The fact that I’m on vacation in Tokyo attests to my enthusiasm for things Japanese, but after numerous trips during a span of nearly 15 years, I don’t have quite the same irrepressible excitement nor the same physical conditioning that I once did. Since I have plenty of time and limited money, I decided to take a day off from my vacation. While the day turned out to be largely stress-free on my physical condition, the day, sadly, taxed my mental fortitude far more than I’d anticipated it would.
I don’t own a cell phone, so I’m here in Tokyo with a rapidly aging laptop and a borrowed iPhone 4 lacking a cellular connection. I learned first-hand exactly how aggravating Apple’s non-plug & play technology is when I spent literally hours trying to figure out how to transfer reference images onto the phone. First the laptop wouldn’t transfer data onto the phone; then after I successfully synched the phone with iTunes, the laptop no longer recognized the phone at all and iTunes would transfer images I didn’t want onto the phone but not the images I did want. The need to input my credit card number just to download a free PDF reader application frustrated me. The fact that iTunes then would not recognize the application’s install file annoyed me further. Eventually I just registered for the local Starbucks coffee shop’s free wifi access, but since there’s no Starbucks within the immediate vicinity, I still don’t know if I can now simply e-mail data to my cell phone.
Around 1pm Jon and I walked a few blocks down the street to the Lawson’s convenience store. Jon pointed out a shelf of cans of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure coffee boxed with a bonus mp3 player speaker shaped like a can of coffee. I have a tremendous fascination with these sort of “only in Japan” anime items: the especially odd, like figure ear plugs, and mainstream merchandise co-branding like Shingeki no Kyojin Shick razors (which I haven’t yet found). I purchased one set of the Jojo coffee with speaker for 598 yen that I’ll keep eternally unopened as a unique display item.
On our behalf, Jon used the touch-screen computer terminal to try to reserve tickets to the Ghibli Museum. While I’ve visited the museum three times before, I enjoy going any time I come to Japan. To my dismay, every available timeslot on every available day throughout the next two weeks seemed to be booked solid. Purchasing tickets requires going through the entire date and time selection then confirmation process for each purchase attempt, so after nearly ten failed attempts, we gave up, feeling certain that every available ticket for the next two weeks had already been secured.
So we continued our stroll another block to the small Tonkatsu Sankin restaurant tucked into the second floor of a tall, narrow building. My tasty katsudon bowl consisted of a sliced pork filet breaded then fried with an egg and laid over lightly sauced rice with onions, served with a bowl of mini-clam soup for 900 yen.
We returned home, where I spent another hour struggling with the iPhone before trekking out into the light rain to return again to the Shinjuku Wald 9 Theater for the Lupin the IIIrd: Jigen Daisuke no Bohyo feature. The short movie is only playing at one theater, and for only six days. I paid for our 1,300 yen tickets. Although small consolation, I’m still grateful that the tickets were discounted by 500 yen because the movie is under an hour long. We were both shocked to find, however, that we had to select seats on the right side of the theater as the hall was nearly sold out – at 3:30pm on a Wednesday!
During this theatrical experience, I consciously noticed that the theater alternated pre-show advertisements and movie trailers, unlike American theaters that always show the trailers in a batch before the feature.
Even with my very limited knowledge of Japanese language, I was immediately a bit worried when the film’s title screen appeared with a kanji “part one” subtitle. The “movie” actually turned out to be a pair of 25 minute episodes clearly set after the Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna television series yet entirely lacking Goemon. As I feared might be the case, the movie retains the visual aesthetic of the 2012 TV series thanks to TV series character designer Takeshi Koike directing the feature, but every trace of TV series director Sayo Yamamoto’s acid-trip psychedelia has been excluded. The resultant picture is particularly hard boiled and certainly the most graphically violent of any Lupin III anime ever created. However, while certainly a strong, satisfying short film, it still regrettably lacks some of the uniquely surreal character that typified the 2012 TV series that spawned this movie. The film does conclude with quite a neat little cameo that I won’t spoil.
After the film I stood in the short gift shop line to purchase a copy of the film’s program. Since the booklet was thin, it cost only 300 yen. After paying, I turned around to discover that the line behind me had suddenly grown exponentially due to the presence of numerous giggling high school girls, at least some of whom did appear to have just come from the Lupin film screening.
As we returned home, I confirmed first-hand that the JR rail automated ticket machines did allow me to switch their display language to English and top-off my Suika card with another 1,000 yen.
At lunchtime Jon had suggested the possibility of Italian food. My response was that I favored Italian as dinner food rather than lunchtime food. So in the evening, I suggested Italian for dinner, feeling a bit of a desire for cheese with noodles. The small restaurant to the left side of Jon’s apartment politely turned us away. The eatery was packed full and had no open seats. So we went back in the other direction to Pizza Salvatore Cuomo. Given the restaurant’s name, I wasn’t surprised to see that the selection of pizzas was large but the selection of pasta dishes rather small. So Jon & I opted to split a pizza. We selected on with chicken, Italian sausage, mushrooms, and peppers. The menu offered only 24 inch small and 27 inch medium sizes. Jon inquired if anything larger was available, to which the waitress explained that the cooks would happily make a large pizza by request. The “large” still looked like an American medium-sized pie to me, but its fine gourmet taste justified the 2,268 yen price. As expected, after sitting at our table for 15 minutes after finishing our meal, we concluded that the respectfully polite waitress would never bring us our bill until we asked her for it.
After dinner, just for the experience, we walked across the street and poked our heads into a pachinko parlor. The tremendous volume of the place, the clatter of ringing bells and chimes and steel balls, was practically deafening. I expected the place to be loud, but even with my expectations, I was still surprised by how noisy the establishment was. From a cursory examination, I was a bit surprised, as well, by the variety of machines. And this wasn’t even an especially large pachinko parlor. I spotted machines with a Street Fighter IV theme, as well as machines devoted to Koukaku no Legios, Onimusha, and even Recca no Hounou.
At this point, I’ve spent $500 of the $2,100 that I brought with me (dearly hoping that I wouldn’t spend all of it) and acquired relatively few anime goods. But many of my most pressing expenses of my trip are now out of the way. Since I’m not paying for a hotel, I’ve been paying for most of Jon’s meals to compensate him for putting me up (and putting up with me). I’m also happy to have taken us out to two anime features, but investing a little over $75 for four movie tickets and two movie program booklets makes me glad that there are no more anime films for me to go see. The second Persona 3 feature is presently in theaters, and the third Ghost in the Shell: Arise OVA will get a limited theatrical premiere next week. But I anticipate both releases to be so dialogue-heavy that I’ll get little enjoyment from watching them theatrically.