December 6, 2012

Burton & Bratwerst

In the past two months living in Japan I have seen a lot of bizarre shit. Almost all of these things can be chalked up to cultural differences between the US and Japan as none of them seem terribly out of the ordinary for this country. Bizarre, yes, but unbelievable, no. But today I experience something so queer that it seemed like a spoof of Japan. I felt like I was in Lost In Translation, the way everything seemed to be scripted so beautifully. There was no way this was real, but sure enough, it was.

Today I went to a dog and children costume contest in honor of the new Tim Burton stop-motion animated film Frankenweenie:

I awoke to a message from Allison letting me know that from 12-4 she'd be judging a costume contest at the Cocoon building in Shinjuku and assured me it sounded crazy. She didn't have many details, but I knew the building and figured it's not everyday that you get invited to a dog costume contest inspired by an animated film!

When I arrived at the building, I was directed to the 5th floor where I managed to wrangle someone with a clip board. Note to anyone interested: the easiest way to look important is to stand in a doorway and hold a clipboard. Bonus points for having some sort of walkie talkie or earpiece. I let them know I was with Allison and he lead me down a tight corridor where we passed all the contestants. Teams of stylists were huddled around dogs and children, putting the finishing touches on the costumes. It was absolutely surreal.
Where have I gone?
We left the hall and passed through the entrance to the theater where a large group of Japanese teenagers eagerly awaited entry. And because I was clearly not Japanese and was being lead by a guy with a clipboard, people assumed I was someone worth taking pictures of, so as we parted the crowd to make our way to the greenroom, cameras were whipped out in order to get a photo of yours truly. Maybe they thought I was Johnny Depp? In highschool I was voted runner up in the senior superlatives for: Jack Sparrow. Not to brag, or anything.


I arrived at the greenroom before everyone and had a look around:





Please note that at no point did I have to provide ID, credentials, or any sort of proof that I was not just some crazed fan. I simply told them who I was there to see and was lead to the greenroom of arguably the most famous director in the world. Either the Japanese are very trusting, or this guy also thought I was Johnny Depp. Maybe he knew I was runner up in the CHS senior superlative.

Allison, Tim, and the rest of their party arrived shortly thereafter and were briefed by the staff on how the day would run. Tim's assistant and I laughed about how accurately Lost in Translation had captured the experience of a celebrity in Japan, as both Allison and Tim had a number of handlers and translators yet were completely lost with what exactly they were being asked to do. They were joined by a J-Pop star whose name I didn't catch, but if anyone is familiar with J-Pop and knows an artist with a sunshine red and orange bob, please enlighten me. She was also acting as a judge for the contest.

Lost in Translation
We were then ushered up to the theater and I took my seat behind what would turn out to be the judges seats. This leads me to believe I'll be on Japanese TV (11)! And yes, I made that goal hoping to be interviewed or maybe even end up on a game show, but hysterically laughing at a dog costume contest is also a viable option. Why was I laughing so hard? Because this event was insane. The contestants were all about 10 years old and were dressed in elaborate costumes which were designed by a group of 20 year olds whom I assume are fashion school students. It wasn't apparent what the winning team would receive, so I'm guessing this publicity event was held in conjunction with a fashion school here in Tokyo. The 'models' walked out on stage with their dogs, all of whom were in matching costumes, and then one by one made their way down the cat walk, or I guess in this case dog walk, and strutted their stuff.



Yes, that 9 year old's costume has big breasts
The winning costumes
Every aspect of the event seemed completely made-up, as if the Japanese government was out to give Tim Burton what they considered to be an American's perception of a Japanese welcome. First of all, it was a fashion show with kids. Second of all, it was a fashion show with kids AND dogs. And then, if that wasn't enough, they were in Tim Burton-esque costumes, some of which were highly sexualized.

A packet containing the sketches, model profiles, and style concepts of all the teams. Don't worry, I took one
To top it all off, the final contestant's dog ended up getting a bit excited. They reached the end of the dog walk, modeled a few poses, and then began to walk back towards the other contestants. At this moment, the dog jumped up on the girl and started humping her leg. She tried to move but the pooch was roughly (ruffly) the same size as her, so a handler had to remove him so they could continue. But he was determined and hopped right back up and started grinding the leg of the model. Again a handler pulled the dog off so the girl could continue. This happened a few more times but I was too busy trying to keep my sides from splitting to pay much attention.

Allison, Tim, and the J-Pop Singer announcing the winners
I will do my best to figure out where the hell this thing is going to air. The entire show only took about 30 minutes, including pictures at the end, so my assumption is it will be packaged into a 10 minute long segment that will air sometime before the December 15th release. No idea where it will air though, so let the Googling begin!

Update: I found this

After I parted ways with the Frankenweiners, I set out to Roppongi once again to meet up with Lizzy for a Christmas Market that she suggested we visit. I hadn't seen her since I left for my month long adventure, so I was looking forward to catching up and perhaps getting in a little Christmas shopping.

We achieved the catching up part but were surprised to find that the Christmas Market was just a collection of German food booths decorated with wood dolls and Christmas lights. But as the old saying goes, "you haven't experienced Christmas in Japan until you've eaten bratwerst and sauerkraut." So eat we did, and much to our surprise, the German bratwerst in Roppongi Hills was quite good! We continued our walk and talk and took in the beauty of the evening. I've been told by many that Roppongi is quite seedy, and while that may be true in certain areas at night, during the evening, this particular area of Roppongi was rather posh.


Christmas egg. Cadbury egg?
Reinventing the Selfie
Returning to the lit-tree street
The Grand Hyatt is quite the site at night
Hey, look who found us!
Eggcelent
Eggheads
Lizzy, Catherine and I wandered about for a bit and eventually settled into some chairs in the Grand Hyatt courtyard. We did some more catch-up and planned for the following weeks. Sounds like I've got their support for a bunny cafĂ©, Lost in Translation Karaoke, and perhaps a day-trip to Nikko, which is  not a goal but is supposed to be a wonderfully beautiful place. Once again it was nice to casually wander about the city at night, not for purposes of exploration, but rather with the intention of simply enjoying the scenery and company. It's been very nice to return from my month of traveling to warm people in an otherwise freezing city.

From the Corrections Department: Two posts ago I said that Kaorina suggested that we go to a pretty girl photo booth when in fact Catherine is the one who recommended the trip. The author of this blog, as well as the editors and blogger.com would like to apologize to Ms. Nakajima as well as anyone else who has been negatively affected by this error. Much care is taken to prevent inaccurate reporting, but occasionally we miss something. Our most sincere apologies. 

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