This edition is all about Tokyo conspiring to keep me from getting too comfortable.
We had an earthquake here yesterday, one of about 4 or 5 since I’ve been here that have been strong enough to really feel. This one, though, was the first one that’s really caught my attention. I was at the suupaa at the time, and it was one of those short but violent ones – they feel like the building was hit by a truck, rather than the slow, rolling kind. It was a 4.9 centered in Chiba, hardly a big one, but it was very uncomfortable. Everyone in the store sort of froze, stared at each other for a moment, some fruit rolled away, and everyone kept shopping.
After snapping a few shots in my ‘hood, Kagurazaka – a pocket Inari Shrine (I just about passed out from sheer delight), a fish festival at the major shrine, Akagi, etc - paid a quick visit to the Eva shop in Harajuku (a neighborhood I find a bit silly, to be honest, but rather entertaining) and damn – talk about a scene. Lines out the door just to browse, and $60 t-shirts. Eva is still Eva, but it’s become the cash cow with the golden teat. Across the road at the 5-story 100 Yen shop Daiso (more my speed, really) they had a wide assortment of Space Bros. related drinks from Sapporo – Mutta, Hibito (child and adult) and Apo were everywhere.
Today was a bit of historical landmark – my first doujin fair, Comic City 130. I went to TAF at Big Sight a couple of years ago – before the whole Bill 156 thing damaged it – and this was a relatively small show by comparison. But as my first doujin fair I was really looking forward to it, and it’s a sort of dry run for the big one – Winter Comiket next month – which is itself a preamble to the really, big one, summer Comiket. Those of you who’ve seen TM8 will understand why I was a bit edgy going to Big Sight the day after an unsettling quake, but that was soon forgotten when the festivities started.
That’s when things got interesting. As I waited for the doors to open, I noticed an oddity in the demographic composition of my fellow attendees. It occurred to me at this point that I might perhaps not have ascertained the nature of the event with the acuity that I might have desired. In short, the line was at least 97% female, and once I got inside my suspicions were confirmed. Let’s just say I know have some understanding of how Joshu-kun felt.
I was tempted to deploy my usual strategy when finding myself in an embarrassing situation in Japan – say “Nihon-go wa tabemasen” and back away, slowly. But, I was there – and at the very least, it was sure to provide an interesting social experiment. As indeed it did. The first two songs I heard on the PR were the OPs from Sakamichi no Apollon and Ginga e Kickoff, and it was very interesting indeed to see the sort of literature that appeals to this demographic up close. Instinctively I want to be puzzled and ask, what is it about seeing young boys deflowering each other than appeals to these women? But then I remember that widespread fascination with yuri that exists among male otaku – one which honesty compels me to admit I’m not entirely free from myself – and I just chalk it up to human nature.
I’m not sure what lessons there are to take away from this except that fusjoshi adore cute shotas in soccer uniforms (in addition to a bit of Ginga, Inazuma Eleven was probably the second-most popular parody on display) though any athletic uniform will do in a pinch. And that Tiger & Bunny is the undisputed king of this marketplace. And judging by the number of series that I’ve enjoyed that also showed up in those exhibition halls, I’m forced to confront the possibility that in fact, I may have been a fujoshi myself all along without even realizing it.
I was certainly interested to watch the dynamics of the event, too – I have no idea if all doujin fairs work this way, but there’s a certain commonality when being in a large group of people who share the same obsession. There was a very purposeful air to the place – people seemed to know exactly what they wanted, and they were making the rounds as quickly as they possibly could. The “A List” circles seemed to be assigned to the walls, corners, even outside – while the aisles in the center were the smaller circles looking to impress new fans. It was definitely an experience – uncomfortable to be sure at times, but educational. And no, no pictures – they weren’t allowed for starters, and TBH I would have felt extremely creepy taking them anyway.
Afterwards,a brief stop at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, the highest observation deck in Tokyo (45 stories) that you can visit for free. Actually two of them as there are two separate towers. It was a very nice day for it – I could see Fuji-san, though with the low cloud and glass, it doesn’t really show up on the photo. Tokyo is still not nearly at prime fall colors yet, and it’s almost December. It’s definitely getting chillier, though.
I discovered to my delight that my neighborhood has a sento, and I stopped there afterwards. It was your classic local public bath as you probably imagined it – an old obaa-san at the counter who takes your money and can see into both the men’s and ladies changing areas (a bit odd, that), a divider between the two baths that I would describe as just barely high enough not to see over if you’re of average height, and a hot – and I do mean HOT – bath. I’ve been to many onsen and I could only take a couple of minutes. The clientele was as you’d imagine, too – mostly older Japanese guys who walked around naked after their bath and chatted with the Obaa-san as if it were the most natural thing ever as sumo played on the old TV. The local sento has been on the decline for decades, but there’s been a bit of a nostalgia boom for them – and while this was my first neighborhood sento visit, I suspect this one has changed very, very little over the last 60 years.