June 01, 2009
Shopping in Tokyo gets very overwhelming very fast. This is particularly true for members of an endangered female minority (of which I?m a member)?the non-shopaholics. Nonetheless, I (inadvertently, I swear!) visited all the hot spots, including Harajuku and Shibuya, Akihabara Electric Town, Shinjuku, and even Ginza, Tokyo?s most prestigious consumer destination.
Harajuku, popularized by Gwen Stefani in North America, was filled with crowds of squealing teenage girls drooling over a thousand ?idol? (celebrity) photos and stores with more pink than Paris Hilton could handle. The ?darker,? albeit just as cute, side of consumption ranged from ?Gothic Lolita? merchandise to the tiny 18G spikes, currently gracing my ears!
On the streets, housed amongst sweatshirts with X-Japan?s logo, that country?s excellent rock export, I found multiple Obama t-shirts. Could Obamamania be so ordinary in Japan, the land of colorful plastic containers for individual bananas, trendy prison-themed cafes, and erotic manga openly read on airplanes?
Things got a little more interesting in Electric Town. While Harajuku was dominated by girls, this part of Tokyo was definitely boys? turf: video games, super hero figurines, and stores dedicated entirely to vending machines with capsule toys.
Doll stores, while seemingly catering to girls with a very expensive taste, had a boys? section, too. These were special dolls, though: exaggerated anime heads placed onto nude, pornstar-voluptuous, suggestively posed, realistic bodies. Some were so graphic, in fact, that certain shop owners ?censored? the dolls with masking tape. There were realistic S&M dolls too: elaborately bound, gagged, and occasionally accompanied by a male sadistic counterpart.
Just as teenage boys in Japan learn about women in this fashion, so do they often encountered American politicians in bobble-head format, or perhaps accompanying ?The Terminator? or as mask store displays. The latter ranged from a lit box featuring Obama and Japan?s PM Aso, armed with a space gun, to a pink-eared ?Obunny,? evidently mimicking the manga bunnies with the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya sticking out of his pocket.
I did not find any such merchandize in Ginza. However, two students from a local fashion college (with convincing IDs!) approached me to take a photograph. Perhaps anyone can become an idol in Tokyo. I just hope that school project involves no animal hybridity!
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