Monday, November 25, 2013

DisneySea!!

There are two Disney parks in Japan, Disneyland and DisneySea, both located in Tokyo. Had no desire to see Disneyland because people told me its similar to the ones back in America. I'm not a huge Disney fanatic but I wanted to check out DisneySea because you can only find it in Japan. Tickets were decently priced at 6200 yen (tax included). Sure beats the almost $100 tickets in America.

First thing we saw when we entered the park was a huge line. I was thinking people were lining up to get fast pass tickets or to take pictures with a Disney character...

what's with the line??
Turns out all these people are lining up to take pictures in front of the statue. There were lines like that all over the park. On one hand its nice to have a picture with no one else in it but on the other who has the time to line up? Also makes it difficult to take a picture of just the statue or building with all these people posing in front of it....

Next thing we saw was more people waiting...


This was only just the beginning. The line of people stretched around the Mediterranean Harbor where a show was about to being - in two hours! If you want to be in a prime location to view any shows or such be prepared to wait 2-3 hours in advance because that's how early lines and groups started to form.

yup had to line up to get this photo
had "spicy" chicken curry in arabian coast (basically agrabah) - around 700 yen (not too expensive)
we are her little puppies - woof woof
Loved meeting Cruella de Vil in front of the Tower of Terror ride! How she addressed us and others waiting to take a photo was hilarious. Surprisingly there was no line and it was just a clusterfk to see who could grab her attention first. One of the things I like most about the park is the sheer amount of employees who are just standing around - so helpful when we need someone to take our picture.

a musical in English - seat assignments are given out lottery style in a different building
 
had to wait in another line - only one pic per person (they are VERY strict on this)
Don't expect to see any princesses in either Disneyland or DisneySea - they aren't the stars in Japan.

so happy to drop to our deaths :D we knew what was going to happen but we were still so scared!
 Favorite rides at the park include the Tower of Terror which we rode twice, still can't figure out how the statue disappears..., and Journey to the Center of the Earth. The newest attraction to the park is Toy Story Mania which 5 minutes into the park opening already had a wait time of 100+ minutes. The wait time for the ride throughout the day was 3 hours... Freaking insane! There are a lot of stories online about how people would wait 1-2 hours before the park opened at 8am just so they can run and grab fast passes for this ride. I've ridden this ride before in Florida so it wasn't such a big deal for me to miss it. The ride is fun but not 3 hours of waiting fun.

mermaid lagoon
The whole park was super beautiful. Just enjoyed staring at everything and soaking it all in. No cotton candy or hot dogs here - instead you have different flavors of popcorn and steamed buns! I tried two different flavors of popcorn: milk tea (found in Port Discovery) and curry (found in Arabian Coast). Both flavors were good but the curry one was my favorite.

Japanese people are super passionate about Disney. Education is super important in Japan but Disney trumps schools in that parents would have their kids miss school just so they can go to Disney on a weekday! Lucky lucky kids. Almost every single person in the park was wearing some sort of Disney merchandise or were dressed up in costumes. I felt weird because I wasn't wearing a single item of Disney stuff. Before shows and such there were announcements about removing hats and headbands because SO MANY PEOPLE WERE WEARING THEM - not just girls. I mentioned before that Disney princesses aren't so popular here - the most popular character here is Duffy. Yeah beats me I had never heard of this character before either - had to google it when my students mentioned it.

The Details
Access: JR Maihama Station
Wait time & Fast Pass Info: Tokyo Disney Time (android only)
Website not as accurate for wait times

Sunday, November 17, 2013

bunraku

After seeing a short snippet of bunraku at the Gion Corner mentioned in this post. I really wanted to see a whole performance. Bunraku is a form of traditional Japanese puppet theater and the National Bunraku Theater is actually located in Osaka.


We watched Igagoe Dochu Sugoroku or The Vendetta at Iga which is based on a famous vendetta that occurred in 1634. The play was split into two parts and we watched the second one because the call time for the first half was at 10:30 am. The second half started at 4:30pm and it should have been a warning sign when people from the first act were leaving the theater as we got there! I didn't know what I was getting myself into and had naively thought that the play would last at most two hours. We didn't get out until 9pm or so!! The whole play by itself would have taken a day just to watch. That to me is kind of insane. Each half was split up into different acts and people would leave after each act. Since we had already sat through the first couple of acts and there were only two left we thought we would just stay. However what I didn't count on was that the last couple were the longest ones and I ended up falling asleep through most of it! Oops..

TayĆ«—the chanters (the voices and narrators) and shamisen players


The play was insane. It had samurais, baby killing, neglecting one's wife and infant and letting them almost freeze and starve to death in the snow, etc etc. Besides being violent the play was also kind of dirty which was amusing to watch.


The puppeteers could do such intricate stuff with the puppets like having them fight, pour tea, spin thread, or chop wood. We learned that it takes three puppeteers to move one puppet. One puppeteer controls the right leg, another the left arm and leg, and the master controls the right arm and head. The puppeteer will spend 10 years controlling the right leg before he can move up to the left arm and leg. After another 10 years the puppeteer can finally control the right arm and head and have his face be shown. Dang 30 years to master this craft!

Before the show, Sawin and I went to Sweets Paradise, a dessert buffet. I was excited to stuff my face with endless cakes and sweets!


I was expecting there to be much more I was disappointed with the selection of desserts. Besides desserts they also had pasta and rice. The whole place was filled with girls and women. Boys are a rare sight here. Haha.

The Details
National Bunraku Theater
Access: Subway & Kintetsu - Nipponbashi Station
Tickets (can be purchased online - English)
Admission: 2300 yen - 5000 yen (our tickets were the cheapest at 2300 yen and we were seated in the last row of seats) I would recommend just arriving at the theater and purchasing a one act ticket for a couple hundred yen. You'll get the experience of bunraku without having to sit through hours of it.

Earphone Guide: 650 yen and 1000 yen refundable deposit
Definitely grab the earphone guide or you will have no clue what is happening in the play (which is all in Japanese). It also provides some cool information about the history of bunraku.

Sweets Paradise
Price: 1480 yen - adults, 840 yen - children

Sunday, November 10, 2013

totoro house

I love watching Studio Ghibli films but have never watched My Neighbor Totoro, despite its immense popularity in the states. Studio Ghibli movies are really popular in Japan and even though some movies came out when I was born, my students still know about them despite the films being 20+ years old. I finally watched My Neighbor Totoro while living here in Japan and discovered by chance that the house Satsuki & Mei lived in was replicated for the 2005 World Fair.


notice the broken pillar??
dad's study
bath tub - the smaller one is for cold water
kitchen
taken through the famous broken bucket
bus stop where satsuki first sees totoro!
The tour only lasts for 30 minutes and is split into two groups. One group goes into the house to look around while the other group explores the outside, then the groups switch. Pictures aren't allowed inside the house but I sneakily took some (yup I'm a badass :P), you can also take pictures of the rooms from outside the house. I really loved the house and all the details that went into the making of it. There were closets and drawers full of clothes, shoes, medicine and a mini desk filled with books and study materials. The clothes in the drawers are changed out according to the seasons - such attention to detail! I wish all the Studio Ghibli movie locations could be replicated so that I could visit them!!

Afterwards we grabbed some pancakes at Pancake House Hoi Hoi near Fujigaoka Train Station. There was such a long line for this place! I'm not a big fan of pancakes but all the cream made it delicious!

maple cream pancakes - 800 yen

The Details
Satsuki and Mei's House
Aichi Memorial Expo Park
Hours: 9:30am-4:00pm closed: Mondays
Admission fee: 500 yen for adults 250 yen for children
Access: Aichikyuhakukinenkoen Station - accessible by Linimo Line from Fujigaoka (Aichi) Station
The house is located around 20 minutes away from the train station by foot. There is also a free shuttle that goes around the park.
Website (Japanese only - tour times)
Tickets: Reserve online to ensure a spot and pay at Lawson's (Japanese only). Tickets on site are limited.

Pancake House Hoi Hoi

Monday, November 4, 2013

cat cafe

Finally had a chance to visit a cat cafe in Japan! A cat cafe is a theme cafe where you pay an hourly fee to play with the cats that live in the cafe. I'm not a big fan of cats but something about paying to see them made me chase those cats down like I've never seen one in my life. Wish they had puppy cafes cause that would be awesome!

a grumpy puffball
cutest cat in the joint - rolled up in a carpet

there are brushes to brush the kitties with - what a life!
This place is popular, we had to wait 2 hours before we could enter! There was this cat obsessed family that was there. They stayed for so long and both the mom and dad were stalking every cat there trying to forcibly hold them. Their daughter went around to any cat that was out in the open trying to comb and brush it. She kept ruining all my photos and I literally had to race to compete with her to get any alone time with a cat before she came scampering into the picture. The parents were so obsessed with their own cat endeavors they let their child just run amok!

I had fun playing with the cats and acting like I was a cat lover but it was pretty pricey. Probably wouldn't do it again.

The Details
Cat St.
〒460-0008 Aichi Prefecture, Nagoya, Naka Ward, Sakae, 3 Chome9−10
tel; 052-242-2355
cost: 700 for the first 30 mins and then 500 for every additional 30 mins after that
includes free drinks (soda, tea, juice)
website