I took the Patco from Haddonfield to Philadelphia, for a date with my boyfriend.
We were standing in line at the Franklin Fountain, a famous ice cream shop in Philly, when out of the corner of my eye I saw some familiar looking lace and ruffles.
To my right was a flock of Sweet Lolitas decked out in pastels and strawberry cake confectionary patterns. Lolita, in the western world, has come to mean a sexually precocious girl. This, mostly due to the novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, which depicts a man's obsessive and disturbing relationship with his twelve-year-old step-daughter. However, in Japan, Lolita is a fashion style that draws on 18th and 19th century styles. It is a celebration of modesty and fashion and all that is cute and elegant. There are many subcategories, however Sweet Lolita usually deals with pastel colors and white laces and cheery prints.
Seeing lolitas wandering about is rare occurrence in the States, especially considering that there was no anime convention or event. They probably had a group online that organized activities so they could dress up and parade around the city in permed hair and petticoats and thick stockings in ninety-degree weather.
And yet if you just wander past Meiji Jingu into Harajuku on a Sunday, finding a Lolita or two isn't unusual.
I've had the privilege to visit Tokyo not once, but twice. The first time, I stayed for five days at Hotel Okura while my father had conferences, wandering the city with my little sister. The second time, I went to hang out with my host sister Eri and her best friend Sakura and visited Asakusa.
My sister at Hachiko in Shibuya in 2009
Me at Hachiko in 2012 in Shibuya
2012 Harajuku Purikura
The landscape is decidedly more modern than Philadelphia, where tall buildings intersperse with neoclassical and colonial architecture. A good example of this is Independence Hall in Old City.
Drawing of Independence Hall, from Observation
Behind Independence Hall is the Penn Mutual building (not pictured in drawing), which is composed of an original 1913 building, a 1931 addition, and a 1975 tower extension.
However, if you look closesly, you can see that in Tokyo, the same sort of influence still exists, despite the firebombings from 1942 and 1944-1945. Temples stand resilient, passing the test of time, like in Asakusa in Taito-ku, Tokyo.
And tradition still influences the present, like in the famous SkyTree building in Asakusa, which draws influence from Sensouji Temple in Nikko.
Drawing of SkyTree from Observation
Tokyo and Philadelphia. Two cities on the opposite sides of the world, and yet as different as they look on the surface, delving deeper it's just another place like home.