New era

20 08 2016

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News filtered through this week that the seventy-something Japanese emperor has been dropping hints of his impending abdication. It would mean the end of the Akihito era ( Imperial stints are renamed posthumously in Japan, so the official title wouldn’t emerge until either his death or effective abdication, I’m not sure which, and the Japanese calendar would again return to Year 1).

But there were other, perhaps even more meaningful signs of change afoot in the Eastern capital. Mega-boyband SMAP confirmed they would disband, a decision which to me seems startlingly overdue (the members are all squarely middle-aged) and will do little to dent their media ubiquity anyway. I had forgotten they actually released records in the avalanche of advertising campaigns, well-reported feuds and nervous breakdowns, films, detective dramas and Korean co-productions the SMAP “boys” have embarked on.

But much sadder was the closure of PARCO department store in Shibuya, a truly iconic Tokyo landmark, which once set the tone for Shibuya’s glistening youth fashion culture, complete with Eiko Ishioka-designed advertisements. The Logos bookstore in the basement was always on my personal “must do” list whenever I was visiting the city, or every Saturday morning, when I lived there. It was also where I saw the “Tokyo death banana!” and got hit on by a Japanese guy who had seen me at the Peel, a gay bar in Melbourne, the year before.

The PARCO chain lives on, but with its heart – for now – missing. It will reopen again in three years time, but will it still be the same ?

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