A Travellerspoint blog

April 2010

Tokyo Decadance

(Actually in Osaka not Tokyo!)

DISCLAIMER AND WARNING:

This entry is all about 'Tokyo Decadance' a touring club event that fuses Japan's various Fashion Tribes together with an emphasis on Alternative, Gothic and Burlesuque styles.

As such this entry contains images including some nudity, Shibari (rope bondage) performance artists and takes place in a venue decorated with religious iconography. It is my sincere belief that this is much a part of modern Japanese culture as the Cherry blossom viewing I reported on last time and as such I want to show and share this side of Japan as well - however, if you feel that the kind of imagary mentioned above isn't for you feel free to skip this (don't worry you can safely visit my blog again next time!)

So for one last time - I am serious, I don't want to offend anybody and I don't want any complaints, so you have been warned!

OK - Tokyo Decadance... What is it exactly??

Maybe it would be best if I let Adrien, French drag/burlesque/cabaret atrist and creator of Decadance describe it in his own words. That way we should get some real insight.

Or maybe not... No, I didn't understand what he said either... in hindsight maybe I should have asked him before 5am and before he drank a whole bottle of Vodka in one go as part of his act (shortly before supergluing his hands to two beer kegs)!! So I guess I'll have to describe it myself.

Tokyo Decadance celebrates the bizzare and hidden side of Japanese culture that in many ways it is best known for abroad - most people I know, when they think of Japan, do not think of the classic cluture and history but rather of the wild stories of train gropers, maid cafes and school girl panty vending machines (which I still haven't seen)!

Japan is often seen from outside as being formal on the surface and writhing with the hentai tetacles of the perverse underneath. In fact this is only a small (but important) part of Japanese culture. Actually, many of the things well known abroad as being Japanese are not so well known here; for example; Haru almost didn't believe that several of the cult movies I have actually were Japanese as she had never heard of them.

Decadance is bridgeway to this underworld, playing up Japan's kinky reputation around the world. Everybody and anybody is welcome - from the teeny bopper to the salary man. Last month they were in Russia and next month they are going to France. It was only by chance that last week I was in Osaka for Hanami and saw a flyer or I would have missed them again; like I did last November. I wasn't going to miss it again though, so I got a cheap hotel near Umeda threw on some basic black gear, Shibari'ed up my arms (it was nice to give my developing rope skills a public field trip actually) and set off for 'Farplane' for the 'Before Party'.

Farplane is actually a small sex shop and cafe that particuarly caters for drag queens and cross dressers and other performers who blur the lines. So it's no surprise that the first person who's portrait I took was Selia.

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He was, I have to admit, very attractive. He is also a very good operatic vocalist; I didn't know that at the time, but I heard him singing later...

Actually, this 'Before Party' was mostly made up of performers and key people in the organisation of the event (like Selia or the girls having their bodies painted who were from the group 'Wita Sex Alice') so it had a kind of backstage feel to it.

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I recognised one or two people from my previous trips into Osaka's alternative club scene, but didn't really know anybody. At first I felt like a bit of an outsider, not just because I was foreign but because it seemed like a close 'family' of people - but I soon found a good icebreaker. For some reason they had some frozen insects that they were heating up and daring each other to try as bar snacks - so I volunteered.

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As soon as I tried it they were all asking me 'どう でした?’ (How was it?) - to which I honestly answered, like 'Popcorn!' which got a cheer and after that I felt much more at home. Actually everybody was really friendly and open and... well, just nice! I wish I'd taken a few more portrait photos now, as nobody seemed to care if I did and some of the outfits were fantastic - like Izumi's (the girl in the top right of the next collage pic), an art student with a thing for the Hapsburgs and rocking a masquerade style complete with this mask wrapped up in the back of her hair.

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That guy obviously had a thing for fireworks used in an inappropriate way as you can see.

(You can learn some good Japanese from this clip - when I think it's done I say 'It's finished' (Owatta) but it pops off one more and then the girl next to me shouts 'That's scary, scary' (Kowai, kowai) :-)

After a while it was time to leave for the main event in Christon Cafe which wasn't so close so we walked to the tube station and hopped 3 stops across town.

The reactions to us on the street and train were priceless, it felt like being in some really 'cool' kids gang.

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When we arrived at Christon Cafe it was just starting to fill up and DJ Rina Neko was playing.

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The crowd was an interesting mix and the cathedral decoration of Christon cafe made for a great ambience.

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I was soon having a great time flirting with girls (but staying within the acceptable flirtation limits defined by Haru before I went), meeting people like DJ Sisen and dancing with a bad toothed bug-eye crazy naked Japanese dude.

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After a while Sisen took over the decks from Neko Rina bringing a darker, heavier sound in.

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Then Selia came out and began singing - a wonderful blend of dark gothic dance beats and opera vocals. I was so impressed, and at the same time was kicking myself for not having talked to Selia more at Farplane before.

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This clip is from a different Decadance event, but will give you a feel of the music; though the live version felt much rawer and stronger. This is one of the tracks they performed.

While I was still marvelling at that performance out rolled the next act.

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The 'Wita Sex Alice' girls (who were getting painted up in Farplane when I arrived) who played out a erotic horror bondage scene. The 'undead bride' and her underlings dragged a girl from the audience (part of the team obviously) stripped her down to her thong and tied her with an admirable command of the ropes (again kicking myself for now getting into a conversation and getting a few pointers now. Though two or three people complimented me on my Shibari gauntlets!).

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The 'climax' of the performance was when the bride sank her teeth into the victims neck, letting (fake) blood run down them both then discarding the body below the icon.

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Though this whole undead Vampire thing obviously works quickly as a few minutes later she was up and smiling and dancing with everybody again.

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There was another performance later, by Adrien, involving a card game and various dares for the losers (hence the bottle of vodka and super glue I mentioned at the start) but I didn't take any pictures of that as I was watching from the balcony and chatting to a very nice girl called Sakuma from Kobe.

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We chatted and danced for a while, but by then it was almost 5am so I did one last round of portrait picures.

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Made the video with Adrien and then decided to call it a night, managed to get three hours sleep in the hotel before having to get up and check out to catch a train back to Kyoto to meet up with Haru.

I think I've persuaded her to come with me to the next Decadance event - as she's very curious to see it for herself and she's seen how dangerous it is to leave me in a club like this unattended :-) Though I was pretty well behaved really!

Anyway, I highly recommend anybody who sees that Decadance are coming to a place near them to go check it out and I'll leave you with this rather disturbing image from Kyoto train station - a board announcing why there was a delay on the Shinkansen line.

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Posted by DKJM74 01:45 Comments (0)

Spring Beauty

Harumi to Hanami

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Three years ago I first came to Japan for a two week holiday. I still remember how amazing it was then, being in Kyoto for the cherry blossom season. The aesthetic pleasure of gardens, the blossom and the wonderful kimono clad ladies...

So it was a real pleasure to be back in Japan for the Sakura again.

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To make a good thing even better, Harumi even rented a kimono! So I was also able to fulfill a fantasy three years in the making as I even had my own wonderful kinomo clad lady to escort around Kyoto :-)

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I'm not joking in the least there either - it really was like a fantasy come to life. She looked so good that I almost couldn't comprehand that I was actually doing this - but I was; I was taking my beautiful, Japanese, kimono wearing girlfriend around the ancient temples of Kyoto to see the cherry blossom that would only be in full bloom that one weekend... in my world that's pretty close to being the dictionary definition of perfect!

I don't even know which temple it was we visited first, but it had really nice gardens combining many traditional elements like pagodas overlooking ponds, a zen stone garden and a small bamboo grove.

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From there we made our way through some of the smaller back streets to a bigger public park.

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While not as nice as the formal temple grounds, the park does have wide variety of cherry trees.

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Including this one which is over 300 years old!

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After that we took a late lunch, before beginning evening hanami (flower viewing).

Many places illuminate the blossom after dark and famous spots can be crowded until late in the evening. We chose to go to Kiyomizu Diera (which I last visited in September during the day). Despite the crowds the atmosphere was really special, and the subtle lighting really created a totally different ambience.

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In particular the views from the observation balconies, looking down on the glowing crowns of the trees, were quite otherworldly - as were the watery reflections of the overhanging branches shimmering in the darkness.

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I can honestly say that for several reasons this was a day that I'll never forget, and to celebrate that we finished off the day with a glass of champagne in a quite cafe bar tucked away in it's own private gardens below the temples.

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There is something that I really like about the way in which the Japanese still take the time to mark the beauty of the passing seasons; celebrating the pink flowers and the red leaves each in their own season. It's a respect that is built into their lives through their religion, art and language - even in something as simple as a name.

Harumi (春美) literally means 'spring beauty'

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Posted by DKJM74 02:06 Comments (1)

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