Tokyo – Sunday, May 26, 2013 – Harajuku and Yoyogi Park

Sunday in Harajuku is when all the freaks come out. Let’s be honest: that’s why tourists go there, to gawk at that famous Japanese otaku spirit. The otakus, perhaps sensing that they were becoming objects of spectacle for the wrong reasons, were thin on the ground Sunday morning. Or perhaps it was just too early and they needed more time to fix their hair.

Harajuku Station – you can see one gothic lolita in the background, but the rest are tourists and workers.IMG_4684

Takeshita Street, where all the subcultures hang out, had the distinct feeling of having jumped the shark: it was full of souvenir shops and chain restaurants. But there were still a few shops selling outlandish sparkly things:


The next stop was Yoyogi Park, where things were more spread out and hence more relaxed. We saw two gothic lolita girls practicing that strange, hand-circling dance they do, as well as b-boys and b-girls practicing under a bridge:

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The scariest b-boy I’ve ever seen.

This innocuous photo is as close to sleazy otakudom as we got that day. At first glance it’s a bunch of guys in the park, but look closely. On the left, there’s a woman crouching by a screen, and she’s smiling kawaii-y. Three men are taking photos of her; four men are lined up to take photos of her. It was a photo club, where much-older guys pay to take pictures of much-younger women. As you do on a Sunday morning.IMG_4712

Less seedy was this dance group practicing beneath the trees. They looked macho, but the umbrellas and fey dance moves made them look like extras for Singing In The Rain. So cute.


We made our way back to the east entrance, where the rockabilly dancers had begun their display. Somehow this makes it into every English-language tour guide as an example of ‘quirky’ Japan. But it’s not a performance, it’s aging hipsters who enjoy rockabilly culture and express it through dance. They’re not doing it for applause; a few onlookers clapped awkwardly after the songs ended and were ignored. And it wasn’t much of a dance, more like watching your uncle at a wedding:IMG_4725

But I liked the outfits, and the fact that they were politely saying ‘fuck you’ to the social graces that dictate you don’t dress up in clothes from an American subculture 50 years dead and swivel in public.IMG_4728

The orange-shirts were off to one side; the centre was reversed for the Harajuku Levels, who looked a little more serious.

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This ajeossi came late and got to dance in the middle:IMG_4744

Such cool hair:

We made our way to the backstreets of Harajuku, which had some lovely boutiques and expensive second-hand stores. I can’t get my head around Japanese fashion, except that it’s resolutely postmodern – as long as you’re layering conflicting influences in new ways, it works.

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That’s… that French graffiti artist… who had that documentary made about him… who does Space Invaders…

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In the midst of the sunny consumerism, there was a demonstration against the siting of Osprey tilt-rotor planes by the Americans at their base in Okinawa.


The iphone’s panorama feature is coming in handy: click through to see one of the many overhead passes across the giant intersections of Tokyo.


This is from Kiddyland, a big toy store in Harajuku. These are cosmetics to make your skin like a baby’s – Japanese people pay a lot of attention to their skin, but I didn’t get why this was being sold in a children’s store. Was it for their parents, envious of their offspring’s complexion?

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I was continually surprised by the Peanuts merchandise. As anyone who’s ever read the Peanuts knows, they’re deeply sad characters, constantly frustrated by life and each other. In Japan, they’re cute:


A giant mirrored maw, waiting to devour shoppers. I was consumed:

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