Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The valley

It is often observed that women in Japan show more leg than any other body part. I would have to agree and even say that I always feel a bit scandalized when I see a woman showing cleavage here, something that you can find in abundance in North America. When I returned to Vancouver after my year at university here in Tokyo, it was summertime and I was shocked and horrified to find midriffs being flashed everywhere. Not to mention women wearing swimwear around town like the concrete was in fact sand. Who are these barbarians, I wondered. And don't even get me started on the dirty hippies of Commercial Drive. After living in cosmopolitan Tokyo where, I would still have to argue, the fashion isn't all that great, I became accustomed to seeing people more put together. We are not talking unrivalled fabulousness, but at least it seemed that people tend to dress up more here. I don't even like wearing flip flops in Tokyo in the summer as it's not really done by the locals and let's be honest, it's kind of a bum look.

I realize that laid back Vancouver is not a great comparison fashion-wise as we think wearing expensive yoga wear around town is hot. But even so, it was eye-opening for my 20-year old self to realize how living here had shaped my take on how people present themselves.

I don't post much non Japan-related content but you should know I love fashion. I spend a lot of money on clothing and a lot of time shopping online. Tokyo is said by many a snobby accent to be uber fashionable with out of this world fashion, but I really don't see it. I see quite a few women on the street whose fashion sense I admire, but there are even more whose ensembles causes me to wonder whether they got dressed quickly and in the dark. Shopping wise, there seems to be a huge range of clothing on the far ends of the spectrum, but not much in the way of mid to high end clothes. Then there is the tendency to carry only one size fits all and while many women here are small, they are certainly not all built the same. When I go to department stores here, it seems like the stock hasn't changed from when I used to shop here as a student five years ago. Look at the magazines here. The Japanese Elle and Vogue seem to feature up-to-date fashion on par with Europe and North America but look at the Japanese publications, and you will find a whole lot of the same. Why does Japan, home to innovative architecture and textiles, and great designers like Issey Miyake, seem so fashion-stagnant? Tokyoites are unquestionably more put together but as I've said before, just because a woman is wearing heels and a skirt it doesn't guarantee that she looks good.

The whole point of this was to tell you about how my cleavage is being oppressed so let's move on to that shall we and I'll leave the philosophizing for another time. Remember our bartender friend in Roppongi who asked for sex advice and broke up with his girlfriend (did I mention that?)? Well his relationship with my sometimes exposed décolletage has gone from bad to worse. I don't tend to flash my chest around much anymore just for the sake of it. If something I'm wearing allows for it fine, but the whole got-it-flaunt it thing doesn't mean breasts on display 24/7 now does it. In the last couple years I'd like to think I've evolved past thinking the only way to be sexy is to show some flesh. That's not even the half of it though. If you so much as give men a peep here you will be barraged with sukebe looks. Not appreciating eyes or stolen glances that you can pretend to ignore, but full on nasty hunger-in-their-eyes stares that make me wonder whether they've ever had a flick through the "idol" magazines at their local Family Mart. I don't need to provide something to look at during my commute to work to totally undeserving salarymen, so I don't.

When I go out after dark sometimes it's a different story. Said bartender (and his girlfriend for that matter) started out as very appreciative and in awe of my chest. This changed one night in May when we were all out at Sheesha Bar and I was wearing a dress with a bit of a plunging neckline and feeling really good about myself. Bartender started fucking with my vibe by trying to cover me up with the wrap I had brought along. We were all drinking merrily so I tried to make a joke about it, saying "They're big - sho ga nai" but he did it a couple more times (the Cowgirl can attest to this). I decided to just ignore it, I mean the guy was drunk and acting like an annoying child. This all came to a head a couple weeks ago when, at his bar, he actually asked me to pull my top up a bit more because I was showing too much. In my defense I was wearing a fantastic top that had no plunge but the neckline is heavy with jewels and so tends to get weighed down when I'm not sitting up straight. That really fucked me off and as I whined to the beau he gave me no sympathy whatsoever and said the bartender was just trying to be nice because you know, friends don't let friends show cleavage. God you'd think I was wearing lucite prosti heels or something!

Not one to let it go, I continued to complain about it to the beau the following day, for some reason expecting him to explain to me Just who the fuck the bartender thinks he is and why he thinks it's OK to say that to me and why he doesn't tell girls to pull their skirts down closer to their knees. I'd have more luck plucking out my eyelashes one by one.

In the week following I became resolute and decided to stay away from that bar for a while to keep my blood pressure down. Clearly I'm not one to hold a grudge, as I found myself uncorking a couple bottles of bubbly there this past Sunday night. I'd like to think I know tasteful cleavage but it seems maybe they should just delete the damn word from the Japanese language.


selena said...

Fuck 'em. I've seen enough panty flashes and almost-twat to last me a lifetime. They're just jealous because almost nobody has much tit to speak of.

jaredinnakano said...

I love your use of the slang "valley." Is this a common term?!?

It's certainly a lady's prerogative to display her charms as she wishes. So I would not let the opinions of a few men, even your boyfriend, interfere.

Julie said...

I have no breasts but long, long legs, so this is a good country for me. Haha. But it was so rude of the guy to try to cover you up. You should be enjoying your night out and feeling as sexy as you want to feel. Like Selena said, I've seen more panty flashes than I have ever wanted to see in my life. You should forget them.

I love your blog. It's the most interesting Japan blog out there.

kathrynoh said...

How freaken patronising!

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

selena: Haha, I appreciate your candour. If bartender gives me any more shit I will remember your comment and let him have it, crazy white girl style.

jared: Actually in Japanese they use the word for valley, "tanima", to refer to, well, the valley.

Julie: Thanks! I hope you're working your legs to their potential here - you must get a lot of comments from girls here who want to be taller.

kathrynoh: Ugh I know but I try not to give it too much thought time at the moment as it just pisses me right off.

Corinne said...

I also echo panty flashing comments, the best was when I was at an amusement park and all the girls skirts were up round their necks as they went on the roller coaster.
Maybe you should invest in some sort of gimmicky novelty bra with an inbuilt massive plastic mallet to bash the douchebag on the head ...?

Mary and Sean said...

Regarding the fashion here, I have also noticed that Japanese women are immaculately groomed and accessorized, but I think they copy most of their looks out of magazines. I don't see too many original looking outfits. I also think it's funny how they can dress in different "personas" from one day to the next. Today 80's rocker chick with a side ponytail and tomorrow Alice in Wonderland tights and buckled shoes. Have you ever noticed that?

I live in Okinawa, so the fashion there is much more relaxed and beachy overall.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Corinne: That sounds like a fabulous idea, I will look into it!

Mary and Sean: I agree that they copy a lot out of magazines, which would be OK if their head-to-toe looks were not identical. I just don't see a lot of fashion forward dressing here, which I find a bit surprising. Lucky you in Okinawa, love that place!