Updated: Dengue fever toll rises in Japan; Yoyogi Park Is The Epicenter & Now Closed

Update: September 4th 2014 

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government closed  of Yoyogi Park today (September 4th) after confirming that mosquitoes taken for sampling earlier  this week were carrying the dengue virus.

As previously reported, Japan faced its first dengue outbreak caused by domestic mosquitos in over 70 years. A teenage female and two of her classmates, all of whom had never traveled outside of Japan, contracted the disease while they were practicing a dance routine in Yoyogi Park. The park was closed off last Thursday so that the park could be sprayed with insecticides, leading to a surge in shares for insecticide makers in the stock market.

Tiger mosquitos, or aedes albopictus, carry the dengue virus. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Tiger mosquitos, or aedes albopictus, carry the dengue virus. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare along with the Japanese media are now reporting more confirmed victims of the recent dengue outbreak who were bitten by mosquitos in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park. Public broadcaster NHK reported that three more people have fallen ill, one from Nigata Prefecture who visited Yoyogi Park on a school trip and two more from Kanagawa Prefecture. The Mainichi Shimbun also reports that more than ten other people who had visited Yoyogi Park last month have also fallen ill due to being bitten by mosquitos that carry the dengue virus.  The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is expected to post the most recent test results on their web page  tonight or tomorrow.

For our previous article on this topic, please check here.

Fight For Your Right To (Dance) Party Past Midnight In Japan!

You have to write for your right to (dance party)

夜明けまで踊りたいなら警察庁に意見を伝え、政府を踊らせよう!

Put on those dancing shoes!…in a few months. Maybe.

The National Police Agency of Japan is at long last (and after much public pressure) considering revising Japan’s archaic adult entertainment laws to allow dancing past midnight!  Yes, Japan may finally be going footloose. From today, July 25th, they are accepting public comments. You can mail them at hoan@npa.go.jp or better yet, FAX them at 03-3581-5936. For more details please see the National Police Agency home page. The current draft of the revised bill is here (警察庁の改正案はここです。最低と言わないがよくはない). Frankly, it seems pretty sucky.

The National Police Agency wants to know what you think about these issues:

Should people be allowed to dance all night?  Should dance clubs and discos be allowed to go all night? How should they be regulated? (クラブの深夜営業は許可すべきか。規制すべきか)

Should dance clubs be removed from the province of the adult entertainment laws? (クラブなどのダンス社交の場所は風営法の対象外とすべきなのか)

If we allow dance lessons to be conducted anywhere, will it corrupt the morals of Japan? (ダンス教室の無許可営業は日本の風紀を乱すのか)

What is the danger that dance clubs turn into places singles go to meet other singles and possibly hook up?  (If you don’t even consider that a danger or a problem, let them know) (クラブは出会い系の場所となる危険性(?)はどう思うのか)

What if dance clubs are used to facilitate prostitution? (ダンスクラブは売春の温床となるのでは?)

There are probably more silly questions that the NPA is coming up with but these seem to be the issues they are most concerned about. Because as we all know, late night dancing could lead to sex, which could lead to people having more children, which could be a serious problem in this overpopulated country. Oh. Wait. Actually, Japan is having a population crisis because people aren’t getting married and having children. That also requires sex. So maybe late night dance clubs could be good for Japan?

Well, if men and women meet in clubs and start dating each other or have consensual sex without paying a third party, how will this affect Japan’s legal sex industry? Think of the economic blow this could do to blow-job parlours and sexual massage parlours, not to mention hostess and host clubs!

The National Police Agency plans to submit a revised bill, perhaps the current draft, to the National Diet this Autumn. On the 15th of this month, they will set up a panel of experts (who will probably be virulently opposed to dancing, social conservatives, and mostly men)  and interview dance club operators. They will hold hearing sessions to create a revised law, which hopefully will allow Japan’s nightlife to come back from the dead.

A Brief History Of The War On Dance 

You may be wondering why the Japanese police have been raiding dance clubs and criminalizing “rhythmical movement to music” and other lascivious acts in recent years. Allow me to explain. I’ve covered some of this ground before in other articles, so please forgive me while I repeat myself.

         If you’re thinking about dancing the night away to some great trance music, or even old-fashioned rock, you may have a tough time finding a venue in Japan these days. In fact, you may end up waltzing away hours inside a police station, pissing into a cup after being rounded up in a raid. It’s not just Tokyo, in Kansai as well, “The War on Dance” has been raging on for the last few years.

On September 2nd (2012), at 3:40 am, members of the Kanto Rengo gang burst into the VIP room in Roppongi’s Club Flower and clubbed a man to death in front of 300 people. Since then, the police have been making regular raids on the nightclubs, discos, and live houses that make night life in this city vibrant and fun. The intensity of the raids have gone up, but in fact, they are simply a continuation of what began in Osaka in 2012.

Ostensibly, the clubs are being raided for violating Japan’s archaic Adult Entertainment Laws which forbid dancing after midnight. The police are simply enforcing the laws. That’s the official party line.

But anyone who has lived in Japan for several years knows that wasn’t always the case. The laws existed on the book, gathering dust, but were rarely enforced

So why now is there a “War on Dance?” Is it a part of the “War on Drugs”?

Who do we blame? Do we blame the police? Do we blame the Kanto Rengo for killing a man after dancing hours, thus reminding everyone that the Adult Entertainment Laws (AEL) were being ignored?

The answer is complicated.

Let’s start with the obvious answer: it really is against the law to dance after midnight in most venues in Japan. This is well explained in the book Odotte wa Ikenai Kuni, Nihon (Japan: The Land Where You Can’t Dance) .

The Adult Entertainment Laws originally were revised after WWII to clamp down on the infamous “Dance Halls” which were thinly disguised venues of prostitution. Several decades later “Dance Halls” have been replaced by clubs, discos, and bars with dance floors; they are not proxy brothels. The places people dance have changed, as have the customers; the laws have not.

I don’t think there is anyone who would argue that dancing itself is dangerous or unhealthy. Dance is part of the educational curriculum in Japan. Some forms of dance are considered cultural treasures. So why would dancing at a club after midnight miraculously transform what is a healthy form of entertainment into a threat to the public welfare? Do dancers transform into rampaging werewolves as the clock strikes midnight?

There is no logical answer.

One unofficial answer from the police is this: “It’s much easier to raid a dance club on violations of the AEL than it is to get a warrant for a drug search. Dance clubs are hotbeds of drug activity.”

Maybe, that’s partially true. At some dance parties, there will be people using ecstasy (MDMA). There will also be people getting so drunk that they get alcohol poisoning. There will also be people just dancing. Should the rest of us be banned from the dance floor because of a few reckless people?

The hardline enforcement of forgotten laws may make the police look good. It is a nuisance for everyone else. It hurts the business of legitimate clubs. It discourages people from staying out late, making nightlife boring. If there’s no place to dance after midnight, than many people will go home. It’s bad for tourism as well. “Tokyo: The City That Always Sleeps Before Midnight”—try attracting people to Japan with that slogan. Ultimately, it hurts the economy and encourages corruption.Clubs relying on late-night traffic will go out of business. Clubs that want to stay in business will pay bribes and protection money to avoid the raids.

That brings us to another reason for the “War On Dance”. It stems a bit from the Organized Crime Exclusionary Ordinances that went nationwide on October 1st, 2011. In the old days, the clubs paid off the local yakuza. In return, they often got advance notice when a token raid was coming. The yaks provided muscle when customers got out of line and kept local street crime down. No muggings, purse snatching, or theft allowed. The smart clubs avoided getting shut down, kept pushers off the premises, and people felt safe going to them.

The police knew the clubs were operating way past legal hours, but looked the other way. The enforcement was so sparse that late-night dancing existed in a comfortable grey zone.

But when doing business with the yakuza became a crime in itself, the clubs stopped paying them. The non-designated organized crime groups, like Kanto Rengo, cut in on the dance. They became the unofficial security guards. They soon found the clubs lucrative venues to peddle drugs and in some of the high end clubs, prostitutes as well.

Dance Hall days were here again.

The Flower killing made it clear that the “new yakuza” were now running the nightlife. The investigative journalist Atsushi Mizoguchi coined a term for these outlaws: hangure. It comes from the Japanese word for “half” and Gurentai. After the war, Gurentai were the undisciplined youth gangs who preyed on the general population, engaging in theft, robbery, and violent crimes. The “half” in the term is also an acknowledgement that these new groups are “half” yakuza as well. Many of them are backed by yakuza or ex-yakuza that can no longer operate in the open, and have no code of honor to burden them.

A few weeks after the Club Flower murder, the National Police Agency reportedly issued a directive to all police departments to strictly enforce the Adult Entertainment Laws. The directive was meant hurt the hangure and deflect criticism of lax enforcement. And the cops have been doing their jobs.

The Japanese police are no longer comfortable with grey zones; everything has to be black and white. Grey is the enemy. The dance clubs closings are the casualties of a badly run war. Coincidentally, Hangure, can also be read as “half-grey.” It’s the color of “illegal.”

Not everyone is taking this haphazard enforcement lying down. The Let’s Dance Committee, headed by a lawyer and run by a group of volunteers is lobbying for changes in the law that will protect Japan’s “dance culture.” They have already collected over 150,000 signatures for a petition to the government.  A recent court decision in Osaka may have also made the police here reverse course in the unpopular dance club crackdown.

 On April 25 2014, the Osaka District Court acquitted Masatoshi Kanemitsu, the owner of a nightclub called NOON, of charges of “corrupting sexual morals” and violating adult entertainment laws in what Kanemitsu’s lawyer, Kenichi Nishikawa, called Japan’s first trial challenging its archaic “no dance” laws. “It was a victory for common sense and freedom to dance,” Nishikawa said.  “It is historic and significant, and while not finding the current laws unconstitutional, the courts ruled both that the police were too broadly interpreting the laws and that dance in and of itself is not a corruptor of public morals. Nor does it make people throw off their clothes.” For the rest of that story see The Japanese All Go Footloose To Protest The Nightlife Crackdown in The Daily Beast.

         If you want to join the tango, check out www.letsdance.jp.  And of course, write the National Police Agency.  In the meantime, until someone brings the laws up to date, the War on Dance will keep on moving to the music of the National Police Agency marching band. For a limited time, you may have a say in the tune that we hear in the future. So speak now or learn to love “Dancing By Myself.” 

“My pussy (まんこ) is not indecent!” Japanese artist fights sexist obscenity laws

“My pussy (マンコ) is not obscene.”

The Japanese artist, Megumi Igarashi, who was arrested July 12th (a Saturday) for distributing “obscene” design files that can be used to make 3-D-printed models of her vagina was released from custody last Friday the 18th, in Japan.

The artist Rokudenashiko holds up the comic book she wrote explaining why she makes art about female genitalia & her own vagina. (After being released from custody for obscenity charges)
The artist Rokudenashiko holds up the comic book she wrote explaining why she makes art about female genitalia & her own vagina. (After being released from custody for obscenity charges)

Ms. Igarashi had sent the data to over 30 people around the country who had donated to a crowd-funding project she started last year to build what she called the “pussy boat”–a kayak in the shape of her genitals. She will also be giving a press conference today, July 24th, at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan, in which various foreign media outlets are expected to be in attendance. After her detainment, the lawyers for Ms. Igarashi protested to the court that the prosecution’s request to hold her for ten days was unwarranted, and in an unusual decision, a panel of judges agreed. Typically, once someone is arrested in Japan, release from custody is rare. The working assumption is presumed guilty until proven guilty

Takashi Yamaguchi, one of the lawyer’s for Igarashi said, “We were delighted by the court’s decision which would also seem to be a rebuke to the police for arresting her in the first place. There was no need to put her in detention. ” At the press conference, the demure Igarashi, also known as and prefers to go by Rokudenashiko (ろくでなし子・good-for-nothing child), said that she had received no warning from the police that her activities and artwork were considered obscene and was taken aback when the police stormed her residence unannounced Saturday morning (July 12th) and arrested her on “obscene electromagnetic record distribution charges.” Ms. Igarashi has not denied distributing data that would allow people to make a 3D printing of her vagina; however, she does deny that the images are obscene.

“My pussy (マンコ) is not obscene.”

For many in Japan, it is puzzling that Ms. Igarashi was arrested at all, when you consider that events such as the Kanamara Festival (かなまら祭り), which celebrates fertility and penis worship, is held every year.  The festival centers around penises, which are carried as sacred objects and appear as candy, hats, and trinkets. Phallic-shaped objects or anything that has to do with sex are sold all around the shrine. As part of this year’s festivities, men and women carried a gigantic pink penis shrine with testicles attached while visitors, including children, watched on. For a detailed description, please see this year’s earlier photo essay.

Ms. Igarashi in response to JSRC’s question as to why penises are not considered obscene under Japan’s obscenity laws but her vagina images were, bemusedly responded, “It baffles me, too. I think it’s a kind of sexual discrimination. For instance, on television, (you can say the word for penis but) you can’t say manko (Japanese slang for vagina)—they’ll bleep it out. In my artwork, which celebrates female genitalia, I try to challenge this concept of women’s sexual organs themselves being obscene. They’re just another part of the body.” Well, apparently as far as the police are concerned that’s not the case. And obviously, the penis must not be obscene because otherwise the Kanamara Festival would result in more arrests than a raid on a club where people dance illegally past midnight. What is even more surprising about here arrest is that in sex shops across Japan you can buy replicas of famous porn star vaginas that are far more graphic than a 3D printer and made of surgical silicone. The purpose of these artificial vaginas are obviously not just to display on the mantle.

Apparently this 3D "functional" model of a Japanese porn star vagina is not obscene but an artist's 3D data for her vagina is obscene. Go figure.
Apparently this 3D “functional” model of a Japanese porn star vagina is not obscene but an artist’s 3D data for her vagina is obscene. Go figure.

As has been pointed out before, Japan is a country which only banned possession of child pornography last month—with a one year grace period for possessors of the material (estimated to be 1 in 10 Japanese men by a government study) to get rid of their contraband. The portrayal of child pornography in manga was left out of the law due to protest from the publishing industry—so it seems surprising that distributing images of an adult woman’s vagina to those who request it would lead to an arrest. It’s even more ironic when you consider that most sexual services are in Japan are legal, so if a man wants to see a real vagina or play with one, he just has to pay for it. Yet, as long as he does this behind closed doors—it’s not obscene or illegal. On the other hand, under Japanese law, genitals have to be blurred out in pornography, though restrictions have loosened in recent years.

When asked why the word for vagina can’t be mentioned on television, Ms. Igarashi was stumped for an answer. So were her lawyers. Maybe that’s because like so many things in Japan, men get to decide what’s obscene and what’s not. The lawyers for Igarashi, and Ms. Igarashi herself stated they intend to fight the charges of obscenity and plead innocent. They believe that she was arrested and detained by the police primarily in the hope that she would “confess” to the charges, thus making the case a slam-dunk; she did not cooperate. They will argue that the data does not constitute obscenity as defined in the Supreme Court verdict in 1957 that found DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover to be salacious and in violation of the law. In that case, The Supreme Court concluded, “the description of the sex acts contained therein at twelve passages, as pointed out by the prosecutor, is all too bold, detailed, and realistic”.

Rokudenashiko shares a moment of levity with her lawyers after being asked why "vagina" (manko) is such a taboo word on Japanese television. The absurdity of Japanese obscenity laws is funny---unless you get put in jail for them.
Rokudenashiko shares a moment of levity with her lawyers after being asked why “vagina” (manko) is such a taboo word on Japanese television. The absurdity of Japanese obscenity laws is funny—unless you get put in jail for them.

Rokudenashiko is a slightly eccentric artist—this is certainly true. She has written an entire comic book about her obsession with her genitalia with wild surrealistic drawings. In the book, she even explains why she had cosmetic surgery on her womanhood to make it more attractive. A literary agency is currently considering putting out an English translation of it in the near future.

Ms. Igarashi, at the press conference, was generally in good spirits, laughing and chatting with the press but when asked how far she was willing to fight, she said with resolve, “I’ll take the case all the way to the Supreme Court. I refuse to accept that part of me is obscene just because certain people looking at it choose to see it that way.”

Angela Kubo contributed to this article. 

Put Tokyo in your pocket: Lonely Planet’s Pocket Tokyo is a great guide book

Tokyo may look small and insignificant on a map, but not even a week, much less an entire year, is not enough to explore what the city has to offer. Pocket Tokyo, published by Lonely Planet and written by fellow Japan Times food page contributor, Rebecca Milner, is a detailed guide that helps clueless and cultured shocked visitors find their way out of Narita Airport and into the city.

Most of the guide is divided into sections on different neighborhoods in central Tokyo such as Tsukiji and Ginza, Shibuya, and Shinjuku. These sections are lists of the most notable restaurants, shops, and tourist sights in the area, along with a short description under each place name. Although Milner’s descriptions are no more than two or three lines long, she brilliantly conveys in that short space the atmosphere of each sight just as well as, if not better than, any local in Tokyo. The shop names are also written in Japanese, perhaps to help out visitors when they stop to ask for directions. Each place is also shown on a detailed map of the area in each chapter.

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“The biggest challenge is definitely deciding what makes the cut! I always wind up over researching and having heaps more places that I want to include—especially restaurants,” author Rebecca Milner told The Japan Subculture Research Center in an email.

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In addition to a list of the best sights in each area, there is also a small box labeled “Understand” in each section of the guide that gives explanations on aspects of Japanese culture on everything from love hotels to religion to the Yasukuni Shrine controversy. There is also helpful advice scattered throughout the book. The best one: toward the back there is a tip on how to save money in this expensive city. Even I, a born and bred Tokyoite found the tip a helpful reminder that I should start putting those money-saving techniques into practice.

The best part of the guidebook is the handy Tokyo Metro map in the back, which shows all the station and line names in clearly printed English. The subway system in the city is difficult to navigate even for locals, and there are a variety and combination of routes that can be taken to get to the same destination.

There are two big issues with the guide. One is the size and the shape of the book. Previous editions of the Pocket Tokyo books were slimmer and taller to better fit in one’s back pocket. The latest edition by Milner is wider: ideal for slipping in a small purse, but for tourists who are going out to see the sights without any bags, the guide might be a nuisance to carry in one’s hand.

Another more serious issue is that there is no information on Western Tokyo. Although Central Tokyo certainly has an abundance of temples, restaurants, museums, and other major tourist attractions, the area outside of the 23 wards shouldn’t be entirely dismissed. For example, Kichijoji deserves some attention, especially because it has been voted the No. 1 place in Japan where people want to live since they started the poll in 2004. The area, known to be a popular hangout for the youthful, artistic crowd, is also home to must-see spots such as Inokashira Park, a zoo and Ghibli Museum next door in Mitaka. There are also other areas beyond Tokyo that visitors who want to avoid well-trodden tourist hotspots may want to see.

"I too am a fan of the Chuo Line—neighborhoods like Nakano, Koenji, and Kichijoji. But the Pocket Guide is designed to be a concise look at the city so it focuses on the main, central neighbourhoods," explains Milner. "Though I did manage to squeeze in Shimokitazawa!"

Despite these two shortcomings, you can’t beat Rebecca Milner’s guide to Tokyo. If you want to know more about the areas west of Shinjuku that are less traveled by tourists, check out Lonely Planet’s Tokyo City Guide, which Rebecca  Milner co-authored with Tim Hornyak the year before.

“There’s more coverage of the neighborhoods west of Shinjuku—including Kichijoji and the Ghibli Museum, plus bars and restaurants out that way—in that guide,” says Milner. “There’s more stuff east of the river, in places like Fukugawa, too.”

Her knowledge of the bars and restaurants in the city puts me to shame, since I happen to be a bar writer myself. If you read the guide from cover to back you’ll be able to navigate Tokyo just like a local in no time.  In fact, you may even get to know amazing places in your own neighborhood. I did.

 

Pole dancing goths, Day-Glo Dominatrix, and gay pride–a crazy night at Tokyo Decadance

LA CARMINA is a prominent alternative fashion and travel blogger, TV host, travel & subculture journalist, and author of three books, including one on Crazy, Wacky Theme Restaurants in Tokyo and a cookbook on cooking cute titled CUTE YUMMY TIME

This piece was originally posted on www.lacarmina.com

 

La Carmina blog, preta porco, tokyo decadance

Welcome to Tokyo Decadance Bar — one of the favorite hangouts of Tokyo’s alternative, Goth and Cyber club kids. If you’re visiting the city, you can’t miss the absinthe and alt performances. Here are photos from my last two trips to “Decabar.” Note the infamous Preta Porco in his signature yellow face paint.

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The club space is small but laid back, and decorated in neon paint. The fashion is consistently fabulous, as Yukiro Dravarious, in one of his many guises, shows. If you want to see more of him, he’ll be performing his drag queen act, Die Schwarze Frau on April 27th at the Tokyo Pride Prade. Check out his Facebook page for more details. You’ll be entertained and frightened for sure.

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On “Porco Night,” all attention goes to the yellow-faced bartender, Preta Porco. Mistress Maya also holds a regular “Snack Mayaya” event, where she holds a snack bar and does some… interesting rope-tying demonstrations.

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On any given night, I’ll run into friends here. On the left, you’ll see Sophia, an impressive vocalist who recently debuted her solo project, “Season of Ghosts.”

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Owner Adrien Le Danois (on the left with the blue hair) welcomes guests to his lair. On the dance floor you can find girls in cosplay and colorful street style. Many of the people who come here speak English and French, so the language barrier is no problem if you don’t know Japanese.

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Porco’s scintillating smile will immediately put you in the mood to party. (My hair is pink because these photos are from last spring.)

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And when the drinks flow, the shenanigans begin. I always order the absinthe at Decadance Bar.

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The space is decorated like a Day Glo carnival, and the staff dresses the part in wigs and glitter.

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Between DJ sets, underground performers strut their stuff. Everyone smiled at this 1980s dance routine, peppered with pole-dancing.

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Porco squealed and twirled on a pole. I’m at a loss for words.

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As you can see, there’s a themed event or bizarre performance on any given night. (Photography by Naomi – check out her latest illustrations!)

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If it’s your birthday, beware: the drag queens sit on you and chant the “nonde nonde” drinking song.

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The special DJs played a bouncing, techno-electric mix. You can tell that everyone was having fun.

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I also went to Tokyo Decadance Bar last December. It was “Sex Pot Night.” There were events both in the upstairs bar and downstairs restaurant, Christon Cafe.

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Similar to Alamode Market, there were handmade Gothic Lolita accessories for sale at tables.

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A striking back tattoo with hearts and wings, on this barely clad Japanese lady.

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If you read my Theme Restaurants book, you know that Christon is decorated with church relics, like chandeliers and altars.

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This makes it a haunting (and slightly kitschy) atmosphere for a Goth alternative party. The big Tokyo Decadance parties, which take place every 1-2 months, are usually held at Christon Shinjuku.

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That night, the area near the lower staircase was filled with tables. Vendors sold oddities such as scorpions preserved in jars.

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You can also pick up one-of-a-kind Gothic accessories such as these hand-studded chokers.

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Or you can get a glitter tattoo, from a not-so-Barbie girl.

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If you get tired of shopping, then there’s plenty of singing, dancing, performances, and other entertainment in the venue.

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I saw a slightly incongruous performance by a group of women dressed as mistresses, in tight leather corsets and riding sticks.

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Yet they sang J-pop and anime songs, with giddy choreography. The men in the back seemed to be having a good time.

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Kampai,” or cheers!

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Much like the club night Department H, this is a place for you to be whoever or whatever you wish, without judgement.

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The grotesque doll on the wall shows that anything goes.

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Real men wear makeup. Here, makeup on men is the norm rather than the exception.

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Goth fashion looks especially bloody under red lights.

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My current blue hair matches these girls on the wall.

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For once, Yukiro isn’t the tallest person in the room, thanks to little help with stilts.

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Mistress Maya (who is also DJ Maya at her event Midnight Mess) tied up an innocent victim.

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The girl got a spanking and hot candle wax on her back, among other naughty things that we can’t post on this blog… Use your imagination, or come to Decabar to see for yourself–and perhaps get a spanking of your own.

For more photos from Tokyo Decadence and other Goth / Cyber / LGBT nightlife, you can take a look at my Japan clubbing guide.

Tokyo Decabar: 東京都新宿区新宿5-17-13 or 5-17-13 Shinjuku, Oriental Wave Building 8F/9F

Directions: From Shinjuku East Exit, walk towards Studio Alta and Don Quixote. Take a right on this main street (Yasakuni Dori) and keep walking. Christon Cafe is on the left side of the street, right above the Lawson and before the parking lot buildings. Ride the elevator up to the 8th floor (Christon Cafe theme restaurant) and walk up the stairs to Decadance Bar.

The Incomplete Transsexual—a photo essay from Sanya

Tokyo, by Dan Ryan

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All photos by Dan Ryan

It was a little like the scenario in that Kinks song “Lola”, but only in passing. I met her in a little place called Seoul Bar, which is in a rundown section of northeast Tokyo called Sanya. At first I thought her was a him, and she sounded like a man but…

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The lipstick should have given me a clue, but it was confusing initially, even more so because his, sorry, her English was pretty rusty, and my Japanese was horrible. She took an interest in me because I was American. When she was still fully he, he used to work for Americans in the ‘60s. Or the ‘70s, but doing what I never completely figured out. But we managed fitfully to communicate, and after a few minutes I thought he was a pretty interesting woman.

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She’d had the money at some unspecified point in the past to start the process of becoming her true self, to transition from male to female. Her family, which might have included a wife and kids, never understood nor approved of what she needed to be. They disowned her many years ago.

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However, it was obvious she was accepted in Seoul Bar, but also treated a bit like an oddity. When another bar patron took a schoolboy jab at her breasts, it bothered me. It was playful, but far from respectful. But it was nearly 13:00, in a bar in a crummy part of town, and everyone was drinking. So maybe my standards were unrealistically high. Hell, she even wanted me to take a feel of her tits. She was proud of them. I declined.

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She was also proud of her hands, justifiably I thought, but seemed frustrated by lingering facial hair. My guess is whatever hormones she used to take had worn off some time ago. She also said she still had the male parts she’d been born with.

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I left the Seoul Bar when the karaoke was about to start and went out to the shōtengai to take more pictures. After about five minutes, I noticed my ladyfriend walking in the same direction I was. She had bar-snack crumbs on her face, and in the outdoor light I could really see how worn and shabby-looking she was. Yet as she waved her hands around at my camera, her manicured nails were still noticeable, as were her few female bumps and curves. She looked more like a woman standing up outside than she had hunched next to me in a chair in the dark little bar we’d been in.

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She and I walked together for a few minutes. She didn’t mind me taking pictures of her. In fact, she carried herself with a little bit of the vanity some women seem to naturally have, whether their looks entitle them to such vanity or not. But the fact that this woman, this shabby, incomplete woman, carried herself in this way instantly earned a small measure of my respect. It took, for lack of a better term, balls.

Picture8

We came to a stop when she spotted a man she knew, a friend I suppose, a guy I had photographed previously. He was pretty goddamned drunk. But she wanted to go talk to him.

Picture9

Like I said, she was proud of her breasts and not shy about playing with them in public. I didn’t ask her to do this. I don’t know enough Japanese to get that far. But she posed for me a few times out there in the street, and this is where her hands always ended up. You’ve got to roll with these things in some parts of Tokyo street life.

Picture10

Then she walked over to talk to her friend. It was a short conversation. The guy in the gutter made a slow lunge for my ladyfriend’s crotch. Her response, as I barely understood it, was to offer to show the man that he would have gotten a handful of male goodies if she had let his fingers reach their target. This was a little bit too much for me, the idea that this incomplete woman was prepared to whip out her male equipment in the street.

So I walked away. But you know, I never even got her name.

———————

Reporting and photography for this story was done in April, 2012.

Author’s note: This is an excerpt from my second Amazon Kindle photo essay book, “Tales from Seoul Bar: A Tokyo Panic Stories Mini-book”. You can buy a copy here.

Dan Ryan is a journalist, photographer, and poet. His work has been published by Scholars & Rogues, tsuki Magazine, Giant Robot, Kizuna, Jack Move, Zero Hedge, and Japan Subculture Research Center. You can see more of his Tokyo work at Dan Ryan’s SmallStories. He recently created a Kickstarter project to fund his next photo project in Tokyo. He lives in Brisbane, California.

 

Daily Prophet Flash: DanRad gets Press Pass for Tokyo Vice; The Last Yakuza to be published in 2014

Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter On The Police Beat In Japan…a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe!?

Radcliffe-san has been preparing to play the role of a newspaper journalist for over 10 years. To write for a newspaper, you have to read the newspaper.
Radcliffe-san has been preparing to play the role of a newspaper journalist for over 10 years–more or less. To write for a newspaper, you have to read the newspaper. The Daily Prophet is one of the most respected in the industry; almost always first with the scoop and only occasionally very wrong.
text courtesy of William Clark 
May 1st, 2013

Mike Fleming broke the news on Deadline this afternoon that Daniel Radcliffe will play Jake Adelstein in the film adaptation of TOKYO VICE:  An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan.

The text of the release is as follows:

Tokyo Vice (UK edition)
Tokyo Vice (UK edition)

Daniel Radcliffe is set to star in TOKYO VICE. Veteran music video and commercial director Anthony Mandler will direct, based on a script by acclaimed playwright JT Rogers. Le Grisbi Productions’ John Lesher and Adam Kassan are producing. The film is eyeing a start date of first quarter 2014.

Radcliffe will play American reporter Jake Adelstein who, while working at the Yomiuri Shinbun newspaper in Tokyo, covered a beat that included murder, vice, and the yakuza. The film will be based on Adelstein’s memoir of the same name and focus on his encounters with yakuza boss Tadamasa Goto, also known as the “John Gotti of Japan”. Adelstein investigated the notorious gangster at great personal cost and sacrifice, braving death threats, before finally exposing Goto.

Adelstein, who will be working with Rogers on the script, is still an investigative reporter. He currently writes for The Daily BeastThe Japan Times, and The Atlantic Wire. His second book, THE LAST YAKUZA(editor Tim O’Connell), will be published in 2014.

Radcliffe has had a busy schedule since starring in last year’s thriller THE WOMAN IN BLACK. He starred as Allen Ginsberg in this year’s Sundance hit KILL YOUR DARLINGS, which was acquired by Sony Pictures Classics. He also recently wrapped the horror film HORNS and the romantic comedy THE F WORD and he has just signed on to star in FRANKENSTEIN for 20th Century Fox and Davis Entertainment. This June, Radcliffe will return to the West End stage, starring in Martin McDonagh’s acclaimed comedy THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN.

Mandler has helmed videos for such artists as Rihanna, Jay-Z, The Killers, and Muse.

Rogers’ plays include BLOOD AND GIFTS (National Theatre, London; Lincoln Center Theater, New York City) and THE OVERWHELMING (National Theatre, London; Roundabout Theatre, New York City). He was nominated for the 2009 Olivier Award as one of the writers of GREAT GAME: AFGHANISTAN. He is also a winner of the prestigious Pinter Prize.

Lesher produced last year’s END OF WATCH, starring Jake Gyllenhaal. He also produced BLOOD TIES, Guillaume Canet’s English language debut, starring Clive Owen, Marion Cotillard, Billy Crudup, Mila Kunis, and James Caan, which will premiere at Cannes. Lesher is currently in production on Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s BIRDMAN, starring Michael Keaton, Ed Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, and Naomi Watts. He is in pre-production on BLACK MASS, to be directed by Barry Levinson and star Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger, as well as David Ayer’s war film FURY, which will shoot in the fall and star Brad Pitt.

Radcliffe is represented by UTA, UK agent Sue Latimer at ARG, and attorney Fred Toczek. Mandler is represented by UTA, Management 360, and attorney Michael Schenkman. Rogers is represented by WME and attorneys Marc Glick and Stephen Breimer. Jake Adelstein is repped by UTA and William Clark Associates.

You can learn more about Jake Adelstein in Peter Hessler’s excellent profile, “All Due Respect: An American Reporter Takes on the Yakuza” in the January 9, 2012 issue of The New Yorker. 

Jake’s next book, THE LAST YAKUZA:  A Life in the Japanese Underground, a singular, in-depth, occasionally humorous, often dark, but inspiring tale about the life of former gang boss T. Mochizuki, aka “The Tsunami,” his unlikely friendship with the author, and the history of Japan’s ubiquitous mafia is being edited by the incomparable Tim O’Connell at Pantheon as this is being written, and will be released in Fall 2014.  Other English language publishers are James Gurbutt at Constable & Robinson in the UK, and Henry Rosenbloom at Scribe in Australia/New Zealand.

Explore “Possibilities”: A dark play on our primal needs & impulses Tokyo・March 21-24th

After spending the weekend  enjoying the transient beauty of the blooming cherry blossoms and G-rated entertainment –why not explore the darker side of human nature in a play by Tokyo’s Black Stripe Theater (Theatre). How can you resist entertainment that includes the following disclaimer: 

*Attention: The play contains nudity and themes unsuitable for children.
 It sound like a nice slice of Tokyo Vice.
The Possibilities: a dark play for spring days
The Possibilities: a dark play for spring days

ThePossibilities_PR_2 ThePossibilities_PR_3

 
The Possibilities
Black Stripe Theater presents Howard Barker’s bold and exciting “The Possibilities”! March 21st ~ 24th! 
Conflict. Desire. Pain.In a series of ten satirical vignettes, The Possibilities delves into the murky shadows of our past and questions our most primal needs and impulses. Traversing cultures and eras, The Possibilities is as mysterious as it is compelling. Featuring Erick Ferman, Tim Harris, Wendell T. Harrison, Ann Jenkins, Lucy King, Lindsay Nelson, Shinji Kobata, Martin Leroux, Elena Lin, Ian Martin, Chris Parham, Kimberley Tierney, Kat Try, Katie Turner, Rachel Walzer, and Joanne Wong.
 Directed by Katie Turner. Assistant director, Jeremy Plant.

*Attention: The play contains nudity and themes unsuitable for children.
*Disclaimer: JSRC hasn’t seen the play yet and our editors know the performers so there is some personal bias, but it sounds interesting to us. 
Hey, life isn’t all cherry blossoms and sake you know.
March 21st-24th @ Trance Mission Theater
SHOW TIMES
*March 21st (Thurs) 7:00pm
*March 22nd (Fri) 7:00pm
*March 23rd  (Sat) 1:00pm & 7:00pm
*March 24th (Sun) 3:00 pm
Reserved tickets: 3000 yen (including one drink)
Non-reserved tickets: 3500 yen (including one drink)Book tickets by email: tickets@blackstripetheater.com

Please include your name, phone number, number of tickets, and performance you would like to attend. You should receive a reply within 48 hours.Note: email reservations will close 12 hours before each performance.
To book tickets on the day, or for inquires call: 080 4184 0848
For more information about Black Stripe Theater visit our website: www.blackstripetheater.com
Location/Access SANGUBASI TRANCE MISSION
B1 Sangubashi Guest house Yoyogi 4-50-8, Shibuyaku Tokyo,
Closest station: Sangubashi, Odakyu lineMap and link to theater site: http://www.trance-mission.jp/access.html