With sharply pointed shoes and elaborate pompadours, the Rockabilly dancers in Yoyogi Park are a strangely compelling Japanese tribute to an imagined American past. The takenoko-zoku (bamboo shoot kids) began their unusual hobby in the 1980s, and these no-longer-kids are the original costume players in a part of Tokyo characterized by sartorial make believe.
Positioning their amplifiers, coolers, and chairs at the main park entrance, close to Harajuku Station, three rival ‘gangs’ setup up shop last Sunday afternoon. The Strangers (Greaser on the Road), the Street Rockers, and the Harajuku Lebels (get it?) competed and cooperated to bring three slightly different interpretations of the American rock & roll era to this popular park.
The Lebels, with their leather jackets, black wife beaters, and tightly pointed shoes, layers of duct tape suggesting years of street dancing, were the edgiest.
The Street Rockers, with Oloha shirts and a girlie dress, were a bit more clean cut.
The sunglassed Strangers had the most elaborately greased hair styles.
Swaying and kicking to recordings of American rock music, and Japanese tribute rock, the three gangs took overlapping turns strutting their swing stuff in an elvishistic frenzy.
Part performance, part competition, and significantly self-indulgent, the performances attract a large crowd of onlookers.
One old geezer in traditional garb spent hours gently rocking to the rockers. I have to believe that he’s a regular.
Taking long breaks between sets, the rockabillies changed their clothing over the course of the afternoon, with the Street Rockers shedding their Hawaiian shirts.
And the Lebels eventually going topless.
Additional images can be found in my Rockabilly Dancers photo gallery.