The Rockabillies of Yoyogi Park
The Rockabillies of Yoyogi Park are, perhaps, the best example of what makes Tokyo so Tokyo. This city is all about awesome subcultures, retro tongue-in-cheek chic, music, and serious love for everything fun.
For more than 30 years, these Tokyo icons have been gathering on Sundays at the southeastern corner of Yoyogi Park to dazzle visitors with their dance moves, humor and extreme vertical hair. They don’t do it for money; they don’t ask for a thing. They just dance to dance and entertain the crowds.
Best of all, photographers are welcome to shoot away to their heart’s content. But don’t even think about invading their space to compose that perfect shot. I watched as one overzealous photographer (no, not me) stepped over the imaginary boundary that encircles the dancers. Faster than you can say, Rock-this-town-rock-it-inside-out one of the dancers who doubles as a bouncer had removed said photographer. This is Japan, people, respect is not just a song by Aretha Franklin here.
And if you stay respectful, the Rockabillies are a ton of fun and SUPER friendly. We loved them so much that we have gone back multiple times to see them. Seriously, what is better than vertical hair gyrating to Love is a Battlefield in Japanese. Who sings that? She sounds exactly like Pat Benatar. Did Pat do a Japanese version?
Interestingly, several of our Japanese friends seemed to think that the Rockabillies had stopped performing and they were quite surprised that we had seen them not once, but multiple times. That suggests that the Rockabillies may not always be there. However, it didn’t seem to me that the tradition was dying out. There were several younger dancers learning the moves.
Tips on Seeing the Rockabillies
The Rockabillies gather at the southeastern corner of Yoyogi Park not far from the JR Harajuku Station or the Meiji-jingumae Metro Station. Here is the location on Google Maps. Apparently, they don’t dance at a fixed time, so there is luck involved. But both times we encountered them, it was about 3 PM.