And now, I would like to get back to the Japan report. Now that the tour was over, it was time to go back to the hotel and get a good look at our glorious bounty. Those of you who follow us on Facebook might have seen the picture we posted. What wasn't in the picture was the giant Say I Love You towel we took home. (We put the little one lyschan got in there instead, as a representative.) It's called a mofu-mofu towel, which I think just means it's very plush, and it is.
We also skimmed through the Nakayoshi magazine, and read each other's horoscopes, and all got a little hung up on the Survival Game Club series, which had too much of a ??? factor to pass up. We also commented on how even when we had no idea what the context was, Nakayoshi seemed pretty good at allowing you to flip to a random page and swoon over whatever was happening. Ah, shojo manga. (And a brief search reveals that there was indeed an anime of Survival Game Club that was streamed on Crunchyroll. We may have to make some time to watch it. I remember being interested in it before, but passing on it, because it didn't look like there were any guys in the cast, which meant the odds of it having our favorite voice actors were low. But now that we've sampled some of the manga, we're pretty sure we can enjoy it anyway.)
By now we were all getting pretty hungry, and lys was tired of convenience store food, so we decided to head out in the direction of Tokyu Hands and keep an eye out for an appetizing restaurant on the way. We did pass by Gust, which is a family restaurant that was parodied in volume two of Noragami, but since it was on the seventh floor of its building, I was too intimidated to try to find it. Instead, we went to another family restaurant, that was friendly enough to be on the second floor: Denny's. Since we had ended up eating at Denny's here in the States before we left, we thought it would be an interesting experience to compare the two.
The verdict: I couldn't really specify the differences. Maybe that every time I've been to Denny's in the States, they seem to be understaffed, but this was not a problem in Ikebukuro. The menu was different, of course, but so is the MacDonald's menu, so that's not even a surprise. This time, they were having a hamburger steak fair, featuring a wide variety of hamburger steaks. Nevertheless, I ordered spaghetti and Athena ordered fries. But I think it's already been established that we are not risk takers when it comes to food. Lys ordered one of the hamburger steaks--one of the Japanese style ones that came with a bunch of Japanese style sides.
And then it was off to Tokyu Hands for some more shopping. Their stationery floors and hobby floors really are the best. For example, you know that picture that goes around Facebook sometimes, with the pottery that's all cracked but the cracks are filled up with a precious metal and it talks about how it's beautiful because it's broken? They have kits and books for beginners on how to do that. Oh man, all the hobbies we would make one craft for if we lived near Tokyu Hands...
The next day, we had plans to meet up with Kyoya and some of his friends for a road trip. The destination: Nasu Animal Kingdom, to see the capybaras! This was perfect, because the motivation for this trip was Noragami, and capybaras are kind of a big thing in Noragami, so the fact that Kyoya and his friends were planning a capyabara road trip the same weekend we were going to be in Japan was a pretty sweet coincidence.
We met up at the MacDonald's outside Ikebukuro station, and then we split up into cars. Athena, lys, and I rode in Kyoya's car, and there were four other people who road in the other car. On the way there, Kyoya asked to confirm lys's name by saying, "Nani-chan desu ka?", and I thought that was such an interesting way of asking somebody's name. It basically translates to "What -chan are you?", and indicates that he's already decided from the beginning to apply the -chan suffix to her name. Of course, this did nothing to discourage me from introducing her as, "Risu, like the little animal." Because when you write "lys" in katakana, it becomes "risu", which means "squirrel". Kyoya liked that because it was easy to remember.
...And all those quotation marks reminded me that I need to check some style guides. I've been getting into the habit of putting the punctuation outside the quotation marks because I thought a certain style guide told me to do it that way, when really I think it usually looks better aesthetically to put the punctuation inside. But recently, we've been told that the style guide says to put the punctuation inside, and now I'm confused. And that just means that I need to check the style guide again, but if anyone has been paying careful attention to my punctuation practices and suddenly noticed a change, that's where it comes from.
Anyway, we arrived at the Animal Kingdom without incident, and it was so cute! Come to think of it, the buildings surrounding the gate were a little bit like the ones from the "abandoned theme park" in Spirited Away, only they weren't abandoned, and they were covered in animal murals. The other woman in our group was eager to pet some animals, so the first thing we did was go into the dog enclosure. They had all kinds of super fluffy dogs, and you could rent them to take them on a walk! We didn't do that; we just hung out and pet some of them for a while. But the attendants were really friendly, too, and any time you showed interest in a dog, they would immediately tell you the dog's name.
We didn't stay for too long, though, because a few members of our party were determined to see the bird show, and for that, we had to take a bus to the other side of the animal park. But of course, these weren't ordinary buses! They were Wan-Nyan buses, which meant (almost) every bus was painted to look like a cat or a dog, and it would meow or bark as it moved along. It was awesome.
We arrived early for the show, so we took some time to look around the enclosures. They had alpacas (because what self-respecting petting zoo doesn't have alpacas?), and horses, and reindeer (this was especially nice to see since they stopped letting Disneyland get reindeer at Christmas), and kangaroos, and birds of prey, including an American bald eagle! I couldn't believe it--I'd never seen one in real life before! ...I might have, from a distance. There was one place we went camping, either with Girl Scouts or church, that was near a bald eagle reserve, but it was far enough away that you could only see the eagles far off in the distance if you were lucky enough to have the right timing. But now here was one right in front of us! But we didn't spend much time looking at it, because we wanted to get the lay of the land before the show started.
And before the bird show started, they had a different show in that same location! It was the New Zealand...farm...show? I don't remember what they called it, but it was about sheep herding in New Zealand. And it was hosted by James from New Zealand, who welcomed everybody to the show in 100% English. There was a Japanese host, too, and she gave the show a proper introduction, then gave James a proper introduction, explaining that he was going to do the demonstration. She turned it back over to him, and he explained that he didn't know Japanese (he'd only been in Japan for a month), so would it be okay if he did the whole show in English? He didn't get much of a response, because most of the audience didn't know that much English (the New Zealand accident probably didn't help, either), so the MC interpreted and asked the question for him. The audience didn't seem to like that idea too much, so she agreed to take responsibility and interpret. She turned the time back over to James, who then introduced himself in Japanese! That tricker! ...We soon learned that the people at the Nasu Animal Kingdom really like messing with your head.
So James introduced his two sheep dogs, and I don't remember what the breeds were exactly, but the big one is the one that barks a lot, and the little one was the one that will never bark no matter what. And then he sent the barking dog over the hill behind us, and soon we saw a bunch of sheep coming up toward us! The dogs herded them into a pen, and the barking one, to make sure they're in the right place, will jump on top of them! I think they explained exactly why they do this, but I might have been too distracted trying to get a picture of it to fully process it. They also demonstrated that, while sheep really hated jumping or going down stairs or anything like that, they will do it if the dog makes them. (The sheep were all, "I hate this part of the show.")
Let's see...James also demonstrated the position they put the sheep in for shearing. This particular breed of sheep is known for its soft wool, and they shear it twice a year because...of something I forgot. But they prop the sheep up so it looks like it's sitting up, leaning against the sheepherder's legs, and then, to get it to hold its leg out straight for better shearing, they press on its elbow, which is a reflex point that makes the leg shoot out like an arrow! James always did sound effects when he demonstrated. And they called a little boy up from the audience to try it, and he was wearing these super cool glasses that he clearly got at Disneyland, where the frame of each eye was a Mickey and one had a blue sorcerer's hat and the other had a reddish pinkish one, and they were very sparkly. And the MC said, "Nakanaka kakko ii megane o kaketeru ne!", which means, "Those are some pretty sweet sunglasses you got on." And that reminds me! They called all the tiny children onii-san and onee-san, which is usually what you call the teenage types, but I bet they do it to help the kids feel like they're older and important.
Anyway, the kid from the audience had a hard time with the pressure point, but after they got it to work, he got a reward! ...Or he was supposed to, but James looked around and felt his pockets like, "Oops, I forgot the reward!" and then asked the kid, "You want a sheep?" The kid didn't want the sheep, so instead, James pulled out the real reward which was a massive clump of wool. In all honesty, I was a little jealous. But it's not like I have a spindle yet, so I guess it's okay.
Finally, they showed off one of the other tools of the sheep herding trade: the whip. James cracked it around for a while, and then he was really going to show off. He asked for a volunteer from the audience--this time an older one, sitting in the front row. He handed him an empty water bottle and asked him to put it on top of his head. Then he gestured to the people sitting around the volunteer that they miiiiight want to get out of the way, and I have never seen an audience move that quickly. Then he backed up for a running start, started cracking the whip and getting closer and closer...and then the MC got between them and yelled, "On second thought, STOP!" "Psych!" It was all a joke! Aaaah ha ha ha!
Then they ended the show, and let people line up for a photo op with James and the dogs and I think some sheep? I don't know, because we didn't line up. Instead, we found a better spot (meaning: in the shade) from which to watch the bird show. There was still about half an hour, so after we secured our location, Athena and I ran off to get some ice cream. They had some special deluxe soft serve made from Jersey milk. It was pretty good and tasted very milky, and Athena still has some of it...on her satchel. It melted very quickly and dripped everywhere. It was kind of a mess. But a tasty mess.
As for the bird show, well, Athena and I have seen many bird shows in our lives. ...Okay, three before this one. But multiple times on all of them, except maybe the one at Universal Studios. I'm pretty sure we've seen that one at least twice, but maybe only once, and technically that one's not just birds. But the point is, they all do the same thing where...wait, come to think of it, I think they had one at Sea World and maybe at Magic Mountain. So it's possible that we've seen up to five bird shows before this one. But they all do the same thing where they ask for a volunteer to hold out a dollar, and then they have the bird get the dollar and bring it to the trainer, who then pockets it and asks if anybody has a ten. We were really anxious to see if they still did that even in Japan, and the answer is...no! Further reflection helped us realize that, since the smallest bill in Japan is worth about ten bucks American, that joke may not go over so well. (Of course the volunteer does always get their dollar back in the end.)
Anyway, this show was pretty different from all the bird shows we've seen in the past, for one main reason. In American shows, they'll usually have the bird fly out, and then the trainer will hold onto it while they give you all the fun facts about it. In this show, they had one trainer as the MC, and there was always another trainer so the bird was constantly flying back and forth between them while the MC spoke. I think this is a pretty good idea, because when we took our nephew to see the bird show in Fresno, it was always when the birds stopped flying that he would get up and wander off. But if the birds are always flying, then he can always be fascinated. The downside to this, though, is that it's really hard to pay attention to the MC when you're trying to get the perfect shot of the bird in flight. But they also do a really cool thing, where the trainers are always constantly moving around the venue, so the birds fly over a different part of the audience each time. Some audience members may not be a fan of that so much, though, because some people seemed to look annoyed as they ducked out of a bird's flight path.
So the point is, there were a lot of really pretty birds, and I didn't learn anything about them because I was trying to take pictures instead. But they brought out some hawks, and some macaws (I would call them a Pierre and a Jose, but really they were a blue and gold macaw and a scarlet macaw (technically, Pierre is blue and red and Jose is orange, so it's really not accurate anyway, but I like my Tiki Room references, darnit!)), and...and an owl, and...I don't really remember all of them (I have photo attempts, though!), but I do remember the bald eagle! I mean, of course I do, she was the best part, and not just because I'm patriotic.
Let's see if I can remember the volunteer stuff they did. They had a little girl catch one of the hawks, I think. The MC asked her if she wanted a glove, and she was like, "Nah," and the MC was like, "Let's wear a glove." And they had an adult come up to catch the bald eagle. Her name was Winty. I'm not sure if I'm spelling that right, but based on the katakana and the pronunciation, I'm sure it's close enough. They told the volunteer that to get Winty to come, you have to shout her name, and you have to be very dramatic about it. So he called out, "Wintyyyyyy!" very dramatically...and Winty flew right past him. So they told him to try again. I think they gave him some tips on how to do it, but basically it was the same thing. So he turned around (since she was behind him now) and shouted, "Wintyyyy!"
...And several geese came waddling out of the little cabin facing him and went right up to his feet. Psych! That was the little trick they played on him.
Then they had the finale, which was the super fast bird that I don't remember what its name is in English (peregrine falcon?), but it's a hayabusa in Japanese, which is easy to remember because "haya" means "fast". And the MC took a lure and started swinging it around and around, and the bird kept flying at it and turning around in midair and of course it was very fast and it looked very cool.
And then the show was over and they invited the audience to line up for a photo op with Winty, and of course I was very tempted because it's our national bird! ...but the line was really long by the time we got to it, so we all said, "Nah." Kyoya wanted to do some anime falcon pose if we did line up, but we didn't.
Instead, we went to lunch! But I think this report is long enough for today, so more on that later.
Today I'm thankful for getting to go to the Nasu Animal Kingdom, getting to see all the super fluffy dogs, getting to see the sheep herding demonstration, getting to hear Japanese spoken with a thick New Zealand accent, and really cool bird shows that keep the birds flying the whole time.