Some days you think, 'Honestly, could Japan be any more pop?' The nonsensical clothing, the plastic food, the bizarrely complicated home exercise machines... It can't all just be gloss and consumerism and polite bowing. It makes you want to poke at it with a stick. A pointy Guitar Wolf shaped stick.
Guitar Wolf: 'Japan Greatest "JET" Rock 'N Roll Band'. And no, that's not a typo. A band so hip they sell their own brand of jeans. A band that references Joan Jett in every song. A band whose music makes the cat claw the furniture. I remember my friend Martin returning from a Guitar Wolf concert during my time in Tsuyama, slightly dazed and full of warning. "It's good you didn't come, Katie; that crowd was rough." He spoke at some length of fistfights and physical fear. Intriguing. Buying tickets through the local convenience store, the sales clerk was appropriately impressed. Hopes of seeing bare-knuckled rock 'n roll-induced scrimmages were raised to near impossible levels. Beneath the surface, you just know Japan is a seething mass of explosive emotion, and Vanessa and I were aiming to be in the blast zone. I was anticipating blood, and a lot of it, too.
We arrived fashionably late, ready to experience Japan's hard-edged social fringe. The venue was a dark and seedy bowling alley basement. So far so good. After my eyes had adjusted to the dim light, I scanned the room looking for potential fistfight participants. The crowd was at least a third gaijin. It's always a bit strange encountering other foreigners in Japan -- like showing up at a party only to discover that someone else is wearing the same dress as you. You go into a weird tapdance in the attempt to simultaneously acknowledge and ignore each other. The gaijin stood primarily on the periphery, looking self-consciously cool. Up on the stage, the opening band was using two giggling coeds dressed in nurses' outfits as props. As they took off their underwear and threw them into the crowd (Headline: 'American Diplomats Attend Concert Stripshow'), Vanessa and I thought perhaps we should use the time to redeem our 500 yen drink tickets.
"I didn't know Guitar Wolf was so popular with the under six set." Vanessa gestured with her beer to direct my gaze. At a table next to the bar were placidly seated three little girls, one of them wearing pigtails and a pink Hello Kitty backpack. They seemed to be in attendance with their grandparents... This was my first hint that, despite the fact that the semi-naked go-go girls -- now changed into high school outfits -- were currently faux-wrestling atop the amp, the crowd was never going to achieve a higher level of angry frenzy than a really robust mosh pit. When the second band came on, the grandparents led their three charges past us toward the edge of the stage. People accepted this unblinkingly.
"Vanessa, where are the flying teeth and manga-esque volleys of guttural Japanese call-outs?" I was disappointed in the extreme. She tried to put a good face on things for me. "Don't be fooled; those toddlers are as tough as nails." Eventually the appearance of Guitar Wolf got some decent crowd surfing going, but we never did see any fighting. One of the mosh pit participants hadn't even bothered to take off his tie.
The next day I woke up stinking of cigarettes and beer, which I think was very good preparation for my scheduled jaunt as the compound's Easter Bunny. Popping my rabbit-y head into the entry way of the apartment where the kids were hunting eggs caused one young girl to release a full-lunged scream far out of proportion to the size of her body. Contrasted with the calm of the Guitar Wolf concert children, it was quite shocking; through the mesh eyes of the mask I could just make out the round pink circle of her open bellowing mouth. Classic. More so on Monday morning when my own encounter with that same rabbit head elicited a slight shriek from me. The costume had gotten soaked in the rain, and I'd forgotten that I'd hung it in the bath to dry. Pulling back the shower curtain to reveal a tall white rabbit is more effective than coffee in getting the heart going in the morning. For a brief moment, I thought I was being visited by a pooka. Briefly, only briefly...