“Every f****** day is Halloween every day in Tokyo,” was what blogger and Japanese fashion expert Misha Janette had scrawled out in tape on the back of her fur jacket, which was part of her Halloween costume. That statement might have held more weight ten years ago when you’d regularly see Fruits-esque characters in Harajuku decked out in full-on Lolita/visual-kei/goth ensembles. With every trip to Japan, I notice the diminishment of this Tokyo style stereotype, as the globalisation of trends and proliferation of high street brands, means that you’re more likely to find outfits inspired by Rihanna or Cara Delevigne, with Topshop and Forever 21 worked into the mix. It’s not that madcap idiosyncrasy doesn’t exist in Tokyo anymore – it’s just not perhaps as rampant or as in yer’ face as it once was.
Therefore Halloween felt like an opportunity to see that “Fruits” image of Tokyo resurface, especially as we chose to spend the early part of the night in Kawaii Monster Cafe. Tokyo-addicts will probably have already gotten their fix of this cuteness overload spot. Much like the other high-ranking kitsch-Tokyo experience “Robot Restaurant”, you’re not there to chomp on the food. You’re there to take in a room of zane, created by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu collaborator Sebastian Masuda, featuring Fantasia-esque giant mushrooms, a centrepiece cake merry-go-round and walls festooned with oversized chocolate bars and macaroons. The cafe is staffed by “Monsters” whose outfits are created by Janette. Needless to say I was dying to go and as it turned out, I got to see it in its most extreme state, as on Halloween, it became the perfect place for Tokyo’s remaining hardcore out-there style mavens to gather together.
Halloween in Tokyo is downright mad, regardless of venue though. Considering this was a holiday that was barely observed in Japan until a few years ago, it’s quite amazing how people have taken to it so enthusiastically. Like the neo-punks in Tokyo that out-punk their English predecessors or pizza restaurants that surpass even the best in Naples, of course you can count on the Japanese to take a Western concept and push it to another level. For a start, Halloween isn’t just one day of donning a plastic mask to the pub after work. It’s a week of mayhem where every night, people are dressed up around Shibuya or Harajuku. The costumes vary from cheap go-to ensembles from Don Quijote (I lose hours just looking at crap in this mega store) to elaborate DIY creations, with themes that go way beyond the usual vampires or super heroes.
At Kawaii Monster Cafe though, outfits looked like they needed to come with a press release explaining its concept. I spent most of the time just gawking, mentally taking notes and taking blurry photos because I’d get excited by say, someone dressed up as a cross between Linda Blair in The Exorcist and the Fujiya Milky Candy girl.
My own outfit wasn’t nearly half as elaborate as some of the ones we saw in Monster Kawaii Cafe but by the power of full-on make-up beautifully done by Reiko Hirayama and a pastel wig, hopefully I didn’t let the team down too much. I was going for a sort of geisha meets Spank! (the cult Koenji vintage store selling things themed around My Little Pony pastels) look, with some exaggerated blue anime eyes thrown in for good measure. The kimono was a vintage find from Chicago in Kyoto’s Teramachi street (incidentally, they have the broadest and best selection of vintage kimonos I’ve ever seen in Japan) and chimed in with the pastel walls of the “Mel-Tea” Room in the cafe. I’m not sure if my outfit had any particular “concept” going on but for one night only, it was a riot to at least try and keep up with the Japanese.