Tokyo Journal 2003: Day 6

March 29th, 2003

New Years Day

Morning TV selections – have I mentioned how distracting TV is here? There were days we were barely able to tear ourselves away from the variety shows, or the gymnastics horse-jumping competiton…how *does* one avoid New Year’s Day? By watching TV of course!

Right now, as I write, I’m watching one of those kinds of programs that I love – competition in sports I don’t know. This one consists of kids lining up and bending over, so a small kid can race across their backs. When the little guy has run over your back, you run to the end of the line and do it again, along a course. The Red Team won – with an impressive record of 18 seconds. Pattie was amazed by this, because she had seen it in a manga and had no idea it was real, which prompted a conversation about how manga and anime show real life through a distorted lens…not entirely fake, not entirely real.

Now we’ve got a Taiko group with a little kid and a bunch of old guys. The kid said he started when he was 2, now he looks about 5. He was followed by a kid doing 2 yoyos – one with each hand.

Now it’s a time-lapse film of Mt. Fuji looking sexy in the sun and moonlight to a background of Ravel’s Bolero played by a piano duet, and guy playing an electric koto.

And now we’re watching a woman playing shamisen. It’s magnificent and we don’t want her to stop.

Changed channels – 30 children at a time doing a three-legged race kind of thing…only it’s a 60-legged race.

Because this morning is cold and grey and a major holiday, we’ve decided to take it *really* easy. We’re not going to bother with Tokyo Tower today – we wouldn’t be able to see anything anyway. When we get going, eventually, we’ll try to find the local Buddhist temple. Or not. We have to leave so they can clean the room, anyway.

We’re now watching (a very dull) show on onsen. Pattie wants to go on one – not me, I’m not big on baths much.

I have a new magic power! I can tell a plot complication from a mile away. We’re watching a drama about a boy and a girl who switch bodies. So, she’s doing judo and he know wants to do ballet. The kids are doing a good job of acting as the other gender.

We’re back from a long, amusing and productive walk. Pattie wanted to see Sunshine 60 (a mall not too far from here) and I wanted to visit a local temple. The temples were not touristy and we didn’t want to bother the people visiting graves and worshipping, so we ended up walking around and through the surrounding park, right through the tent city of homeless people. It was pretty large – about 25-30 guys living there.

At Sunshine 60, we wandered aimlessly, much as we would at home at a mall on New Year’s Day. We found the Sanrio store, were creeped out by the variety of Hello Kitty and Dear Daniel for sale (yes, the boy Hello Kitty has a name…) and noted that Swatches are not really regional, despite what the guy at Newark Airport said.

Oh, forgot to mention – last night at the train station, we were approached by a young, Japanese woman who was a Jehovah’s Witness, with a Watchtower. Some things are universal…

We had lunch at Ojyuja, a place in the mall’s food court, and I had the world-s best katsudon. It was incredible! Perfectly crunchy outside, tender cutlet, the miso was good and we had a nice variety of four appetizers: tamago (sweet egg omelet), a pickled veggie/octopus/shrimp thing, pumpkin and something Pattie thought was a potato, but could have just as easily been an eyeball for all we knew. Pattie said that if it had been an eyeball, it would have been pupil up, for presentation. It was probably a potato.

Amusingly, as we wandered Sunshine 60, we learned that tomorrow a new Sera Myu (live action Sailor Moon Musical) begins. I want to go, just to see Uranus and Neptune, of course. There was a “Sailormoon World” setup there, so we went in and watched the little munchkins all dressed up as Sailor Senshi…it was spectacular. I bought some Sailor Uranus keychains (she was clearly not the most popular with the 4-year-old crowd…) and P bought Sailor Moon’s Sera Myu locket and we had a good laugh or three. I said that if she wants to got to Fuji, fine, but I want to suffer through, erm, watch a Sera Myu.

We also watched some wonderful mall-type entertainment. Originally, the man who came up with the idea of the mall, envisioned them as a kind of all-weather town square. It took a while, but that’s what they basically are, now, if you think about it. With performances of local groups doing “cultural” things. (At my local mall, I’ve seen the NJ Symphony Orchestra, Santa, a Hispanic dance and song troupe and many other culture-type things.) We were able to see a guy doing a dance as a dog demon (with white fluffy hair, ala Inu Yasha) and a female Taiko drumming troupe. (And what I wouldn’t have given to get them to Yuricon…)

We made our way back onto the streets and found the local Manga no Mori (a manga store chain) and dropped more yen on manga, cause we didn’t have enough already, obviously. Now we’re back in the room relaxing.

TV continues to entertain. We’re watching a “Whose Line Is It?” kind of show, except that it consists of the host giving a first line and the participants having to fill in the rest of the Haiku. They are cracking themselves up to the point where they are falling over in hysteria. Other than the first line, I cannot understand a word, but they are having so much fun, we’re enjoying watching them. Now they are asking questions of each other. I was able to follow one joke. Something along the line of, “Biji-san, are you like god?” “Yes!” (They all say “yes!” because they have signs that say “Yes” in English and they can’t say “no,” apparently.) “Bzzt, you are like a corpse.” Where “corpse” is a word that can also mean “Buddha.” Hysterical, isn’t it? And they could not stop laughing. I love this show. The ten guests are arranged in two rows facing each other – one in dark colored traditional men’s clothing – the other row in traditional men’s clothes in neon colors that are blinding.

Here’s the winner of the entire trip:

A man, in blackface, has a “stage” set up with the crowd (a series of flexible dolls) on his stomach and Morning Musume dolls on the “stage” His glasses are stage lights and throughout the song, he blew confetti and other stuff out of his mouth and nose, flashing his glasses and little lights on the side of the stage, all the while jiggling his stomach to make the crowd move. It was SO bizarre.

Pattie switched channels and we saw Morning Musume (for the 3rd time, not counting the guy above) in kimono jumping rope together. For some reason they wanted to do this 40 times, but there were problems (among them, I assume, the fact that the girls were bloody well wearing kimono and geta!). They got progressively more upset – to the point of tears for some of the younger ones – until they managed to jump 40 times right before the end of the show, One of them (I have no idea which one, so don’t ask – I can’t keep ’em straight at all) had the most beautiful kimono I’d ever seen. It was black and white and the white faded off into a pattern of sakura.

Another channel switch. We are watching “Zan 100 + 1.” A white woman and a Japanese woman, both dressed as samurai are killing a bazillion dudes – there’s a death count in the corner of the screen. (That’s what it says, “Death Count” in English). It looked like a live-action RPG, only less convincing.

Iron Chef personalities we’ve seen so far on TV:
Prof. Hattori (twice)
The Italian Guy on the tasting panel
Rokusaburo Michiba
Hiroyuki Sakai

Dinner is alien-flavored ramen (I’m serious – you should see the commercial!) and endlessly amusing TV. We were having so much fun watching TV the evening just slipped by.

Morning Musume has made it to 38 jumps and they are getting tired and angry. They’ve been on 4 shows so far. 3 live, one taped. Make that 5 shows, 3 live. And the guy with the stage thing.

Yay! Takarazuka! That was so utterly fucked up!

(I’d better explain this comment. Takarazuka is a Japanese institution – it’s an all female musical revue and is wildly popular among women, who swarm like flies on the women who play the male roles. The whole gender-bendy thing is overblown, with extreme gender roles. And Aran Kei is really hot, but you didn’t hear that from me. Think Carnivale, Las Vegas and umm…Sakura Wars. (You didn’t think they made all that musical revue stuff up, did you? It was based on Takarazuka, silly!)

In a perfect endidng to our night, Shomuni is on. But the show went on so long I fell asleep before the end. I assume that the Office Ladies of the second section saved the day one more time and they all live happily ever after.

Next time: Once more, with feeling

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