Sunday in the park with a pooper scooper

Scott Gardner


At JALT2008 last fall I took some time off from signing autographs to pay a visit to Yoyogi Park, where I’d been told that on any given weekend it was easy to spot “weirdos.” That prospect sounded interesting, especially since I’d overheard some high school kids at Sangubashi station saying that on that particular weekend in November all the weirdos were at the Olympics Youth Center.

As I entered Yoyogi Park, I could tell it was a popular spot for dog lovers. I saw Labradors, Pomeranians, mastiffs, greyhounds—and these were just the stickers on the car windows in the parking lot. Within the park itself dogs were everywhere, as were the accommodations for them: walking areas, running areas, drooling areas, and a wide assortment of trees.

After several minutes’ strolling I wanted to rest on a park bench, but this being a Sunday, empty benches were hard to come by. It was irritating to see cyclists leaning their bikes against the benches and sitting down on them while their bikes, with perfectly good seats of their own, remained unoccupied. I had just about resolved to walk up to a sitting biker and ask if I could take a little nap on her bicycle seat for a few minutes, but I was suddenly distracted by the appearance of an old bearded man cruising by on roller skates. For some reason he was also pulling a bicycle alongside him. I tried to follow him and find out if he was planning to augment his multiple modes of transportation by saddling up on a horse or something, but of course with all those wheels at his disposal he got away from me pretty quickly.

There was music in the distance. At first it was the pleasant drone of a bagpipe. I couldn’t see who was playing it, and judging by the fact that I found it “pleasant” I decided that the player was probably four or five kilometers away. But soon I heard other, more contemporary music, with drums and guitars, coming from the east entrance to the park. I sensed I was getting closer to the park’s anticipated weirdness, for there, just beyond the “visual” band aficionados in Edvard Munch makeup, were the rollicking, gyrating bodies of the Rockabilly dancers, the men and women perhaps most responsible for making Yoyogi Park famous. There were only a few of them that day, but they had it all: 50s music coming out of cheap stereos, leather clothes, air guitar moves, and “regent” forelocks jutting in the air. One guy’s regent was so long that when he went to the sidelines to bend over and respritz it, he ended up dragging it on the pavement.

I couldn’t stay and watch the show for long, because the Dixie Cup Nunchaku Man was setting up for another performance. The Dixie Cup Nunchaku Man places four headless music stands in various positions around him, each with a paper cup balanced on it. He then waits, shirtless, quietly centering himself before bursting into action and smacking each cup to the ground in a quick, blurry, predetermined sequence. It’s an esoteric but noble skill he’s developing: thanks to people like him, you and I need hardly fear being terrorized by gangs of renegade coffee mugs.

From my visit to Yoyogi that day I determined that weirdness is in the mascara-ed eye of the beholder. Wearing a homemade Gundam suit in the park is not much different from wearing the same old brown tweed jacket with elbow patches to class every week, except the former exhibits more attention to detail and requires the help of two or three friends to put it on. In deciding on your favorite mode of self-expression, my advice is simply to rub your forelock in the dirt and see what comes up in it. Just don’t do it near any of those trees.