Pole Dance Tokyo: A Sophisticated Sexiness

Pole Dance Lessons Lu Nagata Sensei - 33 - Version 2

DSC03049 DSC03050 Pole Dancing in Tokyo sounds like another terrible sex-laden non-fiction narrative by a foreigner about living in Japan, but since 2007, it has gradually become one socially accepted and amazing way to stay in shape in this city.

Whenever that lewd friend of yours sees a freestanding pole in a restaurant or bar, they will most likely associate it with the shadier variety of pole dancing that’s more recognized by the public. However, in a similar way that e-sports are becoming more recognized as a legitimate athletic activity, pole dancing is quickly developing a more professional and respected aura around it as an art form.

Pole dancing originated not from the American burlesque bars where it got its sexual connotation, but from the Indian sport of mallakhamb, in which gymnasts stack on top of one another against a tall wooden pole while posing. In the 1920s, this sport was altered to be used in magic shows and soon became popular on cruises and in circus shows. After moving to bars and combining it with burlesque dance, a downward spiral began that essentially removed any artistic respect pole dancing once had.

But beginning in 2006, this all began to change as pole dancing started gaining popularity in dance studios. In 2008, Ania Przeplasko founded the International Pole Dance Championships which were held in Manila, but already two of these competitions have been held in Tokyo, now seen as the pole dancing mecca. Part of the reason why its become so popular here recently is due to dancer and teacher Lu Nagata, who founded the Pole Dance Tokyo studio in 2007. She and Anna Przeplasko are long-time friends who helped popularise pole-dancing as a sport, an art, and a fitness regime in Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Asia. Lu also choreographed and wrote a dance retelling of the Japanese literary classic The Tale Of Genji (源氏物語). When the JSRC made a group visit for an introductory class taught by Nagata–sensei, there were several foreign champions there. Even male pole dancing competitions have become more common lately.

Still, it will likely be challenging to convince the public that pole dancing is cleaning up its act, so I’ll give a rundown of what my experience visiting Pole Dance Tokyo was like.

The first thing that might surprise you is that the studio located in Akasaka is a well-lit dance studio with about a dozen poles scattered throughout the room. There’s nothing sleazy or super sexy about it. It is stylish and clean. When we visited, Nagata was teaching a class of much more experienced pole dancers who were understandably surprised that a group of unfit reporters and their friends felt the desire to try pole dancing. Thanks to JSRC editor/founder Jake Adelstein who knows Nagata, we were able to set up a group lesson.

After stretching and some basic exercises in sensuality, Nagata took us through several moves such as spinning with legs around the pole, away from it, and holding ourselves up sideways with our arms (she claims you don’t need arm muscle strength but this one will most likely leave you sore). If you imagine having to swing your head toward the ground as your arms hold up your suspended body, that’s a bit what it was like. If you can execute the inverted pole stance (upside down), you’re in amazing shape. (Kids, don’t try this at home or on the local park swing set).

pole dancing2

Once we had these spin variations down (barely), and managing the challenges that come from the pole being too slippery, she had us put it all together for a choreographed routine. After putting on some quality Nicky Minaj music and switching on the multi-colored strobe lights, Nagata had the group go through several of the moves while also making sure to “maintain the sexiness” that is associated with pole dancing. Obviously, the more experienced dancers did much better than the others and especially one friend of a JSRC contributor who was reluctant to come. As pole dancing changes with the times, some twerking was also expected. Anaconda is the song most suited for doing it.

Sexy pose time but Jake isn't looking very sexy.
Strike a pose.
Sexy time pose. Jake is not being very sexy.
Sexy time pose. Jake is not being very sexy.

 

Was I embarrassed? A little bit, of course, but as an intern at Japan Subculture Research Center (JSRC), I didn’t have much of a choice.  I would definitely recommend anyone visiting Tokyo to try a visit for a lesson. Lu is often in London but all the teachers have a great reputation. In these lessons, it feels less like a dance class than it is an introduction to any quirky hobby like rock climbing or snowboarding (at least until the pop music and stage lights go on).

Funner than it looks.
Funner than it looks.

Jake Adelstein and Angela Kubo contributed to this article. Mostly by being really silly. 

 

Harro Halloween Party 2014: Where to go in Tok-ee-oh (Tokyo)

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Halloween is one of the biggest party events in Japan and some have estimated that Japanese people spend more on the festivities than those in America. And why not? This is the costume play capital of the world. (In the best love hotels, every day is Halloween).

Halloween in Japan used to be a non-holiday celebrated by only a few rowdy foreigners. The biggest party was on the Yamanote line where groups of masked barbarians would take over a a train car and party on. The stuff of legends.

Maybe the  best article tracing the growth of Halloween in this island country is here, from Japan Today

Since when was Halloween so popular in Japan?

1. Theme parks introduce “Happy Halloween”

Up until about the year 2000, Halloween was something people would only hear of by learning English or watching TV programs from other countries. But when Tokyo Disneyland got in on the act (let’s face it – there’s money to be had from a simple spooky makeover), people began to sit up and take notice. On Oct 31, 1997, visitors to Disneyland wore costumes to be part of “Disney Happy Halloween”. Then in 2000, 400 visitors and Disney characters in costume held a ”Happy Halloween Twilight Parade” in the park.

Already enamored of Disneyland, the people of Japan were enchanted by this new idea of Halloween. The event was a hit in 1997, and the scale of the party increased along with public awareness, until Halloween became established as an annual autumn event. Currently the lavish celebration kicks off sometime in early September.

Universal Studios Japan opened its doors in 2001, and got in on the act from 2002 with “Hollywood Halloween”. The two major theme parks of Japan gradually brought Halloween more and more into the public consciousness……..(more here) 

Tomorrow and Friday will be Halloween Paradise in Tokyo but where to go, what to do? For you, our gentle reader, we’ve capriciously picked several places with total bias in our choices, including parties run by old friends, former employers, and people we sort of know–not even a veneer of objectivity. But we’re going with what we know. 

this one is over but it was a blast!

For gaijin, journalists, old-timers, new-comers, and everybody (Thursday night) FINISHED

The highly anticipated Metropolis Halloween Glitterball‘ – supported by Fashion One and Fox Backstage Pass – is here once again!

Come to ELE Tokyo and enjoy sensational performances by Dafty, Femm, and Tokyo Dream Girls. Dress up in your most terrific and terrifying costume for a chance to win fantastic prizes from sponsors like Lindt, Laurent-Perrier, Bacardi, Adidas, ANA InterContinental, and many more! ‘

Futuropolis. Metropolis. Halloween. Glitterball. Bling. Prizes.
Futuropolis. Metropolis. Halloween. Glitterball.
Bling. Prizes.
 

It looks great. The website for buying tickets in advance is buggy. Argghhh. But try your luck.

 

BIAS NOTICE: Many of the staff members, past and present at Japan Subculture Research Center have written for Metropolis at one point in our career, including acting editor-in-chief, Jake Adelstein (under the transparent name ‘Joshua Noblestone’). The Metropolis may not be what it once was but it remains one of the only printed guides to events in Tokyo in English and sometimes has some great articles. So we are definitely going to this party.

And as an added bonus, it’s being emceed by one of the hottest women in Tokyo. (Subjectively speaking)

 

We even have a testimonial and click bait picture for this blog.

 

“I’m Gigi, your MC, and I look forward to welcoming you to a night you will never forget. See you tomorrow!”

 

We’re totally biased.

The femme fatale MC GG, pronounced like jiji (爺)will be hosting this event, wearing something.
The femme fatale MC GG, pronounced like jiji (爺)will be hosting the Halloween Glitterball.

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Metropolis Halloween Glitter Ball 2014 it was a blast. next year!
Metropolis Halloween Glitter Ball 2014
it was a blast. next year!

DSC07465 DSC07433 Halloween Metropolis 2014!

For the fashionistas, models and hipsters: Feria 

Four floors of halloween action: dance, lounge, linger, drink.

FERIA 六本木 ハロウィン 2014 【セレブラウンジ 10月31日 ハロウィンパーティー!】超豪華!FERIA TOKYOでラグジュアリーなハロウィンをお楽しみ下さい!

If you don't where this is, you're not cool enough to go. (lol)
If you don’t where this is, you’re not cool enough to go. (lol)
event_fe_29075 again
FERIA

 

Costume Play (コスプレ) That Pays! 

In the abandoned remains of legendary A Life, Brand Tokyo reopened in July of this year, and is hosting several nights of Halloween Brand Carnivals, and giving away 1,000,000 yen in prizes for costumes. It’s a mostly Japanese crowed and tickets are being sold in advance—and close to being sold out. If you’re going to play, you might as well get paid.  And according to the proprietors–it’s open until the last train. All night long.

BRAND TOKYO: Halloween Costume Play That Might Pay
BRAND TOKYO: Halloween Costume Play That Might Pay

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For the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual party goer 

2-chome Halloween Night! 

Have a gay and happy halloween in Shinjuku 2-chome. Come for the zombie walk and stay out all night until you feel like a zombie.
Have a gay and happy halloween in Shinjuku 2-chome. Come for the zombie walk and stay out all night until you feel like a zombie.

Shinjuku 2-chome is the center of Tokyo’s LGBT world. This Friday not only has a zombie walk but for those with a costume, it’s only 1,000 yen at the Aisotope Lounge if you go in costume. If it’s a FABULOUS costume–free.

2,500 for the unprepared. Tokyo Time Out sums it all up rather nicely:

This all-nighter goes beyond the conventions of sexuality, gender and taboos, featuring everything from corset fitting and a flea market to a colourful zombie walk around the area, while the beats will be provided by the indomitable Tomo Asahina and friends.

Who could resist? This is where the JSRC staff will probably spend their Friday night dressed up as ninja. You won’t be able to find any of us—that’s how good our costumes are.

For The Art Lover: Halloween Art Hop and Stamp Rally in Yokohoma

Spooky art is just a stamp away
Spooky art is just a stamp away

Put on your costumes and take a walk through Ishikawacho and Chinatown to check out the Yokohama i:23 exhibits. Collect all 4 stamps from:
仮装して石川町や中華街のi:23参加ギャラリーを巡ってみませんか?下記のギャラリーでスタンプラリーをやっています。

Launch Pad Gallery

Gallery and cafe fu

Zaim Cafe Annex

Art Baboo146

and receive a special spooky Halloween print!
全部集めてハロウィン特製アートを手に入れよう!

For everything else, check out the following links

Tokyo Time Out: Halloween in Tokyo 2014 

Metropolis Japan: Halloween Special 

Prince Genji’s Pole Dances & Romances: Japanese Literature Sways to LIfe

The Tale Of Genji (源氏物語) is said to be the first novel ever written. It is certainly the first ancient Japanese literary classic to be turned into a pole dance and performing arts spectacle like nothing I’ve ever seen before: Genji–The Other Side of The Story.

If all Japanese literature was this sexy and fun, I’d have become a scholar not a reporter. I went expecting to be appalled but was impressed that the lighting, music, and dance actually came together so eloquently that it conveys much of the mood of the original literary work.

It's the Tale Of Genji, like you've never seen it before.
It’s the Tale Of Genji, like you’ve never seen it before.

The author of The Tale Of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu, was a lady in waiting in the Heian era court and has the proud distinction of being Japan’s first novelist. There are some who see the novel as partly her autobiography but no one is sure. The book itself is about a relative of the Emperor, the Shining Prince Genji, and his playboy antics, romances, loves, and losses in the Royal Court.

Genji The Other Side 07
The Shining Prince in action

 

Genji The Other Side 02

 

Genji The Other Side 06

Genji is a sort of male slut, sleeping with every woman he possibly can and occasionally even a very cute young boy. While not a sympathetic character, he does come across as an individual who slowly learns what it is to really love a woman and lose those you care about.

Lu Nagata, a performance artist, created the play based on the legends surrounding Murasaki Shikibu. Murasaki also makes an apperance in the novel; Lu the writer and choreographer of the play, also appears in the play as well.

The premise of the script is that while in unrequited love with the Emperor, Murasaki Shikibu attempts to rid herself of these feelings through her novel. Through Genji, she expresses her conflicting emotions which can not be expressed in reality. Genji represents not only her unuttered emotions, her soul, her everything but also her ideal representation of a lover. She has become so engulfed in her fantasy that the perception of reality and fantasy become indistinct. Genji springs from the pages of the book to offers her a life altering decision:  will she live out her fantasies or live in reality?

Thus the stage is set for a mystical Nutcracker meets Noh plus comedy, improvisational dance, strip-tease, burlesque and the finest aerial arts and acrobatics.

Ms. Nagata plays the role of Murasaki Shikibu in some of the performances, wielding a giant writing brush with great flair and penmanship. Avoiding showy dance moves she gracefully invokes the melancholy beauty of Shikibu and her writings.Genji The Other Side 09

 

Tomonori Muraoka does a head-spinning turn as the Shining Prince, twirling and somersaulting across the stage at a frenzied pace and displaying musculature that looks like it was carved in marble. He interacts sensuously with the dancers who play his numerous lovers, never faltering in his steps and performing amazing acrobatic tricks. One scene in which Genji pours hot tea over the body of his lover recalls scenes from the motion picture classic Showgirls. Green tea has never been so sexy. 

Heian Girls
Heian Girls

 

There are a number of discordant elements in the production that somehow seem to work. The homely girl in the novel who’s love for Genji is almost never returned, Suetsumuhana, who’s name literally means, “the last flower to be picked” makes an appearance. She is played by a talented transvestite with a Harpo Marx wig.

For those familiar with the book, you will find some of the more memorable chapters enacted on stage—-from the jealous ghost that attacks Genji’s lover to the melancholy farewells and meditations in the chapter Maboroshii (幻).

Genji The Other Side 05
Jealous ghosts can ruin a marriage.

Of course, I’m biased in my review. The Tale of Genji is one of my favorite works of Japanese literature and Lu Nagata is an old friend and one of my favorite pole dances fitness instructors. I have no idea what most people will make of it but I found Genji: The Other Side Of the Story definitely worth watching. Even if you know nothing about the original novel, you’ll find some things in the performances that are moving, entertaining, and linger with you. For more details click here or read below.

Lu Nagata as Murasaki Shikibu demonstrates that pen is mightier than then sword or the pole.
Lu Nagata as Murasaki Shikibu demonstrates that the pen is mightier than then sword or the pole.

The show is performed every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday of November 19th 2013 until February 18th 2014.

*If you do go see the show, mention this article, say “LU” and get 1,000 yen off the door price. 

Tue. and Thu. Performances
1st Open 18:00 Start 18:30
2nd Open 20:30 Start 21:00

Sun

1st Open16:00 Start 16:30

2nd Open18:30 Start 19:00
TICKETS :
S seat:7,800 yen
A seat:5,800 yen
Standing:3,800 yen

 

VENUE :
Moon Cat Circus Theater Japan (THE FACTORY)
EBISU FORT 1F 1-24-2 Ebisuminami Shibuyaku Tokyo 150-0022
Tel 03-6412-8366

There is a complimentary drink if you purchase tickets in advance and say ‘Pole Dance Tokyo” or ‘Lu” at the door.

*Lu Nagata will perform only on 19th, 21st Nov and 17th – 29th Dec.

源氏: The Other Side of The Story.
源氏: The Other Side of The Story.

“You can’t lose at Muse” no longer true. Iconic Roppongi club lost in war on dance

Roppongi’s iconic dance club, Muse (ミューズ), became the latest victim of the crackdown on illegal dancing–the so-called “War on Dance”— when police announced on Sunday morning that it had raided the club and arrested manager Yuki Takano (37), a disk jockey, and two DJs. Their crime: setting up a DJ booth, playing music, and allowing the customers to dance. The police are also looking into other clubs allegedly run by the group including a so-called “girl’s bar”* in the neighborhood, to see if those establishments were also involved in other heinous illegal activity, such as customers sitting with the female bartenders behind the bar counter..

The Tokyo Police were not aMUSEd with this club's after hours dancing and shut it down. Another club shuttered in the war on dance.
The Tokyo Police were unaMUSEd with this club’s after hours dancing and shut it down. Another club shuttered in the war on dance.

The arrests are in violation of the Entertainment Business Control and Improvement Law (風営法, a set of archaic rules created in 1948, which prohibit dancing after midnight. The law had been gathering dust in the books for years, until the Osaka police began enforcing it rigidly in 2012.  In Tokyo,  when a man was beaten to death last year at Club Flower in Roppongi, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department also began to aggressively apply the laws, making raid after raid.  Since then, the police have been cleaning up the area and arresting the club owners violating the law. Muse is only the latest in a long string of clubs that have been busted this year for illegal dancing. In July the police raided the infamous Gas Panic nightclub and arrested the manager and disk jockey for operating without a license. In May, Vanity Lounge, was targeted and three employees were arrested in suspicion for violating the entertainment laws. Vanity reopened under a different name, V2, and labeled itself as a “restaurant”. The crackdowns have taken away much of what had made Roppongi the vibrant nightlife district sandwiched between the gentrified areas of Roppongi Hills and Midtown it had once been. Businesses have taken a hit, including the McDonald’s near the crossing, a meeting place for those who want to line their stomachs with a protective coat of Big Mac grease before a night of heavy drinking or a refuge for those waiting for the first train to arrive.

MUSE in it's heyday. Free entry for women and a 3,000 yen payment  + business card requirement kept the place "upscale." Or as they used to say "High-Touch."
MUSE in it’s heyday. Free entry for women and a 3,000 yen payment + business card requirement kept the place “upscale.” Or as they used to say “High-Touch.”

Although Muse is located only ten minutes away from Roppongi Station, it is known as a far less sleazy venue when compared to its neighbors. **A sign on the doorway requires that visitors, namely males, be between 24 and 39 years old, and have a business card to present to the bouncer. Flip flops, shorts, and gym clothes have no place on the dance floor. And most importantly, servicemen in the military who want to have a bit of fun tonight have to turn back around and head straight back to Gas Panic, because Muse has a strict “no servicemen allowed” rule. These rules filtered out enough of the “riff-raff” that the foreign customers were usually all  high-income expats working at foreign companies in Tokyo, or financially savvy and business card holding English teachers. Of course, none of these rules apply to females who are often allowed in without even flashing an ID card. My experience going to Muse was that I was waved inside before I could even reach into my purse to grab my passport. Females don’t even have to dish out the 3000 yen entry charge that males have to pay (Editor’s note: When will the discrimination against men in Japan ever end? This matriarchal society needs to change). This policy balances out the male to female ratio, compared to other nightclubs. Still, this doesn’t change the fact that Muse was still undeniably a meat market and a popular pickup spot. It’s unknown how long Muse will remain closed or whether it will open in time for Halloween celebration this weekend. But for now, warming up with a couple of cocktails from the nearby Lawson and buying an ice cream cone at Hobson’s before heading into Tokyo’s less sleazy alternative to the clubs in neighboring Roppongi—that is simply out of the question.

*”Girl’s bars” are essentially hostess bars that use a loop hole in the Entertainment Business Control and Improvement Law to operate past midnight. The female bartenders, who often work as hostesses before midnight, sitting next to customers, move to standing bar tending positions and speak with the customers over the bar counter. If the women sit with the customers past midnight, they are in violation of the law. 

** (Editor’s noteThere have been allegations that females working at MUSE were pressured to date some of the bar’s more wealthy clientele under dubious circumstances. MUSE management was unavailable for comment)