Asia | Japan | Tokyo – Three Days in Tokyo – Day One
Saturday morning, June 14, Yayoi, my host sister, and I jumped on a shinkansen (bullet train) bound from Nagaoka to Tokyo. I am traveling on a JR Pass, so I get to travel anywhere the Japan Rail goes, including almost all the shinkansen, on my pass. Yayoi got a deal at 14000 Yen (about 140 US $ right now) for a round trip on the shinkansen and all the local JR lines in Tokyo. So off we go to play tourist!
We arrived in Tokyo at about 9 AM, and boarded another JR line to head East – to Disney Land! When I was planning this trip, I wasnt sure about going to Disney Land. How much of a Japanese experience am I going to get at Disney Land? But one of my advisors at the University, a Disney fanatic, took me on a web tour and turned my mind around, so now here I was at the gates of Disney.
Tokyo Disney has two parks, Disney Land and Disney Sea. We chose Disney Sea because Yayoi had never been there. The main character at Disney Sea is Arial the mermaid from A Little Mermaid. Mickey and friends are there, and they are dressed in sea faring attire.
It was quite and experience and a sight to see how these bits of Americana are interpreted. Almost every sign was bilingual in English and Japanese. The label for the fire extinguisher was the only sign I noticed in only Japanese. In the Indiana Jones area, there were quite a few signs only in English. All in all, I think any English reading traveler could get along just fine at Tokyo Disney.
After we had our tickets, and we were just past the esplanade, I heard drums and saw the most wonderful sight – four colorguard members heading my way! My favorite holiday in America is Flag Day, June 14, and here were four flag bearers, with three flags, a rifle and saber each, headed my way. Life is great! I marched eight seasons in color guard, and I taught for two. Colorguard is something that did not translate to Japanese I had already learned, so I was just calling it my ‘dance group’. Now, with the visuals in front of us, it was becoming much clearer to Yayoi what my ‘dance group’ did.
If you dont know what colorguard is, try www.wgi.org or www.dci.org for more information.
After enjoying the show, we headed into Disney Sea. There was a fair amount of crowds present, but there were room for a lot more. And with the new Fast Pass system, things should be great, right?!?
‘Fast Pass’. In theory, this is a machine in which you slip your park entry ticket, and you receive a timed ticket that tells you when you can return. Only a certain amount of people are given a Fast Pass for each time slot. This way, when you return, you go through a special Fast Pass line, and you will get to the ride faster. You can only receive one Fast Pass from a machine every two hours. All the Fast Pass machines in the park are connected, so they all know if you already have a ticket. Then, at the boarding point of the ride, the Fast Pass and the regular line board at the same rate. But since only a certain amount of people are permitted to get in the Fast Pass line, it moves faster.
I should have realized when the English translation for the regular line wasnt ‘regular’ but ‘stand by’. There is a saying in Japan that you dont go to Disney Land on a first date. This is because you will get so frustrated waiting that you will make a bad impression on your date. To my eyes, I could not see any emotion coming from the Asians around me. They looked down, looked away, looked anywhere but angry.
The Anglos were different. And we got worse as we got closer to the attraction. We would get more ancy the longer we had to wait, and show our frustration by taking up all of the space we could in the waiting line. You barely ever saw an Asian national with their hands on the bars on both sides of their waiting line. One, maybe, but more likely they were keeping their hands to themselves.
The worst example was the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ride. We were in the stand by lane, and we kept watching the fast pass lane members speed by us, but that is what the lane was created for, right? I watched people speed by, but I didnt think too much of it until I turned a corner to get within view of the entry. In the US, the lanes are thin, and with constant turns, so the visitor can claim their territory in line, with both hands on the rails not letting anyone pass, with a feeling of accomplishment every time you turn a corner in line. Here the lines are long and straight and wide. Finally we turned a corner and we knew we were getting closer because an attendant was taking the piece of paper from the Fast Pass member line and allowing them through an entrance. Then I noticed that our line wasnt moving. Not because we had soooo many people in it, but because they had it blocked off to allow Fast Pass members through. As I continued to watch, I came to discover that their were two lines continuing from that stopping point, and they were letting Fast Pass members through both of them. When they finally let some Stand By members through, it was a very small number compared to how many Fast Pass members had gone through. I was getting frustrated. The nearest American I could see, a college age male six people behind me, was getting frustrated as well. He was taking up all the physical space he could find, and his stories to his companion were getting louder and louder. They switched back to allowing Fast Pass members through. I counted 86 people entering that point before they let any Stand By members through. They let 12 Stand By members through. When I was exiting the ride, I saw the other American, who used to be just six people behind me, boarding the ride. During that whole ordeal, when the other American and I could have jumped the ticket taker, yelling and screaming about equality and fairness of the two lines and the Fast Pass system, I never saw an Asian raise their eyes and look at the ticket taker or even seem to be talking of how slow the line was. They simply suffered through it all as being in their place and the way.
As we were leaving Disney Sea that night, I realized that this was no longer your childrens resort. In the shopping area of the resort, was a Tiffanys store, right next to a Coach store. This is definitely a resort destination aimed at the wealthy.
Yayoi and I returned to the train, and glided into Tokyo. Our next stop was to have dinner with a friend of hers named Matthew. Yayoi met Matthew when she lived in Tokyo and she was working at a Language School. Matthew is from Canada, and he has been living in Japan 8 years.
Let me take this moment to say I dont hate Canadians, and I dont hate men. One of my favorite people to hang out with in Delaware is Canadian. And while I have had my share of bad luck with men, I dont hate them.
Yayoi believes that I truly hate Matthew. Matthew walked the streets of Tokyo with his Chinese girlfriend (whom he met in a Mexican restaurant in Tokyo), Yayoi, and I, and he proceeded to say things that I did not find amusing, or respectful to say around us. The other females did not say a word. Whether or not they understood the derogatory slander dripping from his lips, I may never know. But I let him know my feeling on the subject. I got the impression that he has not had ANYONE speak back to him in the eight years he has been in Japan. The Japanese people are just not confrontational like that. And I am sure he has not had a WOMAN speak back to him in eight years!
He decided to go to an okonomiyaki resturant. He said it is where you make your own pancakes. He neglected to inform me that it is mostly egg based, making it an omlet wtih stuff in it, and most defently not on my high cholesterol diet. When the bowls of stuff (corn, tuna, egg) came, he put it in front of me to cook. I said he could do the first one so I could watch and learn, (we had already ordered at least three) but he insisted. So as I cooked it, he proceeded to instruct me how it should be done. I offered him the spatula so he could do it himself, but he refused. After more contradictory cooking commands from him, I simply cut the corn and tuna pancake/omlet in half and pushed half in front of him. The girls were in shock and giggles to watch this!
This evolved into quite a point of conversation between Yayoi and I about how you see Asian women with Anglo men, but you do not see Asian men with Anglo women anywhere near as often. Could this be because the Asian men can not deal with having a woman who will speak her mind and try to be as strong in her life as he is in his?
Yayoi and I stayed in Tokyo overnight. We stayed in a western style hotel room, exactly the same size and style as I stayed in in Narita, for twice the price. In Japan, they charge per person, and not just for the size of the room. So by her requesting a double, we were placed in a double sized bed together. What did we get for our extra money? An extra pair of slippers and an extra bathrobe.