Friday, August 03, 2007

Pretty Boy Memorabilia

Back when my husband and I were spending every weekend shopping for used records and interesting Japanese memorabilia, we used to come across tiny, little shops that specialized in selling various items related to teen idols. These places are a bit like a walk-in issue of Tiger Beat magazine where young girls can buy pictures of sexually-ambiguous, non-threatening boys.

The shop in the picture above has two things going for it. First of all, it has one of those completely nonsense English names that compels foreigners to take pictures of it so that we can chuckle at how clueless the person who named it was. It's okay to do this because every time a Japanese person hears an American say "carry-okee" for "karaoke", they chuckle at us (or maybe loudly guffaw, or belly laugh, or pee their pants as they're doubled over in laughter as it sounds really, really stupid to them).

The second thing that the shop has going for it is that it has an LCD display hanging inside its front door so that the girls can get up to the minute information on which idols have changed from androgynous pretty boys into middle-aged goofs who have to pad their careers by going on variety shows and making asses of themselves. Seriously though, I don't know what the display is for but it does appear to be a place for messages they'd like customers to read. I must say that I admire their ingenuity in expanding the area of the shop by opening the door and using it as a signboard.

Inside the shop, one can buy pictures, stickers, CDs, and (supposedly) autographed cards on the same sort of card stock you often see sumo hand prints (tegata) made on. The shops don't appear to stock much but they have catalogs from which one can make orders for other idol-related goods in the event of an urgent pretty boy memorabilia shortage.

My husband and I never made a purchase from a tiny little kiosk such as this one but there used to be one of these types of places in Shinjuku which was about twice the size of this little closet of a shop. That one carried a little bit of western movie memorabilia as well as items for the easily-infatuated set. At that time (many moons ago), "Indiana Jones" and "Back to the Future" were very popular so you could get glossy pictures of Harrison Ford or Michael J. Fox. Back in those days, my husband and I ran a little mail order business selling second-hand Japanese KISS items so we scoped out the shop for potential stock. It was during one such search that we learned they keep home-made catalogs you can order a wider variety of items from. I believe that you see those books to the right of the shop girl. We never did locate any KISS memorabilia but we picked up a couple of Star Trek movie stills at one point. They weren't incredibly expensive because an American science fiction show full of old farts wasn't competing well with the dewy-eyed boy toys with fashionably long hair hanging in their eyes.


Miko said...

For some bizarre reason, there are a lot of those places in Kyoto, especially in the main tourist trap areas. I've never been able to figure out why - perhaps because so many Japanese high-schoolers take field trips in Kyoto? I love your comment about sexually ambiguous, non-threatening boys! Back in the day I had quite a crush on David Cassidy, and my younger sister on Donny Osmond. Sigh!

Shari said...

Ah, we are both dating ourselves because I also was crazy for Donny Osmond in my pre-pubescent days. Thinking back, I can hardly remember any of the Osmonds music except "Puppy Love", "Paper Roses", and (the thoroughly awful) "Crazy Horses". Well, I can also remember the "little bit country/little bit rock and roll" theme from the Donny and Marie show.

Boy, that all feels like not one but 2 lifetimes ago.

BTW, I think you're right about the shops being there because of the day trips. It's a very astute observation. I can't imagine most adult tourists would find them appealing.

Miko said...

Heh, yeah, do you remember that atrocious Japanese chocolate bar called "Crunky?" Every time I saw it I couldn't help but think, "I'm a little bit Crunky ... and I'm a little bit Rocky Road." I hate Japanese chocolate. I've been spoiled by the NZ stuff.

Is Crunky still around?

Shari said...

Oh yeah, Crunky is still around. In fact, there appear to be more varieties of Crunky than ever. "Classic" Crunky, Crunky kids (who knew bad crunch bars had off-spring), and caramel Crunky.

Personally, I favor U.K. chocolate because it's smooth and milky though I believe Lindt (which I think was born in Germany) is the most consistently enjoyable chocolate for me.

Most Japanese chocolate is different. I can't say I hate it but I certainly don't favor it.