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Public Pooper Puzzles Police
Friday, 29th September

FUKUSHIMA, Japan - The residents of the usually quiet district of Funabacho were shocked to discover a large deposit of excrement at the foot of a popular pedestrian tunnel last Friday night. The large, brown morass, estimated to weigh over 300 grams, is thought to have been excreted some time late Thursday night or early Friday morning.
Nearby resident Matthew Strain described the situation as "pretty gross," before adding that it was also "sorta funny."
Constable Fuji Takahashi is head of a 45-man team assigned to track down the perpetrator. "At this point in time, we are not even sure if they are human or animal. However, if a dog was capable of producing something of this volume, I would not like to meet it."
Experts in the field of public defecation, William Cooney Sr and Dr Nicholas Sangster, weighed in their opinions. Speaking from Australia, Cooney remarks, "What really stands out for me is its uncommon consistency. There seems to be a 'cake' layer of gross atop a fluro puddle of faeces. This is one of the few exciting times in my career in which I am actually baffled."
Sangster on the other hand, doubts whether it is in fact faeces. "By all means, a bowel movement of this size, colour and apparent consistency is simply impossible. As I have only photos to go by, I am not entirely convinced that this is actually bodily waste. I would love nothing more than to get my hands really stuck into this sample."
Sadly, public decency prevented the area from being preserved as a crime scene, with the community board voting unanimously to hose the area down, then bleach it. Kentaro Tanaka, head of the board, elaborates. "It was sitting there, stinking up the whole area for over thirty hours. It'd already taken on the appearence of a burnt pizza before we sent the photos to those poo experts in Australia, so we decided there was no point leaving it there any longer. The community board voted to shovel the main bits into a zip-lock baggy, then get a youngster whom recently dishonoured his family to clean the rest of the shit up."

Anybody who saw anything suspicious late last Thursday night, such as someone taking a huge dump in a pedestrian tunnel, is urged to contact the Fukushima Police Department on 090-1278-9876.

UPDATE: Due to popular demand, a photo is available here. WARNING: It's gross.

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Part II
 

Harajuku Happiness
Thursday, 21st September

Harajuku is most famous in the West as the place that inspired Gwen Stefani's arguably offensive adoption of four Asian 20 year olds to be her giggling harem of 'Harajuku Girls'.
Stefani visited Harajuku in the early 2000's and was struck by the uniform individuality of all the hip kids of Harajuku.

 
One of those girls is performing a puppet show. Look.

Personally I'm always cynical of teenage rebellion. Still, putting on make-up and stripey socks is a lot more interesting than stealing bikes, so I say good on 'em. Definately a lot less annoying and stupid then their Brisbane equivilents.

I was a little embarrassed to ask any individuals to pose for photos, but that certainly wasn't a problem for a good ten or fifteen other photographers - some tourists, some professional.

 
Pro camera. Guess the decade. Maybe homemade?

The make up of the crowd was about 50% funky kids, 30% tourists, 30% professional photographers and 10% 'misc' (there were some overlaps).

There was also an amatuer performance going on. Personally I thought it was very crap, helped only minimally of his(?) group of bored followers, but you can see for yourself.

I don't think he did it for money or promotion - just the attention. In fact, of all the buskers I've seen in Japan, none are actually collecting money.
Much like this guy, I'm sure they would piss off their neighbours if they were to practice at home.

 

Then I saw this girl with a more professional set up, and she definately looked friendly. Her name was Ariya. With her relatively conservatively dressed manager, they were packing up to go home. However they were still happy to pose for photographs and have a small chat.

 

So I asked her what she thought of the kids of Harajuku, Japanese youth culture, and her opinion of her pink, blue, and blonde-haired competition.
But not before she finished posing for an Indian woman.

 
Nice. Domo.

"Haha, I am much better than him. He is not very good. I am a professional" I also got her to confirm that it was indeed a male.
So, what of the other kids of Harajuku? Who are they, and why are they compelled to dress up in outrageous clothing and hang out near a train station? Ariya's manager, Yuki, elaborates.
"They are mainly schoolchildren. Really, I think they are all lonely. They want attention"
In otherwords they welcome the guys taking photos. Noticing her restrained clothing (a white polo shirt, black jeans), I ask if that means she has a lot of friends.
"Haha, Matthew strange, isn't he?"
I was startled for a second, because I thought she said my last name.

After a bit more of a chat, they gave me a flyer. You can check out her website here: http://blog.oricon.co.jp/ariyablog (Japanese only, though there are some nice pics. I think she photographs everyone who buys one of her CDs).

And just for luck, one more photograph.

 
I should have told her her name sounds like an Australian music industry award.

A short while after, the throng was treated to the youngest Harajuku girl, who was being led around by perhaps the oldest.

 

A crowd mingled around, each photographer waiting patiently for their turn to have the mother and daughter team face them for a shot. Obviously I couldn't be bothered waiting.
Here's a candid shot.

 

After that I saw one of the professional photographers showing his collection of photos, perhaps wishing to sell some prints. I was looking over the shoulder of a young Japanese guy.
"Wanna look?" he said, in pretty good English.
"Cool, thanks," I replied.
We got to talking, and it turns out he went to the same University in Australia that I'm technically still a student at. He and his friends were all going out drinking later that night, and I was invited to tag along. So I did.
Though before that, we had a stilted conversation with one of the rare foreign Harajuku kids. I forget their names, but they are from Germany.
"So when you got dressed today, did you expect to have your photograph taken every few minutes in Harajuku?" I asked. In a perfectly dry German accent, she said yes, she is fully aware of the culture in Harajuku. There is a similiar scene in Berlin, I was informed. I was also informed that she only designs original costumes, and isn't into costume play of that type of gay shit. I asked my new friend Katsuhito if he had any further questions (he didn't), and then asked for a photograph with them.

 
As you can see they were really really thrilled to have their photo taken with us.

Then Katsuhito, his two friends and I went to a burger joint that was almost identical to Hungry Jacks in both decor and cuisine. Then we went to a drinking place, and met with one of the guys friends - three models or something! The photo doesn't show it, but the girl on the end and the girl in orange were Amazonian. Seriously I was almost a full head shorter than the one in black.

 
The rest of us are on a foot high ledge.

Then we all caught a taxi home, and I stayed the night at my new friend Katsuhito's house. In true Japanese hospitality, I didn't have to give him any money or perform any sexual favours. I did promise to buy him breakfast, but, er, I forgot.

THE END

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Part I in my as-yet undetermined part series of articles about my trip to Tokyo. Yay!

All About Akihabara
Sunday, 17th September

Brisbane has Fortitude Valley.
Melbourne has Caulfield and East St. Kilda.
San Fransisco has The Castro.
Tokyo, has Akihabara.

It seems that most major cities in the world have an ethnic ghetto of sorts. Most are centered around nationality, like the many China towns and little Italys across the globe; some are gatherings for folks of the same religious background (Melbourne boasts half of Australia's Jewish population); and recently, people with the same lifestyle choice are choosing to live together (San Fransisco is home to more same-sex households than any other city in the world).

And then there's Akihabara, which in recent times has become the geek, nerd, or 'otaku' capital of Japan, and thus, the world.

Akihabara started as the epicentre of electronics in Japan. Since then, stores of periphery interest to those interested in computers have sprung up. Namely; manga, anime, figurines, computer games, cosplay cafes, and porn. Loads and loads of porn (pun intended).
Exiting the station at electronics town, the first thing you see is a bunch of South-East Asians sitting on a stoop outside a convenience store. Looking beyond that however, is the green banner of Pop Life, a seven-story (including basement) adult shop.

 

Though its floors are narrow, it offers a wide variety of material.

 

Each floor from the entrance up had an LCD monitor blasting out weird Japanese pornography (excuse the tautology). Besides a surprising shortage of American and European porn, nearly every type of video was available; from softcore modelling, to hardcore sex acts, to 'holy shit Japan, what the hell is this?'. Some were enough to unsettle the stomach from the video jackets alone. Some I doubt are legal in Australia (outside of ACT).
Just a short stroll from Pop Life is another adult store. Take a 5 minute walk in another direction and you'll find another. Nearby that is an ostensibly normal 7-story DVD/CD store; normal except that the entire 4th floor is devoted to porn.

Even the simple act of checking emails is porn ridden. The first Internet 'cafe' (I use the term loosely - it was actually a private, one man booth) came with the free rental of any number of porn DVDs I wanted for two hours. I actually just wanted to check my emails, so I didn't get any. I still had to purchase the full two hours though.

 
Features of the room include two boxes of tissues, a box of moist-wipes, and two sealed napkins. I'm not sure who would find all those sanitary accoutrements necessary, but I sure hope the last guy didn't.
And why such a shocked look?

 
That plasma screen was damned huge, so you're looking at about 3 small TV's worth of porn (the top right is just getting started) and a tiny, unreadable internet window in the bottom right quarter. The coloured chart to the right shows how to change the vision from this 4 way abomination to just the internet. My minimal Japanese wasn't enough to figure out the convoluted mess, but eventually a random mashing of buttons led me to the internet.

With my emails checked and an hour and a half of wasting time on the internet over, I was off to roam the rest of Akihabara, and more of Tokyo.

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A Taste Of Tokyo
Saturday, 16th September

Here is an incredible video docu-drama of my romp in Tokyo. I'm working on some more detailed articles and whatnot about it, but in the meantime, please enjoy this.

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Images (most of them anyway) and words Matthew Strain 2006.
Additional translation by Shitagi Dorobo