Thursday, May 31, 2007
Shibuya is Tokyo’s busiest, most bustling neighborhood. Every few minutes, thousands of people make their way through the streets at Shibuya crossing. It’s a center for shopping, restaurants, businesses, and clubs. It’s also a hub for youth displaying risky, sexed up fashion. The relentless foot traffic makes Shibuya prime real estate for advertising. The big crossing is frequently compared to New York City’s Times Square, as mega-sized ads & neon lights compete for space and crowd the view.
Right now, one of Nike’s Just Do It campaigns is up all over Shibuya. These ads were done by WK – Tokyo, and they’re really nice. The idea focused on non-pro street sports in Tokyo – dancing, fixed gear biking, and skateboarding. The message being that people can, should and do use the city of Tokyo to practice their sport. The campaign exemplifies and celebrates those who are already taking advantage of the city’s athletic opportunities, while encouraging others to join in. The ads are super nicely done color and black & white action photos of local athletes. They’re definitely the most awesome Shibuya ads I’ve seen.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
One of Japan’s most exciting festivals takes place every May in the shitamachi area of Asakusa, Tokyo. Each year, over 1 million people flood the streets of the old-Edo flavored neighborhood for 3 days of drinking, dancing, costumes, rallying & street food. It is one of the only events at which geisha are easily spotted, and shirtless men display enormous tattoos, openly publicizing their affiliation with the yakuza (Japanese mafia).
Aside from the wild street scene of the matsuri, the main festivities derive from tradition. The festival began over one thousand years ago, and is intended to bring good luck, prosperity, and the best blessings to those participating.
The enthusiastic party atmosphere kicks off on a Friday, the very first day of the festival; the main event is the Daigyoretsu, a parade of musicians, performers and dancers romping through the neighborhood of Asakusa. As the crowds flood, restaurants set up tables in the streets for drinking and eating. People begin to dance as floats, carrying flute players and drummers, push their way through swarms of people. Geisha make appearances, coming out to participate wearing festival attire.
On the second day, over 100 mikoshi, portable shrines are carried in from different Asakusa district neighborhoods. It takes crowds of people to carry these shrines, which are thought to hold and transport the gods. The shrines are shaken vigorously, a ritual thought to bring even more good luck and prosperity to the neighborhood from which the shrine came. It is a parade of chanting and music, crowded streets and costumes.
During the final day, the party rolls on. An early morning parade carries Asakusa’s largest portable shrines from the precincts through neighboring communities. All the while, musical floats continue along with the traditional dancing, drinking and eating. By the end of it all, most of the area's shop owners, and die-hard festival participators are exhausted. Some of them will have only slept a few hours during the weekend.
Sanja Matsuri, compared to the typical, more conservative, reserved street scenes of Tokyo, gives foreigners a glimpse at Tokyo’s wild side, and a rare chance to experience ultra vivacious Japanese religious ritual.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Dogs are a raging trend here in Tokyo. All over town people are displaying their dogs on leashes, or carrying them - head peeking out - in purses. These dogs are often wearing coordinated outfits - jeans with a sweater, or a tank top and miniskirt. Grooming shops keep the fur of these well-cared-for pets fluffy, fresh and voluminous. And sunglasses to match give an almost disturbingly human quality to their look. Smaller, purebred K9s are most popular, however, it’s not uncommon to see a giant Poodle or a Bernese Mountain Dog strutting down the city streets.
While doggy bakeries and clothing stores have become almost passé here in Tokyo, the other day I saw a new doggy phenomenon, the doggy backpack. I met this kid in Nakameguro. He was cruising the streets, with his super chilled out Cocker Spaniel kicking it in a backpack baby sling. This is by far the coolest and most innovative of the doggy contraptions I’ve seen. When the boy saw me checking out his dog, he quickly turned his back toward me, so that I could get an even better look at his pet. Then he took his sling off, doggy and all, and let me try it on. It felt great, and the dog seemed to be ultra comfy and happy inside his sling. Way to go, kid! Who knows, maybe this will be the next big Tokyo doggy trend.
Saturday, May 5, 2007
Our dear friends Krystin & Eric just visited from Oregon. They were our first friends to visit from the states, and showing them around was a lot of fun for D & me. There is only so much you can do with a week in Tokyo. We walked them all over town. We went to a handful of different neighborhoods, temples/shrines & some of our favorite restaurants. By the end of their trip I’m pretty sure they were totally beat and probably tired of sleeping on our air mattress. After they left, I moped around for a little while. Our nest felt a little empty. It was nice having them.
After K&E took off, Driscoll & I went and checked out a nature reserve, which is only a couple subway stops away from our apartment. Most of the parks in Tokyo are sort of like Disneyland for adults. Even so, it’s still nice to visit them, take long walks and see the greenery & flowers. The nature reserve is probably the closest to real nature as we’ve seen here. It was a bright cheerful day, and the sunlight was shining through, illuminating the Japanese Maple leaves. Pretty.
The next day we had a picnic lunch at a kid’s playground in Azabu. We stopped and bought some sushi, rice balls, fruit & tea. I can’t get over how piping red the strawberries are here. They're all the same color and they’re all at the same exact stage of ripeness. In addition to their color, every inch of the strawberry has the same amount of juice and the same texture. What the?... How do they grow them like that?