Anime is usually a virtual, surrealistic experience. Being cooped up in an imaginary world of colourful hair and Gainax boobs, with superpowers and people from all over the world speaking Japanese. Anime is a dream of beauty come true.
However, otakus have to open their eyes to the world around them once in a while. And when their craving for anime extends into the real world, some of them decide to make their once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to Japan, the holy land of anime. For you anime fans who are looking to make such a voyage someday, perhaps I can spend some time talking about stuff about Japan not directly related to anime that you may nonetheless enjoy in your travel.
Japanese fashion is an easily identifiable one, and I don’t mean cosplay costumes. Most Japanese boutiques have a distinct style sometimes imported by other countries such as Singapore. In Singapore’s Plaza Singapura’s extension wing, we have an enormous Japanese boutique known as JRunway, which gathers fashion apparel from major Japanese designers and even has a little station for us to try on Japanese makeup with the training of professional salespeople.
I’m not a fashionable sort of woman, but I do admire Japanese fashion, especially when worn by the right people. Japanese fashion has a sophisticated eye not commonly seen in the trends of other countries. They have an eye for detail and seem to instinctively know how to put an outfit together. Even if the outfit is strange and out of this world, Japanese designers still can find some way to make the strangeness appealing.
Of course, the most notable fashion styles in Japan for ladies are lolita and gyaru. Although lolita is used to describe the more extreme styles of frilly dresses and high socks, ladies do wear a more toned-down version of it on the streets. It is not unusual to see a woman clad in a dress with high socks and a simple hat on her head, maybe tilted to the side. As for gyaru designs, well, I can only say the world seems to be aspiring towards it. To give you an example of what gyaru is all about, take Milky Bunny for example.
Can’t tell what’s special about gyaru? Well, gyaru is basically the fashion style that exemplifies artificiality. Wigs, fake eyelashes, fake fingernails, lots and lots of makeup is the specialty of gyaru ladies, and Milky Bunny, who is actually known as Masuwaka Tsubasa, is a gyaru model who has designed loads of fake eyelashes for other women. I feel that mascara is an increasingly “in” thing among the ladies, so gyaru seems to be making it in the rest of the world.
Aside from feminine styles, the men also love trends. Men in Japan love jackets, especially unbuttoned ones lazily worn over their shirts. Japanese men are also great with slightly longer hair, maybe because they’re bony and have a pretty good complexion. Nowadays men are starting to wear jewellery too, such as necklaces, earrings and rings.
The other “f” word in the equation, Japanese food is quite sought over worldwide. There is a wide variety of popular food in Japan, excluding the common ones like sushi and sashimi, and I don’t know enough of them to do a widespread comprehensive coverage. I recently saw on television about a type of Japanese pancake known as the okonomiyaki which looks something like this:
Okay, maybe not the most glamourous food photograph, but basically these pancakes are cooked over the hot stove and any sort of ingredients can be added into them, such as octopus, kimchi or cheese. It looks like something that can fill even the hungriest person’s stomach, if he cannot be contented after eating the tiny sushi that they offer.
And maybe to round things up for dessert, you may want to try a taiyaki.
This poor little fish is made from pancake or waffle batter, and contains red bean paste, though sometimes it can also hold custard, chocolate or cheese. Singapore has stalls that sell these stuff too, but I’m sure they’re much more authentic in Japan. I’m not such a fan of red bean, so I prefer not to take the risk. I’ll just have my chawanmushi, thanks!
Aside from fashion and food, there’s also fun to be had in Japan, but which anime fan doesn’t know that Tokyo is home to Akihabara, the geekiest street in all of Asia? I shall thus relieve you of reading duty and let you grab that last air ticket to Japan immediately.