Harajuku Autumn

I was a chikan virgin no longer.  Being at the receiving end of a chikan incident is essentially akin to having someone feel you up while travelling by train. I had heard stories from my female friends that this would happen to them  while they were asleep or otherwise inattentive, but, they would assure, this would never happen to a gaijin girl. I have unceremoniously proven them wrong. Now, I did not intend for this to happen, but when it did it was so quick and so incredulous that I was only able to shout a quick insult as I saw a blurry uniformed teenager–most likely a college student–rush ahead of me and exit the train. Perhaps it was my fault for wearing black leggings and travelling alone to Harajuku with my headpones plugging my ears to outside noises as I listened to Black Jesus by Lady Gaga.

I met a friend for coffee. As we talked about art and complained about work, a group of pastel colored lolitas snuck through the back alley with lace parasols in hand. They laughed loudly, echoing against the buildings as we were surrounded by the common sounds in a cafe: plates knocking against each other, steel silverware jumbling together, and the exhalations of smokers.

The Design Festa Gallery, tucked in a secretive alleyway and surrounded by restaurants and cafes, stood out among the standard buildings in its red scaffolded structure and bright colors. Within it held the trappings of local artists who displayed their work in rooms that were just large enough to hold three people and skinny hallways that forced you to tuck in your arms so as to not risk bumping the walls. We stepped into a white room where styalized photographs of decrepit and overgrown buildings hung on the blank walls. An open glass window revealed a cafe just behind the building where thickly trunked trees were allowed to grow through the floorboards, tables built around them. A low hum of conversation fed through the walls and a light scent of Lark cigarette smoke.

As we exited into the adjacent streets, there were stores setting up pumpkin decorations. Halloween in Japan is celebrated primarily among teenagers who migrate to a fancifully adorned Harajuku. On the day, the train on the Yamanote line is decorated within with black and orange streamers and gruesome decorations. Teenagers dress in costumes and hang out on the train until the it stops in the early morning. The main street becomes like a scene from Halloween Town in A Nightmare Before Christmas where all is surrounded with pumpkins and flashing lights. So too will adults use the western holiday to hold parties, as clubs and bars are transformed into a monochrome setting complete with themed drinks and desserts.

During this season is when certain delicious sweets are sold: Pumpkin Anpan in which the sweet bread is filled with a pumpkin custard,  Acorn Baum,  roasted squash, or maple coffee fill Family Marts, Conbini (Convenience stores), and open markets.

October 27, 2011