Left my heart in Tokyo

17 Sep

Like, um, almost every weekend, last weekend, S and I headed to Tokyo.  But this weekend, our goal wasn’t a concert… it was a play!  While recently, we’ve been more interested in the idol units under Johnny’s and Associates, S and I used to be equally devoted to the Tokyo small theatre scene, particularly a small acting group called *pnish* (don’t ask about the name).  We still love a lot of the actors (who are quite talented) associated with small theatre and we definitely still love the guys of *pnish*, so when we heard that my favourite member would be appearing in a play along with one of *pnish*’s longtime collaborators, we jumped at the opportunity to go.  Also, the opportunity to hit up all of the shopping and fun Tokyo has to offer (and, of course, McDonald’s… our love for Japanese McDonald’s is undying!)

The play was on Saturday afternoon, so we headed down Saturday morning, grabbed our McDonald’s for lunch, and then met our good friend C, who lives in Tokyo, to head to the theatre.  The show was in Aoyama Round Theatre, a smaller theatre attached to the large and well known Aoyama Theatre.  Aoyama Round Theatre was named aptly; the stage is a round platform in the center of the room and the audience sits around it on all sides; in essence, there’s no front or back and no wings.  The actors leave and enter through the aisles perform for an audience that surrounds them 360º.  It’s an interesting venue… for a very interesting play.

The play we were to see is called Corpus Christi and was a passion play… about Jesus being a homosexual man in modern-day Texas.  It was written in 1997 and first performed in New York City, but apparently, somewhere along the way, it was translated into Japanese.  Interestingly, the program had a section helping Japanese audiences, who are likely largely unaware of the culture surrounding Christianity, understand the play, including an explanation of passion plays, biographies of each of the apostles, and  a history of Christianity in Japan.  The play itself was really quite interesting, with each actor playing an apostle a piece as well as whatever other parts were necessary, including Mary and Joseph in the scene of Jesus’s birth, Jesus’s high school teachers, Pontius Pilate, and the voice of God himself.  Jesus and Judas were the only characters whose actors played only one role, appropriately, though everyone was dressed in generic white clothing.  I had difficulty understanding more than 10% or 15% of the dialogue considering that is was rather artistically presented and in difficult Japanese, but the portrayal of Jesus as a confused and conflicted teenager growing up into a driven and confident adult with a mission was quite well done.  The end, as one might expect, was serious and depressing, since the play ended with Jesus getting crucified (er, not sure how that works in modern day Texas, but whatever?), but the actors all did very well with the material.  There were a lot of rather uncomfortable sexual bits (uncomfortable since we were in the first row and had actors practically making out in our laps) but they definitely added to the play.  All in all, it was quite an interesting play to see in Japan due to its controversial gay themes and religious nature, but I quite enjoyed it!

ImageAfter the play, C, S, and I headed to Ikebukuro, where we met our friends to whose live we went last weekend, P and R.  The five of us grabbed dinner and shopped a bit in a gigantic mall in Ikebukuro, where I splurged a bit and picked up some cute jewelry I had been wanting.  Japan is full of cute and pretty girly accessories, and since I have a huge weak spot for cute, pretty, and girly things, it takes all my will power not to go wild.  However, I did get a few items I really like, including a new watch and a pinky ring that fits me!  Rings in America are almost always too big for me, so being in Japan definitely has its perks for me on that front, as well.
Once we got tired of shopping, S and I bid farewell to our Tokyo friends before headed back to our hotel one stop from Ikebukuro, in Otsuka.  It’s a cheap place at which we’ve stayed before, City Hotel Otsuka, and as a result, seems to have parts of it that haven’t been updated since the 80s, but despite being old, it’s generally clean and an easy and cheap place to stay that’s right in the heart of Tokyo.  Our room this time was a bit less new than our room last time, but on the bright side, we scored two beds this time and didn’t have to squish in together like last time.  There was also air conditioning and TV… so what else could one need out of a hotel?  I’m still trying to figure out if the tea they leave in the room is complimentary or if it’s an additional room charge, though…

ImageThe next day, S and I headed out on our own to Harajuku.  I don’t know why I end up in Harajuku so much recently; as I mentioned in a previous post about Tokyo, I’m really not a huge fan of Harajuku on a whole.  But S and I wanted to hit the Johnny’s shop again, so as soon as we arrived, we headed to a small park area on the corner where on begins the Johnny’s shop process by taking a ticket from the worker standing there.  That’s right– the Johnny’s shop is so popular that you can’t just waltz right in, you have to take a ticket with a time written on it.  At the time on your ticket, you can come back to that area and queue up to be let in.

ImageWe arrived in Harajuku around 11 am; our ticket was for 2 pm.  Seeing as it was a weekend, that wasn’t so unexpected, and so we headed off into Harajuku to spend our waiting time.  First, we headed to a shop called Skin Food, which is my absolute favourite cosmetics store in Tokyo.  In the past, most of what I’ve bought from there has been nail polish, because their nail polish is actually the best polish I’ve ever used before, hands down, but this time, I also wanted to pick up some eyeshadow and nail polish remover.  I haven’t tried the eyeshadow yet, so I’ll see how it works, but the nail polish remover was great; it took the polish right off without drying out my skin.  Skin Food, you’re the best! ♥

After Skin Food, we hit a few places selling cute accessories and grabbed lunch before it was finally our time for the Johnny’s shop!  We queued up in the park with all the other girls with 2 pm tickets and were finally led across the street and down the alley to the Johnny’s shop, where we were let loose to weak havoc… upon our own wallets.

The Johnny’s shop, essentially, sells one thing: photos.  Photos of idols either in concert or doing photoshoots for CD covers or recording music videos.  There are thousands of photos in the Johnny’s shop, all in glass cases on the wall, grouped by unit and numbered.  Customers take sheets of paper provided by the shop and write the name of the group (eg Hey! Say! JUMP or Sexy Zone) and then mark how many of each number photo they want (eg 1 each of photos 10, 45, 79, 200, and 349).  S and I like around 5 groups if you include Johnny’s Juniors and it takes us about an hour to go through the shop and choose what we want, just to give you some idea of the process.  Though that time isn’t all spent deliberating how many photos of our favourite idols we want; the room is quite crowded with girls all trying to see into the same cases, so some waiting, pushing, and shoving is inevitable.

ImageAfter one finally finishes with the photos, one gets into line for the register.  It usually takes a good 15 minutes to get through the line, depending on the people in front of you.  Each photo costs ¥150 and I’ve seen girls spend upwards of ¥10,000 (more than 100 US dollars) on photos, meaning that it takes the register a while to find all of the photos and bag them.  While one waits in line, there’s a small case of various goods, often which seem to be leftovers from concerts or other events, to pick from, in case customers haven’t already spent enough money on photos.  I happened to be one of those people this time, and ended up with a tote bag as well as my photo purchases.  For the record, the photos in the picture only make up a fraction of my total purchase… yes, this is my life.

After the Johnny’s shop, we rested and regrouped in a coffee shop before heading back to Kiryu.  We were exhausted, but luckily, today is a Japanese national holiday, so no work! I got to sleep in before heading back tomorrow for another full week of students.

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