A Canadian writer teaches English and finds out what it's like to be a foreigner.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Singin' the Kogal, Eggman, Idoru blues

The search for Eggman was not over easy.

In fact it was impossible.

I never found the chimeric music club as I wandered through the rain-slick streets of Shibuya in the early evening. With only the map in my Lonely Planet book and a few incongruous landmarks, the streets seemed to me only as a maze of empty yet still open designer boutiques with one word English names.

It was still early on Thursday night, but I had no sense of my surroundings. I knew Shibuya was the creche of Tokyo youth culture along with Harajuku (a fact which Gwen Stefani shamelessly exploits) so with a few spots on a year old map, I was hoping I could find some kind of show to take in.

It was harder than I thought.

I had been walking in the wrong direction for easily 20-minutes, and when I doubled back, I doubled back too far, and found myself walking up and along the infamous Love Hotel Hill.

I got tired and gave up entirely too easy.

It had already been a long day by about 5:00.

Having spent Wednesday night in Asakusa, and the afternoon wandering the Imperial Palace Gardens and the swanky Roppongi Hills, I wanted a calm start to my final full day in Tokyo, followed by an electro-shock of neon signs and street fashion as it started to get dark.

That morning I took the subway to Meiji-jingu, the forested Shinto shrine dedicated to the restoration Emperor of the same name. It was spitting enough that I had to buy an umbrella at the subway station, but the rain really added to the atmosphere of the shrine. I stood at the huge wooden Torii, at the entrance to a 175 acre evergreen forest with just a handful of Korean tourists and residents out to walk. It was remarkable. Here, flanked on all sides by Harajuku, Omote-sando, and Shibuya, centres of couture and consumption all, was a massive forest and temple, dedicated to the souls of passed royalty. Sort of like Central Park if you replaced the park bench wankers with Empress Shoken's memorial lily garden.

Sort of.

The light rain, made the turquoise roofs of the temple proper shine, and the green of the 120,000 trees seemed that much deeper. I was able to get lost in the woods in the middle of Tokyo. That's pretty awesome.

After savoring the green, I headed down Omotesando, billed as Tokyo's Champs-Elysees. I had lunch at a great little fusion restaurant with fluent English speaking staff and then, belly full of swordfish, headed down the street where affluent Tokyoites get their D&G, Benetton and other international names.

Shibuya was next, mid-afternoon. I crossed with the masses at Hachiko square and guessed I had never been part of so big a single crowd before. It's hard to take a step in Shibuya without running into a kogal and her ten thousand friends. Essentially the Japanese valley girl, kogal is a catch-all term for a young thing with bleach blond hair, tanning-bed complexion and clutch-purse fat with disposable income. It's a strange look to see on the Japanese figure and face, but there are thousands of girls who look like this. They make themselves pretty obvious, since people tend to come to Shibuya to be seen. I spent about an hour floating through an HMV listening to the latest J-pop, from L'arc~en-Ciel (who I sadly missed at Incheon) to a group called Ketchup Mania. I got a coffee at the world's busiest Starbucks, but had to drink it sitting on a bench next to Hachiko, since inside there were no seats, since probably years before.

When night fell, I thought of going to Shinjuku and seeing the Park Hyatt where they filmed Lost in Translation. But I was so tired and daunted by the world's biggest city's biggest transport hub, I thought I'd try to seek out some new sound.

"Do you have battle in your life!?" a large video screen asked me, while I waited at the busiest pedestrian thoroughfare on the planet.

"That's a reasonable question," I thought, having not given it much consideration until that point.

"I suppose I don't."


Apparently I also missed my chance, since battle, the aggressive sign went on to explain, was a band playing a popular club next week. Sold out.

This was just the kind of thing I wanted to take in tonight.

However my hopes for Eggman were promptly scrambled (is it just me, or do I get funnier by the minute?) and like the protagonist of William Gibson's Idoru (which I had picked up in Roppongi to help narrate my trip) I found myself seeking a single club in a place where they live about as long as mayflies, in order to dig up the dirt on how a universally popular Irish/Chinese rock musician announced his intentions to marry a holographic Tokyo pop "idoru" and plunge the dataflow into new depths of subterfuge and manipulation.

Or maybe the last part wasn't quite like me.

As I said, it had been a long day about 4 hours back.

1 comment:

Pam said...

11 days !!!