Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Dancing Lolitas

On the weekend just passed the Delightful Miss E and I paid a little visit to Tokyo, where we went on our usual mad charge through the Shinjuku shopping district and into Harajuku, again to take photographs of the strangely dressed folk who congregate there. On the way we managed to detour to Ueno to view an exhibition of Maori sacred items, and to wander about Ikebukuro (where we stayed) for a bit. Sunday was, however, perhaps the most interesting day, since not only did we take more pictures of the crazy Harajuku kids, but we did so against the backdrop of traditional festivities and modern political clashes; and we were able to visit the secret haunts of one of Tokyo's strangest creations, the Gothic Lolita. That's right, folks, we visited their nightclub.

Sunday was the appointed day for visiting Harajuku to take photographs of the kids sunning themselves on the bridge, but Sunday was also the public holiday to commemorate the Founding of Japan (I think that's what my supervisor said it was, anyway - I lose track of all of Japan's national holidays). Since the bridge is right next to a famous shrine, we found ourselves watching a huge procession of sweating, drunken men carrying massive buddhist shrines on their backs (see the photos in my next post). As these men grunted and swarmed their way past the lolitas and boys in dresses on the bridge, a phalanx of nationalist vans sat at the top of the park, music blaring and nationalist slogans braying out of loudspeakers. We followed the procession into the park to a huge set of Torii gates, and then sat down to eat lunch with all the drunken straggles of this parade. We then returned to the bridge, just in time to see the nationalist vans crusing off past the scattered kids in their crazy clothes:(If you look closely on the left you can see two dayglo rabbits). Thus we see how the Japanese get along together.

I took a few other pictures of these kids, with one particularly impressive chap in a satin skirt, partially mailed in silver plates, as the best of the lot. These photos can be seen on the accompanying illustrations. I still am at a loss as to what these kids are doing on this bridge; I was going to ask them but got shy of the task on the day, so satisfied myself with the pictures. The Delightful Miss E has a few additional bromides which are well worth a look.

In order to better explore the inclinations of these strange folk, on that same evening I escorted the Delightful Miss E to a dance party for Gothic Lolitas, called a la mode. Gothic lolitas pursue a kind of kinky Alice in Wonderland/French maid look, which completely desexualises them at the same time as it plays on all sorts of submissive gender roles and ideas. I find the look fascinating, strangely distasteful, and terribly childlike at the same time as I think it is very cool and completely sexless; it is also often quite same-same, since for most people it is constructed from complete outfits bought wholesale at shops. But at the club things were a little different. We had the racy suspender lolitas; there was a pair of girls who were dressed exactly like 17th century Parisienne high society, including the wig-like hair and the powder make up; there was a woman in a white-and-scarlet birdman kind of outfit, consisting of a kind of wings-over-pants look - and she had feathers instead of fake eyelashes. A couple of chaps were splendidly done in 18th century gentleman's outfits, and there was a fair amount of gender-bending going on (I have seen men even in rural Matsue walking down the street in a skirt over pants - really one can get away with anything here, and it seems a very popular bit of gauchery in the lolita circle). There were also straight-out corsetted goths, men with white make-up and crazy old-fashioned face-painted eye makeup - various photos of previous nights at this club can be found here, and give some idea of what people were wearing. The music at this venue was subtly different to what one might expect at a similar venue in Australia or Europe, being similarly metally-technoish, but with a bit more energy and drumming, and occasional twisted excursions. There was also an excellent selection of live acts, very impressively dressed and performing with a lot of style.

Overall a thoroughly entertaining night was had. I still do not understand these folk and their strange ways, but now I have seen their hidden world I am less inclined to think of this sort of thing as costume play, and more inclined to think that it is a genuine subculture, or at least some small part of it is. And what a fascinatingly dressed, shadowy little part of the world it is!


Blogger Cracklypork said...

I think it's actually one dinosaur, a purple rabbit, and one pikachu in the picture. That's not street fashion, that's just... just... cosplay.

6:47 AM  
Blogger Sir S said...

and the difference is...?

11:38 AM  
Blogger Cracklypork said...

Do not ask. It is the mystery of the dance.

10:50 AM  

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