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Bow? Wow! Is Feminism Alive in Japan?

Tattoo illustrated skin, mohawks and peek-a-boo hole-in-the-earlobe plug earrings have all become the new normal. Our cashier is sporting all of the above. A homemade bathtub chain hairband just...

“Did you find everything you were looking for?” asks our friendly cashier at Trader Joe’s as my blue-eyed man and I unload our shopping cart. Auto-replying “yes, thank you,” my interest is piqued by the gleam of a chrome bathtub chain hairband embellishing her crestfallen purple mohawk coiffure. It is most original.

Why original? Because tattoo-illustrated skin, mohawks and peek-a-boo hole-in-the-earlobe plug earrings have all become the new normal. Our cashier is sporting all of the above. A homemade bathtub chain hairband just kind of stands out.

"Had I been the object of such scrutiny as well in my teens?" I wonder to myself.

In my grocery store trance, a distant teenage memory of my mother’s voice blurting out an emphatic "No!" rings in my ears before I can even complete the sentence “can I pleeease get my ears pierced?” The ensuing inner rebel wave rises in me like a tsunami as I take the liberty of sneaking another extend-a-peek at this young purple tribal goddess standing before me, hoping she won’t notice my curious eye.

The very night of that resounding "No!" I had defiantly pierced my own ears, with a dull sewing needle and half a potato jammed behind my unsuspecting earlobe. An escaped droplet of blood had nearly caused me to lose consciousness but the power of rebel intention superseded.

Did the Purple Goddess even ask her mother? About getting the holey earplugs, I mean.

As our illustrated cashier rhythmically rings in our groceries, daydream visions of my recent, pre-nuclear disaster trip to Tokyo float about in my mind. Images of colorful, runway-ready-clad Tokyo teens wander by, orange hair, purple hair, perfectly pulled together looks. They appear doll-like in a manner that only the Japanese can get away with.

In Tokyo I just plain old stared, the visuals were so entertaining and well, I could play the uncivilized tourist.

They’d never see me again, right?

I’ve heard that the school system in Japan is so incredibly demanding and competitive (uniforms are mandatory), that teens go wardrobe wild on the weekends. All trying desperately to look different, to bust out of their cultural restraints, yet all following the same unwritten fashion code, just wearing a different kind of uniform. Just like here, but on steroids.

I have to admit, I absolutely marvel at the super-charged fashion creativity these Japanese kids are driven to express. Fashion is both an art and a sport in Japan.

“That’ll be $85.49, please,” declares our Trader Joe's cashier, snapping me right out of my trance. Got to fumble for forgotten wallet. People are waiting in line.

By the way, did you know that in Japan, people bow to each other, I mean, all the time? Even elevator attendants respectfully bow repeatedly to you until the doors are firmly closed and you are several floors up.

On occasion Blue Eyes and I repeat the Japan bowing gesture at home to remind ourselves of the vast cultural differences in the world. Okay, we also do it for a laugh. So as he kindly hands me some cash to pay for our groceries, I bow solemnly, deeply to him in appreciation.

“Did you just bow to him?!” accuses our shocked purple Lisbeth Salander look-alike. Gak! The sudden switch to being the observed rather than the observer completely catches me off guard and I involuntarily find myself apologetically explaining all about our Tokyo bowing experience.

Now I wonder, is she taken aback because she thinks I am a submissive woman or because I appear to be mocking an ancient Japanese tradition?

I am now feeling both humbled and protected, knowing on some level that Purple Goddess was actually looking out for me. Rather reassuring proof that the quest for women’s equal rights is powerfully and youthfully alive ... still the new normal.

Wow, double barrel, Baby ...

The author of this guest post is Esmée St James, founder of Hotwire Your Life™ - Mojo For Boomer Chicks™, a blogsite on health, fitness and beauty for women baby boomers. Esmée also shares some riotous personal life experiences ... For more see www.HotwireYourLife.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Voluptuary January 17, 2013 at 09:40 PM
I like this writer's style.
Esmée St James January 17, 2013 at 09:46 PM
Thank you, Voluptuary, I'm delighted you enjoyed my story!
Sheila Sanchez (Editor) January 17, 2013 at 10:32 PM
I would compare the Japanese bowing tradition to the kissing tradition in Latin countries. You kiss everyone, just one time, on one cheek, as a sign of affection, friendship ... Don't know what's up in Los Gatos, but everywhere I go, people kiss and I kiss them! LOL!
Esmée St James January 17, 2013 at 11:49 PM
Kissing is all good, I'm in! Although when in Japan I noticed even the elevator attendants bowed. I guess I'd draw the line about there if they tried to kiss me... Great to hear form you, Sheila.
Irene Aida Garza-Ortiz January 18, 2013 at 01:21 AM
I'm with Sheila, it's definitely the custom in Latin America. And at times here in the States they call it "Crossing a boundary". But I learn to respect either way.
Esmée St James January 18, 2013 at 09:22 AM
Yep, it's the custom in France as well and half of me is French. Either way is good, sometimes it's hard to tell which way it's going to go though. Hug, kiss, double kiss, triple kiss, air kiss, bow, backflip...you've just got to stay on your feet and go with the flow. It's lovely to hear from you, Irene, thank you.
Voluptuary January 18, 2013 at 05:34 PM
LoL...You are so funny! I hope to say hello in person one day. If you are in Los Gatos, come into my shop and say hello! Tricia
Esmée St James January 18, 2013 at 06:04 PM
Thank you, Tricia, I'll definitely stop by at Voluptuary. Would be lovely to meet you and discover your shop. See you soon!

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