Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reliving Halloween in Japan

The cultural phenomenon of Japan x Halloween
Check out that ho's sour face on the right. She can't handle me.

I blogged this Halloween costume on my fashion blog, but I believe the entire legend needs re-telling here.

While possessed by an unknown force, I decided that I wanted to be a unicorn for Halloween: this year, next year, and every year after that, so I set about making my own costume to wear to  Halloween parties in Japan.

This is a guide on how, and why, you should experience Halloween in Japan. 

Unicorn loose in the city!

Step 1: Look fabulous

Materials for the costume:
- about 1 yard of faux white fur
-  1 ball of yarn (for the mane and tail)
- cardboard, paper towel roll (for the horn)
- gold ribbon (to wrap around the horn)

I made a pattern for the body from a vest, and the hood from a hooded sweatshirt.  I cut the paper towel roll and shaped it into a horn, then affixed it to the body with a glue gun. I also put cardboard under the horn on the opposite side of the fabric to hold it in place so it would not droop. Nothing worse than a droopy horn.

- white gloves from a vintage store
- white body suit and white leggings from American Apparel
- Flute (to seduce the ladies)

Unicorn on a lonely bridge

Step 2: Fly your ass to Japan 

Japan has the most outrageous Halloween parties in the world. It was not always this way. A few years ago the country had never even heard of Halloween, so the event was only celebrated by English teachers and other expats. Slowly, the trend started catching on.
In 2008, I was in Tokyo for Halloween, and happened to be present for the Yamanote line hijacking. This occurs when a group of drunk foreigners crowd onto one car of the Yamanote train line in Tokyo, and make a huge mess.
I was not present for the actual party, just for the fall out when the authorities broke it up. After someone overheard me speak Japanese, I was approached and interviewed (briefly) by a reporter for NHK. Here is how the interview went:

NHK: What is your costume?
Me: Unicorn
(didn't know how to say this word in Japanese. I basically just sounded it out and added "desu." Real eloquent, my Japanese).
NHK: So, where will you go for Halloween?
Me: Shinjuku ni-chome! (ehem, that's the Gay district, ya'll)
NHK: Oh, why there?
Me: Because gays know how to party~!!!

Alright, I don't think that part made it on the air, but it was a good show for the people standing around watching. Well, in the U.S. the gay neighborhood is always THE place to be for Halloween, (hello, West Hollywood?), but not so in Japan. When I hit up Shinjuku ni-chome  it was dead. Dead. Not one person in a costume. God I hope that has changed, but I bounced from that scene so fast and I was back in Shibuya partying it up. No wonder NHK was confused by my answer.
You gotta trust Japanese people sometimes.

Well, the next year I spent Halloween in Japan, and I did it right: I went to Osaka.

Step 3: Make some friends!

Fortunately for me, I already had some. So I met up with my home-girl (Japanese) in Osaka, and two travel buddies (Australia). Together, we were one extreme foursome.

4 people,  3 countries, 2 languages, one hell of a good time.

Step 4: Get wasted 

Alright, I don't usually advocate bad behavior.
Yes I do.
Yes I most certainly do. 
So if you are going to get  drunk on Halloween in Osaka, and my friend, you are going to get drunk on Halloween in Osaka, then the only place to go is the Absinthe Bar. This was once a tiny hole-in-the-wall that was pretty much only frequented by my friends and five other people, but now it is a sprawling bar/lounge/restaurant/nightclub with flame-lite cocktails and yes, absinthe.
I will post again on this legendary absinthe bar....

Here I am, drunk as silly

Step 5: Hijack a stranger's ride

Don't do this.
You'll get arrested.
I don't want to be responsible for that.
But do pretend to hijack a bike and take silly photographs on it before the owners realize what you're doing. 

Step 6: Be as nasty as you wanna be

It's Japan.
You can get away with anything. 
Trust me on this one. 

Look at this lewd gesture I'm making. I don't even know what it means.
But it feels like exactly the right thing to do.
At exactly the right time. In exactly the right place.

Happy Halloween! Enjoy some photos of my good times~!

Osaka: 2010

Tokyo: 2008 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sweet Escape: Chicago Public Library

This past week I returned from a business trip that took me all over the Midwest. Of course, my overly ambitious self planned on trying to make this trip enjoyable and blog-worthy by scheduling graveyard visits and afternoon-teas, but in reality I had time for  none of these things. 

Like most of us, I wish my professional life was as exciting as the fantasy world I create for myself on this blog, but the horrors of business travel never fail to pull me right back into reality: the always turbulent flights over the Rocky Mountains, the hour-long shuttle rides to and from the airport, the awful food options at airports. I just about had enough of it. Until I got to Chicago.

Chicago was at the tail end of my long journey, so I elected to stay the weekend. Good choice, Calliope. Up until this point in my journey, I had done absolutely nothing that I would care to retell on this platform - or even remember (plane sickness, car sickness, work sickness) so I trashed my cemetery and afternoon tea gigs and figured I would just relax in Chicago, not worry about travel blogging.

I took the CTA Blue line into town from the airport, and when I arrived at LaSalle station I was greeted by the magnificent spectacle of the Chicago Public Library.

That's when I realized: I am seriously horny for libraries. 

Like cemeteries, I always seem to end up at a library when I travel. There's just something magical about the architecture, the history, the books, that make me want to seek them out and live in them.
I usually don't plan on visiting a library, but somehow I always end up there. Take Stockholm for instance.
I was so happy to stumble upon this library (well, "stumble upon" is not the right phrase, the Chicago Public Library is so massive you've have to be totally careless to miss it) that I had to blog it. I walked all around the 9 floors, and took some pictures on each one. 

I especially love the art deco accents everywhere. 

The entrance
Second floor balcony
Fiction literature

The 9th Floor glass atrium

Even the bathroom is art deco!

The escalators

The ceiling

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Photo Diary: Best of Hawaii

Well, I know my first post on Hawaii was less than glowing, but I did enjoy my time there. Besides, I traveled with my camera-obsessed partner, who took almost 800 pictures in one week. This took some narrowing down.....

Kihei, Maui

So many kinds of Ahi...mmmm

Local fruits at the farmers market

Fried Spam musubi

I don't know these people...

The sunset
Mango, Tamarind, and Guava shaved ice
Local fruits
Gardens near Hana
Ubiquitous palm trees
Honolulu high rises

Honolulu ally

The pink building

Honolulu sky scraper

View from our hotel in Honolulu

Beach somewhere on Oahu

Traditional Japanese meal

The Gambia: Photo Diaries from the City

Although I flew into Banjul, I spent very little time there. Most of my time 'in the city' was actually spent in Banjul's sprawl...