We’ve seen this city come up with the strangest things – Robot Restaurant, cat-scented sprays and a movie monster-themed bar – but Department H is where Tokyo really goes off the bizarre charts. Held on the first Saturday of each month, these venerable fetish parties culminate in the annual 'Great Latex Festival', a carnival of rubber-wear fashion shows and drag performances by some of Tokyo's best-known cross-dressers, attended by practically all of the city's serious latex lovers.
We squeezed into a fresh-off-the-shelf latex outfit and joined the revelry on June 4 at Uguisudani's Tokyo Kinema Club, a former cabaret theatre and a retro reminder of the smoky days of Showa. Things quickly got interesting, as 'latex sculpture' artist Saeborg brought out a larger-than-life latex pig right off the bat, covering the venue's entire stage from left to right. And as if the rubber hog wasn't impressive enough in its own right, it soon started giving birth to partygoers dressed as latex piglets. We were already too flabbergasted – and sweaty – to question the motivation behind all this porky action.
The next show was somewhat less challenging to wrap your head around, but nonetheless impressive: a runway was set up in the centre of the club and ‘rubberists’ were soon strolling the catwalk as confidently as the models at Fashion Week – except for instead of Dior or Prada, these fashionistas were showing off the latest creations of 'latex haute couture' brand Kurage.
After the fashion update, the programme continued with a wild bunch of performances, some of which even escalated into cat fights. Although interesting in their own right, some of the shows went a little over our heads – possibly because we were constantly occupied by fellow onlookers' outrageous rubber wear and accessories. Gigantic latex pigs giving birth might be a little out of your comfort zone but, on a whole, the bizarre uniqueness of the Great Latex Festival makes it an event well worth checking out. And hey, you now have an entire year to prepare your outfit (and nerves) for the next edition.
Read more about Department H on the party's official blog (in Japanese only), and scroll down for more photographic action from this year's Great Latex Festival.