Tuesday, January 28, 2020


Everyone in Tokyo today has a coat that is nicer than yours. Herringbone, grey, beige, long, short, collared or not, adorned with a small faux-fur scarf. I saw very few black coats. Nails on women were manicured. Hair was conservatively cut and styled.

In the year 2000, the fashion in Tokyo was intergalactic. Fifth Element short skirts, white eyeshadow, the highest of platform shoes (women died from falling on subway stairwells), bleached hair, bright colors. The white eyeshadow was a startling Liquid Paper for the eyelid. I forget what I wore. Probably stretchy pants and wordless tops. Everywhere we went I felt like a big loaf of bread.

In 2020, calm is the new wild. Everyone is wearing earth tones. The highlight color is mustard, if you are brave enough to wear a highlight color. Dan saw a guy dressed all in green, but I missed him. It’s easy to miss people in Tokyo, which is a mill and seethe of humans.

I packed layers, planning on cold days and evenings in the countryside with my sister and her husband, and didn’t pack anything I’d call fashionable. In Tokyo, I felt like a rock with legs. A monolith in my oversized grey sweater coat, like an avatar in a video game whose goal is to not bump into anyone or anything. I failed at that, I’m sorry to say.

I thought about the coats I could have brought with me and if they’d stand up to what I was seeing on people. Nope. The 10 year old black coat I bought in Germany? The other black dress coat I got at Target 12 years ago?

By our second day, I felt offensive. My hair, in piles on top of my head, got snickers from shoppers while we were in a paper store. I love the red, cashmere hand warmers my daughter got me for Christmas, up-cycled from someone’s sweater, and wore them everywhere, with the big grey monolith sweater. They stood out. The boots I purchased to be comfortable (which bore a tag on them that said “fashion” — knockoffs of some brand I don’t know), made my size 10 feet look like concrete blocks. They were comfortable for all the walking we did though.

I wondered out loud with my sister if I should style my hair differently for the next day. Was I offending people? “Wear it how you want,” she said, and she shared that in her early days of living in Tokyo she gave up on trying to blend in. You never will. Just be you.

What a relief.

In the countryside of Kamogawa, I felt more at home. Everyone wore relaxed, comfortable clothing. Layers. They smiled more, and even if I was ridiculous and loafy, they didn’t make me feel so. There were goats, dogs, chickens, and cats. None of them wore fancy coats.

But I still feel the pull of desire for a nicer coat, which is impractical for where I live. When I’m around people who have manicured nails, I want manicured nails, which is not wise for a woman who tends to goats on a daily basis and has to sweep out a barn. Yesterday I found myself on my knees in the mud, in my thrift store “goat coat,” holding onto the collars of Littleface and Brick, who decided that a visit with the neighbors down the road was a good idea.

My biggest concern these days is how to trim goat hooves. Goat manicures are on my mind. I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube tutorials. My days of fashion, if I ever had them, are over. If you see me wearing a nice coat, it’s a loaner.

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