pleasure

JR Characters (1 of 3)

JR Nakano station is always a people-watching pleasure. Less self-conscious than Harajuku and less desperate than Shibuya, Nakano’s station attracts the hip, the funky, and the downright strange. This is the first in a 3 part series of JR characters.

I love how nonchalant is this lady wearing a sparkly pink top, fluorescent blue skirt, several handbags, and a hat that will not stop. Japanese are so polite that no one stared, and I was the only one who immediately pulled out my camera.

The hat is a marvelous creation. Perched on top of the main quilted, multi-patterned hat, which nearly obscures her (?) face, there is a blue sequin mini-hat, pink butterfly wings, many feathers, a stuffed lady bug, and an over-sized candy inside a rolled up wrapper.

What other objects do you think would go with this hat?

“How come I am uke?!”

Bangin cosplays Kyon on Otome Road

On Monday, I had the supreme pleasure of helping my internet friend Bangin, the master teacher of otaku vocabulary for the English-speaking world, cosplay Kyon from The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi.

Bangin’s idea was to have Kyon, the narrator, provide a tour of Otome Road, the fujoshi (female geek) world capital in Ikebukero. My role was to take hundreds of photos. It was great fun since I’ve long admired Bangin’s blog, and I’d watched seven English subbed episodes online between the time he asked me and when we did the cosplay.

A brief summary of the manga and anime story: Kyon, the narrator, is a high school freshman who is trying to grow up. He falls under the spell of a dominant female classmate who organizes the SOS Brigade to make contact with extraterrestrials, time travelers, and ESP experts. Basically, she’s looking for magic in the mundane world, a lovely concept. The story has plenty of otaku moe (school girls in uniform, including one who is used as sexual bait to gain a computer, new members and attention), and a slash fan story of Kyon’s romance with the “mysterious (male) transfer student Koizumi.”

My National Science Foundation and Fulbright-sponsored university research with Rio de Janeiro drag queens in the early 1990s only partly prepared me for the role of cosplay photographer. Make-up, costume, fantasy, role-playing, utter seriousness, a depth of knowledge and passion– all to be expected.

What surprised me was the concern to not be “too loud” or too noticed while performing. I had thought it would be fun to interact with the butler cafe doorman, or the many fujoshi pulling their wheelie bags full of manga and doujinshi (fan slash manga). This was not Bangin’s idea at all. And, oddly, no fujoshi approached us to ask about Kyon.

Here you can read Bangin’s post about Otome Road. It’s even funnier than I anticipated because Bangin writes the whole travelogue in Kyon’s voice– being “forced” by Haruhi, and warned by Koizumi about the catastrophe of closed spaces. His introduction ends with, “Today is going to be my worst day in all of my life. Will you follow me? I will show around.” There are many photos, observations and explanations!

The finale of the tour is very amusing. Across from the dozens of shops catering to fujoshi is a small, somewhat uncared-for-park, where the young customers open up their purchases (and homeless people make their home, which reminded me of San Francisco).

The photo at the top of the post shows Kyon’s shock and horror that he is the subject of a Koizumi x Kyon doujinshi. Bangin provided the quote, “How come I am uke?!”

Strange visitors in Kyoto

Uncle and neices at Kinkakuji

One of the pleasure of travel is not only the sites but seeing the other site-seers. In Kyoto, I could not resist taking photos of these two spectacles that nearly over-shadowed the historic sites.

Above at Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavillion made famous in the West by Mishima, my mother and I spotted this “uncle and neices” three-some. The unusually warm weather in December does not sufficiently explain the brevity of these skirts. My husband charitably claims that three-piece-suited gentleman could be the young ladies’ relative, although I suspect most ojisan in Japan or elsewhere would not enjoy escorting their siblings’ children in these outfits. On the other hand, if they are not relatives, what an odd choice of date location, no?

Below at Katsura Villa, this over-sized personality demanded the attentions and photo-capturing assistance of fellow tourists, tour guide, and even the gardeners. So demanding that we witnessed some fellow tour-goers loudly “excusing” themselves for getting in her way, and much eye-rolling from the Japanese tourists. I wonder if she used to be a show-girl. I was certainly captivated.

Former showgirl at Katsura Villa