Javantea in Japan
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What is it Like? or Coolhunter Javantea
by Joel R. Voss aka. Javantea
E-mail Addresses
April 12, 2006 21:59 JST
[permanent link]

Tokyo is cool. What is cool? To explain it in simple terms, the word cool means that it has qualities which are good and appealing to young people.

First, a clarification on the idea of going to Japan and the coolness factor. Asking the question "What is it like?", I feel much like Cartman asking his friends "I saw the Terrance and Phillip movie, who wants to touch me?" Going to Japan is a very cool experience, but certainly the first thing that comes to mind is the coolness factor. If you go to Japan, you are known as the cool jet set guy. In fact, I have taken the nickname Jet Set Javantea for when I am not in my hometown of Seattle. This is one great big step up from my previous nickname "Jav on the Run". If you're going to Japan just so that you can say how cool it is, you might be wasting your dough. But that's fine by me. I am specifically interested in finding cool and basking in the coolness. I am William Gibson's most recent book's protagonist, coolhunter CayceP.
Rainy Night in Shinjuku

I want to delve into the why of the coolness factor of Japan, specifically Tokyo. It could be the culture, the fashion, the architecture, the infrastructure, or many other things. Certainly, I won't be talking about uncoolness in Japan.

Tokyo has a very interesting culture. From Akihabara to Shinjuku (core downtown), there is a very 9-5 working culture. Students are a minority in the crowds of downtown. After school hours (which vary due to activities) in the outer cities (Asakusa is one), you see students walking home or to somewhere. Akihabara has a vivid video gaming culture after 5 pm. Many students can be found there after dark. Asakusa seems to have a festival culture surrounding it's very large temple (Sensoji). Each of the popular inner core neighborhoods have a very active night life (which I plan to explore more later on). I have my doubt that culture has anything to do with coolness, but certainly video gaming is a very cool part of Tokyo.

The dress of Tokyo is quite interesting to me. When I first saw the dense forest of black suits, I was a bit embarassed walking around in my casual clothes. My fellow passengers on the plane were better dressed than me, but I expected that it was because they were the type that had $600+ for a flight. Looking back, the people on the plane were dressed fairly casually compared to most people in Tokyo. Students all wear uniforms which are suits and skirts. When I think about it, I like suits and skirts over khakis and polo shirts anyday. But I'm a collarless guy. I can't survive very long with a tie even. Even the counter-culture in Tokyo is dressed more stylish than I am. The women who are fashionable and not wearing suits in Tokyo are obviously terrifically skilled. Perhaps it's just my lack of fashion, but I feel that the fashion of Tokyo is very cool.
Rainy Night in Harajuku, unfashionable

Tokyo is extremely dense in population. But even for a developed city, it has a high quality of life. The two seem to not work together as a rule, but Tokyo is an exception. My initial observation from ground level here is that the height of the buildings has something to do with the high quality of life. It may not be that having tall buildings is useful, but the extra space that tall buildings affords makes for higher quality of life. Taller buildings might be more expensive, but I would say that it is likely that they are much more efficient. While the cost might be high for much needed space, no city can outprice itself without solving it's own problem. I'd like to compare lowest and average prices for apartments in Seattle vs. Tokyo because it seems like they might be comparable. I am a big fan of tall buildings, so I have to say that being around a city that is mostly over six stories is very sweet.
Asakusa View Hotel

Women Only Sign at Subway in Tsukuji
The trains and parks of Tokyo make up the best infrastructure that I have seen for a city (although I'm a novice at tourism). While it is terrifically confusing when looking at the map, it is quite easy to take the subway anywhere in Tokyo. They have competing railways that ensure low prices and high quality. The trains are pristene in a way that most houses are not. The parks are absolutely outstanding. Asakusa's temple is out of this world with a koi pond, shrines, and statues that make it a tourist destination every day of the week. Ueno park is also a sweet place to visit whether it's sakura are blooming or not.
Moat and Imperial Gardens

The countless consumer shops from fashion, video games, manga, etc could be the actual coolness of Tokyo. Considering that manga is available only in a few places in the US, this is a worthy item. For example, one goal for my trip was to get a copy of Ultra Jump which to my knowledge is completely unavailable in the US. I was able to grab a copy at GAMERS in Akihabara for 550 yen. Goal completed. I accidentally stumbled upon a bookstore that sells hentai and found an excellent hentai graphic novel that cannot be found in the US. Even though it wasn't a goal, it's quite cool. The massive amounts of video game, hobby gaming, and other stuff makes Tokyo a very awesome place.
Manga at a Bookstore in Jimbocho

格好いい [かっこういい] /(io) (adj-na) attractive/good-looking/stylish/"cool"/
格 [かく] /(n,n-suf) status/character/case/(P)/
好い [よい] /(iK) (adj) good/

Kakkouii is used often in anime by young people, so it is usable even though the translation of the kanji that make it up don't seem quite right.

If you want, click the link below to get this same front page with the Rising Sun logo at the top.
Rising Sun Sakura

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