April 28, 2012

Shinsekai, Osaka - The 'New World'

During Japan's prosperous Taisho period (1912 onwards), the Osakan neighbourhood of Shinsekai - the 'new world' - was a vibrant and glamorous entertainment district, modeled after New York and Paris. Made up of a network of covered shopping arcades, as well as a popular amusement park, the modernist cherry-on-top was the Tsutenkaku ('reaching heaven') Tower, at that time the tallest in Asia.

Then World War II happened, and Shinsekai, along with most of Osaka, was destroyed in the relentless firebomb raids. Tsutenkaku Tower was demolished, its steel recycled for the war effort. Although Shinsekai and the tower were rebuilt after the war, the one thing that wasn't restored was the neighbourhood's former glory - quite the opposite, actually. Shinsekai and its surroundings now have a reputation for being one of the most poverty-stricken and dangerous areas in Osaka, due to a perceptible presence of homeless people and, supposedly, Yakuza.

Tsukenkaku Tower today
Shinsekai today
 To get to Shinsekai, we took the Midosuji Subway Line to Doubutsuen-mae Station, went out the wrong exit, and promptly found ourselves smack bang in the middle of Airin, the largest 'slum' in Japan. The guidebooks tell you to avoid the south side of the station, and, well, oops. But although the area had a completely different atmosphere to the Osaka tourist meccas of Umeda and Namba, I didn't feel particularly in danger. There were lots of cheap looking 'business hotels' and shops such as 'Working and Casual Wear' that seem directed at Airin's huge day labourer population. There was also a strange looking Christian church, with a neon cross. An abandoned amusement park stood in the background. The place wasn't so much dangerous as deserted. It was quiet and empty in the middle of the day.

Working Casual - for Osaka's working class

Christian church, with abandoned rollercoaster in background
A helpful man pointed us in the direction of Shinsekai, and finally we found ourselves in Osaka's Old New World. My first impression was that it didn't seem like a particularly dangerous place at all. A little bit gaudy and rough, perhaps, but again, not dangerous. In fact, there were small school children everywhere - I think they were being taken on a field trip to the zoo that is right beside Shinsekai. There were also adorable Billiken statues on every corner, and if you rub their feet, it's meant to bring you good luck. Aww.

Some may say he looks like an ugly oversized baby.
As we walked through the arcades of Shinsekai, we peeked into each of the shop windows, and every second one was a restaurant where food is served on a skewer and deep fried. This is one of Shinsekai's famous fast foods, known as kushikatsu. The kushikatsu smell that wafts through the alleyways is delicious - sort of reminded me of a fish and chip shop. Around 100 yen per stick, naturally we decided to have this for lunch. I had potato, takoyaki, and strawberry, but there were also all sorts of offal, veges, meats, seafood, and even cheesecake and icecream on offer. On each table or counter of these kushikatsu restaurants is a container of communal dipping sauce - very important not to double dip.
The diverse kushikatsu menu


Enjoying a deep fried stawberry
Fugu (the notoriously deadly blowfish) restaurants are also popular in Shinsekai. I have not been brave enough to sample this delicacy for myself just yet, but apparently this particular restaurant 'Tsuboraya' is a licensed chain, and the staff are experts in the art of cooking fugu safely. They have one in Dotombori too.

Blow up blow fish
Shinsekai was home to the cheapest vending machines I have ever seen in my life.
Tea or coffee for 50 Yen? Yes please.
Of course, there was also the famous Tsutenkaku Tower, once a glittering beacon of the future, now a tainted symbol of the past. What could have been a superb tourist attraction even today stands still, stuck in a time that the rest of Osaka has left behind.

This neon sign looks old and broken in the middle of the day

Another view of the tower
I don't think Shinsekai is dangerous - just sad. From the way certain websites and guidebooks wrote about it, I was expecting to be mugged at knife point by a crazed hobo. It's not like that at all. Yes, there are homeless people - but they just sit quietly, in the shadows of the tower. I think Shinsekai reveals what the rest of Japan tries to hide - that if you scratch the surface, Japanese society isn't so homogenous and middle-class after all. Shinsekai may not be a 'New World', but it is a different one to what tourists of Japan are used to seeing. It's well worth having a look for yourself - enjoy the food, take in the sights, and meet some interesting characters while you're at it.

Homeless person sits under shade of umbrella, Tsukenkaku Tower in distance
Might not be a conventional tourist attraction, but still featured on this pretty postcard
Happy birthday Shinsekai - this year it turns 100

April 26, 2012

Anzac Day in Japan

Fan bought in Kyoto, Anzac Poppy sent from home in New Zealand
As one would expect, Anzac Day in Japan was a bit of a non-event. No national holiday, no Anzac biscuits, and no getting up at 5am to attend a dawn service. I had read online about a New Zealand themed pub in Umeda that I wanted to go to today, in order to celebrate a little bit of the Kiwi spirit here in Osaka - but couldn't get hold of them to check if they were still open. If anyone happens to know anything about the fate of Kiwis Pub, let me know, yeah?

Anyway. Although everyone in Japan seems to assume I'm American (including this Japanese news website, which featured one of my blog posts and described me as 'an American woman in Osaka'... grrr) - I am a New Zealander, and I wore my poppy with pride today. I've read a lot about the Anzacs, and one of the things that has always stuck with me is that, for a lot of the young men, going off to war was like their big overseas adventure. Japan is my big overseas adventure, too - but I'm lucky enough to be doing it on my own terms. So, from the land of the rising sun -

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

April 25, 2012

What Happens in the Karaoke Box...

I love those karaoke nights.
Oh man, you guys, I love karaoke. I spend my days anxiously wondering where the next karaoke invitation is going to come from. When I listen to my iPod, I do so with a critical ear, mentally organising songs into 'karaoke worthy' categories. My hands tremble in anticipation of when they will next get to clutch a tambourine. I daydream about song lyrics floating in the air, with jaunty little katakana characters bouncing above them.

I'm no singer. In any normal situation, the very thought of grabbing a microphone and belting out a tune in front of other people would fill my wee heart with horror. But there is something about the sanctity of the karaoke box that makes public humiliation natural, possibly even beautiful. You may be slightly nervous, as your turn approaches - you may even begin to have doubts about your song choice (I'm afraid these doubts are justified if you picked Celine Dion). But all fears are forgotten the minute the song begins, and your intoxicated friends begin to cheer you on, as if they are at a spectacular music festival extravaganza, instead of a slightly scummy, smoky little room. You realise this is the moment you have been waiting for all your life. And it is happening, here, right now. Only in Japan.

You learn things about people that you never knew before. One of your friends turns out to be a seriously brilliant singer. A female friend has a penchant for gangsta rap, a male friend enjoys Miley Cyrus. Then there's the one who can barely speak Japanese in everyday life, but becomes unexpectedly fluent when it comes to reading Japanese song lyrics. I personally have been told that I am very good at shaking my tambourine in time to the beat. Karaoke. It just brings people together.

The great bearer of tambourine
I strongly believe karaoke is a rite of passage for all gaijin in Japan. So to help you on your way, grasshoppers, I have compiled a list of my favourite karaoke songs.

Difficulty ratings:
Chopsticks = may be attempted by any gaijin
Origami = recommended for those with a certain level of skill
Wasabi = proceed with caution
Kamikaze = setting yourself up for failure

1. Don't Stop Believing - Journey
Ah, classic Journey, made all the more famous by the filth that is Glee. Sumo-sized, crowd-pleasing chorus. Difficulty rating: Wasabi. Mainly because of the 'NIGGGGGGHT' note.

2. Don't Stop Me Now - Queen
Flamboyant and jolly. Excellent tambourine beat. Comfortably repetitive. Difficulty rating: Chopsticks.

3. Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen
Freddie Mercury wrote his songs with karaoke in mind, I'm sure of it. The changes in pitch and tempo keep things ever interesting, and by the guitar solo I guarantee you will have abandoned your microphone. Intense. Difficulty rating: Origami.

4. Wonderwall - Oasis
This British anthem is brilliant for karaoke because you don't even have to sing, just sound like you're really bored. The hard part is explaining to a curious Japanese person what 'wonderwall' actually means. Difficulty rating: Chopsticks.

5. I Love Rock 'n Roll - Britney Spears
Who has seen Crossroads? I love that movie. Bitch shows us how karaoke is done. Difficulty rating: Chopsticks.

6. Super Bass - Nicki Minaj
I like to think of this one as my specialty karaoke song. Impress your Japanese friends with your rapping skills! Difficulty rating: Wasabi. The chorus is surprisingly high. And the 'boom ba doom boom' bit becomes harder to articulate with each Chu-hi consumed.

7. Peach - Ai Otsuka
When in Japan, sing a Japanese song. You will earn serious karaoke cred. And even if you get lost during the verses, you can still make a flawless comeback with a triumphant 'PEACH' in the chorus. Difficulty rating: Kamikaze. But at least you tried.

8. Bad Romance - Lady Gaga
This song is simply universal. Best performed after numerous drinks - this is when the slutty dance moves come out, for all to enjoy. Walk walk, fashion baby. Difficulty rating: Origami.

9. Tiny Dancer - Elton John
Sometimes it's nice to put the tambourine down for a bit and just have a good old fashioned croon. Extra points if you replace the lyric 'tiny dancer in my hand' with 'tiny dancer in Japan'. LOL. Difficulty rating: Chopsticks.

10. Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana - SMAP
This is one of the most popular karaoke songs for Japanese people. Has the added bonus of being extremely catchy. Attempt this song, and your transition to karaoke superstar is complete. Difficulty rating: Kamikaze.

April 22, 2012

Dotombori and Takoyaki Everything

I have been living in Osaka for exactly one month, and as each day passes I am feeling less like a tourist. This is a good thing - I have adapted to Japan and my new lifestyle; things aren't so different and strange anymore. I've (almost) stopped taking photos of every meal I eat. I don't feel the need to buy a drink from every vending machine I walk past. And as the university workload increases, I'm finding myself spending more time in my apartment studying than rushing off to go sightseeing.

But I miss the excitement of those jam-packed early days. It's too easy to forget that you are living in one of the coolest, biggest, liveliest cities in the world. So, today, I decided to try and experience Osaka like a tourist again. And this meant eating takoyaki at Dotonbori.

Kani Doraku moving crab sign at Dotombori
Osaka is known as Japan's kitchen, and Dotombori is where you'll find all the chefs hard at work. It's a long, narrow street consisting entirely of restaurants, takoyaki stands, and souvenir shops. It is rough-and-ready, loud and slightly sleazy. Workers from each restaurant stand on the street bellowing out welcomes, thrusting menus into your hands and imploring you to come inside. Dizzyingly bright neon signs and lanterns scream 'okonomiyaki', the region's specialty dish. There must also be some host clubs in the area, judging from the numerous groups of young men in suits with overly styled hair hanging around - but I haven't chosen to experience this side of Japanese culture just yet...

Takoyaki: 6 for 380 Yen
Because of its fame as one of Japan's top food destinations, a lot of the restaurants at Dotombori are quite expensive. So my favourite thing to eat is takoyaki, the ultimate in Osakan comfort food. Ubiquitous, and cheap as chips. I love hearing the sizzle of the batter in the pans, watching the artful way in which the chef uses a toothpick to flick the balls around to cook each side. I love the deep purple of the octopus tentacles, and the knowledge that my ten-year-old self would have never dreamed of eating them. And I even love that eye-watering roof-of-the-mouth burn that you will inevitably get from eating straight-out-of-the-pan takoyaki too quickly. As I write this post, my tongue is still a raw, blistered mess. It was worth it.

Tako (octopus) and takoyaki being cooked in the special pans
After feasting on takoyaki, we popped into a souvenir store and came across another treasure: a takoyaki flavoured soft drink, called 'Takoyaki Ramune'. 'Ramune' comes from the word 'lemonade'. Who wouldn't want to try a fizzy octopus-lemonade drink?
Takoyaki Ramune in all its glory.

One sip was enough.
If I had to describe the taste of Takoyaki Ramune, the closest thing I could think of would probably be carbonated smelly socks. It was rather unpleasant. I'm so disappointed, because I thought takoyaki in liquid form would be the best thing ever... Oh well. The good news is, there is also Curry Ramune, Wasabi Ramune, and Kimchi Ramune left to try. Yum.

Curry or kimchi flavoured soda, anyone?
 Dotombori and takoyaki = success. I feel as accomplished as the Glico Man.

Famous Glico Man sign at Dotombori

April 18, 2012

University Life in Japan: Clubs, Circles and Glow Sticks

Extracurricular activities are a huge part of Japanese school and university life. Most students will belong to a 'club' or 'circle'. The most common types of clubs and circles are typically sports, cultural activities, and foreign languages - probably similar to universities in most other countries. But clubs in Japan are intense. There is a Confucian value that dictates Japanese club culture called the senpai-kohai system - senpai essentially means 'senior', kohai is 'junior'. Until you've earned the title of 'senpai', you have to treat the senior members of the club like they are your masters. It's kind of like the relationship between Wormtail and Voldemort. (Did I really just compare Japanese society to Harry Potter? Too late, can't take it back now.)

Kansai University Sakura tunnel with club and circle posters
On the first day of class at Kansai University, posters and mini-billboards advertising various clubs and circles appeared out of nowhere. Most appeared to have been made in an arts and crafts frenzy involving paint, paper collage, and a whole lot of glitter glue. The fun part is working out what some of the clubs even are - while a few have normal names (Rugby, Kendo, French), most have exotic names, for example, the 'Seahorse Club' (a swimming club... I guess that makes sense?), the 'Infinity Club' (a triathlon club... alright, maybe?), and my favourite, the 'Ducks Club' (English conversation club... nah, I don't get it.)

There were also cheerleaders holding tryouts, which I watched with great excitement (there are no cheerleaders in New Zealand). The Kansai University American Football team are called the Kaisers, and for a moment it looked as though all you had to do to join the squad was wave your pom poms and yell 'Let's go Kaisers!' in a slightly Japanese accent. I was just picturing myself sitting in Japanese class wearing a cute little cheerleader outfit, all ready to live out my Bring it On fantasy, when suddenly they started doing the most amazing lifts and flips and splits and tricks I have ever seen. Thus, the dream was short lived.

Kansai Kaisers Cheerleading Squad. So cute.

It is after class finishes, around about 6pm, that Kansai University really comes to life. Because this is when the meetings, activities, training sessions and practices for clubs and circles begin. Stroll through campus, and you can see the circus club juggling outside the library. The dance club rehearsing in the cafeteria entrance way. You can hear the roars of the Kendo and Naginata clubs coming from the martial arts centre. Peek into classrooms, and hear foreign language circles working on their Spanish and French pronunciation. And then, strangely, a chorus of loud screams and laughs coming from another classroom - a stress relief circle, possibly?

Last night we were walking through campus after dark, and came across a group of about a hundred students, sitting on the lawn, all wearing different coloured glow-in-the-dark bracelets and carrying glow sticks. Every now and then, some members would be chosen to stand up, and run away. A few moments later, other members would follow them into the darkness. What was this? Some sort of strange cult? Nope. It was an epic game of hide and seek tag. And this was a whole circle devoted to it. I just love how that would sound on a job application.
"What extracurricular activities were you involved in?"
"Hide and Seek tag."
"Very impressive! We'd love to have you as part of our team!"

As for me, as a result of my over-indulgence of melon pan over the past month, I have been considering joining the 'Belly Divas'. They are a belly dancing circle.

The Belly Divas.

April 15, 2012

Sakura Wishes: A Sunday Spent in Gion

Today marks the end of the hanami season, as the sakura petals are noticeably falling from the trees, swirling through the air like little pink fairies. They say that if you can catch a falling sakura petal in your hand, you can make a wish, and it will come true. I love superstitions like this, and was lucky enough to make wishes in one of my favourite places in Japan - Kyoto. We had our last hanami at the famous Maruyama Park near Yasaka Shrine in the Gion district.

Sakura tree outside Kawaramachi Station
People gather for final hanami at Yasaka Shrine in Gion, Kyoto

People partaking in hanami
The weeping cherry tree at Maruyama Park
It was a lot of fun, but at the same time, I felt there was a hint of sadness to the occasion. Not only because the sakura have nearly disappeared for another year, but also because of an accident that occurred in Gion on Thursday, where seven people were killed when an out of control minivan plowed through a busy pedestrian crossing. I found out about the accident through The Japan Times, but I'm not sure if it's made worldwide news. The Japanese media still doesn't seem to know what was wrong with the driver (who was also killed in the crash), but there's some speculation that he had an epileptic seizure, and that caused the accident. Whatever happened, it was an awful tragedy to occur at what is meant to be such a happy, beautiful time of year in Japan.

Street sign marking Gion
Tribute placed for the victims of Thursday's accident
As we made our way to Maruyama Park, we passed the intersection where the accident happened. You can still see police chalk marks on the road, and beside the pedestrian crossing are tributes for the victims, containing flower bouquets, tea, alcohol, and wagashi (traditional sweets). Being a busy Sunday afternoon, thousands of people hurried through the intersection; tourists heading off to Kyoto's various attractions, Japanese people on their way to hanami parties, everyone just going about their daily lives. But as I stood by the crossing and watched for a little while, every now and then, someone would stop by the mass of flowers, bow their head and clasp their hands together in a Shinto prayer for a brief moment, and then carry on. I think that's a very Japanese way of dealing with tragedy.

April 11, 2012

Hanami Party: Chu-hi and Cherry Blossoms

Last night, a big group of us Kandai students made our way to Osaka Castle, carrying tarpaulin mats, beer, Chu-hi (cocktail in a can), vodka, snacks, bubbles, chocolate, cameras and card games. It was my first ever 'yozakura' (night cherry blossom) party. In somewhat related news, this morning also saw in my first ever Chu-hi related hangover.

Osaka Castle, lit up on a warm Spring evening
Hanami is serious business in Japan. To get the premium 'flower viewing' spots, it's not uncommon for employers to get their employees to sit outside for hours, holding down a space until the company's hanami party officially begins. As we left the Osaka Castle station exit, we even saw a man in a suit holding up a sign that said 'X Company's Hanami Party this way'. It's important to know exactly what patch of grass you will be occupying, and how to get there.

It's obvious what all the fuss is about. The cherry blossoms are painfully beautiful, and viewing them at night - yozakura - makes the experience all the more magical. The lights of the city and the lit-up castle acted as a backdrop for the frothy petals, and lanterns are strung between trees, so everything glows romantically. It's like being in a Miyazaki movie, or wandering in a very pink, candyfloss filled dream.
Food stalls!
Just as you thought I was getting all soppy and poetic, onto more important things: the grub. Everyone knows that at a hanami party, food and drink are almost more enjoyable than the actual cherry blossoms. Loud, garish food stalls line the path on the way to the castle, and the scents of fried noodles and octopus tentacles waft through the air, mingling with the perfume of the blossoms. I had takoyaki drenched in tangy sauce and sprinkled with seaweed flakes. Yum.

Chilling under a sakura tree.

The loud, crazy hanami party gang.
When we got to our spot, the drinks flowed, the snacks were devoured, and the conversation got slightly more frantic, as the alcohol consumption began to hinder our respective Japanese and English language skills. I personally suffered from a little too much liquid confidence in my own language ability, and found myself struggling to explain in Japanese the multiple meanings of 'perky nana'. (Which is first and foremost the name of a banana-flavoured chocolate bar in New Zealand).

I dressed up in florals with flowers in my hair for the occasion.
The sad thing about cherry blossoms is that they only last for a short time - maybe a week or two. Numerous haiku have been written using cherry blossoms as metaphors, for things that are beautiful but are gone too soon. I would like to take this opportunity to use cherry blossoms as a metaphor for the drinks at our Hanami party. They were also gone too soon.

Watch the video of our Hanami Party here!

April 07, 2012

Welcome to the Mansion!

After living in hotels for nearly 3 weeks, we finally have what is called in Japanese our own 'mansion'. I really enjoy telling people that I live in a mansion. Except that, in Japan, this is what a mansion looks like:

It takes two steps to cross the room. I could sneeze further than this.
One room, size 5 tatami mats. Even though we don't actually have tatami mats, Japan uses tatami as a form of measurement for rooms. 5 tatami equals about 7.65 square metres. Very cozy!

The genkan (entrance), where shoes are taken off.
Getting a room was a bit of a process, and we had to visit two different real estate agencies. We were lucky enough to have a bit of help from another exchange student, who speaks far better Japanese than we do - if you want to be thrown in the deep end with your Japanese, a real estate agency is the place to do it. So many technical legal terms, and you are spoken to in keigo, which is extremely polite but quite difficult to understand. The main problem seemed to be the fact that we wanted to share a room. We were told 'two people, two rooms'. But we were all, 'hell no, we want cheap rent'. So we went to another real estate agent, who was a bit of a cool dude and found a mansion for us where 'the landlord never comes and visits, so you can share one room and keep it a secret.' Dodgy dealings, indeed.

One thing that getting an apartment has taught me about Japan is that, for all the technological swagger and fast paced lifestyles, when it comes to paperwork, the country is stuck in the 1970s. Instead of computers, they use file cabinets. Pencils and paper. Photocopying is a huge deal - every document has to be photocopied at least four times; one copy for each party, one to be stored in a time capsule, and one to be sent to the Emperor for divine acceptance. (Just kidding - I think). Everything takes about three times longer than it would if it were being done electronically. And there is so much detail. I had to sign every document. But before I could sign, the real estate agent had to use a compass to draw a little circle in which I could sign. Then I had to draw a circle around my signature within the original circle to prove that I had signed in the circle. Got it? Yeah, it makes no sense to me either.
The bathroom - it's like being in a spaceship.
It also came completely unfurnished - not even curtains - which is typical for apartments in Japan, I think. Naturally, my first instinct was to rush to the 100 yen store and begin decorating. Which I did. You have to be very creative with your use of space. Lots of cute little collapsible boxes for storing clothes and books, and lots of hangers and tension rods for drying washing - we currently have clothes hanging off our window in place of curtains, and have a rod set up in the entrance way with coat hangers hanging off it.

Clothes drying: A thankless task.
Because we've been going to convenience stores and restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the past three weeks (and getting progressively fatter, refer to Melon Pan post), we decided that we'd better start doing some of our own cooking. Easier said than done, when you have the smallest 'kitchen' in the world. We went to an awesome second hand shop in Suita, owned by the sweetest lady ever. There was everything you could ever want (and then some), and we managed to get a rice cooker, frying pan, toaster, kettle and table all for 7500 Yen (about 100 NZD). There's only one plug in the actual kitchen, so we have to use all the appliances in our room, which is fantastic when you feel too lazy to get up - you can make toast from within a hand's reach of your futon!

The 'kitchen'.
Futon, squeezed in around our unpacked bags on the first night.
If I haven't used the word 'lazy' enough, did I mention that our mansion is just a 1 minute walk away from Kansai University? Yep. It's awesome.

April 03, 2012

Osaka's Amerika-mura and the American Dream.

Leave through Exit 25 at Namba Station, and walk straight ahead for about five minutes - past the Korean Embassy, Citi Bank, and the Apple Store. Turn left down a dodgy little side street. And hey. Wassup y'all. You're in Osaka's own little America-town.
We all have our own versions of the American Dream (mine involves Nashville and meeting Taylor Swift). Osaka's Amerika-mura fuses fast food chains, fashion, hip hop culture, and popular American iconography. The American flag is everywhere. So is Uncle Sam. There is even a Statue of Liberty.
American flag = everywhere.
Mini Statue of Liberty.
I'm not gonna lie, it's tacky. Chris Brown, Eminem and Bruno Mars blast at full volume in every shop. There are more tattoo parlours in Amerika-mura than I have seen in all of Japan so far. Male shop assistants wear beanies, baggy jeans, and have attempted to grow goatees that look more like pubes than facial hair. I saw at least 3 people walking their little chihuahua dogs through the streets - in one case, both the dog and the owner were wearing matching bright pink Adidas tracksuits. Ridiculous. Paris Hilton. I blame you.
Tell me, who looks good in a sequinned American flag bikini?!
Shop names also get lost in translation in their attempts to use the 'cool' English language. Would you really want to buy clothes at a place called 'Gross'? Or 'Mingy'? Or 'WOMB'?!? And is a hip hop shop called 'Brown Sugar' borderline racist?
The one redeeming factor of Amerika-mura is that, right in the middle of it all, there is a little concrete 'park', where you can sit and people watch. Because it is the people who frequent this place that makes it really interesting. Like Harajuku is to Tokyo, Amerika-mura is Osaka's centre of youth rebellion. For teenagers, Japan is a tough place to be. School sucks. Your parents are strict. You feel pressured to fit in with your friends. The emphasis is always on the good of the group - your class, your family, society. Amerika-mura is one place where you can be an individual - wear what you want, do what you want. Just be yourself. Maybe for the Osaka teenagers who hang out in Amerika-mura, that is their American Dream.

Man checking his phone casually. Wearing amazing outfit.

Girl with pink hair sits outside Womb.

Youth congregating in Ame-mura.
Graffiti murals at Ame-mura.