Alice on Wednesday! Tokyo Rose Part 2: The Japanese Concept Store

 
On the last day of my travels in Japan, I jumped on a train from Kyoto Station to the nearby city of Osaka (a 30 minute train ride) not knowing what to expect. Reality was setting in: I was going back home and most of my travel companions were already homeward bound so I needed to feel like I was still ‘travelling’ just a little bit longer before my flight that evening. 

My guidebook pointed out a cool shopping district a stones throw from Shinsaibashi Station that goes by the name of  ‘Amerikamura’, or American Village. The district has been in existence since the 1970s, initiated by the large amount of US clothing and general Americana memorabilia imported for the expats based there (hence the name). It has been referred to as the ‘Harajuku’ of Kyoto due to the large alternative scene based here, where fashionable teenagers flock to in order to show off their latest outfits. Signs outside various stores advertise ‘Gothic Lolita Fashion’.

‘What is Gothic Lolita Fashion’, you may be wondering? Well, it is a particular style which basically involves wearing the frilliest, girliest dresses you can possible think of. And in predominantly black. Think Gothic Japanese Little Bo Peep or Little Red Riding Hood. Lace, bows, frills and more frills, this is clothing originating from the Victorian Era, but with an cooler edge to it. There is nothing seedy about it, the look originated from women simply not wanting feel like they have to wear skimpy clothes in order to attract the opposite sex. And because it’s fun to wear. The clothing is very modest (petticoats are essential garb) and most of the girls wearing look like they’ve escaped from a Disney Film. 

Lolita Goth: Japanese Street Style. Image from Pinterest (Bethany Hoffman)

Osaka is also home to a very large number of 1970s era vintage fashion shops, a great selection of bars and restaurants and what looks like a thriving music scene (I was only there for a day trip but saw lots of advertisements scattered around the shops).

So, back to the purpose of this article; the Alice On Wednesday concept store. I was wandering past a queue of excited teenagers being policed by an elderly, rather angry looking security guard. Two english speaking tourists asked if I wanted their spare tickets for the 2pm time slot to join said queue. 

Here marks the start of the queue.

 

‘Sure, Ok!’ (I was feeling spontaneous)

(Thought a minute) ‘Er…so what is the ticket for exactly?’

‘It’s an Alice in Wonderland concept store. We read about it on the internet, they’re supposed to be the new thing.’

‘Ah, Ok. Thanks!’

I was still none the wiser to what a concept store was exactly, so I decided out of curiosity to return to the queue at 2pm and see what was at the front of it. Because when has there not been anything worth seeing at the front of a long queue? Unless your waiting for a bus. Or buying stamps. Or going to the bank. OK, maybe there are exceptions to this statement. Nonetheless I was joining that queue.

So after buying a large quantity of slogan T-shirts, knocking over several precariously balanced bicycles outside of a cafe (they weren’t looking where I was walking!) and a rather delicious meal in a Spanish themed noodle bar ( I don’t get it either) I headed back to The Queue to see what the fuss was about.

The security man had since become more bad tempered, was shouting in Japanese and waiving some tickets for later time slots (the earliest was 6pm). I took a closer look at the entrance to the store. ‘Alice on Wednesday’ has three fairytale-esque potential entrances and excited teenagers appeared to exiting the smallest door (about 4 foot in height) in dribs and drabs. They must be the 1.30pm time slot. I took my spot at the back of queue of about 10 excited teenagers taking selfies.  

The Entrance (and exit) of Alice On Wednesday

 

‘Do you speak English?’ An Australian tourist has sheepishly approached me in the queue.

‘Yes’.

‘What’s at the front of this queue?’

‘I don’t know’.

More youngsters leave the store laden with large themed shopping bags and I eventually get to the front of the The Queue. My time to enter the Wonderland has finally come…

The small, modest entrance immediately opens up into ‘The Red Queen’s Room’ which is a gothic themed room painted bright red with a black and white chequered floor. A ceiling adorned with glistening chandeliers, floor to ceiling mirrors and a long dining table which stretches from one end of the room to the other. Floor to ceiling antique bookcases line the walls. And located in every possible nook, cranny and crevice is gifts and memorabilia associated with The Lewis Carol story. Watches, hair slides, necklaces, cushions, playing cards, you name it’s here. An everything in here has a sparkly, almost magical appearance (it must be the lighting); all of it screams ‘Buy Me’. And buy they do; another large queue of teenagers starts form at the checkout. 

The Red Queen’s Room in Alice on Wednesday

 

Moving on into the second from ‘The White Queen’s Room’ is bulging at the seams with sweets and random themed food items for sale. Giant lolly pops, jars of wonderful looking sweets and glass bottles containing mysterious concoctions with ‘Drink Me’ labels on the front. My personal favourites were the themed ‘recipe boxes’ which contained ingredients to make a small selection of meals.

Emblazoned on the front of one of them was the following: ‘Alice made this Thai Green Curry for the White Rabbit. Do you want to try?’

A stretch too far? Certainly. Did I want to buy and try that curry? Of course I did!

Alice On Wednesday: A new, rather unique concept in shopping. 

To find out more visit http://www.aliceonwednesday.jp

 

 

 

 

 

Why I’ve Started My Blog

Yesterday, I went shopping my friend Jayne. I spent far, far too much money and I’m now nursing a financial hangover. However amongst reckless shopping and a visit to the crispy creme drive through there were discussions of a rather fundamental nature. Not of the ‘why are we here’ variety but those of a more personal theme. We were discussing what else we would do if we weren’t in our current occupation (we are both Scientists). Jayne suggested creating a matrix of things you love doing and things you get paid a lot for. I said I love music but I’m not good enough to get paid a lot for it. I also said I always wanted to write. ‘Well why not start a blog?’. I thought this was a good idea so googled how to write a blog. Hence why I am writing to you this morning with a now cold cup of tea and Friends on continuous repeat in the background. I thought about what I would write about. What could I offer to the people of the world in terms of useful information or advice. Well, could write about heartbreak but I think that’s largely covered. I could write about love. Again covered. Then I thought about what could I help people with that I think I’ve made a success of. Well, 8 years ago I moved from London on my own to a completely new part of the country. 5 hours further north in fact. Why did I do this? Because I found a job that I really wanted to do. How easy was it? It wasn’t easy and for most people it’s an incredibly daunting prospect. Despite this, I like to think I’ve made a rather good job of it. Not by chance but by experience; I’ve previously moved to another part of the UK on my own on 3 separate occasions. When people find out that I’ve done this I always get a mixture of the following reactions: 1. ‘But why would you leave London?’ 2. ‘But aren’t you lonely?’ 3. ‘But why did you move here?’ (I live in Teesside). I will answer these 3 questions in due course, but my point is this is something that a lot of people don’t understand. But people are more now than ever having to move away from their friends and family for work reasons. It it isn’t an easy thing to do. But after 8 years I can say I now call this new place home. I have my own home, a job I enjoy and some fantastic friends and hobbies. I recently had a friend who has had to move away for work and she’s now experiencing similar feelings that I had when I first moved away by myself and it got me thinking I might be helpful to share how it coped with doing this and all the things I’ve learnt along the way about myself, other people and the new place in which I love living. I hope you enjoy reading my blog.