Friday, August 10, 2007
Asagaya Tanabata Festival - Part 5
One can't do justice to the Asagaya tanabata festival without posting a gallery of the wire-frame characters suspended in front of the shops. It would be unfair not to showcase them after the shops spend so much time, effort, and (likely) money on making them. I'm not sure why they do them but I have the sense that they're like the floats in a parade but they hang in the air so as not to take up precious pedestrian space on the ground.
I also sometimes wonder how the people who work at these shops decide what figures to create. Sometimes, the character chosen fits the type of business and sometimes it seems relatively random or based solely on what is hot this year. I also wonder if the people who spend a lot of after hours time constructing these wire-frame doppelgangers in the heat of summer get paid for their time. I'm guessing they don't.
I mentioned in a previous part of this series that I used to try to guess at what the figures will be as they go through their stages of construction. The guessing game doesn't actually end there as I sometimes don't recognize the characters when they are fully completed. This is particularly the case when the characters are Japanese anime (cartoon) characters or from some part of popular culture which is reserved for the pre-pubescent set. I have no idea what the first three characters pictured in this post are, for instance.
I do, however, know this cat very well and why it was chosen for the establishment it hangs in front of. There is a UPS-like delivery service in Japan called Yamato which is also called "kuro neko" (black cat). Their logo of a mother cat carrying a baby cat can be seen just under the grinning kitty with the big eyes. This company has done a lot of business with my former company and I as they handle packages between us when I do freelance work. Their delivery people are always friendly so I have a bit of a warm feeling toward them. Also, who can dislike a company which so embraces cats? (I love cats.)
There is almost always one American superhero character suspended in front of the shops each year. Usually, the hero is the one who has been featured in a popular movie most recently. In our early days in Japan, it was Batman and later it was Superman. This Spidey looks like he's having some sort of hip problem. I'm just kidding, by the way. I believe that one of the reasons animated characters are more popular is that it's immensely difficult to shape realistically-shaped bodies when making these things.
At first, I thought this was a pirate Snoopy because of the eye patch but the accouterments are Japanese-looking so I'm not sure who or what they're dressed up as.
Some characters endure and are represented in several incarnations. This pretty much proves that the shops don't consult one another when deciding what to do. Above, there is a montage of three versions of the venerable Anpan Man. The one in the upper right with the super bulgy cheeks looks like he has 3 noses.
Shrek also got three variations as well as a pretty impressive-looking mural. Each of them are suitably manic-looking and bare their teeth.
This is Remy from the movie Ratataouille. The Japanese in the oval says "Remy's delicious restaurant". You'd think this would have hung in front of a restaurant but it did not.
I'm not sure but I think these are Power Puff girls. They're from the era of poorly-drawn cartoons with even more obscenely huge eyes than a cartoon character requires to be expressive which holds no interest for me.
Though I'm pretty out of it when it comes to animation, even I recognize Pikachu but I have to admit that I had to look up Pokemon on Wikipedia to determine that the guy next to him is a human character from the series. There were at least 3 of the sort of figure that looks like a golf ball with a smiley face on it (like the one on the right). One of them can be seen in the Shrek montage above and another is in the picture below this one. I don't know what the deal is with them but I'm guessing they were easy to make.
The bib says "I (heart) Suginami" because Asagaya is in Suginami ward. The thing about this picture though is that seeing Hello Kitty in a bikini is oddly creepy.
Not every shop takes the time to make a unique figure. This is a collection of boxes for some sort of make-up or hair stuff with what appears to be some kind of drink promotional item hanging under it...it may not be a drink though. I can't say I recognize it.
I guess some things are even creepier than Hello Kitty in a bikini. I'm sure that this fellow with the bad hairstyle carrying a huge eyeball is well-known to people who watch Japanese animation but I'm just as happy not to know.
I think Homer Simpsons would try to take this fellow down and eat him.
Among those remaining items, the only one I can understand the presence of is this final one of Spiderpig...er, a boar that represents the year of the boar.
There's one more installment of pictures for the festival then it'll be back to business as usual.