Last week (May 3-5) was Golden Week in Japan. It’s not an entire week off, but Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were all holidays. So including the weekend, 5 days. And I took Monday off. So I had 6 days. I had decided to go down to Tokyo to see Yumi, the person who had stayed at my house for a few months, way back when I was in 3rd grade. Of course, since I’d be in Tokyo, there were other things I wanted to do as well…and turned out that May 6th was a huge dolls party!!!
Driving from my town down to Tokyo would take 4 and a half hours. However, I chose the 6 hour bus so that I wouldn’t have to worry about parking. The bus stop is about a half hour walk from my apartment, so, through sheer willpower, I forced all my stuff to fit in my backpack, only realizing too late that there was going to be a problem if when I bought stuff to bring back.
The bus took 6 hours because it stopped twice on the highway, and had three stops in Tokyo itself. At one of the bus stops I found a curious sign on the road… it says “ETC card ok?”
Once in Tokyo, I immediately headed to my hostel to drop my bag off. I had managed to find a hostel that averaged approx $30 a night, and that included breakfast. But because of that, it was about an hour from the major towns in Tokyo.
I wasn’t happy at first despite how nice the hostel looked, because check in took a while. And they had English speaking staff, so that wasn’t why. But in 6 days, that was really the only snag I ran into, so it was all right. Each bed at the hostel got a locker and key to store important stuff. Being a hostel, I was in a room with 7 other people, and there were shared bathrooms for the floor.
As soon as my stuff was settled, I ran back onto the train to go meet two friends for dinner. I had met them at the Showa Institute in Boston when the JET program was having all those optional workshops before we left. It was nice to see them again, Suzu and Yui. And after dinner, we went for purikura! Purikura are photo booths that sort of beautify you and you can decorate them with all kinds of stickers and stuff. After that, we just wondered around Shibuya a bit before calling it a night.
Thursday, I went to meet Keenan, a friend who I had met while at KCP International School 6 years ago. For this time, we’d decided to go to the Tokyo National Museum in Ueno, since neither of us had been there before. You can see us in some of the pictures, reflected in the glass!
On the way out, we found a bookfair, and I found a Japanese copy of the book “My Father’s Dragon” though in Japanese, it’s called “Elmer’s Adventures”. It doesn’t seem to have hard kanji in it, so maybe I’ll actually be able to read it! We also stopped by a random store and found that it was Kirby`s birthday, then went to a nice little place for lunch. I had pancakes that were overloaded with sugar 😛
After that, I ran to meet the friend that I hadn’t expected to meet. Vaelen lives in Michigan, had moved there several years ago, so I hadn’t seen him since, and while he and his fiance sometimes come to Japan for business, they pretty much always stick to Tokyo. This time, it just so happened that our trips collided. I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed him till I saw him again.
So we had dinner with a couple of friends of theirs, one of whom is also on the JET program, but placed here in Tokyo. After that, we wandered around Ikebukuro, and did also get a purikura. I think those sticker machines are rather fun.
Friday, I had plans to meet up with a new friend I’d met online on the doll forum, Lorelie, but not till afternoon. So in the morning, I went one stop down from my hostel to see a famous temple.
When I met Lorelie in the afternoon, she brought her doll too, and we met up in Akihabara. First we just wandered around a bit, talking, then went to the Volks store that’s in Akihabara. Then we wandered some more and got a purikura. 😛 We ended up eating dinner at McDonalds, which is out of the ordinary for me, since my town doesn’t have one.
In Akihabara, I found omiyage for my schools. Omiyage is sort of like a little prepackaged food that you bring back when you’ve been on a trip. I’ve never been quite sure if its a “haha don’t you wish you’d been on a trip too?” Or more of a “hey, I know you guys were all working while I was having fun, so here.”
But, three schools means enough omiyge that I had to buy a duffle bag too. Kidding, a little. Between the stuff I bought, and the omiyage, I really did need another bag. And since I have a backpack, though its small, and I have a rolling suitcase at home, I bought a duffle bag because I’ve been meaning to get one anyway.
Saturday was the dolls party!!!! Early admission (which I had a ticket to) didn’t start till 10, but online it had said that people start lining up at 8:30! I got there around 8:45 or so. On the way, the train passed by the ocean…and just for a minute, I was incredibly homesick. Mostly for Massachusetts and the people there. And…even though it had only been a few days, a teeny bit for Minamisoma as well. But then the train arrived and I was distracted with figuring out where I needed to go. I ended up following the general crowd, since they seemed to know where they were going. And I was right…the crowd led me to an area where there were people wearing Volks staff shirts. Then I had a choice of what line to go into…the line for the hobby shop, or the official store line, or the line for the dealers market. So I went into the store’s line. There was really only one thing I’d planned on getting, but…well, let’s just say I need to stop bringing credit cards into doll stores. (Though I am planning to get a new doll soon to celebrate that one loan is paid off. Only another $100,000 to go…)
When I left the official doll store area (I’d gotten number 33, so pretty early. It actually meant 233 since 200 people had paid like double to be allowed in at 9:45), I explored everything else. There was a dealers section with all kinds of doll stuff, clothes and accessories. Some of the display dolls were wearing cute or fancy clothing, so I went around asking if I could take pictures. There was a dollie hospital type area, where if you waited, you could pay to have them fix like, tension or something on your doll. There were Volks One For All Games. Volks One for All is the charity that the company set up 6 years ago after the 3/11 earthquake, and all funds from paying to play those games goes to rebuilding, which they are still doing. I won some postcrds, doll eyes, and a plastic doll carrier. ^^ And the doll carrier even came with snacks and DDS sized pants in it! And one of my dolls is a dds, so that works perfectly. I also outright bought a cute little bag that was also for Volks One for All. They were going to have bingo at 4:20, but I’d promised to meet Yumi at 5, so I had to miss it. It made me a little sad to miss it, since in the bingo game there’s a (small) chance to get one of the dolls that they don’t sell but only auction off at events.
But my original purpose in coming to Tokyo had been to see Yumi, so I skipped bingo and went. And you know what? It was worth it. Yumi took me to see Aladdin the Musical! I didn’t understand all of it, (it was in Japanese, of course) but the cast had so much energy, and it was so colorful, and the songs were fun, so I enjoyed it very much. I ended up buying the cd too. It annoyed me that the japanese version of the cd was like $7 more than the english version. But I had just watched and enjoyed the japanese version, so why would I want the english cd? During intermission, I had debated it, but as soon as the first song in the second act came on, I decided that I needed that cd. ^^
I can’t remember having seen this musical before. It was loosely based on the Disney movie, rather than the original fairytale. They had several nods to Disney in it as well…which kinda makes sense since I think it’s billed as a Disney musical…in the Genie’s intro song, they had him start to sing a beauty and the beast song, a song from little mermaid, and one more that I didn’t quite recognize. It was also a cool song because they were doing magic tricks on stage. Like, Aladdin sat in a chair and they covered him with a cloth and a few minutes later he tumbled out of a box on the other side of the stage! I’ve seen magicians do that trick before, and I actually know how it’s done, but it’s still fun to watch. A nod to the original movie came in the Prince Ali song. When they said he had so many monkeys, they held up a picture of Abu from the movie! Because in the stage version, Aladdin has three friends, rather than one monkey friend. And it was actually these three that sang what I think might be my favorite song from the musical. It’s called “Adventure” I think, and it’s the three friends trying to rescue Prince Ali who has been captured and put into the dungeon by Jafar. Of course, those three eventually get captured too, but the song was lots of fun to watch.
Also, the guy who played Jafar did this great evil laugh. And the guy who played Iago (Iago was simply a sidekick, rather than a bird), hit the right note of funny/annoying. The musical had great effects. Tons of lighting, some firecrackers or something sometimes, and lots of moving scenery. One thing that I thought was interesting was that it was the Genie, not in disguise who introduced the story. He was funny too…when he officially came on in his role in the cave of wonders, he motioned that the audience should clap either more or less. And he apologized to people in the back row when he ended his intro with a saumersault. At the end too, when the cast had already done like 3 curtain calls (and Jafar’s cloak caught on the scenery once!) the Genie came out alone, motioned for more or less clapping, then ended it that way. 🙂
As much as I love listening to musicals, there’s always something special about actually seeing one in person. (Though this was only my third, I think. Nutcracker if that counts as a musical, Wicked, and now Aladdin) You can better sense the energy that went into making it, and it’s fun to watch.
Sunday, I got to visit Yumi’s house! And I met her dad, and her sister. And Yumi gave me some old clothes of hers that she didn’t want anymore, most of which I can wear to school because they’re suit type things! (And that’s another reason I needed the duffle. For the extra clothes I hadn’t expected). Yumi’s sister has a dog, and he’s cute. I was a little wary though, because Yumi said that sometimes he bites.
We went to a noodle place around the corner. I forgot to take a picture, but I need to remember that if the photo looks like there’s a raw egg on top, there’s most likely a raw egg on top. It tasted pretty good though.
Monday was check out day. In the morning before I had to check out, I ran to the station to put more money on my train card, packed everything, and came to the conclusion that even though it was so hot (21c hitting 28c around 2pm…that’s like 69f turning into 82f) I would have to wear my sweater because I couldn’t get it to fit in any of my bags. @_@
I met Yumi for lunch at this really fancy restaraunt, and I found a statue of godzilla on the way. ^^ The view from the restaraunt (which was on the 17th floor) was pretty neat, and you could see the Imperial Palace. I remember seeing it closer 6 years ago, but it’s on my to-see-again list next time I go back to Tokyo.
After lunch we headed towards the bus terminal…Yumi very nicely walked with me to help since my bags were much heavier than I’d originally thought they were. So I got to the bus terminal about 20 minutes early. The bus was supposed to leave at 3:30.
However, around 3:20, when it was time to board the bus, there was a crunching noise outside! Apparently, when trying to pull away from the wall to get into position, the bus had hit a fire extinguisher that was up on the wall! I felt bad for the bus driver, since that then led to like an hour of paperwork for him, and the bus didn’t actually leave the terminal until 4:20.
We must have made up the time on the road though, since we only got back about 15 minutes after we were originally supposed to. It was a long week, but overall fun. And I definitely want to go to another doll party!! And see all my friends again too, of course. ^_^