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Well, all those mentions of the Broad&Market style blog paid off; yesterday I got to reprazent Abeno, Osaka (apologies to all the much cooler Abeno kids who wouldn't have looked as chubby as I do in the lead picture; it's all layering, I swear). The most important part of the interview Maggie includes is the bit where I say: "My policy is probably to evoke some kind of otherness and to refute the global monoculture in some way... I’m struggling against it by using other reductive norms like workwear — that’s a bit of a paradox... So workwear, or like, kabuki clothes or gardener’s clothes or peasant’s clothes, or sportswear like golfing wear."

To that list of othernesses I'd like today to add a new category: pilgrimwear. From Friday to Monday I'll be traveling in Shikoku with Hisae and Yoyo (seen above on Christmas day in the amazing tea pavilion that stands in the garden at her family house in Hinoo). Now, art, friendship, hot water and food are really the goals of our "pilgrimage" (we hope to visit the art island of Naoshima and bathe in Shinro Ohtake's amazing bathhouse), but Shikoku is also famous for its 88-temple pilgrimage. Below you can see the traditional white garb of the Shikoku pilgrim. Dōgyō futari on the sign means "two traveling together".

Pilgrimwear is a good dress lexicon to adopt for various reasons. First, it's an ancient dress style, yet not dodo-dead; it's still worn by pilgrims in Japan today. Secondly, it's leisurewear, not workwear. So it avoids the usual recontextualisation paradox by which the look of other people's unfreedom is shiftily reframed as the look of one's own freedom. (To all those wearing jeans, you do realise that you're voluntarily wearing the clothes cotton-picking slaves were forced to, don't you?)

The otherness quotient of pilgrimwear is fabulously high, and yet the look doesn't stifle itself in piety, as, say, priestwear would (though I must say I have a yen for the conch-playing priest's garb in my Tiger Mountain video). Pilgrims, after all, are secular amateurs merely visiting, in a touristic way, religious sites. And as any reader of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales will tell you, pilgrims can be a rowdy, bawdy lot. A religious trip can be a pretext for carousing and even become arousing; in The Art of Love Ovid sees temples as pick-up joints, and Chaucer's set of scabrous stories begins at the Tabard Inn in Southwark, where brothels, palaces and cathedrals stood side-by-side. What could be more natural than following the ingestion of incense with the letting-off of sexual steam?

So, although Japanese pilgrims evoke the same kind of ancient otherness the Hasidim do, you don't have to feel like a hypocrite, anti-semite or satirist walking around dressed up as one. You can just be... human.

But don't you have to be super-ascetic if you're going to be a pilgrim? Not really. Modern Japanese pilgrims take taxis, cars, buses and trains on their 88-temple pilgrimage. They eat hamburgers. Buddhism stresses "the middle way", not total asceticism. There was an interesting action recently by Chim↑Pom touching on this. Hisae and I attended the finissage performance for a show the renegade artist group held at Yamamoto Gendai gallery in Tokyo. Good to be a Mummy saw Chim↑Pom collaborating with friends Yasuyuki Nishio, Sachiko Kazama and Yoshimitsu Umekawa to make an exhibition themed around self-starvation.

Motomu Inaoka, a Chim↑Pom assistant, became a living sculpture for the show, losing so much weight during a fast that his ribcage began to poke uncomfortably through his chest skin. The idea of Sokushinbutsu (or "living body Buddha") was that a monk fasts while meditating then dies to become a mummy. A rather scary sculpture was made of Inaoka at his thinnest, but by the time we caught the show he'd put the weight back on again. Chim↑Pom passed a big heap of McDonalds hamburgers out to the crowd during the blow-out finissage party. Munching on this stereotypically monocultural food, I immediately wanted to embark on a fast (followed, perhaps, by a multi-temple pilgrimage) myself. It smelled and tasted like shit.

Why yes I do wear jeans!

Date: 2010-01-07 02:59 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
And after 30 or so years I still feel like a cotton picking slave!
From: (Anonymous)
I always liked the Raiden look, not sure where one could pick up some affordable pilgrim wear either.

Unless i was going on a pilgrimage. . .i would feel pretty satirical . .

The self starvation exhibit is very interesting. Where do you find such interesting things to go and see?
From: [identity profile]
Well, it's my job! Not just as a blogger, but as a curator, which is the official reason I'm in Japan this time. It was Rika from Mujinto Productions who told me about the Chim小Pom performance.

(That's not the little arrow you're supposed to insert into their name, but what popped up on the iPod's kanji input when I attempted to draw the character, sitting neck-high in a hot bath.)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-07 04:28 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)

Have a nice trip to Shikoku and don't forget that some students are expecting you next Tuesday morning.

Here are the details for anyone in the area wishing to attend:

Tuesday, January 12th.
10:40 a.m. - 12:10 p.m., including time for questions & discussion w/ students.
Soshikan Conference Room (創思館コンファレンスルーム, next to the clock tower)
Ritsumeikan University, Kinugasa Campus, NW Kyoto, close to Kinkakuji
Some simultaneous interpret. to Japanese will be provided.
Open to the public.


- Michael

Anyone may attend.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-07 04:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks, Michael, I actually planned to add that information to the text today, but couldn't find a smooth way to do it. I'll post a proper announcement maybe Sunday or Monday too.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-07 07:26 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
This is the kind of post where Momus makes me feel like he’s some kind of alternate version of myself. He hates jeans basically for the same reasons I do. He demystifies work-clothes the same way I do, and he loves pilgrim clothes much in the same ways as I. I had all these discourses in my head for years, then Momus somehow sit in his chair and channel them down. Often.

Anons here often complain that Momus is a narcissist, as if narcissism was a crime or something. Well I’m something weirder —I’m, what, a narcissistic fanboy; a self-watching voyeur.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-07 03:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
(To all those wearing jeans, you do realise that you're voluntarily wearing the clothes cotton-picking slaves were forced to, don't you?)

You surely have heard about this new fangled thing called recontextualization, right?

Also, to all those wearing ANY KIND OF CLOTHES, you do realise that you're voluntarily wearing what hunter-gatherers were forced to wear (because of the elements), don't you?

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-08 12:49 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Jeans is too hot, too thick, and more unconfortable even than work pants. It restricts your movement, prevents skin airflow and, if wet, takes forever to dry. It’s like the worst fabric ever.

Jeans is great for its intended purposes —as a kind of thick armor to protect your legs from horse sweat or brush scratches. But why people have made it into the modern uniform is beyond me. Since I don’t pick cotton nor ride horses, I’ll just wear confortable clothes, thank you very much.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-07 05:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, I'd really like to visit the temples of Japan, jet even pilgrim to them! There are far too few buddhist temples in Sweden (

Bold Countries

Date: 2010-01-07 06:22 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
ヅ ヅ ヅ ヅ ヅ ヅ ヅ ヅ ヅ ヅ ヅ ヅ tonight agitated, jakomaalerabern!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-07 08:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Momus, I got something for you to investagte further into:

"Döner kebabs are starting to appear, mostly in Tokyo, where they are predominantly sold from parked vans. Döner kebabs have been adjusted to suit Japanese tastes; the salad is usually omitted in favour of shredded cabbage, and the sauce is composed primarily of mayonnaise.

Employees of döner kebab stands (along with those of Indian restaurants) are among the most visible non-East Asian, non-Western European immigrants in Japan. This phenomenon has only become prevalent in the last five years, and is perhaps indicative of changing attitudes towards foreigners."

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-08 02:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-08 08:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I will write my own little bit on jeans sometime soon. Sometimes pulling on a well-worn pair is so satisfying, given what one will be doing that day. But as with anything that becomes so taken for granted, I'll agree that people need to try wearing something else...

This is a racist statement

Date: 2010-01-14 05:31 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
"(To all those wearing jeans, you do realise that you're voluntarily wearing the clothes cotton-picking slaves were forced to, don't you?)"

Even if this were true (and it's highly racially-charged and spurious, too -- jeans were designed and built primarily for horseback riding workers), how is this supposed to be a put down? I'd see it as an act of solidarity. Funny, you're trying to soft-sell it as something that people would/should be squeamish or shameful about "if only they knew..."

I also heard the Nazi's liked soup...

Re: This is a racist statement

Date: 2010-01-14 08:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

Is this in the Oliver Stone movie?

Re: This is a racist statement

Date: 2010-01-15 12:14 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
To all those wearing Japanese samu-e type clothes, do you realize that you're voluntarily wearing the clothes of the imperial kamikaze pilots of WW2?


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