Tokyo Damage Report

Santarchy 2006


santa rampage 2006!!! december 23, tokyo.

First, a brief introduction to the concept of the Rampage, or SANTARCHY as it is sometimes known.

It first began around San Francisco about 15 or so years ago, as a comedy-protest against consumerism and the way Xmas is shoved down everyone’s throats starting in Thanksgiving. Santas would get stinking drunk and bum-rush the shoppers. Jail time. All that. Just trying to destroy the Santa brand-name, while at the same time enjoying the city’s finest strip-clubs. It was also a sort of social-engineering experiment, i.e. "Let’s see what we can get away with in costume that we couldn’t get away with in normal clothes. Let’s see how people’s unspoken assumptions about a magical fat man affect their behavior in stress situations."

Should point out i have never been to a santa rampage in the U.S. so take my explanation with a grain of salt.

Anyway, i guess as time went on, it got less violent, got more popular, and now there are Santa Rampages in various major cities across the world.

As usual, we met in Shibuya at high noon. Pretend you are an innocent bystander for a second and, "spot the santas."

If you guessed "the people in red suits who are just a little bit too cheerful for comfort," you were right.

Even in jaded, media-saturated Tokyo, we got some interesting reactions. In the above photo alone, there is a GAMUT OF THEM.

The lady in front somehow looks bored and worried at the same time, while the black-clad gentleman is suavely snapping a picture without even breaking stride. The old gents on the right are clearly rankled, while the couple in the top left seem to be letting all their facial muscles go slack, while thieir brains attempt to process the information which they are recieving.


After that, we took over the famous Hatchiko and festooned him.

It’s hard to see under all the festooning, but Hachiko is a statue of a dog.

Note the ladies in coats in the background, deliberately pretending nothing out of the ordinary is happening.

more reactions:

The lady whose mouth is sort of quantum-fluctuating between sneering, laughing, and frowning, the pissed old dudes from the second photo, and the other fella who is achieving near-Zen levels of concentration while trying to snap a photo of us, ALL GANGSTER SIDEWRIST STYLE.

The gentleman on the left has a particularly amazing face. What do you even call that expression?


OK, then we went shopping at Starbucks. That would not have been my first choice for a Santa Riot, but most of the participants this time were Japanese and did not have the whole "irony" thing down.

And here we should pause for some culture.

It is awesome that our ranks swelled from 20 people (3 years ago) to almost 90, this year. The new people are all natives, too, which is also good, because it means that the Santarchy is gaining in popularity worldwide. But they have their own perspective on what "santarchy" is all about — they seem to treat it as just another typical Tokyo, "do normal shopping while wearing wacky costumes" kind of outing. Not suprising in the least. At first I was a little let down that they were more interested in posing for pictures than starting shit, but as it happens, shit started itself without any help from anyone, of which more later. *DUN DUN DUN!!!*

concern!!! serious concern!!

Over and over, I would hear the same two phrases from passers-by:

"ippai" (there’s a lot of them!)

"wakaranai" – (how should I know what this is about?)


santas acting as a "security escort" for cars on the narrow streets.

i LOVE how the guy on the upper right is all like, "OK, I’m on to you!"

the gentleman on the bottom is making a more typical face, which says, "I am withholding judgement until my peer group develops a consensus."

can’t forget thse guys either. . .

. . . above, probably the most pure, unadalterated "du WHAA?" of the whole trip.

Above, this was one typical reaction we got –and, I suspect, a reaction that the Japanese Santas had in mind.

however, the photo below is much more the reaction that the Foreign Santas are used to.

Pony-Tail girl is clearly unsettled, Parka Dudes have to blink to check twice to be sure they are REALLY being encroached upon by a fleet of 90 people in red, reeking of alcohol, the blonde fella in back is scrunching his moustache muscles in amusement, and of course there are police now following. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.

The distinguished gentleman’s somewhat convoluted face is not anger or even amusement, but a particular blend of embarassment and disbelief that the folks ’round here like to call "FooOOONNNnnn’

Santas posing in front of a big ole police riot van. Why is there a riot van???


Meanwhile, the Lead Santa had invited us all along to the local government office to watch him and his wife officially file their marriage papers . . . in santa suits.

Here, all the Santas are gathered around to congratulate the happy couple.

By sheer coincidence, the government building was literally 100 feet away from a police barricade. See, today (Dec. 23) is the Emperor’s birthday.

Most patriotic people celebrate this by being happy for the Emperor.

But sometimes the ultra-rightists (the UYOKU) deicde to do a little parade with their black loudspeaker trucks.

like these guys, for instance.

It was only 4 vans, and they kept their famous loudspeakers pretty quiet, but still the cops blocked them. Maybe they didn’t want them getting into the government building. Anyway, for whatever reason, these uyoku guys were PISSED OFF.

They were yelling at cops through like 3 loudspeaker systems AT THE SAME TIME.

And, again by sheer coincidence, most of the Santas were good and drunk by now, having recently gotten cases and cases of booze at a nearby Don Quixote.

You can only imagine how these poor fascists felt. . . being hassled by the man, while 90 drunk Santas roamed the streets freely, giggling and being merry. Also, some of the Japanese Santas indicated that our RED attire was a Socialistic slap-in-the-face to the right-wingers.

Naturally they (the loudspeaker dudes) objected to this stridently. All i could hear was the competing loudspeakers of various vans, going "BLAH BLAH BLAH SANTA, BLAH BLAH BLAH SANTA SANTA, BLAH BLAH BLAH SANTA!!!! SANTA BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH EMPEROR BLAH BLAH SANTA BLAH BLAH!!"

it was fucking just exactly as hilarious as it sounded. Particularly becuase most of the santas were not even foreign. Mostly it was very polite Giggly Lady Santas In Miniskirts. But this did not matter, as we were merely a pretext for ranting at the police even more than they were. In a way, we were playing right into their hands. they should be THANKING us.

And the cops were all like, "Ok, 30 ultranationalists, fine, but 90 inebriated kris kringles in miniskirts, and reindeer antlers, appearing out of nowhere, and egging them on? THIS WE DON’T NEED."

The officers politely but firmly instructed us to move away from the mad dudes, just as one dude got out of the car and tried to bum-rush us.

Even though the cops were letting most people continue walking straight through that intersection, we turned around and walked back the other way, . . . only to find MORE RIOT VANS.

Above, Santa spreads Xmas cheer to the officers. Also, the woman on the right of the picture had the BEST 80S FASHION I HAVE SEEN.

If we could have convinced her to become, like, "80’s Santa" or "Grace Jones Santa" or something, we would have run the city by dawn.

Above, Santa spreading Christmas Cheer to the UYOKU, who, for whatever reason, followed us back to shibuya!

You can see the guy inside with his mic, all freestyling about what a cad Santa is. He was all, "ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE FUN OF US?"

Plus he was getting all WWF-promo-ad-style with it, all shaking his fist and pointing and letting the neck-veins do their thing, and stuff.

then this happened.

The dude got out of his car and tried to bum-rush Santa. It was funny becuase he was 5 feet tall. The cops have a weird relationship with uyoku, so it was a given that they would not arrest him or even mess up his well-pressed lapels. instead it turned into a weird surreal nazi version of touch football, where if 10 cops would surround him, he would "volunteer" to go back into his van. The whole thing was like a scripted play or something.

Also odd. . . these very patriotic nationalists decided to spend the Emperor’s birthday, the most joyous day of the year for patriots, by being incredibly mad at everyone in general, and the national Japanese police force in particular. Maybe I’m just a dumb forienger, but. . . fooOOONNnnn…

After all the excitement, the Santas decided to relax in a public park. But because this is Tokyo,the park was in the middle of a 2-lane street, with traffic on both sides, and instead of grass it was cement.


eventually we found a way around the police blockades, and walked to our destination, Harajuku.

Again, let’s play SPOT THE SANTAS. . . . .

. . .. and, for extra credit, try this new game, SPOT THE UYOKU IN THE SAME PICTURE.

whether intentionally or not, they had FOLLOWED US.

"Blah blah blah blah SANTA blah blah SANTA blah blah blah blah blah blah!!!!"

Those of you with a fondness of Anime might choose to picture the latter half of AKIRA, where the dialogue consists entirely of dudes shouting




. . . .

it was kind of like that.

but this time, there were no cops to "hold them back", so they did not get out of their car. They didn’t want no part of Saint Nick.

More faces. The be-capped lady in front is giving us the classic FooOONNnn face, but the suave gentleman to the right of the European . . . .

his is just AMAZING.

. . .as is hers.

All this is taking place in Harajuku now, so a discursion is necessary. See, Shibuya is famous as this very sensory-overload, bright-shiny-madhouse part of Tokyo.

But even so, the Santas pretty much p0wn3d Shibuya. However, when we got to Harajuku, it was like BLAOW. The sidewalks were like 20 feet wide, but still they were so crowded you could barely move. and this went on for like A MILE. I have never seen anywhere so crowded. Since the start of Santarchy, santas have been arrested, beat up, de-pantsed, and grounded for 2 weeks with extra homework. But only Harajuku manged to accomplish the impossible – making the Santas invisible.

We had to split up into little 2 and 3 person groups to even move. This was fascinating. . . . from the point of view of an alert Japanese pedestrian, it was as if we’d all – totally independently — woken up this morning and decided to be The Jolly One. As if we were all, "Santa event? wha?"

I bet we totally blew someone’s mind!!!

even though we didn’t.

but i bet we did.

At Yoyogi Park, a hippy and someone in a Buddhist priest costume were giving out FREE HUGS.

Like the cops and the fascists, they were absolutely not prepared for an assload of christmas cheer all up in their grill.

But, to their credit, they hugged and hugged and hugged until their huggin’ arms was sore.

But, now it was time for another Santarchy Tokyo tradition. . .which i like to call COMMUTER SANTA.

Commuter Santas get up and climb the stairs to work. . .

Commuter Santas at the station, waiting for the train to take them to Santa Federated Municipal Insurance or whatever.

Commuter Santas try to squeeze onto the train.

Below, Commuter santas on the train, all dozing off Japanese-style.

I swear a Reindeer chikan groped me.

Not making that up. Ask Lorenzo.

See this is why i like COMMUTER SANTA so much . ..

there is a certain excitement, a frission if you will, of seeing a pack of Santas in "mixed company", creating a disturbance.

But after awhile, the thrill of that kind of wears off. . . and to me at least, it becomes even weirder to see a group of santas AND NOTHING BUT SANTAS . . . doing some totally normal shit.

like it was a planet full of santas and this was a regular day.

Obsessive photography was, as you can expect, a recurring motif of Santacon Tokyo. and i am no exception!

but at (sigh) Roppongi, there were dudes taking it to a whole other level:

Some santas were posing for pictures for like 40 minutes. I was pretty over the whole picture thing, though, until THIS came along. . .

Funny though . .. even though she was a very traditional Japanese person, she didn’t seem upset by our Communist Red costumes at all. Didn’t even try to attack us once.

So I wonder, who is the real patriot?


Anyway, after that we went to a bar, the end.


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