I was sitting on a bench in Japantown after a long walk from my hotel.
Alright, it was only a mile...but when you factor in the hills it was easily twice that!
Hmph. I can see what you're thinking. Fine. Don't believe me then. But if you please, I was telling a story.
So I was sitting on the only shaded bench in Japantown's sun-scorched main plaza. It was late afternoon and about half of the plaza was filled with cheery people. This was largely because the other half was already filled with the “Tower.” The Tower was a tall, circular monument to what can be made with a whole lot of concrete and no paint. Its style almost certainly had some deep meaning to it, but I didn't think it was too much to ask for a little color. The heat was no place for a delicate sense of aesthetics though, so I sat thankfully in the shadow of its three story grandeur.
After a few minutes of resting and wondering where a parasol was when you actually needed one, I surveyed the plaza around me. To my left, a group of cosplayers occupied the Tower's lowest platform and had converted it into a stage. The leader of the group was patiently directing six or seven others through an impossibly complex dance routine (Warning: I had decided she was the leader based solely on her official looking Sailor Moon costume. Mileage may vary.). Presently, she had stopped and was begging her pink boom box to resume playing music; but the machine was in its death throes and was refusing to play a saccharine J-Pop song as its last earthly act.
For most of the cosplayers, enthusiasm outmatched dancing skill. Their performance reminded me more of a game of telephone than a Perfume concert. Each girl had her own, unique idea of what the dance looked like and was patiently waiting for the others to catch on. To make matters worse, one girl's little brother had taken to running about the platform and wildly flailing a prop sword in the middle of each performance. But if they were self conscious about any of it, it didn't show. Sailor Moon even shuffled through the crowd to a nearby electronics store for new batteries when her boom box finally gave up the ghost.
When she disappeared into the store, I continued my survey of the plaza. I directed my attention at some gawkers who had stopped to watch the cosplayers practice. At a safe distance, they tittered to each other and snapped cell phone pics. The pictures would likely form the basis of a “funny” story that they would later tell their friends. Others weaved through the stopped groups, shooting curious glances at the Tower, but none seemed brave enough to stray near the positively fearsome costumed dancers.
The more that I thought about, the more I realized that I admired the cosplayers' pride. While most people won't dance in public without consuming an irresponsible amount of alcohol first, this merry band was having no such issues. But at the same time, I never let my gaze linger long in their direction. Like the gawkers, I didn't want it publicly known that I had more than a passing interest in the spectacle.
At some point, Sailor Moon had returned to the stage and was now looking in my direction. I briefly smiled at her, and dodged my eyes toward the ground.
While my eyes were down there anyway, I picked up my messenger bag and flipped it open. After some rooting around, I found the copy of Kamikaze Girls that I had brought for the trip. Novala Takemoto's novel about a Lolita and a biker girl had come highly recommended and had thus far been my main companion on a lonely trip to California. As I fingered its pages, I imagined Ichiko scaring off the gawkers and I grinned wickedly. However, when Ichiko turned my way, I couldn't say she looked upon me any more kindly.
I had been interested in Lolita as a fashion for seven months at this point in my journey. I'd read half of the required material, had translated a couple Gosurori patterns, and was even progressing at sewing . And yet...
I had never worn any of my creations outside of my small apartment. Though I'd seldom admit it, it was terrifying to imagine being a part of the same experience as the cosplayers in front of me. The thought had plagued me for as long as I'd been seriously building my wardrobe.
So a month ago, I decided to do something certifiably loony.
Like Novala's Momoko I embarked on a tiring journey to a Baby, the Stars Shine Bright boutique. Three-thousand miles of air travel later, it waited nearby. I placed the book in my bag and rose to find it.