One of Japan’s biggest toy companies, Bandai, teamed up with 45th year anniversary Shonen Jump comics magazine to produce an epic multi-player fighting game, J-Start Victory Vs., featuring some of the most famous comics and anime characters in Japan in set battles. To promote it, they created an installation in front of the PARCO department store in Shibuya, a giant diorama if you will. We are pretty used to anime and manga characters coming alive in statues and life sized figure recently, but this one takes it a step further by working with props and the pavement itself. Very fun and very popular with both adults and kids walking past. You can see the official homepage of the game here. The characters in this unlikely stand off are Dragon Ball Z’s Goku (孫悟空) and One Piece’s Monkey D. Luffy (モンキー・Ｄ・ルフィ). The characters will be duking it out until the 23rd of March, so if you are in Tokyo during the week and the weekend, there’s still time to see this!
I took this photo of a shrine maiden on duty in Shibuya’s grand shrine, the Konouhachimangu (金王八幡宮) at the annual festival last year. Some of these shrine maidens, or mike (巫女) are full time employees of the shrine but the vast majority are temporarily employed part time workers. Most of them are high school students or university students doing it for the experience and for pocket money. Although most people are impressed by young women with miko work experience there are also other bonuses, such as learning about customer service and Japanese culture and traditions. I have also heard ex-miko who mention that their math skills improved as they learned to calculate quickly in the heads when working over the main holidays selling votive plates, charmes, etc. I also think it is impossible to find any service job in the world where the staff are treated with more respect than this! On the negative side, in the winters the thin uniform and the hours spent outside can make it an almost unbearable experience for many. Some miko are also quite tired of the often very repetitive work as well as tired of constantly being photographed. This last complaint hits hard with myself, especially!
For their stoic service and hard work in the cold of winter or heat of summer a typical part-time miko can expect to earn between 8000 and 12 000 yen per day, depending on age, experience and length of work. This is a typical part time salary here in Tokyo and higher than many full time positions out in the prefectures. Good work, if you are unmarried and reasonably stoic!
A few years ago fantastic paintings of a post-apocalypse Tokyo started appearing on the net. Tokyo Genso imagined an abandoned Tokyo that has been taken over by nature and vegetation. I always enjoyed those images and every now and then you come across a building or park in Tokyo that has been taken over completely by nature. Here is one fantastic house in Shibuya, not abandoned and not taken over, just beautifully enveloped. I love it.
I took these photos after the rain we had during this year’s Shibuya festival let up. The omikoshi of the famous Dogenzaka neighborhood that traditionally starts in front of Shibuya station and goes up towards Shinsen station was out in force, the only concession to the rain being the plastic wrapped around the paper lanterns.
The origins of the name Dogenzaka is contested, but the slope can be named after an old temple that used to be located on the top of the hill. During the Edo period the road was surrounded by wild woods and fields with a clear view of Mount Fuji at the end. As Edo became Tokyo in the later part of the 19th century Dogenzaka became a market place for farmers selling their produce and Shibuya was developed as modern westernized town with electric street lights and everything. These days it is hard to believe that Dogenzaka was ever anything else than highly developed commercial district, but in fact there is a short row of five buildings that are almost 90 years old and survived several earthquakes and a World War. I will save that story for a later blog post though. There are a few interesting photos on this site of old historical Dogenzaka.
I was suprised to read that 758 people are officially registered as living in Dougenzaka, I think quite a good percentage of them joined in the Shibuya festival and helped carry their omikoshi, men, women and quite a lot of kids! They did a great job stopping the traffic while the omikoshi slowly passed.
Someday I would love to talk to someone who was born and lived all their life in Dogenzaka. They must have some incredible stories to tell!