It feels a bit like cheating on Bangkok to start talking about another place while the chill London air still lingers on my skin. But rarely have I been as excited for a trip as I am for Japan. Sushi, Murakami, Studio Ghibli (to name a mere sprinkling of magical things) originated in this place. In certain times and places trees are pregnant with cherry blossom, eagles fill the skies, macaques bathe in hot pools. It’s got to be a treat, right?
We’ve arrived in Thailand at a time when there’s a furious forging of connections with Japan underway, trade deals and railway links are all under discussion as Japan looks to tap into Thailand’s business potential.
So I wasn’t particularly surprised to see a Japan Expo advertised in one of the biggest malls in town. Just prepared to immerse myself in Japenese-ness for a day. I anticipated it all being weird but fun.
Stick man blues
Arriving at CentralWorld, things felt pretty normal at first. People, shopping bags, vague sense of consumer anticipation and guilt.
But we became aware that, unless fashion had taken a pretty psychedelic turn in the past 12 hours, there were some fiercely unusual clothing choices in town. Tucking into ice cream in the booth beside ours was a troop of cackling girls wearing pink beehives, frilly dresses and veils. Buying Savlon in Boots was a man in an electric blue wig and a robot outfit.
I felt like a stick man drawn onto a page and glued onto a canvas filled with glitter and colour and swirly things.
I had to hand it to Bangkok for managing to feel even more alien than it already did.
A thousand words
There really isn’t much I can say about the Expo. It’s all in the pictures. So a little visual feast for you is to follow.
Just to preface the video below though, to see if you think I’m being unduly bamboozled by it.
There were Japanese girl bands, equivalent to, say, Atomic Kitten, springing up on stages throughout the mall. The audiences were predominantly men in their late twenties/early thirties. I would put this down to voyeurism, if they didn’t know the words to every single song, and seem to be enraptured by the chipmunk-esque music. I am trying to picture the men I know in their late twenties/early thirties reacting the same way to Atomic Kitten but I just can’t do it.
Except perhaps Phil (haha, sorry Phil but I know you’ll forgive me).
I’m looking forward to meeting you in person, Japan!