It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a lady disguised as a vending machine.

24 10 2007

Photo: Torin Boyd/Polaris, for The New York Times

What will they think of next? There was an interesting article in The New York Times on Saturday about an “experimental fashion designer” in Japan who makes skirts that transform into vending machines. View a slide show of how this “outfit” works.

Why would one need such a getup? To protect oneself from dangerous, street assailants. Aya Tsukioka doesn’t just make skirts. She also sews “manhole bags,” purses that look like manholes while laid on the street, and a backpack for children that can be folded so that a predator mistakes the kid for a Japanese fire hydrant.

Here’s the most interesting part of the article:

The devices’ creators admit that some of their ideas may seem far-fetched, especially to crime-hardened Americans. And even some Japanese find some of them a tad naïve, possibly reflecting the nation’s relative lack of experience with actual street crime. Despite media attention on a few sensational cases, the rate of violent crime remains just one-seventh of America’s.

But the devices’ creators also argue that Japan’s ideas about crime prevention are a product of deeper cultural differences. While Americans want to protect themselves from criminals, or even strike back, the creators say many Japanese favor camouflage and deception, reflecting a culture that abhors self-assertion, even in self-defense.

“It is just easier for Japanese to hide,” Ms. Tsukioka said. “Making a scene would be too embarrassing.” She said her vending machine disguise was inspired by a trick used by the ancient ninja, who cloaked themselves in black blankets at night.

According to the article, the crime rate in Japan is actually declining. So why would people go to such extreme measures like dressing up like soda machines? I guess you could say that the Japanese are cautious and like to be prepared. It could also be a little deeper than that. The Japanese not only are viewed as non-confrontational, but they are also encouraged by their culture to always have a mask or public self that is different from the private self they reveal to people they know. The public self is suppose to be respectful and timid. For a Japanese person on the street, he naturally would just avoid a bad situation even though I do not know how effective throwing a printed sheet over one’s head would be. Chindogu always puts a smile on my face.




3 responses

29 10 2007

Interesting discussion of Japanese culture. When I just read the article to the jump, I simply thought “Cool party trick,” but the article was actually more thought-provoking than I expected. I wonder how successful these could be. It seems you would have to scare your customers into ordering the outfits which could be hard if the crime rate is declining in Japan.

29 10 2007

Sounds more like an attention-getting stunt on the part of the fashion designer. I don’t know what criminal would be fooled by a walking vending machine. Plus, it would be harder to run away! Cool story, though.

31 10 2007

Wow, interesting take on the different cultures. I didn’t realize that the reaction to crime differed depending on culture, such as the Japanese wanting to hide, while Americans are more likely to fight back or assert themselves. In any case, these new fashions are kind of weird yet very funny and also so creative. I’d like to know how effective they are. Once people hear a lot about these outfits and are familiar with what they look like, do you think predators will still be fooled (if they even are already)?

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