Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Golden Girl of the East

Pastry chain Donut Plant NYC's cute 'n' tasty
homage to Japan's current national hero
New submission to Webster's Dictionary:

Shizukamania: noun; non-transitive; The odd blend of serious homage-paying traditions, marketing savvy, ironic ostentation, and quirky refinement that amounted to a post-modern beatification of Shizuka Arakawa upon her winning of a gold medal for figure skating in the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, 2006--the only medal of the games for Japan. Also known as Arakawamania.

Let the ceremonial sanctification begin:

Shizukamania is sweeping the nation. Not only is the gold medalist being beseiged by reporters, and sure to be hawking everything from pantyhose to sports drinks on Japanese television within a few months, but she has also prompted a trend that is both serious and funny in a subtle Japanese fashion: golden donuts--sprinkled with real gold dust, no less! I'm digging to find out how much people are forking out for these delicacies. I'm sure not a small few of them end up at the feet of statues in Buddhist shrines or in gravesite offering plates. Also popular is a golden CD of the music from Turandot used in Arakawa's long program. I give six months for this stuff to start appearing on e-bay.

Next trends to watch for:

A rash of gold hoop earrings on the lobes of fashionable Japanese schoolgirls and office ladies, which will lead to gold accessories of all kinds, and on to golden suits and skirts inspired by figure skating design--sounds scary, I know, but the Japanese mainstream fashion world is laden with laudatory trends.

When I lived in Kyoto, Japan in 1990-91, everyone was in love with the English language; i.e. they were shocked into awe by it for being so powerful. Because of this, there was a big trend for English phrases and aphorisms on things like stationary, school supplies and t-shirts. I left the country wearing a long-sleeved lavender t-shirt that read "FASHION TRAUMA OF BOURGEOISIE MILK BOY"; one of my favorite letter sets contained notepaper with a picture of a blissful beagle next to a shiny motorcycle on each sheet, and the caption: "Cool breeze smooth my muzzle." Now, I wish I had those things for e-bay! Since the Japanese have gotten more proficient in the English language, their fashion and consumer copy has become more and more correct and sophisticated. There's nothing like the "Japanglish" of the country's initial infatuation with the power of English.

Japan's infatuation with Shizuka Arakawa runs far deeper, into the realm of mystic racial honor and ancient traditions of acclaim for national heroes. But its expression is just as twisted and unexpectedly refined. Only the Japanese would think of sprinkling donuts with gold dust. I hate donuts, but I'd love to get my hand on a gold-medal-glazed before they go out of style!

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