[VIEWPOINT]Indulging oneself in TokyoI visited Tokyo a while ago on a business trip. Every time I go there, I am reminded that Tokyo is truly a cutting edge city for shopping; it exists for shopping and by shopping. I went to Daikanyama and Omotesando, which are the areas young Japanese women want to live in the most, and found they were like giant residential-commercial complexes with an exquisite mix of high-class residences and high-class shops. Women in these areas can stop by flagship stores on the way home from work and buy 80,000 yen ($685) Prada skirts and original Charles and Ray Eames furniture as if they were buying leeks or tofu at a supermarket.
The recent news is that an old apartment building that was built in 1927 has been turned into a shopping mall called “Omotesando Hills” at the hands of the architect Tadao Ando. This was so much of an issue that people in Tokyo were greeting each other by saying, “Have you been to Omotesando Hills?” Even Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi attended the opening of the mall in a devout manner ― as if he were visiting a shrine.
Everyone in this city is a fashionista. Especially when one visits Harajuku, the streets are crowded with Japanese youths dressed in such unique and elaborate ways that tourists like me who enjoy fashion get more caught up in shopping because they are swept up by the atmosphere.
However, I must comment on the Japanese men’s way of shaving their eyebrows. The fashion-consciousness of the Japanese has gone so far as to make young Japanese men shave their eyebrows like those of “gigolos.” As it has gone to such an extreme, I felt it the responsibility of an honest person from a neighboring country to tell them that they look ugly. Imagine Japanese men who carefully shave their eyebrows with their shaving blades. It makes us feel ridiculous, as if we see the samurai wielding knives.
Another thing that caught my eye was the phenomenon in which the Japanese people, who turn off their electricity early in the evening and save bathing water, try so hard to spend a night at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Tokyo. It was the main set of the movie “Lost in Translation” (in the movie, it is depicted as a luxurious yet somewhat weary place, but people think of it as a very romantic modern scene due to the fact that it is the place where the romance of the two main characters takes place), and is an extremely extravagant hotel with a room rate of around 40,000 yen ($342) per night.
Is this something like the “one indulgence” that the brilliant artist Shuji Terayama recommended as a breakthrough from an incoherent and average life? Mr. Terayama called the act of owning a first-class foreign car by a young man living alone in a small cockroach-infested apartment or his going to the opera “one indulgence” that could challenge the predictable patterns of his life until the day of his retirement.
My confession is that I believe in one-off indulgences also, and I enjoyed being in an ecstatic state as I spent more money than I could afford in Tokyo. The funny thing is that a newspaper reporter called me on my roaming phone when I was at the height of my shopping and asked, “What do you think of the overspending phenomenon where a pair of premium jeans costs 400,000 won?” It was about the time I was leaving the Yamamoto shop with a huge shopping bag. I answered, “Of course it’s overspending. So what?” Actually I was quite angry. Why do I always have to feel guilty about buying something lavish (because it isn’t something I really need) with my hard earned-money just because it makes me feel good?
I was reminded of the fact that even the depressed German Marxist Walter Benjamin once wrote honestly about the pleasure of a shopping spree around the arcades in Paris, and went back to my hotel triumphantly waving my shopping bags.
* The writer is the feature director of Bazaar magazine. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Kyung