s Harajuku station. Here, people gather on Sunday in their weirdest finery. You might think that all the posing might be rather jokey, but you’d be wrong. Serious cosplay people don’t just don the clothing of their favourite characters. They don their personas, too. So if the manga or anime character is a serious person, its imitator, too, will be serious. If the character is ditzy, so will its imitator be. Full immersion in the persona is the rule.And this is not just something for teens – some of the cosplayers must be pushing 40. Costumes and make-up are elaborate and expensive. This is a serious hobby.Close by is the Takeshita Street market, much of which is devoted to costumes and accessories, where you can build a really convincing character. Guarding the entrance to the street is a bearded granddad in a pink dress with jutting bra, earrings made of plastic bags with goldfish swimming in them, and a hat that can only be described as extraordinary. Very extraordinary. He spends all day posing for photos.Close to Harajuku station is Yoyogi Park, where others go at weekends to practice their individual or group skills – juggling, cheerleader routines, dance routines. There’s even an excellent choir that meets there. It’s like being in a happy, energetic circus, with the entertainment absolutely free. Exhibitionism is not confined to Harajuku and Yoyogi, however. Head for Odaiba, where you can find Tokyo’s Statue of Liberty and the 18-metre tall “life size” animated statue of Gundam – the giant humanoid “mecha” from the animated TV series (think transformers). Close to the Fuji TV building, a wide pedestrian area is the gathering point for a group of rockers. Leather jackets, leather or denim drainpipe trousers, winklepicker shoes and quiffs high enough to rival the Gundam statue. They’re in their 40s and 50s, and dead serious, too, as they twist and rock to 50s and 60s classics, totally ignoring all around them. Utterly cool. These people would put The Fonz to shame. There’s more, much more. But to describe it here would be to spoil the fun. Go to Tokyo yourself and marvel at the wackily creative energy. Thanks to Sansiri for making this trip possible.