TGIFBWGI: Thank Goodness It’s Friday, Because We’ve Gone Insane

Posted: May 15, 2006 in Uncategorized

Any culture that’s been behaviorally repressed for centuries is bound to crack around the edges eventually. Japan just happens to have large, gaping chasms of weird, and a few of them are on display every Sunday in Yoyogi Park in Harijuku. Having caught wind of this before I left, I was a little crestfallen at first when I entered the park because there was a huge Thai festival in progress, and I was afraid the cosplay kids and street rock bands had been pushed out this weekend. However, as I delved further into the park, strains of multiple rock bands overlapping each other told me I was on the right track.

Street bands are obviously nothing new. Street bands with full drum kits and generator-driven amps are a bit more uncommon. Having a 1/2 mile stretch of sidewalk lined with these bands as little as 10 feet apart is uniquely Japanese.

Some of the bands were frankly horrible, in some cases just a single guy with a mic singing off-key J-pop ballads. Others, two in particular, were pure rock and roll, and actually put on a hell of a show. But regardless of talent or showmanship, every one of them had a rapt audience.

Next came my personal favorite, and one I’d only heard rumor of, the Greasers. This is a company of maybe 10 guys, all dressed impeccably in circa 1950s leather and sporting massive, glossy pompadours that look like sleek black jet engines on their heads, and probably have the same tensile strength. Forming a circle, a jukebox blasts everything from Japanese pop to Pat Benetar’s “Heartbreaker” while these guys twist and air guitar with the intensity of a team of surgeons.

Finally was the cosplay gathering, where for apparently no other reason other than being a spectacle for tourists, kids dressed to the nines in elaborate costumes and makeup sit on a bridge being photographed. At some point it was likely just a social gathering of like-minded kids who felt 2 hours was simply not enough time to commit to getting dressed, but now the tourists far outnumber the costume wearers to the point that it feels like Disneyland on acid.

Combine all this with the fact that the whole thing takes place outside the entrance to the biggest shrine in Tokyo, and you really start to understand why they don’t have open alcohol container laws in this city.


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