Yoyogi Park at a glance
The area was once a training ground for Japan’s imperial army and became known as ‘Washington Heights’ when it was used to house US military personnel after World War II. In 1964, the park was used for the Olympic athletes’ village during the Tokyo Olympics. The park’s Yoyogi National Stadium was built by Japan’s most famous architect, Tange Kenzo, and has a swimming pool and skating rink. When the Olympics were over and the athletes went home, the Japanese government turned the area into a public park.
Nowadays, Yoyogi Park is most famous for being a weekend gathering point for performers, bands, and different eclectic groups. It is not uncommon to see fire-eaters, shamisen players, and punk-rock bands performing next to each other on a Sunday stroll through the park.
In the late 1970’s and early 80’s Yoyogi Park was frequented by a group called the Takenoko-zoku (The Bamboo Shoot Tribe), who would dress up in 50’s style clothes and rockabilly hair and dance aggressively to blasting 1950’s rock and roll. However, they were eventually kicked out of the park by Tokyo riot police.
Tokyo is an organic city, however, and the Takenoko-zoku have been replaced by an even more eclectic group – the Cosplay Zoku. Zoku means group or tribe and cosplay (kosupurei) is taken from the English words ‘costume’ and ‘play’. The group is made up mostly of teenage girls who dress up in outrageous outfits of everything from goth and punk to anime characters to nurse outfits straight out of a porno movie.
Although many of the costumes are very creative the more riskee ones can be extremely shocking, especially when worn by a 13 or 14 year old girl. Be sure to bring your camera if you go to the park on a Sunday.