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A Snapshot of Japanese Youth

By Becka

    In her book, Crafting Selves, anthropologist Dorinne Kondo speaks of the “setting trope” as being shaped by a “journey, more or less linear, where order and meaning gradually emerge from initially inchoate events and experiences” (p. 7)  As I walked the streets of Kobe, Japan I started to see what she meant.  I was overwhelmed by the flashing lights and the mix of music and voices coming from everywhere.  They all seemed to call me toward them, beckon me to enter and see what all the fuss was about.

    Something about the arcade on my right caught my eye, the teenagers still in their school uniforms playing claw machines alongside men in business suits; the brightly decorated stairs, lines with blown up pictures of young Japanese girls posing on green-screenedjapan backgrounds.  It was impossible to resist climbing those stairs to the second level.  The room the stairs opened into was packed tightly with wall-to-wall photo booths and groups of young Japanese.  The noise was astounding, every booth blared music and instructions, laughter rang out from behind the curtains.  If you were looking the youth of Kobe, this was where to find them.

    While I stood and waited for a turn to use a booth, with what felt like an insane urge, I looked around me.  From the booth on the far right I watched a group of what must have been eight girls emerge and crowd into the little editing room, a smaller version of the larger booth, attached back to back.  In the booth across from me a girl and a guy emerged, the girl was holding a bouquet and wearing what looked like a veil, both were giggling as they entered their machine’s editing booth.  From my American perspective, I found it odd to see groups of boys waiting to cram into the machines and pose for pictures on bright backgrounds; I could almost hear my best friend at home and the things he’d say it would do to his masculinity.  These kids would later cut those pictures away from each other and stick them to things, broadcasting to the world that they’d been out that night, taking pictures.

    Personally, I was pretty sure I’d hate taking my picture in a booth, but my friend and I had some extra yen to use up.  The machine shouted things in Japanese and we pressed the buttons randomly, posing for pictures on backgrounds with cats and skulls and umbrellas.  I found myself laughing as the flash came each time, grinning at the oddity of what I was doing.  As we stood and waited for the pictures to print out, I watched everyone around me again.  Walking into the arcade I was sure I would hate the photo booths as much as I hated the ones we have at home, but when I was over I wanted to do it again.

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