So I’ve decided that since this semester I won’t be doing much travelling, I will stop running this blog on a regular one week one post basis. So essentially, whenever I come across something interesting here in Tokyo or something I particularly want to talk about, I’ll be making a post. We’re going off schedule!
The best shirt I ever saw from a week ago in Shibuya
I’ve posted before about my difficulty in finding motivation now that I’ve entered my second semester at Waseda University, and just as I’ve been finding my bearings here Japan decided to throw me a curve ball three weeks into my new semester. Golden Week.
Golden week is something exclusive to Japan – it’s a bank holiday week in May. I remember hearing about Golden week early on in my first semester at Waseda – I was thinking I would plan some kind of a trip to Kyushu or maybe somewhere else in Japan where I hadn’t been planning on going. But, of course, when I went on Skyscanner and actually checked the price of flights for that one particular week in May, I decided that maybe it’s not worth splashing that amount out for a single week. Because those prices were (excuse the pun) sky-high.
Golden week tends to be a time where, apparently, most people like to head to hot places like Hawaii or Okinawa or Taiwan. I’ve already had my time in Okinawa, so I’ve decided to just relax in the Tokyo area for a week before the semester resumes.
So, I kicked off Golden week (30th April) by going to “Samurai Girls Festival”. Tamsin was the one who found out about it – one of the performers tweeted that there was free entry for high school students and foreigners, and, well, it’s a concert – if you’re offered free tickets, why pass them up? The concert itself was located in Koto, which is one of the man-made islands near the Rainbow Bridge and home of an Olympic stadium for the 2020 games. I have no idea if they’re putting more than one stadium in Koto, but all I know is we sat outside one that was 80% built with awful £1 convenience store wine, talking about how in the future millions of people will come to enjoy the olympics in our footsteps. Anyway.
Samurai Girls turned out to be idol festival. If you don’t know what idols are in the Japanese context, the best way I can describe them is cute young girls who wear colourful costumes, sing original pop songs and dance with amazing choreography. I have amazing respect for these girls because it takes STAMINA to pull it off. I’d say you can get the general idea of what an idol group is with BABYMETAL, a Japanese trio that got pretty popular in the UK.
Shinokubo (Shinjuku’s Korean district) doesn’t even look like Tokyo
Idols sell. Idols make people a LOT of money. Many young girls in Japan launch their careers into voice acting, music, TV, etc. via starting off as idols. However, the problematic aspect of idols is the fans. There would be girls as young as 13 dancing and singing on that stage and you’d have men old enough to be their grandfathers buying merchandise with their faces, paying great amounts to shake their hands and get pictures with them. This is the aspect of Japanese society that people can’t seem to decide whether to turn a blind eye to or to confront it, and it’s the part of Japanese society that I like to distance myself from as far as possible. You could of course argue that idol culture gives power to these girls, but it’s just another reminder of the disturbing obsession Japanese culture has with purity and the young female body. It’s a conversation that I don’t like to have because it’s incredibly uncomfortable, and I really did enjoy the concert and greatly respected the efforts of the performers. It’s just not comforting to see these schoolgirls between the age of 13 and 17 having an audience that is 90% composed of men who are at the youngest twice their age and at the oldest maybe five times.
I’ll miss proper bubble tea
There were other girls in the audience too, of course, though only around 15 and all apart from us decided to situate themselves in the female standing area (no guesses for why girls have their own standing area at these idol concerts, or in basically every other public part of Japan). What made us stand out was that we were the only foreigners in the whole arena, thus every 2 or 3 seconds the people around us would give us a good stare, then go back to looking at the stage, then back to us, so it goes on. Basically, we did not belong there, and everybody made it their mission to remind us every other second that we were going to be part of several stories told over drinks later that night.
(No pictures of the idol concert because you’re not allowed to film the performers. No comment on that.)
Today (1st May) marked a revisit to the beautiful Ain Soph Ripple restaurant, a vegan fast food joint that I haven’t been to since, well, my second week of living in Japan. I decided to go for the chicken burger this time around rather than the avocado beef of last time, and I immediately fell in love. I miss vegan burgers and how simple it was back in London to buy a bean burger pack from Tesco, stick it in the oven and call it a day. It’s almost hard to believe that I’ve been living in Tokyo for 8 months now, but I think with every passing day I get more and more excited to return to the things I left behind in England. That doesn’t mean I don’t love my life here in Tokyo, but I wish that I could combine elements from here and elements from England and create my own perfect little culture.
As for the rest of Golden Week? Tomorrow, a hike up Mt. Takao, relaxing on Thursday as it’s a rainy day, and hopefully a beach day on Friday, before Pride on Saturday. The weather’s become amazing as of late (reaching 28 degrees today), and all I can do is hope for it to carry on like this.
Until next time!