Thursday, 1 September 2022

Tokyo Atmosphere & Style Notes, 1992

Japan on the new accurate and compleat terrestrial globe by Gabriel Wright and William Barden, provided free as a promotional strategy to encourage subscriptions to The Geographical Magazine, 1783, published by Harrison & Co., London, mounted in mahogany stand
Let us away, Dear Reader!

To Japan. Home of delicious foodstuffs, cellotape-free origami packaging, Astro Boy and Monkey, and fashion swinging wildly between kimono sophistication and Kawaii odd-ball cutesy. Just to pluck only a few things from the welter of rich cultural offerings by this tiny but intriguing country. 

A sampling from a box of Japanese ephemera

It was also the first country to which Your Correspondent travelled, age twenty-five, as a "stop off" en route to London. As you do when the journey is long and flies over so many tantalising countries along the way. For no other reason, Japan was the result of a spin of the globe, plus an offer to visit an expatriate friend in Tokyo with whom to soak up some atmosphere made it irresistible.

Hatsushika Hokusai circa 1830 polychrome woodblock print from the series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, Morning after the snow at Koishikawa in Edo, held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Lo! Mount Fuji after snow!
Ditto as seen from the window of a speeding bullet train

This trip was a herald for many firsts: snow, an earthquake (5.7 on the Richter Scale for the oh so curious), bullet train travel, karaoke - save for snow, each never yet to be repeated, mind. The sights, sounds and experiences all understandably thrilling. 

George Wolfe Plank fashion illustration, Vogue, Winter 1927
Would that my Winter travel attire was once so fine!

And while Pipistrello in the early 90s would never be held as an exemplar of good fashion sense*, this green and uncultivated sense did yet twitch appreciatively at the delicious otherness of Japan.

A kimono for 'round the casa

There were kimonos galore: upon the young sumo wrestling stars being (respectfully) mobbed for autographs in the street at the tail of their January season; adorning Minnie Mouse at Disneyland (how could one not go?!) and beautiful young women shopping and temple-hopping in Kamakura; on the sweet nanna hostess at the ryokan in Nikko and the actors in the samurai movie being filmed in the garden of the shogun's castle in Kyoto. So much style!

Central Hall, Mitsukoshi department store, Tokyo, c. 1930
Glorious department stores to dress the diminutive
But accessories are one size fits all!

Pilgrimage was made to the boutiques and divine department stores around Shinjuku, Mitsukoshi and Isetan both earthly paradises, whereupon I did quest to try for myself the Tokyo street fashion subset which turned my head and heart so. But I failed abjectly to find twirly miniskirts and thigh-high black suede cavalier boots to fit my giantess proportions. Handbags and exquisite wood and ceramic bibelots proved the longer-lived and ultimately more stylish booby prize.

Under the dazzle of millions of lumens of ugly-beautiful neon light was a night life proving no less otherworldly to explore. After the heady delights of busy little restaurants each serving their specialty, where might one turn before piling back into the sardine-tin-subway to head home? Perhaps a strangely seedy path takes in constantly chiming and chinking pachinko parlours or the multi-storey bookshops filled with salarymen pouring over X-rated manga, waiting for the trains to come back on line after an earthquake. 

Or one could climb a wooden staircase, slide back a bamboo door and step through a hand-printed curtain to find oneself in a six-foot square bar where you are welcomed by enthusiastic and tipsy karaoke singers occupying the four other bar stools. One really cannot back through the curtain now, so after a bit of, ahem, spirited fortification, you might find the menu pushed along the bar to you, for it is only polite to contribute. The last page of the laminated book is entitled English Songs but the offerings are listed in Japanese, so you find to your blushing terror you are about to launch into "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" - who knew there were so many verses?! - the seasoned patrons joining in to cover up your halting caterwauling.

These girls know all the hot places in town
Yamakawa Shūhō, Three Sisters, painted screen, 1936

Or,  shall we seek a music experience of a different kind, guided by a friend who has nosed out such hidden treasures before. Here you step off the busy, icy street into a nondescript building, take the rattly metal lift up to a corridor of small businesses shut for the evening, into a space where the perforated ceiling panels, partition walls and fluorescent lights indicate it must once have been maybe an accountancy office. But the squashy sofas, moody table lights and smokey ambience tell you it is a jazz bar. Solemn music aficionados sit finger-clicking and nodding along to the band, the musicians all seriousness, looking like they are Japan's answer to The Style Council. Their frontman, however, more akin to Iggy Pop, is writhing on the bland carpet tiles, his skinny stockinged legs sticking out from a bubble-shaped yellow and black bumblebee costume, antennae quivering atop his head as he screeches into the microphone. 

Of course, by now you are taking Tokyo's style in your stride but you still, sensibly, won't be coveting this cooler-than-school look for yourself.

* And for which, blessedly, hardly any photographs exist. Shall I, ahem, say something withering about the embrace by the present yoof of the daggy 80s (un)fashion in a much more well-documented way?

Image credits: 1, 2, 5: Flying With Hands; 3, 7: Wikimedia Commons; 4: via Gods & Foolish Grandeur; 6: via Old Tokyo

Sunday, 21 August 2022

The Fanfarona's Coda


Behold the source of my recent mischief! It is Giovanni Boldini's portrait of Marchesa Luisa Casati with a greyhound, painted in 1908.

Although this image is in the public domain and lives on innocently on the Wikimedia Commons, it seems this is the controversial image that put a spotlight on Your Correspondent's hitherto well-concealed Rake-shame ways and drew the ire of a Pinterest peruser. 

For why? Who knows?! Maybe it was the Marchesa's notoriety during the life she lived so extravagantly? Or the lavish accessorising in feather and fur?

We will never discover the source of the affront; it seems I was a mere Fanfarona in bragging to you, Dear Reader, that I lived my own life as a sordid and salacious libertine! The Pinterest Police have loosed the shackles on my wrists saying they have reviewed my appeal and apologise for their mistake. No explanation was given and the image was put back.

Although a reminder was given to review the guidelines on, ahem, "what is and isn't allowed on Pinterest", Pipistrello is back to being a rather pedestrian hausfrau. Oh, well, È meglio così, as we say around here - It's better this way. I'm rather too lazy to be a busy Rakehell.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, 18 August 2022

Outed: Pipistrello The Rake-shame!

Art Nouveau door hardware in Brussels
A letter came last night

Well, Pipistrello had an unexpected fillip to her self-regard last night, Dear Reader, coming from an unlikely quarter. It seems the good people at the quaint and innocent pastime known as Pinterest have me in their sights and sent a stern letter saying I was in violation of their "Community Guidelines on adult content", no less, and had removed an offending image from my collection! Does this mean your usually rather starchy and sometimes censorious Correspondent is due a rebranding, having been outed as a Rake-shame?* 

René Lalique Peacock pendant, 1901
Avert your gaze from this shameless beauty

As to which among the items on my Art Nouveau board cluttered with Gallé glassware, Archibald Knox pewterware, Lalique jewels, Alphonse Mucha posters and whatnots could be classed as either "Fetish imagery, Vivid sexual descriptions, Graphic depictions of sexual activity or Images of nudity where the poses, camera angles or props suggest pornographic intent", I am unable to judge as the image offered up for my review had been fuzzed out in a considerate act of censorship. Too scandalous and blush-worthy for even my own eyes, evidently, let alone as salacious material for your feasting upon here. So I offer up instead similar companion pieces that rubbed shoulders with the disgraced item. Trigger Alert: NSFW**

Jules August Habert-Dys silver and enamel caviar server, 1905
Covet not this scandalous caviar server

Should you expect missives in future to be rejoicing in dissipation and licentiousness? At this juncture, I cannot say what may even constitute such branding, so perhaps just watch this space. 

Alphonse Mucha unused Pavilion decoration for the 1900 Paris World Fair, Le Vent Qui Passe, 1899, as a poster
Hide your blushes behind this fan design

Meanwhile, I await with curiosity as to the outcome of the appeal I submitted. How the Pinterest Police shall adjudicate over my entitlement to gather to my virtual bosom an image I'm not allowed to see is rather mysterious. I have also been told to busy myself with tidying up my boards and removing any further violating images of delicious Art Deco jewellery, incroyable tiaras, stunning bonsais, adorable tiny houses and kitchens and glamorous b&w fashion plates before they take "additional action on my account". This Rake-shame has been warned!!

First Paris Air Show, 1909
I may yet scoop up all my lovely images and
Take flight with them from future scandal

* OED: A disreputable or dissolute person; a rogue. Common in the 17th century and due for a refresh in 2022. In the event of a rebranding, I may need to modify my Blogger profile accordingly, lest any innocents stumble into these pages.

** Not Safe For Work. A bit of internet slang I did look up.

Image credits: via Pipistrello's Art Nouveau Pinterest Board

Bats In The Belfry