Monday, 16 February 2015

Birds and Fashion

Well, my life is going on here, and I'm starting to think I'll never fnish what I could say about Japan!   "Not enough space" is the bane of the travel writer, and I'll soon have to condense the trip enough to write a mere 1000 word newspaper article. So in this post and the next, I'll just try to give a glimpse of some of the other Japanese things I saw.  Almost everywhere I visited deserves a post of its own but,  hey!  

I'll start with some birds. These life sized paper cranes fly high in the stairwell of the Abiko City Museum of Birds in Chiba, a pleasant suburb on the outer edge of Tokyo. The museum is modern and it feels as if it was designed by people whose priority was to share their passion for birds, the way they look, the way they live, and the way they are made.


It is based on a fabulous Edwardian collection of stuffed birds which was collected by a member of the Japanese royal family,  Yoshimara Yamashina. Although born into a rigid system, he managed to break free to study birds and do important research about them - one of his book is a standard field guide to Japanese birds.  There are whole cases of stuffed birds, but I'm always a sucker for dioramas. This one showed the ecology of wetlands near the museum.  


There are many models explaining bird physiology - the way wings work, how bird bones are structured, and how birds fly.  My favourite is probably this, which shows every single feather to be found on an average bird.  For some reason that really fascinated me. 


The museum is mostly labelled in Japanese, but luckily I was visiting with Katsuko and Chisako, and they patiently translated - not that I remember everything they said.  We all admired the Audubon prints on display. Here's a detail of one entitled "Summer Red Bird"


 I'm not normally massively interested in birds, yet I found it hard to tear myself away from this varied, enthusiastic and carefully planned museum.  It's worth taking the train ride to visit it if you ever go to Tokyo ... at least, if you've got a Japanese friend who will translate!

By contrast, here is Akihabara, which I visited the evening after the bird museum. It's a place with lots of "maid" clubs and patchinko (gambling) parlours. These girls have to give leaflets out and try to get people to come into the clubs. To be honest, most Japanese women I spoke to are not too crazy on this aspect of Tokyo life, but it is quite conspicuous to the foreign eye.



 They're dressed in "cute" type outfits, like sexy maids, Alice in Wonderland, Red Riding Hood, etc. - you see a lot of young women dressed like this in certain parts of Tokyo.


But there were also all kind of eyecatching clothes in the shops, too - a mixture of charming and slightly creepy





Wouldn't like to meet this lady in my dreams...


And you can have whatever kind of eyes you want


All quite Grayson Perry really


When I revisited this department store next day, it was just about to open. You see the staff are all lined up as the manager waits for the clock to reach exactly the right second to open the store.  When we walked in, they all bowed in unison.



So - off to choose some whirly coloured contact lenses like the Mad Hatter!

44 comments:

  1. I wouldn't mind our assistants bowing as I walked in a store but I can't see that happening! Did you by any chance buy one of those skirts, Jenny?

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  2. And I think you'd look very fetching in one of those frocks!

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  3. Grayson Perry would be in his element there, I wonder if they would allow him to join in?

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  4. Good post - it was from the sublime to the ridiculous and both kinds of birds were interesting.

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  5. how interesting on all the costumes and masks...
    maid clubs...so is that what i think it is? yikes...
    the paper cranes are really cool...i like seeing the birds
    in the trees and skies and listening to their song
    but a while museum, hmmm...ha...i love exploring
    new places though...

    i have never published for several reasons...
    i guess the simplest is that it does not matter
    to me...its not why i do it, you know...and
    i have seen far too many consumed with it
    and then they disappear and i dont want that...
    i dunno, maybe selfish..ha

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  6. The bird museum looks wonderful, especially those cranes in flight. Beautifully balanced by the bizarre contact lenses and the Maids. I enjoy your Greyson Perry reference!
    Perhaps your Japanese visit could become a book?

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  7. Your photographs are brilliant. I love those frilly frocks & what about those knee socks. What a fascinating place.

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  8. Marvelous post! Thank you
    The clothes are so cheerful, fun, and different. The bird displays are fascinating, especially the feathers.

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  9. That is more than a little creepy to me. Clockwork Orange, anyone?

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  10. So interesting to read all these stories about a country which sounds so exotic in my ears...I see that you have endless impressions of your stay in Japan.This is one thing to know Japponese customs or habits and another thing to experience all this.

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  11. I remember Aki Habara -- I think that's where we went to something called "Electric Town." SERIOUS electronics!

    I think I would love the bird museum all the more. Those paper birds -- unbelievably amazing. I love birds and even if I didn't have the benefit of translation, I think I'd be in seventh heaven.If we ever get back, this must be on the list.

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  12. Sum up Japan in 1000 words? LOL I don't think so! But I'm sure you'll do it as much justice as possible.
    I once unexpectedly met the gaze of a young man wearing red contact lenses (at a comic book conference). It was startling!

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  13. Bird museum's great.

    Those costumes and costumed girls can be sometimes, yeah, disturbing, weird or strange but nevertheless most of them are cute. This thing brings in something unique in their culture.

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  14. I love birds so this was a rea treat. The paper cranes are so elegant.

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  15. The bird museum looks like a place where I could spend hours, although I am not a complete birds enthusiast. As for the clothes, they remind me of the Manga/Anime/Cosplay outfits I have seen at the computer games fair every year.

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  16. Makes you wonder why the animal costumes, but all of it is fascinating. It's amazing that those first birds are made of paper! :)

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  17. I really enjoy your insightful posts, Jenny. As a bird lover, I would find this museum fascinating. The diorama is excellent, and beautifully made, and I love the flying cranes. And, naturally, Audubon's red bird!
    This very curious fashion trend is intriguing. Recently we had an exhibition of Japanese fashions at our GOMA in Brisbane, and there was a little section about these 'Lolita' costumes, some of which were very bizarre indeed! Now I wonder, will the trend emerge in other places?

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    1. I don't think it will, but there is some utterly amazing and wonderful fashion shops in Tokyo. Most people who wear them for fashion (rather than for work) manage to put them together to look fun and very interesting.

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  18. Some of these weird outfits really have me laughing. The lady with the rabbit mask is downright creepy. I like the paper cranes - they look so realistic. I'm sure it will be extremely frustrating to try to describe Japan in a 1000 word newspaper article. You'll have to write a book about it someday.

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    1. So many people have tried to write a book about Japan but I guess it is never possible to really understand another culture.Japanese culture is so diverse and rich and interesting that it is specially interesting.

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  19. Japan's culture certainly has its share of quirks.

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  20. I know I'd enjoy the bird museum - I'm not sure how I'd react to the fashion statements in that area of town.

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    1. Yes, I was rather glad I didn't have to wear that stuff.

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  21. This was a very enjoyable post. I appreciated all your remarks about the bird museums – must have truly be fascinating. As for the ladies’ outfits, they make good photo opportunities. We stopped in Tokyo two days with my daughter on our way to Thailand so we did not see very much. It is lovely reading your post.

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    1. Thank you! I am sure you would have done some beautiful pictures, I always admire the variety in your blog.

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  22. I've never had sales people bow at me. I think I could get used to it.

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    1. Why just sales people, why not everyone? or that's what I think! :)

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  23. Possibly one of your more bizarre posts Jenny. Well not the post exactly but the subjects about which you posted. Very interesting though and I think that I would have loved the museum of birds.

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    1. It was quite surreal at times and as I said on some of the other comments, it was very hard to figure out really what it was all about. At first I thought the obvious but after further enquiries I was not so sure.

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  24. A diorama is so much better than a sad stuffed bird by itself. fascinating museum.

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  25. The museum looks so interesting and paper cranes beaitiful, never seen one that size. I find the "little girl" look worn in this fashion a bit disturbing. I've seen it on some fashion blogs as well.

    Darla

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    1. I think it can be disturbing in the wrong context. I don't really understand the cultural background, though.

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  26. As you say, all very Grayson Perry. All the weird and wonderful clothes. No sign of Alan Measles though.

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    1. Hmmm, he might have been hiding in one of those cuddly toy displays we saw!

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  27. Japan is always a country that fascinates me! The paper birds just look delicate and amazing!

    Japanese do have all sorts of amazing things that dazzle me. I know that they like to dress up as characters but I've never actually seen them do that when I visited Japan!

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    1. I didn't see much cosplay, more the cute and the maid stuff, and what they call Lolita fashion, a name which I admit doesn't endear it to me. But it is part of the modern culture, so that's why I've written about it.

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  28. I remember seeing those girls and I have visted the patchinko parlours, the noise was incredible

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    1. They are like hell. I think many ordinary Japanese women are not too keen on these girls and the maid outfits, etc.

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  29. I keep meaning to find out more about Japan. I've got as far as finding out a little about William Adams. Friends and family members have been there and have sparked an inkling of an interest.

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    1. It is a very interesting place with all kinds of expected and thought provoking aspects - more than most other countries I have visited, somehow.

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