Journey in Japan Part 41: "But Sir, it's only a model"

Journey in Japan Part 41: “But Sir, it’s only a model”

Today is the third and final day of a street performing arts festival in Asakusa. Outside it is a clear day and a wonderful 28°C. I spend the best part of the morning wandering between the many different stages. I see a magician, a group of jugglers, a yo-yo master, people dressed in Halloween costumes, and a guy who specialises in tricks using crystal balls. Every performer seems to draw a strong but silent crowd.

At lunch I head back to Kōtō, to Tokyo Big Sight. Today the venue plays host to The 54th All Japan Model and Hobby Show. There are many other exhibitions at Tokyo Big Sight today, including the Trend Fashion EXPO, and some free show about female auto racing drivers. I head to West Hall Two. The entrance fee is ¥1000.

The event today is operated by the Japan Radio-Controlled Model Manufacturers Association and the Japan Plastic Model Manufacturers Association. Inside, there are almost ninety different stalls from the many branches of the hobby and model tree. Inside, I am met by a display of scaled down model warships.

All of the large model companies are here. Kyosho claim to make, ‘The Finest Remote Control Models’. Nippon Remote Control showcase their new flying helicopters. Tamiya demonstrate their new remote control car. Other than remote control products, there are model trains, warships, cars, toys, hobby crafts, painting supplies, and character figures.

There is a woman in Cosplay signing various publications. There are people in Cosplay trying to attract men to their various stalls; the women pose for photographs and sell the men tanks. Thousands of items are on display. There are even models of famous historic sites in Japan, including a to scale model of Kaminarimon Gate at Sensō-ji Temple; it has a ¥38000 price tag. Various figurines of characters from famous Japanese anime also make an appearance.

As I said, there is a huge section of remote control flying machines. Some are more impressive than others, some of the people controlling the machines are not so impressive. I watch one guy flying a helicopter trying to get it to hover elegantly through a hoop, but instead, he crashes it spectacularly; one of the wings snaps off, and the exhibition is promptly closed. Some of the machines are better than others though; I watch a guy fly a huge drone vertically, at somewhat impressive speeds.

I swing by a shooting range, where people are hitting targets with fake plastic guns. There are some people giving talks. A speech is given by a woman on a large stage, many people are sat watching, listening, all very eagerly. I can’t take photographs of people on stages though, as per usual; a common thing I have found in Japan.

Bandai have a huge presence here too. There is a massive crowd stood watching a special viewing of some new episode of Gundam, or something. They also have a stall displaying figurines to coincide with the upcoming release of their new film, Space Battleship Yamato 2199. Bandai are the representative for Star Wars in Japan, and have a huge selection of merchandise. A giant screen displays footage from one of the Star Wars movies, people photograph Darth Vadar models and Millennium Falcon models. It’s a bit too much.

I decide to leave, and head to the train station. I take the Yurikamome Line to Shimbashi, before changing to the Ginza Line. Through distraction I miss the stop for Tawaramachi, so get off one stop later at Asakusa Station. The last stop.

I decide to wander through Sensō-ji; it is on my way home, and the sun is still shining. I notice a shrine that I have never seen before, Hikan Inari Shrine. It is very small and symbolises recovery. What strikes me as odd though, is that inside the shrine there are over three hundred small statues of foxes. There is an important looking sign written in Japanese, so I photograph it.

Back at the hostel, I ask my friend Hiro to translate the sign. It reads, “Please don’t ring the bell at night, as our neighbours in the area are trying to sleep. Be careful not to wander around too much in the evening, because you will be possessed by a fox.” Possessed by a fox? Interesting. Apparently there is a traditional folktale in Japan, whereby victims suffer from a condition called, “Kitsunetsuki,” a form of madness caused by being possessed.

I decide to explore this superstition further. I spend the evening wandering around the temples and shrines of Asakusa, until I turn into a fox.

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From England, Luke is a writer and editor living on the edge of Tokyo. He enjoys finding the strange and wonderful amongst the seemingly mundane moments of everyday life and travel, and writing about them.

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