Tokyo Damage Report

Shibuya’s 109 building

It’s one of those things in the guidebooks that is actually worth seeing. Just don’t expect the customers to have that crazy blackface fashion from 1999 anymore. The customers are in fact just as dull as mall girls in your home country. If you absolutely gotta watch the customers, try holding up the wall in front of the escalators.

  

Reasons to go to 109:

 

The clerks. The customers are boring but the clerks DO have crazy costumes. It is almost like the managers only hire girls who have such fucked hair and fucked tattoos that they won’t be able to find a job anywhere else: “CHEAP PLASTIC SHINEY SHIT 4 LIFE, YA HEARD?? NO SELLOUT! FUCK SOCIETY’S RULES! GET AN EXTENSION IN AN OLD-LADY COLOR! GLUE SEQUINS TO YOUR EYEBALLS AND STAB A COP!!!!” This is part of the whole gal-as-rebel appeal, I guess. Actually, I’m only half joking. A big part of the 109 marketing plan IS the “celebrity sales-clerk.” These clerks get written up in fashion magazines, and attract customers to certain stores the way bands attract customers to certain rock clubs. Not sure if the clerks are typically Japanese-polite or if they are super snobby like waiters in 5-star restaraunts . . . I’m scared to go in the stores!

 

The sensory overload! The stores are all about ten feet by ten feet, and each has a totally different decoration, screaming loud colors, and they all have competing music from big stereos, plus clerks yelling at you. What this means is that, in 30 seconds you can walk through 5 totally different environments, and have just seen over 2,000 shiney plastic things in your peripheral vision. And this goes on for 8 floors! Everything is bright, plastic, and shrill ? it’s like being inside a giant pachinko machine. (actually, if you really want to understand Modern Japan ? if you want the equivalent of a PhD. In anthropology in one day ? go between “young, female, modern 109” and “old, male, broken-down pachinko parlor” until you can see the commonalities)

 

They got English guidebooks for souviners.

 

And of course they got hella Engrish silkscreened on shirts.

 

You get bonus points for: every foreign girl you see who is trying to dress like a Japanese club kid, more points for every girl whose poorly-made, one-season clothing is already fraying or coming apart at the seams. And super extra credit points if you try to make a taxonomy of the shops: (hint: all 100 shops essentially fall into 5 or 6 basic categories, largely based on which magazines they advertise in). try to guess which stores are in the same category. Also, bonus extra points for every time you ask a clerk about her ‘modeling career.’

 

If you get overwhelmed, a good rest stop is in front of the elevators. The front-of-the-elevator area on every floor is big enough for 4 shops, and is utterly empty. The contrast is so staggering, it’s like you are in the middle of outer space suddenly.

 

 Also, across the street, there’s the much-maligned ‘109 AND A HALF’ building. There is a reason to go here also: the fifth floor (sixth?) is all men’s shops – not only are they way more rediculous fashion-wise, but the clerks are super friendly and will try to speak english with you (unlike the deliberately snooty clerks at 109).

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