Friday, May 16, 2008

Think dystopian superhero!

I once saw a "ladyboy" show in Pattaya Thailand at a place called "Tiffany's" where a lovely young Kathoey sang an American pop/hip-hop song without the benefit of knowing any English. It was quite fascinating, (kind of like Celine Dion's first English speaking album, she sang it phonetically you see.) But watching and hearing her/him sing a live version of Missy Elliott's song "Work it" made me shoot gin through my nose- "Isi worthy? lemme worky! I pull my ting dow, flippy and reversy!"

Now you know the first commandment in the law of Le Cornichon is "Thou Shalt Groove" so I naturally thought it was fabulous and fascinating, recherché and radical. Did you know that in the 17th century the first Geisha were men? look it up deah, It's the darnedest thing, but it is wonderful that we are fascinated by the artifice and the illusion of drag...

When on a recent trip to New Orleans I noticed the spread of a certain Japanese phenom propigated by young and young at heart, This movement in the Japanese culture is called "harajuku", and the girls call themselves "New Geisha". As you may know, it has been around for a few years now. but as in anything translated from the original language, the various interpretations around the world are proving too delicious. Seeing a 10 year old German girl that was dressed as a kind of Strawberry Shortcake meets Empress Wu was absolutely divine to me, especially because she was with her parents in Cafe du Monde at the time, all three covered in powdered sugar from the beignets- ya gotta love it.

If you get a sec, you absolutely have to pop over to Tokyo for a few days,
along with endurance shows, squeaky lift attendants and Hello Kitty, Yoyogi Park will always have a special place in the hearts of Tokyo's frequent visitors. It is not often that I find myself reminiscing like an old obasan, but the demise of the Sunday carnival cum rock concert cum comedy show in Harajuku and the fall from grace of the legendary Elvis wannabes, strutting their stuff through portable boom boxes, twisting in their sole-less shoes, quiffs flying and grease dripping, was a travesty for Tokyo street culture. (The kill-joys responsible have now, it seems, got their sights on eliminating the illuminations on Omotesando at Christmas.) But the whingers have not completely eradicated the fun. The noise may have gone but the somewhat screw-loose spirit lives on in the bizarre fashion parade cum street performance of the teenage madonnas now resident outside the main entrance to Meiji Shrine, between Yoyogi park and Harajuku Station. Street theater is back in town. And this time it is the girls who have taken the lead. We' ve all seen them on the bridge above the Yamanote line, dressed up in the most outrageous and colorful costumes they can rustle up, attracting tourists' camera lenses as the old Elvises used to. Most of the girls are middle or high school students, aged between twelve and sixteen. Many make their own costumes, although some of the more ornate designs are bought in specialty boutiques around Harajuku. The only rule: anything goes. Hair colorings come in brilliant hues, anywhere from incendiary red to canary yellow.

Punk is most definitely a flavor, but only one of many. There are people dressed up as doctors and nurses, with stethoscopes and white coats, their faces ashen, their smocks smeared bloodied red. One group wore hospital headgear and black frocks, another heavy white porcelaneous make-up and elegant Chinese military outfits, like a strange cocktail of Mao Tse-tung and Marlene Dietrich. On another occasion the theme seemed to be 17th Century France: Louis Quatorze hairstyles and yellow brocades, blue fabric shoulder pieces and gold trim. Every picture tells a story and, as their flamboyance suggests, a great deal of time, effort and often money goes into preparation for the Sunday show. Ponta, one of the male minority on the bridge, is a sixteen year old student lurking in a curious leather-tweed outfit like some sort of Tom Jones-Sherlock Holmes hybrid. He spends JY30,000 a month on outfits and it takes him an hour to prepare. Miyuki, seventeen, looking strangely like a Culture Club groupie from 1985 only slightly more ghoulish, spends up to JY20,000 on one costume and it takes her almost two hours to get ready. Both Ponto and Miyuki are lucky-their parents don't care. Not surprisingly, though, many feel it necessary to hide their Sunday jaunts from their parents. Yoko, who today is a sort of manga heroine cum punk queen, says she keeps the more outrageous parts of her wardrobe-the wigs and some of the jewelry - hidden from her parents and only completes her costume in the toilets of Harajuku Station just beforehand. She is not alone. Those toilets become more like a theatrical dressing room on Sundays in preparation for the performance on the bridge above.
When they move out onto the stage feathers and boas are as "in" as metallic spikes and baubles. For the most important thing, whatever the clothes, is the attitude: cool defiance. In effect these artists, models, or whatever they are, do little more than every other teenager in Harajuku on a Sunday: shop and then chill out and giggle with their friends. But when the lens caps come off, the laughter stops and it becomes more than just a fancy-dress party. This is art. It's almost like a fashion shoot, almost like a Marcel Marceau sketch, almost like a pop-video, totally Tokyo. The one question rattling around behind the puzzled faces of the casual observer is: why? Ask any one of them what on earth they are doing outside Meiji Shrine on a Sunday afternoon dressed up like some sort of punk-retro-pearly-queen carnival act and you'll more than likely get the same unassuming reply: "Just hanging out."
Surely when two fifteen year old girls feel the need to dress up like satanic nurses on a weekly basis, one handcuffed to the other's neck in a pseudo-S&M way, one should not hesitate to probe deeper. Along with crazy TV, rampant drunkenness and karaoke, is it an escape from the Yamanote routine of work, or study, and no sleep? Is it a cry of individuality in a society which doesn't encourage difference? Probably both. But as one confused observer put it, at least they're not doing enjo kosai. In truth, this is just another area of life in Japan where it is futile to ask questions. It just happens. Someone starts something and someone follows. This is Tokyo and ours is not to reason why. Anyhow, if they just want to be different they are certainly succeeding. And if nothing else, they certainly brighten up their day and ours. Green hair and bondage gear is much more interesting to look at than your standard Harajuku uniform of big white cotton socks and a blue sailors jumper. And I did feel a mite ordinary in my drab gray sweater and faded old jeans. Perhaps it would do us all good to forget the economy, the stock market, austerity measures and consumption taxes and be someone else for a day.

I dig it- here's an unofficial overview of the looks-
The term " Harajuku Girls" has been used by English-language media to describe teenagers dressed in any fashion style who are in the area of Harajuku. These girls may be members of various sub-cultures including Gothic Lolita, Ganguro, Gyaru, and Kogal. They may also be dressed as characters from an anime, movie, or manga (known as cosplay).In the 1980s large numbers of street performers and wildly dressed teens including takenoko-zoku (竹の子族, "bamboo-shoot kids") gathered on Omotesandō and the street that passes through Yoyogi Park on Sundays when the streets were closed to traffic. The streets were reopened to traffic in the 90s, and a great number of teens stopped gathering there. Today there are still teenagers hanging out in Harajuku, mostly on the bridge across the train tracks from Harajuku station to Yoyogi Park.Visual kei is associated with Harajuku. In attendance one will find Visual kei cosplayers (those dressed as their favorite bands) and those in the Gothic Lolita subculture/fashion.
How to wear Harajuku Style:
1) Be creative
2) Be theatrical
3) Mix and match
4) Look cute
5) Have a sense of humour
6) Be confident wearing clothes that mix genres and influences
7) Be confident wearing clothes that have weird shapes
8) If you go for bright colours, make sure you have unusual, fun contrasts
9) If you wear make-up, wear it black
10) Be confident in your chosen look, period
11) Above all, be stylish!

Lolita fashion is about embracing a Victorian style and sensibility and its purpose is to return to a child-like innocence and feminine sweetness thought to be lost in modern day life.
The Basic guideline for Lolita fashion
Wear skirts just above the knee/ knee length. It’s not Lolita if it is too short.
Wear a petticoat and bloomers underneath knee length skirts to add shape.
Wear mary janes/dolly ballerinas/ rocking horse shoes in either black, pink, white, red depending on the outfit.
Wear white stockings/tights or knee high socks, lace trim socks look especially nice.
The best hair styles for Lolita's are straight with a fringe, ringlets with a fringe in natural colours, it looks better when you wear a head dress/bow.
If appropriate, wear a head dress, head bow, mini top hat, mini crown in a suitable complimentary colour to your outfit.
Lacey parasols in white/black look perfect with most loli outfits.
Lolita's should wear minimal make up, good foundation that matches skin tone, red/nude /pink lip gloss, defined black eyeliner, false eyelashes.
Pinafore dresses should be worn with a blouse or cut sew(lacey t-shirt) underneath, generally in either black or white depending on the outfit.

Sweet Lolita can be divided in to subcategories:
Sweet Lolita (Amaloli) clothing is especially lacey and cute. This should be knee length and no shorter. The colours most popular are baby pink, baby blue, cream, black and red can also be worn if they have a suitably sweet print on them. Floral prints and prints of sweets, strawberries, swans, teddies are sweet Lolita. Sweet Lolita's generally carry dolls and teddies with them as accessories.
Shirololi (White Lolita). A shirololi only wears pure white.
Classical Lolita (or Classic Lolita) inspired by Victorian girl's fashion, Baroque and Rocaille. The style tends to be more mature and features florals, deep and muted colors, slimmer styling and empire waists. The colors used are off white, antique white, pink, burgundy, blue, brown and black.

Gothic Lolita clothes can be divided into subcategories:
Gothic Lolita: Gothic lolita is the most common and most popular in the gothic subcategory of lolita fashion. Clothes are black and white in colour typically but may also be dark blue, red.
Kurololi (black lolitas): Kurololi is gothic lolita but with a strict black only colour scheme.
Gurololi (gruesome lolitas): Gurololi means gruesome or horrible lolita. This style is often more of a costume and requires the wearer to dress with gore - for example bandages, fake blood, eyepatches etc. for wear on the rest of the body. This is also the perfect time to carry around a doll or teddy bear that's just as bandaged as you are. And what's cuter than a teddy bear with an eyepatch to round out your "Broken Dolly" look.

Wa Lolita Wa-loli (Japanese Lolita): This is not victorian but instead puts a modern twist on Traditional Japanese attire. Big skirts are still favoured but worn with kimono tops with long flared sleeves and obi cinchers. Big back bows are also regarded highly in this style- the bigger the better. Hair is styled like a Japanese girl –long, black and straight or done in a geisha style with hair sticks. Instead of stockings and Mary Jane's, it's bare legs, leg warmer type coverings, and rocking horse shoes. Colors range from dark Gothic colours to bright traditional kimono prints.

Qi Lolita: pronounced "chee-loli", is similar to Wa Lolita and is a combination of Lolita style and traditional Chinese clothing, such as the cheongsam dress.

Aristocrat/Madam: Aristocrat (or Madam when referring to the feminine version of the fashion) is a Japanese fashion that is inspired by what is thought to be worn by European Middle Class and above status persons in the Middle Ages and by fashion worn by the upper class in the 19th Century. The fashion includes long sleeve blouses and shirts, long skirts, corsetry, pants and dresses that are styled similarly for men and women, since it is centered on androgyny and elegance. The fashion is usually seen as a mature version of Lolita and is usually worn by people in their twenties and beyond. Make-up, when worn with the fashion, is on the darker side, may be heavy and can be worn by both genders.

Visual kei: (literally "visual style") refers to a movement in Japanese popular culture characterized by the use of eccentric, sometimes flamboyant looks. This usually involves striking make-up, unusual hair styles and elaborate costumes, often, but not always, coupled with androgyny or distinctively feminine or bishōnen aesthetics. Can also incorporate J-Rock styles.

There now, don't we look pretty?
Well. have a few of these and you will...
The Harajuku Saketini!

2 1/2 oz gin
1 oz Zen® green tea liqueur
1 oz sake rice wine
1 cocktail olive
In a mixing glass half-filled with ice cubes, combine the gin and liqueur with the sake. Stir well. Strain into a cocktail glass.
Screw the olive- it takes up so much room in the glass.
have a few and sing along to Japan!

No comments:

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
zeitgeist, particular friend, perky libertine, animated trickster, iconoclast, rabble-rouser, object of worship, provocateur, capricious damp enchantress, idiosyncratic beloved reptile, whimsical saucy booze hound, bellwether, luminary, stoic, pensive illicit paramour, aloof, engaged, intuitive, curious, perplexing deranged mastermind, passionate, lasciviously adored offspring, amorous, sultry flamboyant charioteer, scholar, scribe, exalted thespian, voracious, considerable chieftain, impaired, cynical colleague, dreamer, procrastinator, loathsome glutton, artist, oppressed peasant, dainty heathen, narcissist, self-loathing...renaissance man