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so un-hip

August 29, 2010

What did I learn this weekend?

I learnt I don’t like crowded places (although I can tolerate them for a while) and I am not of the “hipster” generation. In fact, I would say, I’m definitely not even close to the “hipster” crowd. I think a more accurate representation of my 20s would have been grunge-hippie-moosewood-vegetarian. Maybe the only thing I have in common with the hipster is the turned up jean leg (which I consider practical for the rain and snow) and an occasional purchase at American Apparel.

Perhaps you are wondering why it is I come to consider my relationship to hipsters while in the very low hipster populated Tokyo. Of course here there are the occasional Tokyo-hipsters, but mostly I feel alienated from the male eyebrow plucking generation and the girls in floral pant suits this year. Well Saturday night my lovely roommate was really friendly and invited me out with her friends to see the Awa Odori in Koenji–where hipsters and crowds met in one brilliant flash of discomfort. My roommate is awesome, I think very highly of her. Her first degree of friends were great too, but her friends’ friends began to cause goosebumps up my spine. To be fair, they are for the most part lovely people and completely appropriate for their average 22 year old ages. But as much as I often joke that I have been in my 20s for nearly 2 decades, I felt positively distant from 20 on Saturday night, but don’t worry, I was fine with that.

And to be fair, I have never in my life used hipster in a derogatory way, well at least not until Saturday when, after getting separated from the roommate and her more direct friends in the hellish crowds of the festival, I was left with ONLY the hipsters. When one uber-hipster of the group finished his beer and threw his plastic cup into the street, I backed myself into the crowd and disappeared too–I had had enough of the crowds anyway. I’m sure the volunteers who were doing garbage control were thrilled to have the honour to stoop down and pick up the refuse from this towering hipster-english teacher who had granted Japan with his presence.

In true bike-girl fashion, my bike was stowed down a back alley and I was able to make a swift getaway, at least from the hipsters, if not from the crowds. The crowds were so dense for such a distance that I only rarely and briefly caught glimpses of the dancers in Japan’s second biggest annual dance festival.

I could hear the drumming, and enjoyed some street food though, so I had the atmosphere down, and that’s, in my opinion, most of the reason one goes to festivals anyway.

(sour peach in sugar taffy)

I had to ride a wide, wide circle around the Koenji area to get home, and me legs were still aching from getting lost last Thursday on my way home from Taiko (long boring story about me being geographically inept). I had worn geta to the Koeji dance festival and before you shout “POSER,” I agree, wearing geta is kinda poser-ish. But here’s the thing, they are incredibly comfortable in the heat because the wooden soles don’t get sticky. Plus, virtually all my other shoes are giving me blisters (brutal reality, 35+ weather and your feet swell), so there I was, being a poser amongst hipsters. But what I learnt on the way home was that geta are thick enough (close to 2 inches) that when on a bike, it messes up what I’m assuming is called the “geometry.”  The extra length means you never fully extend your leg on the down swing and meant that pretty soon my calves were cramping. I considered stopping and raising the seat, but instead went with just taking off the right, most painful, shoe and throwing it in my basket.

I think I’m learning a new kind of personal integrity in which I am open to all kinds of things, but also know when it’s not the right fit for me. I’m really committed to not turning down opportunities while here, to learn new things, to go new places and to meet new people. But I’m also old enough to not hang around somewhere that’s not quite right when there is a perfectly comfortable sofa waiting at home, and a lovely late night bike ride in between. Besides, I don’t need to come to Japan to meet hipsters, there are plenty of them at home.

Oh, and I forgot. On the way to the festival I stopped in at the Koenji Arrow bike store. I also looked around the festival before the arrival of the skinny-greasy-large-sunglass-wearing crowd, and Koenji is pretty cool. Before the dancing started, there were little performances on the street corners: juggling, umbrella trick, jazz bands.

And absolutely loads of street food and sidewalk restaurants. Little stores tucked away in corners with strange mixes of retro appliances or knick-knacks. I need to go back and explore on a weekday when no one is about.

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