Frozen moments from the infinity that is time


Yoyogi Park (Tokyo)

If you turn right when exiting Harajuku Station and walk up a short incline to the pedestrian bridge over the railway line you will be faced with two choices. To the right is the entrance to Meiji Jingu, Tokyo’s most revered shrine and to the left lies the entry to Yoyogi Park. Go right for serenity, tradition and a step back in time or go left for a fun, relaxed community space. My advice is to do both, but today my focus is on Yoyogi Park.

Yoyogi Park has an interesting and varied history. In 1910 the first successful powered aircraft flight in Japan took off and landed on the site of what is now Yoyogi Park. In 1945 it was known as the “Washington Heights” due to the site housing the military barracks for US officers during the allied post-WW2 occupation of Japan.

More topically given Japan’s hosting of the next summer Olympics, Yoyogi Park was the location for the Olympic village for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, as well as swimming, diving and basketball events at the Kenzo Tange designed National Gymnasium building. The National Gymnasium will extend its Olympic heritage by hosting the handball events for the 2020 Olympics.

The area became formally known as Yoyogi Park in 1967 and has since become a very popular venue for a wide range of activities. At 134 acres the park is one of Tokyo’s largest and has become a much-loved and used space, particularly at weekends when, weather permitting, the park comes alive with people.

The selected photographs make no attempt to show the natural beauty of the park, though that is significant, but rather focuses on the enjoyment gained from the park by visitors.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)


Harajuku Lebels

In my last post we took a stroll through Harajuku and today we visit the Harajuku Lebels at play.

Last time the stroll started by exiting Harajuku Station and walking straight ahead and down Takeshita Street. Today we turn right after exiting the station and head up the hill towards Yoyogi Park, another of the expansive green spaces one finds within the Tokyo metropolis and an extremely popular venue at weekends for people of all ages.

Near the park entry one finds the Harajuku Lebels, who have staked out their play, or should I say performance space for the day. The Lebels are a group of Rockabillies who put on their own rock and roll dancing show to the sounds of old Elvis and other rock classics. I don’t know what they do during the week, though a Japanese person in the crowd told me they are mostly Salarymen who don their Lebels gear at weekends and transform into their 1960’s personas.

They attract a crowd; yet don’t appear to play to the crowd. In fact, they appear to be totally enclosed in their own little magic circle that becomes their world for a few hours at a time. They dance with each other and for each other. Moves are taught and practiced and the camaraderie within the group is evident. Performances have an impromptu, almost jazz like feel to them. Dancers doing a solo routine will be joined by others, from which choreography equivalent to session musicians jamming will emerge.

Black is the preferred colour, most aptly captured at pic 2 where the young woman’s long black hair complements the black on black look perfectly. However, black is not compulsory, as one can see from several photos featuring the tattooed dancer in blue jeans, who seemed to be, if not the leader, the dominant player within the group. As in all areas of life, dominance Invites challenge and in this case, the dancer featured in pics 3 and 4, who, to my inexpert eye, was the best dancer of the day, gave the impression of staking his claim in a friendly way.

Dancing is hot work and the group worked their way steadily through a lot of beer in their own unique style. Beers were distributed by one dancer opening a can and throwing it in a high arc to another dancer who, except for one mishap, would expertly catch the can and quench their thirst. As you may imagine a lot of beer was spilt in the process.

I couldn’t help noticing a couple of other things. Firstly, several of the dancers had wallets or other items in their back pockets (as in pic 13). This is not an unusual sight in Japan, whereas in most places it would be akin to an invitation to be robbed. Secondly, the dancers were doing it purely for their personal enjoyment and nowhere around their magical circle was there hats or tins to collect donations from spectators. Even watching a group of Rockabillies contains cultural messages.

Apart from references already made to some photographs, the selections speak for themselves – a group of friends having fun doing what they enjoy and entertaining others in the process. Sounds like a win/win.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)