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Connie: Visual kei, cross-dressers and digimon

August 18, 2011

My first day in Tokyo was spent doing my favorite thing to do in Tokyo – browse around the street fashion shops in Harajuku. Any store that looked like a band I might listen to was explored. One shop was playing my all-time favorite album, Vidoll’s V.I.D., so they ended up luring me in and getting my business. Body Line was full of bratty kids who stood around begging their parents for money for clothes they would scarcely be able to wear in a normal social setting. One shop tucked away in a basement had an outfit worn by a rather popular band on display – unfortunately photos were not allowed.

My personal favorite was a rather expensive shop run by an eccentric older woman. When I came in she immediately engaged me in English conversation. “You know Japanese musicians? Dir en Grey came here. X Japan too. Gazette, Sid… You know them? I make all these clothes. Look, this one is nice. Look, Dir en Grey wore this. Look at Shinya. You like lolita? How about this?”

She proceeded to try her very best to get me to buy something, but I just didn’t have the money – everything she had was custom made and around 10,000 yen. Her being a rather pushy lady, I had to find an excuse to leave. That came in the form of a young man who strolled in. Apparently he knew the woman, though I couldn’t tell whether they knew each other through the shop or through something else. The woman started bantering with the kid right away. “Did you go to school today? What are you now, a middle schooler? You started a band!? Who would listen to you?” While I found their conversation quite amusing, I knew that was my only opening. I strolled back out onto the hot streets and concluded my browsing.

After Harajuku, there was one thing I wanted to do during my final trip to Tokyo. There was a cafe called Edelstein which was in the same vein as maid cafes. Rather than maids, however, it was staffed by young men dressed in private school uniforms. Unfortunately I came to find out that the place had closed down earlier this year.

When sharing my woes about this on facebook one of my friends suggested a special maid cafe. Called New Type, it is staffed entirely by men. Yes, I said maid cafe – no, I don’t mean butler cafe. Everyone working there was lovely, and some of them were rather convincing as women. Compared to maids, however, I found these guys to be more friendly and genuine. Instead of wearing a false smile the entire time, they would joke around with each other and customers, engage people in random conversation, simply doing things that seemed less robotic than the typical service worker in Akihabara. I suppose that’s part of the draw to this place – the number of men and women in the place was equal – maybe it’s because these kinds of maids had a different feel than all the others.

When the maids asked me why I was there I told them a friend had suggested it to me. “She wanted to come, but couldn’t. So I came instead.”

The response one of them gave me was, “Tell her this is a great place! And, of course, say, ‘They were all men!’”

After a while I started talking with the businessman sitting next to me. He says he goes to the place every week, Thursday, though that week he went on Wednesday. He is an accountant originally from Osaka, now living in Tokyo. I wanted to ask him what drew him to New Type, but I figured that might be rude. Instead I asked him what I should do for my last day. At a loss, he asked one of the maids. He gave it quite a bit of thought before finally suggesting I go visit Odaiba.

So that’s what I did. The last time I was in Tokyo, I remember wanting to go to Odaiba but not getting the chance.

Odaiba is a man-made island sitting out in Tokyo Bay. Everything on the place has a futuristic feel to it. The most famous landmark is the Fuji Television building, with a giant sphere sitting in the middle of it for no apparent reason. Today it was jam-packed with tourists, almost all Japanese, sitting on the shade of the massive staircase in hopes of warding off the heat as they ate vendor food.

While wandering about the area around Fuji Television I remembered something. In the story arc in which the children returned back to Earth, the kids from Digimon spent their entire time in Odaiba. It was where their apartment was, it was where Greymon destroyed a bridge, and Fuji Television was where one of the most epic battles in the series took place.

With that one, nerdy realization I felt like I was reliving my childhood. If it weren’t for the heat I might have explored the area more, but it was too much for me. Watching that sphere atop Fuji Television as I walked away, I made my way back to mainland Tokyo.

These were my last few days in Japan. Tomorrow afternoon I board a plane back to America. I’ve come to terms with my departure, but I still am wondering:

What will it be like to be back in the country where I was born?

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