It is a cliche and a truism that Japan is a land of contradictions – but it really is. Every beautiful stereotype of the manners, the politeness, the elegance, the refinement is absolutely true – the ambiguity, the – I could go on. But there is a flip side to every coin, and thankfully, there is also a far rougher, crasser, meathead side to this place as well – hence the continuing popularity of hulk like Americans and European martial arts ‘actors’ in the form of Claude Van Damme, Dwayne Johnson, Senator Arnold Schwarzenegger et al (Terminator is phenomenally well known here); Bruce Wills (who is in a new TV commercial right now, with exactly the same winkin’ and smirkin’ expression on his face as of old); the hideous Tom Cruise, and many others (I was once totally gobsmacked when a teacher I was training told me that the reason she had become interested in learning English was her infatuation with Sylvester Stallone (“He is so cool”).
Granted, the younger generation has an entirely different blueplate when it comes to what is beautiful in a man; the ultra-femme, lipsticked K-pop style pale-skinned, sloping shouldered boys that the Chinese government has recently censured for being a pernicious influence on the youth (in my local Tower Records store in Fujisawa – yes, it is still in business here – hordes of schoolgirls flock in cliques to ogle the posters of all the beautiful Korean boys and their Japanese competition, in the form of manufactured processed groups like King And Prince — the giant, glistening, wisecracking orange brown bulk of the American Machos absolutely aeons away from their ideal
(D and I were marvelling, yesterday, at the desexed androgyny of the latest boy band here, Naniwa Danshi who were plastered all over the convenience store ; the latest creation from the poloney factory by top Tokyo talent producers Johnny’s Inc who all the school girls and school boys will be drooling over at their desks collecting stickers, energy drinks with their sweet faces on the bottles, multiple CD single releases in a variety of covers for collectors and all the rest).
Thus, it shall be seen that the 80’s and 90’s Musclehunk / machine-gun toting mountains-of-veined-steak mode of manliness is in many ways, extremely outdated, revolting, even for many people – except for a significant percentage of the population who can’t get enough of A, B, C and D grade action movies, which are sold at cut price cost on DVD at convenience stores (the familiar explosions in the background, the beretta in the fore) and which always do predictably well whenever released in national cinemas.
Taking back a failed projector to used recycle superstore ‘HARD OFF’ in Ofuna yesterday, while D picked up a brown velvet Paul Smith jacket and dealt with all the wires and cables, I couldn’t resist, myself having a quick snifter of the ‘economy fragrance’ section there, in which every scent for men is thematically linked to roaring and going to war (one is even linked to the Japan Pro Wrestling Association – another growling shrunken ballfest with hard flesh pounding hard flesh to the delight of the jeering audience) – the choices of atmosphere basically include fighting, battling, sword play, and biting
(a bushi is a samurai warrior)
while for women, it almost goes without saying, the choices are dreamy and lovely, such as Cupid Cute, Mystic Moon – and Vanity.
Funnily, despite the names, the perfumes themselves don’t smell especially aggressive or threatening, although when D tried on some Fighting Spirit he did, out of the blue, suddenly try some spinning taekwondo moves on me that I found quite surprising; a spritz of Bushi and Cobra and he was flying through the air whipping his sword about like an extra in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
No but seriously, there was, in fact, none of the nasty amber/faux fougere/ cheap oud substitutes you might expect from such bellicose concepts and militaristic packaging in these fragrances; in fact, almost all of the men’s scents were variations on the warm, skin scent come-thither musks of Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male, CK Be, and Soprani Blu – nothing unpleasant; very inexpensive, but also, in truth, perfectly wearable. The ladies’ perfumes were not offensive either (except for all their frilly collettes and lacy ribbons); if you were to smell any of these scents on a person, though, one who cannot plump for a perfume 200 or 300 times more expensive, I don’t think you would wrinkle your nose; in fact, if they had the chops to go with the attitude and the right look; you might even just relinquish the fight and give in.