Too Cool for School

November 8, 2006 at 2:18 am (Uncategorized)

We stopped in Tokyo for three days on the way back to Sydney, and I feel pretty certain now that the young inhabitants of Tokyo are the coolest cats on the planet. What a load of funksters. I’d never been before, but have always wanted to go, and it is one of those cities, like New York, that is EXACTLY the city of your imagination. It feels familiar in that surreal way that New York does – you kind of know it on some psychic level, and it’s not just because of Lost in Translation (although clearly it doesn’t hurt to retrace Bill Murray’s steps in any context, because he’s a goddamn legend).

Italians are a stylish lot, yes, and like the Japanese they are obsessed with big ticket brands like Armani and Louis Vuitton and Prada, but to be frank there’s a kind of homogeneity to Italian style that means whilst everyone’s pretty well dressed, no one dresses like an individual. They all dress like Italians. The young guns of Tokyo, on the other hand, effortlessly manage to combine being stylish with being individual. They’re a little kooky, like the girl wearing jeans cut off at the thigh and then rejoined at the knee by suspenders, but they’re highly original and gorgeous enough to get away with just about anything. Cool cats. I was absolutely riveted by them.

The other thing that really distinguishes the Tokyo kids from, say, the Romans, is the total lack of ‘tude. They’re so sweet, so edible cute, so genuinely delightful and helpful and glad to see you, that I just want what they’re having. Roman women, on the other hand, are vipers. People whose job it is to sell clothing evidently think the job is well beneath them – I nearly slapped a girl across her smug little cat’s-bum face in the Zara store on Via Del Corso – she radiated hostility, and kept ignoring me and turning her back on me and scowling at me, and after a couple of days of it around the city, I was ready for my convincing impersonation of Michael Douglas in Falling Down. Give me my firearm. She was only going to get what was coming to her, I reasoned. If I could just smack her fair across the room, maybe she’d be nicer to the next customer. Or hospitalised. Either would be good. And she wasn’t the only one. For the record, I was not some loudmouth barging my way around the store rolling my r’s and shouting “Ted! TED! Hey, Ted, if that don’t beat all, they even got McDonald’s here!!”. No, I tried my hardest to speak the language, and I was practically apologetic about wanting to try something on. Oh yes, that’s the other thing. They love sneering at you and insisting that you need a size much bigger than anything they would ever consider making. They look you up and down and say in a slow voice apparently reserved for morbidly fat morons, “Oh no, this one smaaaall. Much, much smaller than you. You need much bigger size. We don’t have.” I actually stopped buying clothes because I just couldn’t stand the humiliation of their derisive appraisals any longer. I started buying hats and bags instead.

In Tokyo, where the women really ARE miniscule (sorry, but some of those Roman chicks just have serious tickets on themselves. Get over yourselves, mean girls), there’s just none of the attitude. They look at you like they’d like to help save your life, not like they want you to die. Oh, and they’re 24 hour party people. Unlike the Italians. We met a Spanish girl in Siena who said “I feel sorry for the Italians. They don’t know how to party.” I don’t know what it is. I expected them to be night owls like the Spaniards, but they’re not. They’re actually pretty conservative on the night life front. And then you get to Tokyo, and it makes Sydney look like a quaint retirement home. We caught a cab at 5am on Saturday morning to go and catch the tuna auctions at the fish markets, and the number of incredibly glamorous, funky little Tokyo cats gliding through their Bladerunner city on the way home was yet another indication that these guys seriously know how to live. Their food, their aesthetic, their vinyl collections, their style, their town. Now, how do I get to go and live THERE for a couple of years? Llewie and I want to know.

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