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Tokyo Disney Sea

Last summer I had the privilege of going to Tokyo Disney Sea for the first time!

I had been to Disney World in Florida a few times before, but never to a Disney Land outside of the US. It was extremely fun but also not what I had expected. I presumed being Tokyo Disney SEA there would be a lot of water rides, but it turns out there are a lot more shows to watch and the rides are still similar to that of regular Disney Land Rides.

I have yet to go to Tokyo Disney Land, but from what I hear Disney Sea is much more exciting. The reason I chose this one of the two is sort of for that reason. Disney Sea is something unique to Japan only! While there are many other parks around the world, the only way you’re going to be able to visit Disney Sea is by coming to Tokyo.

The most fun part of the time there had to have been the shows. Since I went during the summer, all the Disney characters would get on boats singing and dancing and spraying everyone with water. A lot of the Japanese people who went seemed to know particular ways of dancing to the music too (everyone tends to do the same dance movements together), which is something you would never see in America. There was also a beautiful fire and water show at the end of the night that topped off the entire park. The picture I posted here is from that very show when I went.

While I certainly love Disney Sea and I want to go back, if I ever get the chance to go again I would like to go see Tokyo Disney Land, next time. Specifically during a holiday, because there are always posters and advertisements all over the place for Halloween and Christmas. It always looks like a lot of fun to me.

Common Courtesy

As many people know (or may not know), Japan is filled with common courtesies which everyone is expected to follow. No, the rules are not difficult, but rather they are useful to keep everyone safe and free of unnecessary annoyances in every day life. This is one thing I consider to be truly unique and enjoyable about Japan as a whole.

The picture above is to warn people against absurd drunken behaviors in public, especially in the trains/subways. This is posted for the good of everyone, so innocent people are not harmed or bothered by another person’s rude behavior.

Similar rules apply with mobile phones. There are signs posted all around the train stations, subways, and even in some restaurants that ask people to refrain from talking on the phone in these situations. The reason is, the noise can be distracting to others and if everyone were to talk on their phone at one time places such as the train and restaurants would become unnecessarily loud. These reminders to consider other people and use “manners” is a good way to control noise level, distractiveness, and rude behavior among people so that everyone is able to stay courteous in a highly populated society where it would be easy for every day life to get out of control if these rules were not enforced by everyone.

Themed Restaurants

In my opinion, one of the most fun and entertaining aspects of Tokyo is their restaurants!

The photo above is the interior of my most favorite restaurant, the Christon Cafe in Shinjuku. It is modeled after Gothic Cathedrals.

There are an abundance of themed restaurants in Japan for just about any person. There are restaurants aimed towards a range of animal lovers, anime fans, and the just plain bizarre. One of the newest themed restaurants is the gundam cafe located in Akihabara.

Currently in order to get into this restaurant you must wait in line for about an hour or more, so its best to go early if you’re looking to eat here.

But as for these restaurants as a whole, each restaurant not only themes their interior as a particular theme, but they also go as far as to theme the food and drinks too! For instance, here is a picture of the meal I ordered from the Vampire cafe in Ginza last year:

along with the meal I received from the Alice In Wonderland Cafe in Shinjuku.

Even the menus are themed!

These restaurants are extremely fun for the scenery and the food is actually good too. However, the food really depends on the restaurant you go to; some is better than others while some are also cheaper than others. Along with that factor, themed restaurants in Japan are typically customary towards making reservations. While its not required, most people do reserve places, and to top it off some restaurants have extremely limited space so there are possibilities you cannot actually be seated at these places if you do not reserve your spot in advanced.

One of the most amusing parts of these restaurants are the customers. The Christon Cafe is a much more well known and larger restaurant than most of the others I have gone to, and with that there are many ordinary business men and women who go there. On the other hand, if you go to the Vampire Cafe in Ginza, the restaurant is extremely tiny and you will notice most customers are dressed up to fit the theme as well.

The experience is fun whether you go as a regular or just want to go to a place like this to see what its like. Each restaurant offers something different from the next so you’re never quite sure what you’re getting yourself into.

Fire Drill!

Recently we had a fire drill at school that was unlike any other fire drill I’ve ever experienced in my life.

It started off strange from the beginning, when a man came on the intercom announcing there would be a fire drill in a very quiet, calm voice. At first there was no English translation so many people didn’t know what was happening, but as the fire drill “progressed” the staff finally spoke in English telling us one by one we would be directed out of the building by floor.

Since I was on the third floor and they were starting all the way from the top it took a while. However, eventually a man came into our class yelling at us to get out of the class as soon as possible and to treat the situation as if it were real.

We all headed outside and soon enough the entire building my campus is located in was standing outside in confusion. We were outside for probably about 20 minutes and the staff told us we could experience aspects of fire safety. One of these aspects is displayed in the picture above. Its a tent set up with a type of fog used in performances and concerts which we could run through to see what a real fire would look like inside a building (or at least the smoke portion).

After that we were allowed to try a fire extinguisher. This was particularly interesting to me because I have never learned how to use one before but I think its important to know because otherwise I’d have no idea what to do in case of a fire.

The entire situation was interesting, to say the least. I also learned that this isn’t particularly normal but it is a typical Japanese style fire drill. It was also interesting to learn that more Japanese people are afraid of fires than they are of earthquakes. Although it was quite sudden I really enjoyed the fire drill because for the first time I felt like I actually got something out of it.

Since TUJ is located in Minami Azabu, this is the Nishi Azabu fire department, which is actually fairly close to where I live. Apparently they also do earthquake drills and are readily willing to teach anyone about taking the proper precautions in nearly any situation or natural disaster.

Kawaguchiko Music Box Forest

I had actually gone here last winter with a friend, but its a place that will always remain in my mind.

Kawaguchiko is an area about 2 hours outside of Tokyo, which you have to take a variety of trains to get to, but once you’re there the scenery is absolutely gorgeous! Kawaguchiko is known as one of the many areas where you can clearly see Mt. Fuji, and among that there are many tourist activities to do to experience the atmosphere to its fullest.

The place I was most interested in Kawaguchiko was the Music Box Forest. This is a small museum-like area set up like a park with various small buildings which you can go in and learn a history of music boxes and early European instruments. The outside of the area also has much to do and is extremely scene, as you can tell from the photo. The entire “forest” is decorated like a small European village with tons of set ups to not only learn but enjoy a peaceful day in a beautiful area.

Aoyama Cemetary

One of the largest cemeteries in Tokyo has got to be Aoyama Cemetary, covering several kilometers of ground and constructed by the government. It is so large you cannot look at the entire cemetery in a single day. In fact, I have been to this particular cemetery multiple times and still have not seen the entire thing.

As you can see, graves cover just about the entire ground with small walk ways that are numbered and marked in particular order for easier access to loved ones.

This is one of my favorite sights within Tokyo, because I don’t see it as a place that is covered by tourists, but it holds so much history, belief, and uniqueness to it. Japanese graves can be quite lavish, but not particularly in the way we see graves in the west. Instead, graves in Japan are typically taken care of by family members who will go out on particular holidays to clean the graves and make sure everything is “hospitable” for their family and friends. New Years and Oban (a holiday celebrating those who have passed from this world) are a particularly popular times to visit and clean graves.

There are many famous people burried at Aoyama Cemetery along with a section specifically for foreigners who have died and wish to be burried in Japan. However, among well known individuals in Aoyama Cemetery, Hachiko and his master both rest here together right next to each other. I have not found this particular grave yet, but I would like to, as Hachiko is such a famous story and heart warming story in Japan. He is truly an icon of loyalty.

Japanese Arcades

Arcades are just about everywhere you go in Tokyo; you just can’t go to a single area without missing one.

Amongst these arcades, the “UFO Catcher” machines seem to be the most popular. For Americans, typically these kind of machines, where one must attempt to catch a stuffed animal with a claw is seen as rigged, leading to much failure unless you really have good coordination skills. In Japan however, these claw machines are the total opposite. The point of them is for you to actually WIN!

As you can see in the video, stuffed animals are placed at the very edge of machines, giving those who play an advantage of easily winning.

However, there is a catch to these machines. It is simple to win small items, such as cell phone straps and small stuffed animals, but the bigger the prizes get the more difficult it is to win, even when it seems otherwise. You can, however, ask staff members to rearrange the prizes for you to make it more easy or difficult or to change out prizes to your favorite one for you to win easier.

Japanese Arcade in Akihabara

UFO Catcher machines (claw machines) aren’t the only attraction you will find in Japanese arcade, but they honestly are the most abundant of anything there, attracting crowds of all kinds.

Other than UFO Catchers, there are also typical arcade video games along with photo booths known as “Purikura” where you can take a series of photos with your friends which you can also edit and add additional decorations. Many Japanese people take purikura for fun and for memories of particular outtings and events with friends.

Takadanobaba AREA

Takadanobaba AREA is a popular live house located in none other than Takadanobaba! Recently I went with a friend to see one of her favorite bands perform here, but I have actually gone to this live house a number of times to see a variety of Japanese bands. Typically AREA focuses on visual kei bands, or Japanese rock bands who perform with much more “theatrical”-like aesthetics; performing with costumes, make up, and props, and sets to create a whole atmosphere for one’s concert experience.

Bands who play here tend to range from small indies bands to even popular performers and the live house is frequently packed with different bands and concerts being played nearly every day. In fact, a single ticket may set you back anywhere from 2,500 yen to 3,500 yen and several bands will perform on the same evening. Typically about 6 bands will play during the concerts held at AREA with a single headlining band who performs last and for the longest amount of time. However, generally most performance times are shared equally among bands and fans who enter the live house must tell the staff which band they are coming to see that day (basically, telling them which band you are a fan of). The concert experiences held at Takadanobaba Area have always been extremely fun in the number of times I have attended concerts here. It is always well worth the money with the large number of good talent packed all into one night!

This famous poster is held at the entrance of the live house so you can see just how many bands are always performing here; but its constantly changing and theres always more and newer bands coming along all the time!

Clandestine Meeting

After one more year of waiting, yesterday I was able to attend an event known as the 密会 (Mikkai) or in English, the secret/clandestine meeting.

So what is the Clandestine Meeting exactly?

Well I must provide a little back story to this in order for one to fully understand.

In 1992 a Japanese Visual Kei rock band known as MALICE MIZER formed by the two founding members, Mana and Kozi. Throughout the 90’s, MALICE MIZER became an extremely famous and influential visual kei band with their dramatic costumes and set ups along with an assortment of music ranging from a Europop style all the way to heavy rock mixed with elements of classical music.

As of 2002 the band went on Hiatus, leaving each member to go their own separate ways. Among these band members, I took on particular interest in Mana.

Mana was known in MALICE MIZER for depicting a female persona which ultimately lead to further popularity in the ever growing Lolita fashion. He started up his own fashion label, called Moi-meme-Moitie, which still holds strong today and is known for his EGL (Elegant Gothic Lolita) and EGA (Elegant Gothic Artisocrat) styles.

Today Mana is founder and leader of his own “Music project,” otherwise known as the band Moi dix Mois. His style and fashion has evolved greatly through time from more feminen, to masculine, to ultimately a particularly elegant but androgynous fashion style which he accompanies his rock/classical music combination.

Needless to say, Mana has become a rather large icon in the visual kei music scene and still continues on today working on various musical and fashion projects. Yesterday however, was the 11th year anniversary of his fashion brand. Anyone who bought a particular amount of yen worth of clothing within a 2 week span was able to obtain a ticket and spend personal time with Mana alone. As Mana is my most favorite artist, I was able to meet him one-on-one for my very second time!

Unfortunately, pictures are not allowed with Mana, but having been to many of his concerts and events I have made friends with many of the hard core fans in the scene and was able to take quite a few pictures of and with them!

Pictured here are three of my friends, Konomi, Kanna, and Tooya. All of them are full out wearing Mana’s fashion brand Moi-meme-Moitie. Konomi and Kanna are wearing Elegant Gothic Lolita (EGL) and Tooya is wearing Elegant Gothic Aristocrat (EGA).

This is a picture of me and another one of my friends at the event, Manami.

The “rock on” hand signs we do in each picture are actually a form of symbolism used during live events during Moi dix Mois (Mana’s band) concerts. We call it “dix”, the French word for the number 10, which is incorporated into the band name and image. dix is a particularly difficult concept to explain in the context of Moi dix Mois, but to put it short, Mana takes on the number 1 to symbolize as the “start” of something and 0 to represent “infinity”. This idea is used in context for Mana’s love for creating music and his dream to never stop performing and making new songs for his fans.

Finally a few pictures of girls I don’t personally know but allowed me to take pictures of them!

The day ended up wonderful and I even received a present from Mana; a necklace along with the photo which I posted above, scanned by me.

For those who don’t speak Japanese, information may be a little difficult at times to find on Mana, so for anyone who is interested please check out my fan site completely dedicated to him!!

http://www.mana-sama.net

If you are interested in Mana’s personal website, here is the link as well:

http://manamonologue.blog16.fc2.com/

Ueno

Hello everyone~

This blog is intended for my Visual Anthropology of Japan class as a project based on my life in Tokyo. I will be updating this blog quite frequently, so feel free to follow and give me comments if you like! And by all means, if you are interested in any specific aspect of Tokyo or living in Tokyo, let me know and I just might post an entry about it!

To start off, I wanted to introduce what I feel is an amazing, yet “underrated” area of Tokyo; Ueno. I say underrated because before I came to Japan I rarely ever heard anything about Ueno. Its come to my attention that perhaps Ueno is known to an extent by the foreign community, but perhaps not a very large extent.

Here are two photos I took of Ueno tonight. Its a completely different world at night than it is at day. During the day there is a beautiful and lively park just outside the train station which contains an array of museums, concert halls, restaurants/food stands, activities, and even the famous Ueno Zoo. Ueno park is especially lively during the weekends with artists of all kinds coming to perform for the public or to just simply escape the vast city to compose art subjects in a more natural area.

In fact, I personally believe Ueno is one of the best places to view Sakura (cherry blossoms) during Hanami (flower viewing during the Spring time) because the park is completely filled with the beautiful pink flowers. The only problem is, if you’re looking for a quiet place to do your hanami, Ueno park might not be the best place, as it is frequently packed every weekend as long as the Sakura are in bloom.

Obviously having taken photos during the night, I could not get pictures of the park, but perhaps at a later time I will. For now you can enjoy what so many people love to do during the evenings — enjoy the night life. Tons of shops and restaurants are open during the evening with much more diversity than what you may find in places such as Shinjuku or Shibuya. Ueno contains an entire market area specializing in East Asian cultures such as Korea, Thailand, China, India, Indonesia, and so many more.

Of all my experiences in Japan, I honestly can say some of my most cherished Japanese experiences have come from Ueno, so it really holds a close spot in my heart.

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