An unassuming poster marks the door to the Kiss Expo, which leads into a shopping mall in Harajuku. We take the lift to the fifth floor, walk past some boutiques selling women’s knitwear and frilly blouses, and enter a hidden world of Kiss memorabilia. Tellingly, the first item on display is the band’s formation contract from 1976, promising each band member 25% of the band’s revenue. Then there are gold discs aplenty, a selection of historic and smashed guitars, the infamous Kiss Kasket, a video showing Gene Simmons with X Japan mainman Yoshiki, and studded costumes from throughout the years – though sadly, the mannequins are not anatomically correct. “Kiss are sexy – we need to go to the sausage shop!” jokes Mark Stroman, one of the brains behind the event.
Aside from Gene Simons and Paul Stanley, Japanese music critics Masa Ito and Yuichi Masuda advised on the collection, which has been three years in the making and mainly consists of items donated by fans. The organisers now hope to grow the event and take it to the US and Europe. “There are two sides to this exhibition – one is the history and memorabilia for the diehard fans, and the other is fun experiences for new fans, like virtual reality headsets,” says curator Hana. “We’re exploring more ideas, and hoping to have the whole band appear next time!”
Here’s what we learned from a walk around…
Gene’s basement is batshit crazy
He isn’t shy about showing off his home, and the staff give out virtual reality headsets so we can tour his and Paul Stanley’s cribs. He points out his branded pinball machine, toilet paper, baby bottles, condoms and other items, while our eyes try to adjust to the floor-to-ceiling Kiss Kaos. Ow.
He has a gold 8-track
It’s all very well having gold discs, but what about the under-appreciated tape? Gene has one to commemorate shifting more than 500,000 units of 1975 concert album Alive in the now-obsolete format. It’s probably worth more than anything we will ever own. Ever.
And the Fire Sword!
Fresh from being used on their American tour, it’s the first time the Fire Sword has been displayed. Never mind stage shows, if you were going to fight dragons, zombies or White Walkers, you’d want this flaming weapon by your side.
The Kiss Marvel comic is too cool
One display shows the Marvel Kiss Special original comic book from 1977, which was made with the band’s own blood. Above, there’s a big colour picture of them pouring the blood into a big vat of red ink, while dressed in full costume. We really want the comic. Does Santa come on Halloween?
The Demon’s baby pictures are lolz
There’s a scrapbook containing family photos of Gene. Photos include one of his mum looking weirdly serious while tickling him, and hilarious ones of him driving a miniature car and dressed up western-style like the Milkybar Kid. Proof that he’s long been a showman.
Kiss Expo Tokyo 2016 runs until October 31 at Laforet Museum, Harajuku.