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Posts Tagged ‘shibuya’

Blogger Lisa Katayama took Kurt to Tokyo’s girl haven: the sticker picture booth.

You can download the video here.

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More great design solutions that I wish we could bring back with us to the US:

dfrw-seat

ITEM 1:

Say you’re shopping in a department store with your toddler and you need to go to the bathroom… where do you stick the kid? TOTO, maker of the world’s most amazing (and complex) toilets offers another great product, attached to the corner of the stall.

ITEM 2:

The Japanese are known for being extremely considerate — but sometimes, even they need reminding. Or perhaps they’d like to politely remind their visitors? This public courtesy campaign is in train cars and stations. This is not your brain on drugs — rather, it’s a gentle, rational reminder not to be stupid:

dfrw-sign

"Texting while walking means putting a blind-spot in the center of your field of vision."

ITEM 3:

We’ve enjoyed staying 20 stories above Shibuya, one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in Tokyo. So busy, in fact, that they’ve done away with crosswalks: at the signal, hundreds of people cross every which way, then clear out completely to make way for the cars. The wash of people — like four dark waves, crashing into each other and then receding back onto the sidewalk — takes my breath away every time. Especially since I know we’d never be capable of sharing the street so efficiently and gracefully in Times Square.

– Jenny Lawton

(Frustrated Writer/flickr)

(Frustrated Writer/flickr)

(Shibuya on a relatively light day)

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As we walked down one of the narrow side streets of the Times Square-ish entertainment district around the Shibuya train station, past swank rock clubs and “love hotels,” we came upon an unlit, grimy, highly decorative stone-and-stucco facade that looked to be from the first third of the 20th century — an anomaly in a city where buildings from the 1950s and 60s count as unusually old. We entered. And discovered one of the oddest, most wonderful little establishments in the developed world. Do you, like me, fantasize about time travel? Are you a fan of Eric Ambler or Alan Furst novels? Then this is your place.

classical-music-bar

It’s called The Lion, an 82-year-old lounge devoted not just to classical music but, in effect, to reproducing a particular highly atmospheric time and place — Europhilic Japanese cafe society of the interwar years, tatty old-school gentility with just a touch of noir.

massive-wooden-speakersThe wood is dark. The lights are dim. The tobacco fog is thick. The menu consists mainly of coffee and tea. The chairs are red velvet, each with its own white linen antimacassar. And nearly all the seats are turned to face loudspeakers contained in elaborate wooden cabinetry, over which Shostakovich is playing — Shostakovich from an audibly vinyl recording punctuated by heartbreaking pops and hiss. Although Lion’s two floors could easily seat 100 people, the arrival of the four of us at 5:30 yesterday increased the patron count by a third. People read, people write, one man sleeps, but no one (except the loud Americans from New York) speaks.

– Kurt Andersen

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On the streets of Shibuya today: drum circles, drumming lessons, and breakdancing. We met a young radio reporter (Pejk spotted his DAT recorder) and he told us it’s the third annual Shibuya music festival, called Shibu-on.

Some video highlights: first, breakdancing unplugged – to hand drums, pan flute and didgeridoo. (No patchouli or hacky-sacks sighted.) These guys were actually pretty cool. The female dancer is probably the least girly girl I’ve seen in Shibuya so far.

And here’s a sampling of the drumming:

That was the World Rhythm Summit, the Drum Circle Facilitators Association, and Taiko Master in an arcade down the street.

– Leital Molad

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The motto of a fictional character of mine was All Cliches Are True. As I was reminded twice, spectacularly, during my first full day in Tokyo.

Of course I knew about the (cliche of the) Japanese schoolgirl subculture, and its devotion to cuteness, uniformity, pinkness, intense girl-to-girl friendliness, technology, and so on. But my visit yesterday afternoon to an arcade of elaborate photo booths in Shibuya, right after school let out, was a hands-on gas. Now I viscerally know what that subculture looks and feels like, instead of just having read about it.

Lisa and Kurt vogue teenaged-girl style.

Lisa and Kurt vogue teenaged-girl style.

Our Japanese colleague Lisa Katayama accompanied me — and indeed, as a man (or boy) I wouldn’t have been allowed into the place without her. The booths are individually themed to produce a particular kind of group (girl) portrait, and the booths are large — 3 times as big as the ones we know in America. Once inside, you’re cued to pose in particular ways — to “vogue” according to prescribed super-cute situations. And then, in a second both, one adds stars and hearts and unicorns and flowers and mushrooms and and letters and numbers to one’s portrait at will. And the final product is a postcard-sized, adhesive-backed montage of 24 photos, which is supposed to be cut into 24 individual stickers and shared with one’s BFFs. I now have an uncanny desire to attend a boy-band concert with Lisa.
Another true cliche about Japan — the insane, inefficient illogic of the street address system; that is, the lack of a system easily usable even by natives — I experienced last night.
I left my hotel, and handed the printed, Japanese-language address of a restaurant to my cab driver; he loaded the address into his GPS device. And still, he couldn’t find the destination. Finally he parked, turned off his meter, and wandered away to find a human being who could tell him where the (Italian) restaurant was. Twenty minutes later, he returned, drove 2 blocks, and we were there.
The ill-fated cab.

The ill-fated cab.

For a country where humiliation avoidance is supposed to be a prime cultural driver, how weird that this daily opportunity for minor humiliation is hard-wired into life. Consider the time (and gasoline) wasted — and consider how many millions of times the same thing happens every year in Tokyo. Japan is one of the most supremely modern, well-organized places I’ve ever been — with for this bizarre, gratuitous premodern exception.
– Kurt Andersen

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Purikura

While Pejk and Jenny wandered the peaceful Yoyogi park, I hit the streets of Shibuya with our our freelance reporter Lisa Katayama. Lisa is working on a piece about a new generation of Japanese female artists who are playing with female archetypes – like the schoolgirl – in all kinds of fun and twisted ways. (More on that later.)  Shibuya is a place where throngs of teenage girls flock after school, so we hit some hot spots with the girl culture expert Daisuke Okabe.

Daisuke, Leital and Lisa in Glorious Glitter

Daisuke, Leital and Lisa in Glorious Glitter

He took us to a “purikura” arcade – a storefront filled with photo booths.  But this ain’t your grandma’s photo booth – each one has a special theme, like “princess” or “glitter.”  You pose in front of a green screen, then go to a computer where you can pimp out your pictures with all kinds of graphics and colors.  After spending 5 minutes touching them up, you get a printout.  They are microscopic!  You’d think after all that effort you’d want a poster or a t-shirt, or at least a 5×7.  But apparently, you aren’t cool unless you do this with your best friends at least once a week.  We managed to get ours done without too many stares.

– Leital Molad

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Mysterious Mountain Monk

For Tokyo’s size, density, and sprawl (those last 2 things might sound contradictory, but here they’re not), it has tons of parks — big parks, that are astounding both in how carefully they’re kept, and in their ability to block out the bustling city around them. Take Yoyogi Park in Shibuya. It’s vast, manicured, and serene — on the weekends, it’s apparently hopping with cos-players and street musicians. But today, the other people visiting (besides Pejk and me) were an odd assortment of homeless folks and teams of young people doing fashion photo shoots. The landscape pulsed with the caw of crows and other noisy birds — and one other sound… a haunting sort of moan that reverberated off the ginko trees.

We followed the sound into a corner of the park — there, we found a man methodically pacing in circles, breathing deeply and blowing into a giant conch shell. He turned out to be a self-described mountain monk who spends most of his time in the city, but plays the conch as a means of focusing and liberating his spirit… (more details to come)

Later, we made our way to Meiji-Jingu, which some consider to be Japan’s most important Shinto shrine. There we ran into 2 wedding processions — and dozens of tots celebrating (we think) the holiday of Shichi-go-san (7-5-3), which marks the occasion of these age milestones. Although the kids were carefully dressed in beautiful kimono (the girls’ hairstyles alone were astounding), the normally quiet complex was punctuated by the click clack of their traditional sandals: like kids everywhere, when they saw the big open space, they couldn’t help but take off running through it. (See our flickr page for a big dose of adorableness.)

Kurt just got in to the city today — more from him soon.

– Jenny Lawton

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