Saturday we headed to Köln's rival town (which we really quite love) for Japantag (Japan Day). Düsseldorf has an extremely large Japanese population, even rumored to have the largest Japanese population outside of Japan. Maybe that's a bit of an overstatement, but at least it is the largest in Europe. The day was to be filled with traditional performances, an assortment of music, booths for doing calligraphy and origami, and hopefully a lot of good food to taste. So we headed out of Köln that afternoon, hoping that the rain would stay away, and journeyed north. The gray weather didn't keep the crowds away, and the Rhine was packed with visitors. Unfortunately it was so crowded that we could hardly see what was being performed on the stage, but we did get a great view of adorable kimono'd girls lining up for their chance to perform.
What I failed to remember (and what the official website certainly didn't highlight) was that any Japanese culture event would be positively overrun by Cosplay rats. For those of you that have no idea what Cosplay is, you are lucky, and once upon a time I too was naive to the genre. Basically, you dress up like your favorite Japanese Manga character (ie comic book character). Ok, fair enough, the youths like to dress up, and kids find all sorts of peculiar ways to build social communities out of shared passions. On paper, it should be good clean fun but, um, good grief people! It's on my list of things I hope my child never does, but that list is very long and I'm sure unreasonable. Although certainly a broad field, Japanese Manga (as Chris explained to me) often favors stories that center around petite Asian girls who wear corsets, short skirts and fishnet stockings - not a uniform most of us should hazard strolling around town in. As we walked from the train station to the hubbub of activity, we were forced to walk behind a rather large girl (and when I say girl, I mean female in her mid to upper 20s) wearing a skirt 4 inches shorter than I would ever wear (and I have some short skirts), and we had quite a view of her fishnet covered rear end. And, as I mentioned before, it was chilly out, certainly not a day I would want to be in a bikini top, but there was some of that too. Though in theory the costumes have some basis in Manga, there's a sense that any costume that allows a girl to dress in a manner unbefitting to her age is sufficient.
So we have all these Cosplay kids that have flocked to Düsseldorf to strut their stuff, okay, but then we add in a few new elements, including throngs of emo kids and numerous (and baffling) holdovers from early 90s goth. All these groups congregating at the steps leading down to the main promenade along the Rhein. And, oh yeah, it's Germany, so we better throw in a few cases of bottled beer. And some curmudgeonly, quasi-homeless crust punks too. Two German 20-something dude-bros, sporting their football fever fineries, really summed it all up, when one said "Johannes, wo sind wir?" Well, Johannes, you certainly aren't in (insert German equivalent of Kansas here) anymore.
As we traveled away from the Rhein and towards the Altstadt, the crazy people were much more familiar to us: football fans singing, drinking, and eventually watching the Euro 2008 (thankfully there weren't big games that night, so the football fever wasn't quite so high) and numerous Bachelor and Bachelorette parties - just another Saturday evening in Germany. As Chris enjoyed an Alt bier, we were of course approached by a groom-to-be, trying to sell airplane-sized bottles of liquor. The group of people we were sharing a table with (men and women a smidgen older than our parents) had quite fun purchasing the treats and then trying (unsuccessfully) to give them to me. I'm trying to picture my parents doing the same thing, but I just can't. Here's Chris trying one of Düsseldorf's signature brews (a treat that would never ever be sold 40 km south in Köln). My pouting face. made at the beer and sushi I couldn't enjoy, evaded the camera.
We left before the Japanese fireworks show on the Rhine. It surely would have been amazing and probably the highlight of the day, but it didn't start until after dark, which right now is 11 pm.