Written by

Andrew Millar


September 25, 2009

We are back in Japan. And I’m here to work for myself for a change.

Last time we ‘turned Japanese’ I wrote a number of articles that I turned into a book, albeit a book with one copy as a first edition… but a proper book with a hard cover, none the less. And people liked it and I enjoyed writing it, so we are back here to fill in the gaps.

At first I worried that I couldn’t find inspiration… I wondered if the words would flow… and I wondered if I had simply done all I could here and that from now on I would just be repreating myself… and I panicked for about 5 minutes…

And then I walked into the cosmetics floor of Tokyu Hands in Shinjuku. And the flood gates opened and the ideas began to flow. There is so much here that is different to like in Australia. Some quite radically different. And others just a millimetre shift. But all of it sharply contrasts my life and challenges my ideas.

Two notions caused this dam wall to break… The first idea was that I needed some kind of goal for this holiday… because every crusader needs a quest…

Mine, of course is not as noble as to seek the Holy Grail. There is no comparison. The idea that came to me upon seeing the tooth brush isle was to seek something equally steeped in legend and fable… I seek a packet of Hello Kitty Condoms!

The Hello Kitty brand has been around for ages and began as a cutesy trinket and clothing brand for 6 to 9 year old girls. I would not have a clue how successful it has been in terms of profit, but if survival is a measure, it must be up there with stellar brands like Toyota, Sanyo and Nikon. Their secret is, that unlike Barbie, Dick Bruner or Snoopy, Hello Kitty has grown along with the little girls it was aiming at. You can buy Hello Kitty in adult sizes. And in the tooth brush isle you could see a range to brushes designed for milk teeth through to dentures. And you can buy Hello Kitty office stationary sets. Fender released a Hello Kitty version of the famous Stratocaster guitar… though neither of these were available on the Pharmacy floor. Hello Kitty even sponsored a bout at the Sumo.

And I’ve heard they have also released Hello Kitty prophylactics…

But my search in Tokyu Hands was fruitless. All I found in here was an entire isle devoted to eyebrows. The young girls of Japan might be the new Ninja class – the stealth fighters of the future who will eventually rule – but they will not do it in black overalls and with hidden faces. ‘Looks’ are their weppon of choice… But for some, it has turned to pure vanity… I once watched two young girls on the rear deck of a Sydney Ferry pose and take photos of themselves for over 30 minutes. They would check each image and delete any immediately that were not quite right or had a hair out of place. They had even brought a bag of accessories and props to work with… scarves, hats, a couple of different coloured umbrellas. It was a very public showing of vain addoration. And then there was the woman who shared the planes with us from Singapore to Narita. Before we had left the ground she had begun a strange beauty ritual that ended in here entire face being covered in tissues. Next morning in the customs queue we all looked baggy and weary. Her skin looked so tight she had a kind of startled rabbit appearance. I’ll swear I never saw her blink. Even when we sat for a glass of juice in Harajuku a girl opposite sat adjusting her make up for over 30 minutes…

And so the quest begins…