So we got home from our road trip at, I don't know, eleven-ish? Cecille was already asleep, because she wanted to get up in time to catch the first train to the concert, just in case the seat listed on her ticket wasn't set in stone. For our part, we know it's a good idea to go to church, especially when we're traveling, because last time we went to Japan, going to church was the thing that finally got us to stop freaking out about the whole time. But we had had a long day and we were tired, and we didn't want to bother figuring out how to find a church meeting to go to, and also we didn't want to set an alarm to give us enough time to get ready for church. So we decided that, since our sleep schedules were completely out of whack anyway, there was a chance we'd happen to wake up in time, and in that case, we could work out all the details and see about going to church then. In the meantime, oh, how we longed to go to sleep.
So we did, but first we said our prayers, and in my prayers I told Heavenly Father the plan. Then I went to sleep, and the next thing I knew it was five in the morning and I was awake. Athena was awake, too, and we both thought, "Eh, we don't need to get out of bed until six, so we'll try to go back to sleep." Then five-thirty rolled around and we got a phone call from someone in our ward back home. We took that as a sign that we should go to church.
But now we were faced with the challenge of figuring out how to get to church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' official website has a handy-dandy tool for figuring out which ward to go to (you just plug in where you're staying and it gives you the address and meeting time for that ward, plus other wards nearby), but what it doesn't give you (or maybe it does but I didn't know how to use it because sometimes I'm willfully computer illiterate) is directions. I really struggled to find the directions to the meetinghouse, but I figured it out eventually! And came up against another potential problem: the meetinghouse is not right next to the train station. So we could find which stop to get off at, but finding the building from the station was going to be another challenge entirely. And we didn't have any kind of internet plan that would have let us use GPS or any kind of directions app.
So I screen-capped the portion of Google Maps that showed the walking directions, and we headed out and hoped for the best. We made it to the right train station without any problems, but when we got there, we wanted to check our map against the station's map, so we'd know the right side of the tracks to exit on...and their map didn't have north on top! So I stood there trying to turn my iPad around to get the maps to match up, and I kept touching the screen and making it do unhelpful things and it was all very frustrating. Eventually we figured out what seemed like the right exit to take and which corner to turn around, and we hoped we could figure out the rest as we went.
So we went down the station stairs and turned a corner...and almost crashed into the Mormon missionaries! Athena's first thought was from a General Conference talk that repeated the phrase, "Ask the missionaries--they can help you!" So we stopped them and asked them if we could go to church with them. Of course they said yes, but they were supposed to meet an investigator at the station, so first we waited for a little while until we decided the investigator wasn't coming. They tried to make small talk and found out we were into anime, so they asked what anime we liked and we said Noragami and they said, "Reberu takai ne (That's high-level)." I'm not sure what they meant by that, but we took it as a good thing.
When we got to church, we found a place to sit in the chapel and a woman noticed us and asked if we would be okay listening to the meeting in Japanese. We said yes and she went back to her seat, which was near ours, so that's how we later realized (from hearing her throughout the meeting) that she was the ward interpreter, so it was her job to interpret all the talks and prayers for the members of the ward who weren't native Japanese speakers. It was nice of her to be so observant!
And the opening hymn was "How Firm a Foundation", which has the verse that goes, "Fear not, I am with thee; oh be not dismayed, for I am thy God and will still give thee aid. I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, upheld by My righteous, omnipotent Hand." That was a nice little conclusion to the lesson that God will help us to do what's right, including going to church when we're on vacation.
There were some nice talks on listening to the Holy Ghost. One of the speakers surprised us by saying he was the oldest of ten children. He also talked about how he loved video games to the exclusion of all else all through high school, but when he graduated he decided he needed to put away childish things and not play video games...and then he got married to a woman who works as a video game developer. She happened to be teaching Relief Society that day, so she introduced herself as the Gamer.
Speaking of jokes, after sacrament meeting, a few women came up to us and said, "I saw you laughing, so I figured you could speak Japanese." One of them hung out with us for the rest of church, which was nice, because she helped us find all the other classrooms. After all the meetings, she asked us about our impressions of Japan as compared with America, and we said that the people are friendlier, which she thought was interesting. I gave the example of the cast member who was so touched when I told her we'd been on Sindbad's Storybook Voyage four times, and so she speculated that it might have something to do with the loyalty that's so inherent in Japanese culture (loyalty to the feudal lord, etc.), and that made sense to me because America was built with the ideal of independence. And we all agreed that it was a fascinating subject.
All the people at church were super friendly, and there was one lady who heard us say we were visiting, and she said, "Well, visit again!" We hadn't even had class yet! She was one of those very outspoken, opinionated middle-aged ladies, but she was friendly in her opinions, so she was a lot of fun.
Also after all the meetings, another woman who was visiting (but from inside Japan this time) came to talk to us because she's going to be visiting Anaheim next week! So we might get to see her in our ward, but our ward meets at one, which is the time slot that nobody wants to meet at, so she might go to a different ward instead. Either way, she'll be in good hands, because we have Japanese speaking missionaries in our area.
When we were done talking to everybody, we made our way back to the hotel and watched TV for the rest of the afternoon. There were two very fascinating shows. The first one we found was about speaking English, and it took common ways that Japanese people get English wrong, and explained how to make it right and why it's supposed to be like that. This week's example was trying to say, "This mask is made in Japan," but because of the way Japanese works (and I was going to give the exact Japanese sentence but I don't remember it; I could probably go on the reverse version of this show), Japanese people would say, "This mask is making in Japan." So they had a professor of English explain different kinds of passive voice, and they had a robot (played by an American actress) demonstrate proper English.
The other show was even more fascinating, and it was all about facts that only about a third of Japan (or less) knows. So they would present a scenario and ask a question, then ask their panelists who knows the right answer. Then they'd ask the people who don't know the answer to guess. The first example showed a girl calling to her uncle (Oji-san), and there are three different ways to write Oji-san in kanji, so the girl held up a sign with one of them and said, "I meant this uncle!" And the question is what was the difference? Three panelists said they knew it, and one of the other panelists thought it was that the one Oji-san represented uncles from the father's side, and the other represented uncles from the mother's side. Two of the panelists who knew it said that actually one represents uncles that are older brothers of the parent, and the other is younger brothers. The third panelist said he was sure it was the mother's side/father's side thing, but one who knew the right answer said, "That's a reasonable guess, but I teach Japanese." (Athena said she thought he said his mother teaches Japanese, but the point is, he knows how the language works.)
We learned all kinds of other neat facts, like the reason you won't catch cold in Antarctica is not that it's too cold for germs (germs actually can survive there), but that there aren't enough people for the germs to spread to, so they die for lack of a host, not because of temperature. We also learned that the reason Japanese elevators have mirrors in the back (and probably any elevator with a mirror in the back) is to help people in wheelchairs navigate their way out of them. And we were reminded that it's a terrible idea to wear socks to bed in an attempt to keep your feet warm, because you sweat so much that it's like dousing your feet in water. (The show had a reenactment where they replaced the socks with a guy spraying water on the sleeper's feet with a spray bottle and laughing evilly. This is why I love Japanese programming.) They also asked a dentist for a little-known fact that he knew, and he said that the shape of the top of your teeth (along your gums), if you turn it upside-down, is the shape of your face.
It was a really great show, and the title had something like "hanataka", which means "tall nose" and is the expression they use for someone showing off. The idea is that now that you know all these facts, you can have a tall nose in front of all your friends. It was great!
Eventually Cecille came back and told us a little about the concert, but mostly told all her friends on Facebook about it, probably because they're actual fans of the series and we're just mildly interested. (Although we're slightly more interested, since it slipped that one of the characters has a twin brother played by our favorite voice actor.) We did learn that they had a big swashbuckling number, because one group of idols in UtaPri did some kind of a pirate thing. It was rehearsing this number that Tatsuhisa Suzuki (also Haru in My Little Monster) injured his arm. But he went onstage anyway, and we hear the number was a lot of fun.
The next day, we had plans to go to the Black Butler Cafe. Our familiarity with Black Butler is not that great--we bought three volumes of the manga before Yen Press announced that they had it, but they didn't assign us to translate it, so I guess we figured what's the point anymore and stopped following it. But news of the cafe showed up on Anime News Network soon after our hotel was booked, so Cecille suggested it as a fun thing to do, and I don't know if I've ever mentioned this, but I am thoroughly enamored with the idea of themed food, so we absolutely wanted to do it. So we had bought tickets ahead of time and we were ready to go!
...Almost. First, it snowed the night before, and it was still raining when we needed to set out. Only Cecille had thought to pack an umbrella, so we had to stop by Family Mart to pick up some new ones, and some cash. That's also when we discovered that they had Choco Eggs, the Japanese version of Kinder Eggs. Normally, we probably would have ignored the whole thing, but soon before we crossed the Pacific, our mother called to tell us that for some reason some unspecified relative had showed one of our nephews videos of Kinder Eggs (or Choco Eggs, for all we know, but the point is that they were chocolate eggs with toys), and now he was obsessed with the idea. Doting grandmother that she is, she wanted to provide her grandson with the coveted eggs, and thus discovered that she couldn't obtain them in the United States. That's when she remembered that she knew a couple of people who would soon be leaving the United States, and so she asked us to see if we could get some.
What we're pretty sure she didn't know is that the eggs are banned in the US to the point of people getting stopped at customs for declaring any kind of chocolate eggs, with or without toys inside. We didn't want to deal with that kind of a hassle, but the Choco Eggs had Disney toys so we got one for ourselves. If we ate the chocolate, the toy was no longer (as much of) a choking hazard, so we figured it would be okay. Later, we bought three more (one for the nephew and one for each of his parents or non-infant cousins) with the aim of making our own chocolate eggs to hide them in, but we'll see if that ever happens (we are highly unmotivated people). Our egg had a super cute Ariel and Sebastian figurine. We haven't opened the capsules to see what the other eggs had.
Anyway, now that we had umbrellas, the other challenge was once again to find our way to the venue. It didn't seem like it would be that bad; I looked up the directions, and the cafe was only a four-minute walk from the station. That's a shorter walk than from our hotel to the Ikebukuro station, so how hard could it be, right?
Harder than it looked. This may have something to do with our failing powers of observation, or maybe I could blame it on the snow, but the point is, we got out of the station and didn't see it right away, so we picked a direction. We were looking for Q Plaza, and we shortly found a place called Tokyu Plaza. Q, Tokyu--they're very similar. Maybe this is the place! So we went inside (it was more of a shopping center than a plaza) and started looking around. And didn't find it. Now Cecille was starting to get worried that we wouldn't make it in time, so she kept pushing us to ask an employee if we were in the right place. I didn't want to do it, because I wasn't sure what to ask, and I knew I was going to have to be the one to ask because Cecille didn't know any Japanese and I had to go and be the talkative one. But anyway, I did ask and find out that we were not in the right place, so I asked for directions and the very friendly employee told me to go outside the building and take a left, and it would be a few minutes' walk.
The problem with a shopping center that has exits diagonally onto the corner of the block is that there are varying degrees of "left". Our "left" turned out to be harder than it should have been, and so we ended up accidentally leaving Harajuku (where we were supposed to be) and finding ourselves in Omotesando. The bright side is that we got to see a lovely giant advertisement featuring Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII posing for Louis Vuitton. After a while we determined that we were once again heading in the wrong direction, and that's when we got to have the authentic Japanese experience of going to the koban police box to ask for directions.
But! because we were in Omotesando and the place we were looking for was in Harajuku (it was seriously like a five minute walk; I don't know what the problem was), none of the police in the area had any idea where to find it. They were very helpful anyway, and one of them called the police box in Harajuku to ask for assistance. When he got off the phone, he gave me directions to the Harajuku police box and told me to ask for directions there. When we got to that police box, the officers knew us right when they saw us, and we hardly even had to go to the door before they were there showing us where to go.
So we started heading in the right direction, and as we waited at the stoplight, we saw right there at the top of a tall building a sign reading "Area Q". Palm, meet forehead. (In our defense, I checked again when we passed by the entrance to the subway station, and the sign was not visible from that angle.) And that's how we finally made it to the right building for the Black Butler Funtom Cafe.
And we really should be going to choir practice any minute now, so the tale of the cafe will have to wait until tomorrow.
Today I'm thankful making it to church without incident when we were in Japan (we did almost get lost on our way back to the station, but just as we realized we were on the wrong street, we saw the train up ahead, so it was easy to make it back to the station), that fascinating hanataka show, "Something There" coming up on our playlist when we have time for just one more song, friendly Japanese police officers, and getting to experience the joy(?) of chocolate eggs.