Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Tokyo Sandwich - The Mayo

And so there we were...

...having struggled – after a tickling battle with chopstick wielding ninjas, out belly-flopping a sumo wrestler, beating a gang of yakuza at Dance Dance Revolution, and trapping a crazed oni in the trunk of a car – we gasped our way through the clouds to the peak of Mt. Fuji.

(Err..."A Tokyo sandwich - The Mayan Ruins?" Say what?!)

Well, while Mt. Fuji it is not, what it is (and what follows) are the various peculiar places and people that we encountered in Tokyo. From the offbeat to the strange to the downright weird, these were the sights and memories that kept our "sandwich" from tasting dry.

Above, I took a snapshot of the facade looming over visitors as they stood in line for the Raging Spirits roller coaster at Tokyo DisneySea. It's a really cool design, based off one for an Indiana Jones ride located at Euro Disney in Paris. As it turns out, one of the few things I was able to enjoy this day (considering it was opening day, and the wait in most lines was often 2 or 3 hours) was the Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull "thrill" ride (not to be confused with the similarly titled film). I've got to say though, I didn't enjoy DisneySea's Indiana Jones ride quite as much as the original Indiana Jones ride I remember actually being thrilled by in the 90s at Disneyland. That high stakes, seat-of-your-pants, close personal feeling of connection that used to rip up and down my spine was lacking this time. Perhaps it had something to do with Indiana Jones and other animatronic characters present speaking in Japanese instead of English. (It's said that watching dubbed anime doesn't compare with the native language track, and I guess the reverse is true for things we've become conditioned to). Even the ride itself felt tame. Maybe I'm just getting too old for such things. Then again, the ride was sorely lacking in the wasting-your-life-while-waiting-in-line category too! There weren't as many fun things to look at in line, and there was no Sallah on the intermittent video monitors to greet visitors and warn them of their IMPENDING DOOM-DOOM-OOM-OOM!

Ah, well...did I mention it was opening day?

"Ev'rybody was cell phone snapping! ~ Those pics were quite en-rapt'ring!"
We also got to take in a few live musical performances while we were becoming acquainted with the amusement grounds. The first was a trio of "American steamboat cooks" decked out in white and chef's hats as they sung popular show tunes and beat out fast-paced rhythmic beats on their standing grills and trash cans in a lively Vaudevillian manner. It was pretty fun(ny)! I'm not sure if many of the elder Japanese who were congregated there made much out of three ethnically-diverse foreigners thrashing out mad metallic beats and tossing utensils behind their backs as anything more than, "Oh, wee! Look, noisy gaijin!" Some of them looked as if they didn't know how to respond after the guys finished a number. And if so, that's okay, cause I'm reminded of a few words shared by Marty McFly in a similar situation: "I guess you guys aren't ready for that, yet. But your kids are gonna love it."

Next we sat in a crowd through a staged song and dance show put on by traveling steamboat actors and a who's-who of Disney characters. It was nice (a good draw for the 6 and under crowd), but didn't have the same appealing involvement as the smaller more personal venues. Like the trio of Mexican mariachis we discovered in an across-the-border style cantina where we had lunch. These guys were good! "And to think," Mom said, herself a proud Mexicana. "I come half-way around the world, all this way to Japan, and find mariachis playing traditional music!" We even let out a few mariachi inspired-"Ay, yai, yai!" whoops and hollers as they performed. After a few numbers, and our bellies were full, my mom ventured greedily, "I wonder if I can fit one in my luggage!" "I dunno," I said, reminded of her other carry-home plans. "Could be difficult getting both a mariachi singer and a Harajuku girl past customs in San Francisco."

A few days later, we decided to find out directly. It was our mission to seek out a "Harajuku girl" and ask her if she wouldn't mind traveling inside someone's luggage on their way back to America. After an exhaustive search of the Harajuku district of Tokyo, during which we were involved in a couple side-tours (one to the Meiji Shrine as seen here, and the other to a mass girls gathering for a talent show taping), we at last found them:

My mom sandwiched between "Harajuku girls."
Or at least, one of them. I'm not entirely sure if the one on the left is a girl. (An ogre, perhaps?) Alas, we forgot to ask them the ever important question. (Though I'm pretty sure I know what the answer would have been. ;)

Hey check it out! While we were out scoping around for Harajuku girls, we came across this very eye-catching fire escape, complete with inner city art. Cool huh? (Well, I thought so.)
Near the end of our stay, we took a guided boat/tram tour of lower Tokyo including the bay and the man-made island of Odaiba.

A look at Tokyo Bay and the Rainbow Bridge from Odaiba.
On the boat I met a friendly, old, toothless Chinaman whom I shared a couple laughs and took pictures with (on his camera), while he spoke to me about the old days during "the war" and his past "visit to America." (To be honest, I'm not 100% sure what he was talking about because I could barely understand him. For all I know he could have been asking me about when the next time is war will visit America?) Then IT happened....

What was it? A giant statue composed of dark chocolate? Godzilla rising out of the depths? The Chinaman trying to shove me overboard?

Whew! I'm glad I got that off my chest. I don't think I'll ever be able to talk about that again.

Soon we were out strolling the island's interior, enjoying the day and each other's company, and realizing that in a short 24-hour period we'd be back on our way to our everyday lives, no longer fellow adventurers in a far-flung land in search of that perfect Tokyo sandwich.

It had been a great week full of fascinating people, big city locations, and far too much time spent roving the streets for a satisfying place to eat (let's order out next time, huh Mom? Love ya!)

"An Olive-skewer In The Heart Of Our Tokyo Sandwich"