Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Day 4 : Tarakazuka

So I managed to sleep straight through for once, but only for 6 hours. Again I was up at 5 am, but I'm getting better at this. Maybe tonight, I'll be able to go on a regular sleep schedule.
Today is another beautiful overcast, wet day in Tokyo, and today there are no Earthquakes. I found out that the second tremor we felt yesterday afternoon was actually its own quake and not an aftershock, though it was a small one.
So, we figured on an early start today, as we've been doing for the last 3 days, but we're on a different schedule now that other Yuricon people are here. 10:30 actually, so we had a lot of time to kill this morning.
I started to count the change in my pocket, since it was quite a substantial pile and discovered I had about $30 in change. I'm used to US change where the largest coin you might get is a dollar, and you dump your excess change in a jar at home and take it to the supermarket to get it changed into real money when the jar gets heavy. The Japanese coins start with a single yen (about equal to a penny) and goes to 500 yen (about equal to 5 dollars). So, in order to get rid of some of this change, I've been trying to start paying for little things with coins. Unfortunately, it isn't as easy as using US coins, since I have to look at each one to see exactly what it is first before plopping them down on the little tray.
Doing the money count, gets me curious to check on my bank account, and see what I have left to play with. I'm starting to run low on the initial ¥98,000 I took with me, but I'm guessing it'll be either tomorrow or Thursday before I'll have to tap the International ATM in Ikebukuro Station.
Anyway, I notice that my rent check hasn't cleared yet and that throws up a red flag, since I'm pretty sure I dropped it off on Thursday night, before we left. And since withdrawals are always, always applied first and happen immediately, while deposits take days to process, I was sure that there was something wrong. So I contacted my brother through AIM, since his work day was winding down, while my morning was starting, and asked him to look into it. Though, now as I write this, I've checked my account again and the check has cleared. So, now I can now withdraw everything from my account for the rest of the trip, if I so desired, without worrying about the rent check clearing.
We had stocked up on convenience store food from the AM/PM by the hotel, and had ourselves a somewhat decent breakfast. I still don't know what half the stuff is that we eat, but I haven't had anything I dislike yet.
Kelli comes knocking on our door at 10 am and we hang out a bit, before going downstairs to meet the rest of the crew in the lobby. Donna and I dressed up a little bit, since we're going to be heading to the Takarazuka show this afternoon. Donna had asked Erica how she should dress, and was told she could either be the gaijin in the audience, or the well dressed gaijin in the audience. Donna chose the latter. ;)
Now we were in a group with fellow geeks, but really, looking too good for the rest of our company.
We start the tour with a return visit to the anime and manga stores in Ikebukuro, and we don't buy anything, After Mandarake in Shibuya and Animate in Ikebukuro, we want to consume in other types of stores, get a little variety in.
Around noon, we break from the group to head to the Takarazuka Revue. It's four of us, Erica, Bruce, the Donna and me, Patty doesn't go because she apparently has a low tolerance for musical theatre. I, too, don't generally like musical theatre, the only musicals I liked were Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods, and I had a musical theatre major as a roommate for a couple years back in college, whose favorite show was Les Mis. And just like my sophomore year roommate who poisoned folk music for me, so it was for musicals.
This, however, was different. Musicals, as everyone is well aware, are very gay, but Takarazuka is very gay in a completely different way. ;) Mainly, all the actors are women. So you have musical theatre performed entirely by women. :-D Erica had described Takarazuka as fabulously cheesy, and that we shouldn't look at each other during the show, because we probably just laugh our heads off and that was a serious, serious faux pas. Takarazuka's audience is primarily middle aged housewives and we're probably going to be the only foreigners and Bruce and I the only men. Takarazuka is extremely popular in Japan, among middle aged married women. The theory is that the otokoyaku ('male roles") present an ideal male image as an escape from their dull and crude husbands. I'm sure if you asked them, though, they'd say anything else but that. But, all the Takarazuka stars, including the musumeyaku ("daughter roles" or female roles) have large devoted fan bases of these women.
So it's off on the Yurakucho subway line and with Erica's vague sense of where the theatre is, we journey forth. The subways, are just like the trains, clean, efficient and on time. We end up buying a pass, since we expect to use this line again. we pay a certain amount on the pass, $10/¥1000, and use the card until the money runs out. Other random observations: If an escalator is two people wide, stand on the left, pass on the right. Go up stairs on the left, down on the right. the Japanese almost universally prefer the cane style umbrellas. Only us foreigners had the automatic, fold out kind. Japanese schoolgirls actually do wear the sailor outfits, but the only color I saw was Navy Blue. Japanese women, no matter their age, tend to be very girly. Which is actually a beauty ideal here. In the states we generally prefer women to be women, even if they do have unrealistic body types, while the Japanese prize youthfulness to an almost obsessive, (read pedophilic) degree. But, that's a rant for another day.
We find the theatre with the help of a nice policeman and a nice random passerby, and we enter the theatre. Sure enough, all I see is middle aged women. Oh wait, there's a man, no he's staff. Look, look, look. Ah, there's one, with his wife, and he looks really excited to be here. He has this "I so don't want to be here" look in his eye. Scanning the crowd again, oh there's another, he's alone, and the ol' gaydar starts pinging.
Donna, Erica and Bruce feel courageous enough to try and snag a program, which is important as it contains the libretto, so we'll have some idea what's going on. They wade into the pack of obaa-sans (old ladies), and return a few minutes later. Donna comments it was like being at a fire sale at Walmart, and Erica said she had to take things out of people's hands if she ever hoped to get anything.
After getting the programs we head for our seats. We were seated in section 2-1, (2nd level, stage left, see this chart.) and while Erica was sure we'd have bad seats, the design of the theatre was that there were no bad seats. We were pretty far from the stage, though, so opera glasses would have been nice. There were several concessions stands outside the theatre proper doors, and I saw several of the obaa-sans eating while waiting for the show to start. I haven't been to any Broadway shows, ever, but it's my impression that you don't eat in the theatre. Dave tells me that it's same here, people do eat in the theatre, but not during the show. Which was exactly on time, at 1:30pm.
I wish we were allowed to take pictures, because the show we were watching, Elizabeth was absolutely fabulous. Erica made it sound like a really campy, unintentionally funny, half assed production, but what we saw was a fabulous, elaborate production that I'm pretty sure would be right at home on the Great White Way. There was a cast of 70, a huge elaborate stage, with parts that raised and lowered, and all the set changes were quick and smooth, the period costumes were mostly accurate, I don't think they used a lot of sequins in the 19th century, they all had really great singing voices, the music wasn't altogether great, but it didn't suck out loud either. It was really quite impressive, and there were often times when I completely forgot that everybody on stage was a woman.
Anyway, we were all so impressed that we had to visit the gift shop afterwards, which was packed to gills with obaasans and I felt like I was 7 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Donna picked up a picture book and some stickers, and I paid for it, since I have all the money. I'm pretty sure, the impression is that Donna drags me along and makes me pay for stuff, but really, I was the one that wanted to see this show, though I really wasn't feeling any of the merchandise.
I'll probably scan some of these pictures in when I get home, but you really need to see the show to get the full experience. And it really was worth it. Oh, check out the seating chart above once again, right now. OK. Final count 16 men, not including Bruce and myself in the audience.
We head back to the hotel afterwards, and then meet up in the lobby at 6pm for a quick dinner at Italian tomato, for some more Japanese "Italian" food, which was good, and then back to Erica's room to geek out and watch the Live Action Sailor Moon omake and the new Dr. Who episode 3.
Tomorrow we might hit Tokyo Tower, but depending on the weather we might do something else. Since, there's no point in going to Tokyo Tower if you can't see very far. Though, there's always the possibility that we might be whisked away to another dimension, be stomped on by Godzilla, or be at ground zero for any sort of calamity or event that always seems to center around Tokyo Tower. ;)
More tomorrow, but check out the handful of pictures I took today, here.


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