The weekend following my debut in Japan flowed through seamless transitions of sightseeing and a taste of Kyoto’s night scene. Upon arrival on Thursday night, Zaak Kersteter and I made our way down to where Imadegawa Michi comes across the Kado river, and headed south for a while until hitting a giant mall-like market downtown. Most of the stores were closed by the time we got there, but the people were still parading about en mass—or so I thought. At that early point in my Japan adventure, I lacked the wisdom of how massive the crowds can be.
There was little in terms of entertainment, aside from people watching and walking down the back alleys to discover what I thought to be strip clubs, though they were probably brothels. Hair is a big deal down here, hair and fashion. From high to low fashion, the mall-culture of America was taken to new heights in Japan; people from all walks of life dressed up, dressed down to make their promenade to and from coffee shops, to and from clubs and restaurants. Hipsters to businessmen, disenfranchised youth in army-green cargo-pants to high school girls in their Sailor-Moon mini-skirts, bums and derelicts, glamour-goth queens and punk kids—all of them out and about in the lingering madness of closing time.
I call it mall-culture, when people dress up to parade around—these people are shopping, but not for something to add to their style, not another t-shirt or bandana. They’re all shopping for accolades and tribute, they’re marching up and down the strip so they can show off their fashion-genius and pick up fresh tips, before they’re over-popularized. In America, teenagers do this all the time, they go hang out at the mall, and in Japan it’s the same event, only the Japanese seem to take everything America does to a more intense level—an overly broad generalization, I know, but while I cannot prove it fully, I have yet to find evidence in Japan to contradict this philosophy.
All along the strip, Zaak and I fit in—me with my California-hippie garb, and Zaak with his unique American-hardcore wear. I have jeans, a hemp belt, and a faded t-shirt too small for my shoulders, complete with worn Birkenstocks to boot; Zaak brandishes his stylish remains of a Mohawk—his hair has grown since, and the sides of his head are no longer buzzed to a millimeter’s length—his hardware, eyebrow and lip piercings, and an all-black ensemble. He’s ornamented with a phone cord around his neck—the spirally, stretchy kind—and his customized Fossil watch attached to three inches of studded leather cuff.
Despite our outlandish fashion, we didn’t raise any eyes, get any glances, or win any hearts, much to our disappointment. We relied on the ubiquitous bright-flashing lights (see arcade on the right), t-shirts in nonsensical English, and mysterious Japanese signs to provide us our amusement for the evening.