Strange Japan

Japan is a hotbed for the weird, wacky, and wonderful; with a population of 120 million packed onto little usable land, weirdness is often the only way.

This page runs the gamut of kooky Japanese content; from bizarre cosplayers, weird snacks and drinks, ancient traditional culture, and funky toys and games, to curious Japangrish, the system of Heaven Artists, wonky signs, crazy architecture, and walking guides to Tokyo and the surrounding areas.
Orange Injection Candy
Hackman Gachapon
Drugs designed for kids often taste like candy. Now one Japanese candy company has picked up on this trend, turned the tables, and started marketing candy as a drug. You can buy odd things in a Gachapon. Perhaps attention too often goes to the wadded-up knicker-vending machines and not often enough to those cute little machines sitting so innocently right at your kids’ eye level
Sexy Coca-Cola
Bread Vending Machine
It’s not often this site gets sexy, but here I’ll make the exception. Here though we?ll get explicit. If you’re a minor, avert your gaze, as we dive into the world of sexy coca-cola. You can buy a lot of things out of vending machines in Japan: plastic toys, hot drinks, hot soup, cooked food, oxygen canisters, manga, beer, and now also bread.
Kid’s Beer
Tomato Jello
I’ve always said more things should have beer in them. Beer is after all one of the 5 food groups, along with rye, barley, gin, and malt liquor. Tomatoes are the great pretenders; spies who ply both sides of the aisle like double-edged moles in a John le Carre novel. One day they?re cropping up as vegetables, the next as fruit.
Pepsi Mont Blanc
Girls Generation Cheetos
Mont Blanc is an Italian dessert of whipped cream and chestnuts on a meringue cake or tart. Pepsi made a drink out of it. Girls Generation is a big news 9-member pop group from South Korea. They are currently breaking into Japan and other Asian countries in a major way.
Sarah Jessica Parker Coke
Ikebukuro Jingle Key-Chain

An SJP a day keeps the doctor awayhttp://www.michaeljohngrist.com

They love Sarah Jessica Parker in Japan. When Sex and the City came out in Tokyo the city was fire-stormed with advertising. Train Stations in Japan have jingles; at least the stations on the JR Yamanote line do- when the trains pull in and when they pull out. They’re bright, cheery, and last about 10 seconds
Coppertone Bikini Girls
The ‘other’ Colonel Sanders
Coppertone have gone nuts recently in Shibuya station, plastering at least the Yamanote line north-bound platform with pictures of bikini-clad women (and little girls) with a dog biting their butts. His name is Koichi Sanders. He and the Colonel were divided at birth, despite not sharing a common mother nor being born in the same country or year.
Namie Amuro, Double
Japanese Space Food
In mid 2008 recording artists Namie Amuro and Double got together to shoot a music video- Black Diamond, and I was one of the extras on the shoot. This is the story of my experience. You’re in space. The trip up took 8 hours- most of which involved you sitting sideways strapped into a second-hand shuttle waiting for air traffic control.
Star Wars cosplayers at M. Messe
Kei the DIY cosplayer
Makuhari Messe is one heck of a ginormous exposition facility, big enough to accomodate the Millennium Falcon, Jabba the Hutt, numerous Darth Vaders AND Han Solo’s ego all at once. Kei is a funky if kind of mad old guy I met one night on a random photo-walk through Shinjuku’s skyscraper district (West). I was on the bridge shooting pretty city lights and so was he.
Anime cosplayers at Big Sight
Akihabara Maids
Once a year Anime fans from all over the world descend on Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba for the huge Tokyo International Anime Fair, filled out with cosplayers garbed as their favourite cartoon characters. In Akihabara electric town, a district a bit north of Tokyo and jam-packed with a riot of tech-shops selling all manner of computer gear and accessories, the Akihabara maids roam.
Yoyogi Rockabillies
Harajuku Cosplayers
The Yoyogi Rockabillies bring back the 50’s, with sunglasses and gravity-defying quiffs, leather jackets and gyrating hips. Crank up the tunes, it’s on! The Harajuku Cosplayers are all about self-exhibition; dressed in the threads and make-up of their favorite manga characters and bizarre goth-lolita bands.
Hollywood Ads in Japan
Superior Japanese Knives
Hollywood actors often do ads in Japan that they would never do back in the US, probably because that kind of ‘selling out’ in America is more likely to negatively impact their status than it would here. Sometimes you just have to know where the knives be at. Sometimes you’ll be cooking a goose, and need to trim that darn bird. Other times you need to sew your pants up and you need a darn knife to cut a thread.
Melon Cream Soda
Soy Sauce Soda
Sometimes you just need a melon.Here is an example of a time you might need a melon:

You’re hungry, and thirsty, and want to eat a melon.

Soy Sauce is ubiquitous in Japan- the Japanese splash it on everything with gay abandon: fried fish, chicken bones, california rolls, potatoes, ice cream, tea.
Fire Huge Employees
Eat my House
The company fired huge employees. Every day I eat my house for lunch.
Ladies for ladies, Bears for men
The Naked Doctor
naked doctor1
On toilet doors you sometimes see fancy graphics, stylized versions of the little dude and chick that tell us which little room to go in to do our business. The Japanese health system caters to each and every sub-section of society; Akihabara maids, cos-players, otakus, and the naked.
Please do it at the beach
FourLegsMAN Mime

I’m glad as it’s about time- the number of people I’ve seen hemi-sliced like bacon rashers by those executioner-style train doors is more than I care to think about. FourLegsMAN is the creation of Heaven Artist Chikurino, a delightful fusion of creepy black-clad stalker, entrancing four-legged mime and hilariously shocking legs akimbo flasher.
Bicycle drummer Masahiro
Dj-ing live artist Yukinko
Masahiro Tatematsu is another heaven artist like Yukinko Akira, regularly putting out a unique and innovative street-entertainment product that had to pass multiple auditions to get through. He is a self-styled bicycle percussionist. Yukinko Akira is a funky beats-master artist, skinny and frantic and one heck of a showman. He performs regularly at the fountains in Yoyogi Park, his own unique brand of frenetic dance moves, dance beat remixes, and exhilarating yawps.
Destmoon vs. Obama
Beer and Bean Pretz

Battle cards hold a special place in the hearts of all Japanese- from childhood they are accustomed to trapping the spirits of nature in little plastic balls (Pokemon, Dragonballz) and unleashing their fury upon each other Beer and beans go hand in hand in Japan. In bean season (spring) you can’t go to an izakaya (bar/restaurant) without having eidamame (spring beans) thrust upon you.
Kiwi Pocky
Beer Drops
Pocky have been coming in a wild and weird range of souped-up flavors for decades- I myself have witnessed creme brulee, deep-sea tuna, etc… As we all know- sometimes liquid beer just doesn’t cut it. Sometimes you have a thirst so deep and true that only a solid will really cut to the chase.
Hello Kitty Mineral Water
Dissidia Potions
Yum yum yum, who wouldn’t pay 400 yen for a sexy bottle of water? Wait, I forgot- a sexy/kawaii (cute!) bottle of Hello Kitty water? Dissidia is the latest mano-a-mano fighting game in the Final Fantasy continuum, to be released by Square Enix on December 18th. It sounds totally cool.
Pepsi Yoghurt
Blue Hawaiian Pepsi

For the past week everybody has been blogging about Pepsi White, Pepsi’s new Yoghurt flavored Pepsi drink. This snack-cocktail should be aided by the fact that Blue Hawaii actually IS a cocktail, or takes the name of a cocktail. Pepsi, I salute you.
Vegetable Alcohol
Triple Berry Kit Kat
Japan-based companies Asahi (the brewer) and Kagome (the fruit and veg juicer) have teamed up to present us with a new product: a range of fruit and vegetable sake cocktails. Kit Kat in Japan exemplify the gad-fly product life-cycle model that rules the confectionery business here, in that they constantly release colorful new but short-lived product variants.
Gundam Statue
Gundam Art Building

A Gundam robot statue stands in front of a local Tokyo train station, to commemorate the nearby Gundam offices. The Gundam building in Shibuya rests on its axled haunches like the ultimate guard-dog, anxiously awaiting the day it will be called into service to protect its city.
The Asahi Flame Building
Tokyo Big Sight
The Asahi ‘Flame’ building on the Asakusa banks of the Sumida river is infamous in Tokyo for its eponymous ‘flame’, a huge golden piece of art juxtaposed atop the obelisk-like black building Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba is one of the biggest exhibition spaces in Tokyo, featuring two huge halls East and West plus several conference rooms and a 1,100 seater auditorium in the main building
Edo-Tokyo Doggy Museum
13 views of Fuji Terebi
The Edo-Tokyo Museum in Ryogoku is an ugly dog-shaped museum of of Tokyo’s history. Why is it shaped like a dog? Hmm Fuji Terebi (Fuji TV) sits on a partially artificial island in Tokyo Bay called Odaiba, named after a network of defensive cannon-islands that were built across the Bay in 1853.
10 Ginza Office Blocks
10 Ginza Stores
ginza office fronts  - 05
Ginza is the core of Tokyo’s brain, a nerve center firing off directional impulses telling people what to wear, how to look, what to buy, and who to be. Ginza is the heart of Japan’s fashion and commerce, a labyrinthine grid of broad and narrow streets bristling with corporate headquarters, flagship stores, and chic designer boutiques.
Ikebukuro’s Catman
Kimono 2016-ers
Worse than a monkey on the loose in Shibuya station is Catman on the loose with his bag of cats. Catman wanders the station’s underground aisles dropping kittens on various statues wherever he goes. Every year on the playground of a primary school in Nihombashi hordes of kimono-wearing ladies gather for a kimono festival photo-shoot, bunching up tight and staring up to the sky with a fist raised in the classic ‘ganbarimasu!’
Kasai Rinkai Power Kiters
Shibuya Walkers
At the edge of Kasai Rinkai park off Tokyo Bay there’s a narrow sliver of sand-bar land perfect for kiting. Stunt kites soar and rip through the air like carbon-fibre assassins. Hachiko Crossing in Shibuya is the Times Square of Tokyo- big streets intersecting, hordes milling and meeting and crossing, massive LCD screens flanking the sidewalk and up and down the nearby buildings.
Yoyogi Poodlers
Ryogoku Sumo
Yoyogi Park is the consummate Japanese melting pot- perhaps the most varied and vivid spot in the whole country. On any given weekend you’ll find Cosplayers and Rockabillies near the entrance Sumo is the traditional Japanese sport, beloved of retirees and tourists alike. On any tournament day at the Kokugikan in Ryogoku you can see them lining up for tickets at the single ticket box.
Barry Eisler (author of John Rain)
Shimoda Beachites
Barry Eisler is the author of the world-wide bestselling John Rain hit-man series, now 6 books in total, translated into 20 languages, winner of multiple awards and plaudits. Shimoda has some of the most beautiful and pristine yellow-sand blue-ocean beaches in all of Japan. Commodore Perry certainly picked a choice spot to roll up at in his black ships
Hiratsuka Beach Skimboarders
Kugenuma Beach Hole-Diggers
Skimboarding is a lesser-known cousin to surfing, though quite different in the approach. Where surfers go from the sea to the beach under the sea’s power, skimmers go from the beach to the sea under their own power. I’m something of a life-long addict when it comes to digging holes at the beach. I’ve been digging holes since I was a kid alongside my Dad, fending off the sea, arming sea-shell soldiers along a sand-fort battlement, willing the walls to hold and the moat to stay fast.
Meiji Jingu Newly-Weds
Showa Kinen Disc Golfers
Last month my buddy Canadian Mike had his wedding ceremony. It was held in Meiji Jingu- the huge central shrine in Harajuku right next to Yoyogi Park- and I went along to check it out. Here are some of the highlights. Hidden away in the massive bulk of Showa Kinen Park in Tachikawa lies the best dosc golf course in all of Japan; 18 holes of longish straightaways, doglegs round hills and trees, paths cut through bamboo forests, and leaps over water.
Waseda Clocktower
Shimbashi Ice-Walkers
?Waseda University, also affectionately known as ‘So-dai’, is one of the top private universities in Japan. Built in 1882, it has since serviced up such cultural and historical giants as the writer Haruki Murakami. Two suited older foreigners, a guy and a woman, were unloading big blocks of ice from white polystyrene crates outside the JR exit, then tying them up with string. I figured it was some kind of art thing.
Yurakucho International Forum
Kabuki-za, Kyobashi
A big whale-like conference center. The Kabuki-za is a fancy-pants theater in Ginza for the screening of Kabuki- a highly stylized and traditional (read ‘boring to most people’) form of storied stage performance.
Shizuoka Shimbun Building
The headquarters of the Shizuoka newspaper in Shimbashi, Tokyo, is another Kenzo Tange building- he of Fuji Terebi and the Tocho.

The National Art Center

DoCoMo Tower

The National Art Center in Roppongi is a funky-chic blend of high-tech glass panelling with a utilitarian ethos that denies the standard limitations of space. The Docomo Tower in Shinjuku soars over the Southern exit / Yoyogi area like a great pink middle finger, thumbing its nose at the graceless cluster-bomb mess of old-modern Shinjuku.

Comments 1

  1. Interesting to see your Fuchu AS photos. I was stationed there for four years from 1959 to 1963 when it was pretty active and headquarters for 5th Air Force. The strip outside the base was a wild place during that time. There was even a murder. At first they thought it was some military personnel, but eventually they found out it had something to do with the Tokyo Yakuza. She was a runaway and she knew too much, and they found where she was hiding. That was the eventual story I heard. But until they solved it, all the personnel on the base were under a magnifying glass. Interesting times. Before that I was stationed in Korea for a year Japan was like being in Paradise.
    I still maintain contact almost daily with two other guys who were stationed at Fuchu in the late 1950’s.
    Currently I’m interested in the Philippines and will be visiting it again next month.

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