Monday, August 20, 2012

Spare Days And Red Carpet Stardom

19th August, 2010 - Now our trips to Japan have recently focussed on my wife's home of Sapporo, Hokkaido since we had children. So this trip was a bit of a question mark for us. We didn't know how things were going to go in Tokyo with our son, L-kun. Solution, we had programmed a spare day into our itinerary. And after such a long day in Yokohama we needed it. Our plan was therefore to go to Shinjuku for some easy shopping and walking. Other than that, there was no plan, and little expectation.

There wasn't so much photography going on, and to be honest (and this may shock and dismay), I'm not that inspired by the area in terms of photographs anyway. It's a fantastic location for "street photography", but  there's a grimness to much of the endless concrete.

However, I know that the streets of Shinjuku are full of little moments... but when you're walking around with your family and it's very nearly approximating hell (hot and humid), your mind doesn't always go to photography as a priority.

So the photos I was taking were largely random, and largely a function of accidentally pressing the shutter release on the camera at approximately the right time as I was walking.

Now it might also surprise that when we go to Japan we don't necessarily eat "Japanese" food... and T-chan certainly fills up on home-cooked food when she returns to Sapporo. But often times - modern Japanese food differs quite significantly from the image. Normally our lunches are quite, westernised... 

And when visiting the Kirin City cafe, one should of course partake of the Kirin.. Beer. Yummy.

Now after an afternoon of shopping in Shinjuku (and mostly window shopping at that) we arranged to meet up with T-chan's brother in Roppongi Hills later in the evening. Like many workers in Tokyo, work doesn't tend to finish early, and it's often hard to make plans. Anyhow we had a while to kill, so we made our way over to Roppongi... the suburb that at least used to be synonymous with foreigners and bars and the sorts of activities that tend to accumulate around those two things.

Today however, it was a different thing that was becoming apparent. There was a huge number of women walking around in yukata - or a summer kimono-style dress. It's often worn in summer to attend fireworks in the evening - somewhat of a Japanese tradition. So I wasn't too surprised to see it today...

Though there was no mistaking that there were a lot of young women in yukata all of a sudden... no matter where you looked.

And they all looked like they were going somewhere, or meeting someone...

In fact, as we walked around Roppongi Hills, it started becoming apparent that this was no ordinary evening. This was ridiculous! There hundreds of them. It was like we'd stepped in on a yukata convention.

As we walked down around the block, we came across an even stranger sight. Seemingly hundreds more young women squashed in around a bon-odori stage. This was all right next to the TV Asahi studio building (where we were going to take L-kun to see the Doreamon shop (Doraemon being a very popular Japanese children's character).

L-kun and T-chan went into the shop to have a look around (and to make their own Doraemon character), whilst I milled around outside trying to make head-or-tail of what was going on.  

As the minutes went by, the crowd grew and grew... and the security guards became more agitated. Someone was coming... a big black limo pulled up, and who should pop out? Why Julia Roberts of course....

Meanwhile, L-kun and T-chan were obliviously having fun inside...

And Julia (somewhat un-relaxed looking... perhaps it was the heat), strolled down the red-carpet to be surrounded by the sea of screaming, camera-wielding, yukata-wearing womanhood.

The big screen was as close as this paparazzi-wanna-be was going to get.

And about 30 or so minutes later, it was all over, and the Julia was whisked off again to who knows where. The life of a star. I do wonder, what someone like Julia must think of the whole thing. As it turned out this was her first visit to Japan... promoting the movie Eat Pray Love. From what I saw, she was getting the 5 min culture-shock treatment - though perhaps she gets used to that.

Their screams vented, and normality returning, the sea of femininity parted... and finally dispersed, their Hollywood-star-lust satiated.

Time to relax...

And what came of the women... they just melted away into the night. I have no idea where they would have disappeared to... but they certainly had made for an impressive sight.

Of course, L-kun was none the wiser... and after a long evening of making Doraemon, was happily (obliviously) eating his hard-earned ice-cream.... I could be wrong, but I think Julia would have killed someone for an ice-cream to get her through the heat.

So it's interesting how spare days can turn out bizarrely unexpected.