And so! since today is the day of rest, and journaling is a perfectly acceptable Sabbath activity, we've decided to take this opportunity to FINALLY get back to our Japan report! And now that I've said that, I have to take a second and a couple of breaths to get my bearings and remember where we left off. Of course I remember exactly what day we left off on, but I have to get the sequence of events straight.
On our second full day of Japan, we were going to Shibuya. It's true that, since Shibuya shows up in so much anime and manga, and--more importantly--The World Ends with You (a Square-Enix video game that is also featured in Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance), we had thought that we ought to go there at some point in our lives, but this time it was a set thing because! that's where the theater was. And naturally we had to go to the theater, because the whole reason we decided to go on this trip to begin with is that we had tickets to the Sailor Moon Musical. ("Aaa, myuujikaruu..." <--one of the few lines we remember from our days of watching un-subtitled Sailor Stars episodes before we knew Japanese (it all comes full circle).)
And so we get to the real heart of the matter: this was the day of the Sailor Moon Musical. But that was in the evening, so we figured we'd spend the afternoon wandering around and seeing what there was to see. But first, we wanted to make sure we knew where the theater was, so as not to end up walking all around town for hours when we were supposed to be getting to our seats.
This is where we learned, again, the sad lesson that I am no good at figuring out how to get places based on Google Maps. I looked up the theater's website, and I got the address, and it said it was within ten minutes of three different stations! So I plugged in the stations to Google Maps so we could at least get to the nearest station without too much trouble, and two out of the three stations required two transfers, so we opted to get off at the station that only required one: Shinjuku Station. The path to the theater from there seemed simple enough--there was a park nearby, we just follow along the edge of the park, go a block past that, and the theater should be on the corner. Parks are pretty easy to recognize, after all, so this should be a walk in the park, so to speak. Ah, ha, ha...
Well, it was, literally, but not for a while. The first problem we encountered was the enormosity of Shinjuku Station. Seriously, the place was huge. Man, I thought Ikebukuro Station was big! Upon reflection, I think one of our problems may have been that we used the wrong exit, but since we never tried it again, I couldn't say for sure. The point is, we got out of the station and we did not see a park. You could potentially chalk this up to the underestimation of how tall buildings are in Tokyo, but the fact is, the park was farther away than my glances at Google Maps had led me to believe. Fortunately, we had the good sense to stop as soon as we saw a McDonald's and fuel up with their limited edition Chelsea flavored milkshakes. We had to try them anyway, because Kosei in Your Lie in April had named his cat Chelsea after the Japanese brand of caramel. And oh my goodness, those are tasty milkshakes, but not for the faint of heart when it comes to sweetness. Even we were taken aback at the first sip or two.
So now that we had some calories to power us through some walking, it was time for a LOT of walking. Like, a LOT of walking. Fortunately we knew we were in the right city, because some signs around the McDonald's said "Shibuya" on them. All we knew was that the theater should be approximately south. So we kept walking south. (Fortunately, the sun was out that day, so we were able to figure out directions. We don't have smartphones, so we weren't able to use any kind of navigation app, for anyone who's been baffled by that.) We walked so far south that we passed one of the stations that we went through on the train ride there. That's when we started to get really concerned. But the map there indicated we were on the right track, so we kept going. And going. And going.
Finally...we approached a giant torii. A directory at its base indicated that we had in fact arrived at Yoyogi Park, and I must say it was not what I had in mind, but it was amazing. I can't describe it in words; it was just so beautiful. It was like an enchanted forest, like in Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away, right smack in the middle of one of the most crowded districts of Tokyo. It was so peaceful and so green. All you could hear was the insects in the trees and some birds here and there. There was a wide path, with thick trees on either side. If you've ever played Final Fantasy X, it was so much like that. When we'd play it before, I didn't think much of it, but I do get the sense that I felt like that kind of path was a little unrealistic. But now I know it's not. (Think the path at Kilika, or the Mi'ihen Highroad just before you get to Guadosalam.)
So that was a nice relaxing part of the journey. The park was basically part of the temple grounds for Meiji Jingu, which is the shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji. We didn't look around too much, because we still wanted to make sure we could find the theater--we had an objective that was still far from accomplished. But we did stop in the gift shop to see what kind of cool stuff they had, and oh my goodness, they had such nice stuff. There was a ball in particular that we wanted to buy, but it was almost three thousand yen, and we weren't sure we wanted it that badly. I have since decided that we do, but we didn't go back. It will just be a goal for next time.
Eventually we left the park and reemerged in the city. According to our original map, there was one more city block before the theater, so we looked across the street...and it was a large block by Japanese standards. This was a problem because we were tired. We could have stopped at the park restaurant for food and some rest, but like I said, our objective had not been met. So we kept going, and eventually we made it past the large block with its odd vortex-y building (we think it was some kind of sporting arena), and then! there was the theater! HUZZAH!!! We had made it! ...And it was all locked up, because we were about five hours early.
So we took a very brief look at the bread and olive oil festival that they were setting up in the adjacent smaller park, bought some water at the vending machine, and spent some time recovering on a park bench.
But we didn't want to sit around for too long, because we had reason to believe that it was the Shibuya Disney Store that's so ridiculously fancy. I think I'm a little kuyashii that when I go to Japan, the only things I can think of to do are Disney-related, but my kuyashisa does not change that fact. We wanted to go to the Square-Enix cafe, too, but that was in the opposite direction of the theater and the Disney Store. What was not in the opposite direction, however, was the Koa Pancake House. We'd seen it on Google Maps (back at the hotel, mind you) and made a note to keep an eye out for it, because we do not eat a lot of things, but we do eat pancakes. So off we went in search of Disney Stores and/or pancakes.
We found the pancakes first, which was probably a good thing, considering how tired we were, and the fact that all we'd eaten all day was a milkshake and some small snack from Lawson. I don't even remember. But anyway, the Koa Pancake House. This was a bit of a hurdle, because restaurants intimidate us enough as it is at home in the States. We're never sure if we're doing it right. So add the different language and culture, and it gets to be pretty scary. Nevertheless, we knew the importance of not dying, so we went inside.
...And it was great! The lady working there was very friendly and didn't seem to think we were too dumb. We did notice that there were a lot of non-Japanese people in Shibuya (the ratio of white to Asian people was higher even than at Disneyland), so she may have been used to it. And the restaurant itself was great! It was a Hawaiian themed pancake restaurant. I think they had a Hawaiian theme pancake dish, but we didn't order it, because we just wanted something we knew we could eat (which is also why we didn't order their limited edition mint-chocolate pancakes; they looked super yummy, but when we're stressed, we can handle even fewer ingredients than normal). So we ordered the regular buttermilk pancakes and a thing of fries. Turns out we only needed the one order of fries, because it was gigantic. And super delicious. They were kind of like potato wedges, seasoned like curly fries. Talking about them is making me want them again. They were so good. The pancakes were good, too! And we were well fortified for the rest of our Shibuya journey.
We set out again, this time for the Disney Store. And oh my goodness, it was very very fancy indeed. First of all, it shares a building that was designed to look like some sort of dark emperor's castle, and while I do think there is something to that, the Disney Store itself was designed in a bit of a contrast. The entrance to the store is designed to looked like Mickey's castle in Kingdom Hearts (for those of you unfamiliar, think of the Disney parks castles, but more Toontown-like (and if you're not familiar with Toontown, think "balloony")). The bottom floor was pretty standard Disney Store design; it would have been right at home in the States, if a little small, and maybe brighter. That's where they had all the seasonal things, so a ton of Halloween stuff, and, of course, the Beauty and the Beast UniBEARsity bear set, that had us tempted all over again.
Toward the back of the first floor was a hallway that looked just like the one Alice finds herself in at the bottom of the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. In the very back was a spiral stairway, and occasionally a trail of pixie dust would make its way up the stairs. It was so magical!
The second floor is where they sold all the princess stuff, jewelry, makeup, accessories, stationery. The decor was very regal, with stained-glass windows depicting a princess here, a castle there. There were flower arrangements with some of the little characters hanging around, like one with Marie from The Aristocats beside it, and one with Jaq and Gus inside it. I took pictures of all of them, which might be why I didn't bother remembering all of them. The other side of the floor had cameo-style portraits of the princesses. It was so pretty, I wanted to cry.
The top floor is where they had toys and costumes and sale items. The first thing we noticed was at the top of the stairway's central pillar, there was Tinkerbell! Just sitting there. So cute. There were three themes on this floor. The first was Geppetto's workshop, and they even had a display that was Geppetto's worktable, with pre-life Pinocchio on it. The second section was the Darlings' nursery, with the same wallpaper, and portraits of the family on all the walls. And best off all, Peter's shadow up on the wall, partly on the ceiling. It was so cool! The last section was Andy's bedroom from Toy Story, which we didn't really spend much time observing.
After going through the entire store twice, we were faced with the usual dilemma of, "But if I can't buy all of it, I don't know if I want any of it..." Mostly because it's so hard to choose when there are so many options but so little money. So we said, "Forget it, let's go see if we can find Animate." Well, the answer to that question was no, but we did go to the infamous Scramble a couple of times. We've seen the Scramble pictured in articles that seemed largely unrelated to Japan, and based on those times, we guess the Scramble is kind of representative of giant impersonal crowds? Well, now that we've been there, we can say it's not as bad as Disneyland is these days. At least not all the time. There's a little more to this story, to be told later (don't hold your breath; it's not that exciting).
But as we walked around, looking at all the Shibuya buildings, we talked about how it really would be nice to get something from the Disney Store, since it is probably one of the best Disney Stores in the world and it would be nice to commemorate, and there were a couple of things we could see ourselves buying and not tossing on a shelf to collect dust for eternity, so we went back to torture ourselves a little longer. There was a Chip & Dale shoulder bag that was super cute. It was dark brown and looked so expensive but was less than three thousand yen! So we bought that and a super cute Chip & Dale calendar (they're kind of our thing now), and then a cast member told us if we spend more than five thousand yen, we wouldn't have to pay sales tax because we're foreigners.
So we picked up a Beast beauty mask to put us over the limit, but we were on the second flood and the tax free thing was on the first and third floors, so we went to the first floor. We let the cast member who rang us up know that we were cool with Japanese, so we went on with the transaction in Japanese, until she told us that the tax free stuff is actually sankai, and we thought, "Three times? Huh...?" so I said in Japanese, "I don't understand," and she switched to English and said it was on the third floor. Oooohhhh, that kai. Of course. We felt kind of bad about that, and then she wouldn't speak to us in Japanese anymore. Her English was really good, though.
And the tax free thing reminds me, before we went back to the Disney Store, we went to Tower Records! This is really only significant because they had the Blu-ray of the second Noragami stage play. You may remember that we tried to find it at Animate Ikebukuro to no avail. But they had it here, and gosh darn it, we were gonna buy it. So we did! Because Avex won't even let Amazon ship it overseas anymore, and we have to have it! And their tax free stuff was on a different floor, too, but I didn't want to go all the way to another floor just to get seven hundred yen back, so we just left.
And after we made our purchase at the Disney Store, we headed back toward the theater. But first, we went back to the little park to get more water, and! to get some Dippin' Dots! We are unreasonably fond of Dippin' Dots, and we just don't know where to get them here in the States. We saw that the little park cafe had them, and we determined to get some! ...Well, sort of. We were also like, "But should we really spend the money on something we can get back home?" Well, since we don't know where to get it back home, I don't see why not! So we got some.
And then, we went to the theater. The gates were open, but we couldn't pick up our tickets yet. This is where we had another experience that had me feeling like my Japanese was on the fritz. We wanted to ask one of the staff there where to pick up our tickets, but neither of us had any idea how to ask that in Japanese. We felt a little bad about it, but consoled ourselves with the reminder that none of the manga we translate had used that kind of vocabulary. Not even Kabukibu! did, now that I think of it. Fortunately, they had an English speaker on staff, so she was able to tell us that they would start a line at such-and-such time, which was about forty-five minutes out.
We sat ourselves down in some of the available chairs and were very grateful for the chance to be off our feet. As we waited, we met a fellow American, whom we'll call Luna (apparently that's her "celestial name," according to some Facebook quiz). She had bought tickets for the show the previous day, but due to some phone alarm and time zone difficulties, she had missed it entirely, and now was here in the hopes that she could get some will-call tickets. This is how we learned that will-call was a thing after all. This is also how we made a new Facebook friend!
Eventually, the time came to pick up our tickets. It was a fanclub service day, and since we're members of the fanclub, we got to try our luck at winning a chance to take pictures with the cast! But we didn't get it. Oh well. We did get to see someone who looked remarkably like Naoko Takeuchi make her way to some special area in the back of the theater.
...But we've been typing the entire duration of our Disney Sea Album (minus the time we were singing "A Mermaid Song"), so I think everybody's been reading for a long time anyway. I'll save our thoughts on the show for next time. Whenever that ends up being.
Today I'm thankful for a wonderful General Conference, finally getting to tell everybody more about our Japan trip, getting to go to the super fancy Disney Store in Shibuya, the Koa Pancake House, and getting to see Yoyogi Park.