Hammer Time

Situated as it is in the bustling neighborhood of Roppongi, the T-Cube is surrounded by constant construction.  Also, because Tokyo is a city of uniforms (the salarymen in their black suits, the Harajaku girls in their mini skirts, the schoolkids in their jumpers etc.), all the construction workers dress alike: in the Japanese version of Hammer pants.

I pulled these images (above) off the web.
The guys are all perfect models of the Japanese construction worker.

The pants are called bukabuka zubon ("baggy trousers"). They taper around the calf area so they can be easily slid into appropriate construction site footwear, but the baggy upper half conceals the tapered section. The very second I noticed these pants (our first morning in Tokyo), I was completely sold. I asked Boz, whom I often mistake as the fountain of all knowledge, where I could purchase a pair. My query was met with a sigh, followed by the clothing related version of his standard 3-part response to all my questions:

1) "I saw that coming from a mile away.",
2) "To where, in the hell, do you plan on wearing that?", and
3) "I have absolutely no idea where you can buy that, but I have no doubt you will figure it out."

Fast forward to this past Tuesday...and I am now the proud owner of a giant pair of Japanese construction worker pants. (And for the record, they can be worn everywhere, as I proved at dinner in Azabu last night.)

After a bit of internet research, I found a construction store in Shinjuku which, judging from the pictures, appeared to be the type of store that would carry bukabuka zubon (along with any additional supplies one might need in order to construct a high-rise). Late Tuesday morning, after meeting an up-and-coming artist at a super-crunchy coffee shop in a hipster part of town, I ventured over to the maze that is Shinjuku. (For my long-term readers...Shinjuku = chocolate festival 'hood.) My quest took me on a solid 20-minute trek from the station, down various increasingly industrial side streets, until I found my target. 

How did I know when I had arrived at the right store?

Oh, let's just say, it looked like a good bet:

I went inside to find two customers and one employee perusing the floor-to-ceiling shelves (packed with all types of tools)...chit-chatting away. They stopped talking as soon as I entered, probably assuming I was about to ask for directions to the United States of America. I quickly pulled up a picture of bukabuka zubon on my phone and held it out to the employee. He looked at my phone...looked at me quizzically...and pointed upstairs. I ascended a super steep and winding staircase until I found myself in the attic with a bunch of boxed-up merchandise. Confused, I began to descend, intending to somehow acquire better instructions, but stopped mid-way as I noticed the 'hidden' (behind racks of clothing) 2nd floor. The 2nd floor looked just like the attic in the sense that is wasn't so much a floor as a platform of plywood sheets supported by wooden beams (much like you would see in a garage attic in the States).  In order to access this impending disaster site, I had to actually jump from the staircase to the platform. So, in one of my customary moments of incredibly poor judgement, I decided that risking my safety to acquire construction pants was, indeed, a must-do. I jumped...and landed successfully...and was rewarded with multiple racks of separated-by-color construction pants. I was giddy with excitement.

As there were only 2 other people (plus the employee) in the store at this point, it was easy for my fellow patrons to hear the thud when I landed on the 2nd floor platform. Unable to smother their curiosity, they made their way up to monitor the situation. As I have yet to learn kanji, I was unable to decipher the sizes of the pants on my own, so I just selected a handful of colors and began trying them on. There was no dressing room to be found (and I now had an audience), so I just pulled the pants on over my shorts and walked my makeshift catwalk, testing the fit. The 2 construction workers (clearly my idols at this juncture) were delighted by this spectacle and began handing me additional pants to try. Never one to take important decisions lightly, I was more than willing to try on every style and color, thereby providing time for more customers to enter the store, learn of the circus show on the 2nd floor, and make their way up for a little amusement. I, with the assistance of my original 2-person team, made my way through the entire selection in my size while the assembled viewing party voiced its opinion (in Japanese, of course) and occasionally burst into collective laughter. I guess they were just laughing about how attractive I look in men's construction pants...or something along those lines. 

By the time I made my final selection, I had received the input (communicated via head shaking, laughing and bowing) of 6 different construction workers, all of whom were dressed in bukabuka zubon. :)

If you have spent any time in Japan, you are aware this story is exceedingly unusual. Japanese people are relatively reserved. Men and women do not interact in the casual manner with which we are accustomed in the States. And Japanese men and American women (outside of organized social settings) respectfully ignore each other a vast majority of the time. However, we are all now aware of an exception to this rule. It occurs when one party blows so far past all accepted social norms, the other party simply cannot resist responding.

As I was paying for my merchandise, the employee, with a proud smile and the obvious (albeit questionable) support of Google Translate, declared "You look good in my pants!".

Compliment of the year. Hands-down.

A lil' train station modeling after dinner on Thursday night