Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Burlesque Show Must Go On!

Asakusa is a top tourist destination for its red Kaminari Gate that leads to Kanon Temple. However, Kanon takes on many forms, and few know of the city’s other Full-Breasted Kanon and her place of worship, Ginmaku Rock.

Pass through its doors and be teleported from the dim and dusty backstreets of the city to a shrouded canteen suspended between worlds. The airy flute and thumping hand drum playing in the background would suggest you have stumbled into a middle eastern cabaret, while the stark color scheme is absolutely bewildering—black and white paneled walls set against black and crimson tiles. In the back stands a deliberately gaudy red velvet stage framed with prismatic LEDs. Above, the chandelier casts warm yellow light over the illusionary scene, giving the feeling that you’re living in a faded photograph.

All that’s missing are the Mugwumps and backwards-speaking midgets.

Ginmaku Rock’s impenetrable atmosphere has made it a favorite hideaway of musicians and manga artists. Its walls are adorned with gems such as Umezu Kazuo’s signature, what appears to be a piece by Hara Tetsuo of Fist of the North Star fame, and signed art from Maruo Suehiro. Expect an eclectic customer base on any given night of cultural movers and shakers ranging from off-duty Geisha to male ballerinas.

And of course, there’s Safi.

Ginmaku Rock is part of Japan’s burlesque revival and regularly hosts shows with dancers and a rotating stable of musicians. On the 25th we were treated to Orso Bruno and their fusion of East European folk accordion accompanied with sax or flute. (Listen to them on MySpace.) They opened up with a pair of sultry tunes that teased the audience and set the stage for Safi, the Full-Breasted Kanon of Asakusa.

Called forth by Orso Bruno’s version of Misirlou, Safi sauntered her way to the stage, trailing lavender perfume through the crowd. The previously sedate audience blew up into a chaotic string of catcalls, whoops, and hand claps. Did I mention that most everyone there was female?

Safi’s show heated up but never boiled over, always giving us a brief repose before shedding another piece of her bombastic costume. For the finale she traipsed through the crowd, glamorous mammaries snapping up 1000-yen bills like a doughy bear trap.

After the show, Safi and Orso Bruno came off the stage to mingle with the audience. At the end of the day, even burlesque dancers and world musicians are normal people like anyone else. The female patrons absolutely adored Safi. Tonight was classy fun, a celebration of the female figure and sex. By comparison, try bragging to your co-workers that you blew a hundred dollars at a strip club.

Burlesque shows or otherwise, Ginmaku Rock is a truly unique bar and one of the few that has birthed a culture all its own. Beer aficionados, note that they carry all varieties of the elusive Coedo.

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