Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Osaka - Nipponbashi street festival

The Nipponbashi Street Festival is in the Den Den area of Osaka, known as the centre for anime, manga and cosplay. What are they? Anime is basically hand drawn or computer generated animation. Outside of Japan, it tends to be used to refer to Japanese 'style' animation only, but that isn't strictly true in Japan.

Manga is the term for the widely read Japanese comics, based on historical artistic styles. And cosplay is basically people dressing up to role play characters from anime, manga or other popular entertainment forms. For the general idea, think people dressed as Spock for Comic-Con etc, or doing battle re-enactment.

This festival is all about cosplay, although it is generally more focussed on just posing in costume rather than any actual role play.

Sounds like harmless fun, yes? That's what we thought, so when we saw that we were in town for the event, where they close off the street, have a few music stages, and people come out en masse in their costumes, we decided to go along.

After all, this wasn't one of those things that are done for the tourists, so feels a bit fake, this is true, genuine, modern Japanese culture. And I didn't even have to feel my usual reticence at taking photos - that's what they want to happen.

So there we were, admiring the work that went into some of the costumes, and feeling generally amused, when it hit us how creepy this is.

Firstly, it is the nature of the costumes. Manga is often pretty sexist in its portrayal of women. It's all a bit young, petite, big boobs, and skimpy outfits. Many of the characters have an innocent doll like look to their faces, but then the clothes and poses defy that to make the overall image quite sexualised. Think innocent child meets sexy schoolgirl.

So that is how the many of the girls are dressing, which in itself would be OK. But. But, but but....it is the people who are there taking the photos that makes it creepy.

So there are some men dressed up, and people are taking their photos, but the biggest draw for the huge groups of largely older male photographers, is clearly the young women dressed up and posing provocatively.

 And these men are clearly desperate to get the perfect shots, as they have multiple lenses, external flashes and sometimes even those big white umbrella type things to reflect the light.

This no longer seems a bit of harmless fun; it now seems like a lot of pervy older men getting quite sexual images of young girls that they presumably intend to look at when they are alone.

I may be wrong, but that's how it seemed to us, and we became increasingly uncomfortable watching them getting the girls to pose sucking a lollipop and such like.

Similarly the acts on the stages were groups of young girls singing and bouncily dancing , watched mostly by more older men. That just isn't normal, is it? In any other place the audience for this kind of act would be teenage - or even younger - girls, and if men that age were watching, then unless they were the fathers of those present, they would probably soon be on a police watch list!

No, this didn't seem right to us.

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