Search This Blog

Monday, March 22

Chasing A Festival That Never Was

It would seem that not much has changed in the past four years.  I still misunderstand what I am hearing.

Sunday.  Gorgeous day in the mid 60s.  Sunny.  Only gripe was the crazy wind.  Kimono Peanut and I are playing outside in the morning, attempting to blow bubbles into our nemesis wind.  We keep hearing loudspeakers that sound like they are coming from the center of town.  Since tomorrow is a holiday here, the first day of spring is observed, I figured there must be a festival somewhere close.  I don't really know what they do to celebrate this holiday, but a festival or at least some sort of ritual at a temple or shrine seemed in order, right?

Tiring of stopping KP from playing in the mud, I decided to put him in his stroller and chase down this festival.  We headed in the direction of the temple I was guessing would be the spot, but when we got to the main street, the sounds now seemed to be coming from both directions.  Odd, but I continued in the way I was thinking.  It was only a block and a half later that the sounds started to move towards me.  From both directions.  No, this was no parade.  These were trucks.  Spewing political messages, I'm guessing.  In each sat someone sitting with a bullhorn and spouting all God knows what.
Even though I knew now there was no festival... foiled again by my lacking in the Japanese language... it was such a nice day that there was no reason to continue on to the temple.  Lined at the gate were more people, with flags to compliment their bullhorns this time.  Ignoring them, we moved on.

The temple was quite busy today and it was only until I got home and researched what they do on this holiday did I understand why... they visit graves.  Oh.  Crap.  I didn't let KP go into the graveyard areas, but I do hope no one minded him running around and screaming outside of the temple.

We didn't stay too long, but with the day being nice, despite the treacherous wind knocking KP to the ground more than once, we continued on to the center of town. We passed many, many cars with their bullhorns trumpeting their arrival kilometers before we ever saw them.

In the very center of town, two of those cars had actually set up shop, placing people and flags on every corner as they stood in the middle bullhorning their message away.  It holds little interest to me, so on we went to Ginza street to do some window shopping, passing with only a glance, a little room that the Democratic Party of Japan had set up a little shop-for-the-day to get their candidate's message out there.  Amusing, but Ginza street is more interesting in other ways to me.  I can hardly window shop on that street without getting something.  We came home with an arm full of flowers for me to arrange, rice balls for the family for lunch and sweets shaped like cherry blossoms for my friend who arrives very soon.  Oh, and I couldn't resist some sakura (cherry blossom) mochi.

No festival.  But brilliant for a random kind of day.

Sunday, March 21

Tokyo Disneyland: Take Two: The Peanut Addition

When a friend offered her two extra seats to Kimono Peanut and I for a trip to Tokyo Disneyland, I hesitated only for a second before jumping on the offer.  My only hesitation was because I had already been to Disneyland and it would be nice if Kimono Hubby could go too.  Since this was a work day, though, he sadly couldn't join us.  But as you can guess, these two things were not enough to stop me from saying yes to the trip.

It was a little rougher getting there by car than we we previously made the trip.  This was all thanks to the new Disney construction that changed much of the layout in the park area.  Once we parked and started the walk to the entrance, we got out first inkling of what the crowds were going to be like... and it wasn't good.  Lines stretched back at ticketing and nothing seemed very fast moving.  Turns out that it is right before school lets out here in Japan, so perhaps a few schools were out a little early or on school trips for the last few days.  It definitely was going to be a squeezy-close kind of day.

We each paid our 5,800 yen to get in, except the Peanut who got a free pass.  Mickey is always on the other side to greet in the morning hours.  We planned on stopping by for a picture, but the line we saw made us stop in our tracks.  It would take an hour just to get to him and we would much rather give that hour to rides.  Or so we thought.

First ride - Space Mountain.  A must, right?  Now we arrived at the park at 10:15 and got in a little before 11:00.  The park had only been open for an hour and yet the line at Space Mountain would have made you think that we had madly mistaken on that point.  A sign told us the wait was three hours.  We had two young boys visiting from the states in our little entourage and they had a whole list of rides they wanted to try.  Three hours would have eaten up a good portion of the day.  We went for fast passes, getting a return time of 5:30.  What the hell?!  Our plan was to be out of the park around that time, but we took them and just figured we would figure it out later.

On to the next ride... and exactly where our little group dissolved.  StarJets apparently is a spinning ride.  One of our adults was not a spinner.  I had a Peanut and he would most assuredly be bumped from the line for his lack of height so I wasn't doing it.  Leaving one adult left to do this ride.  That line was an hour and a half.  The non-spinner and the other boy decided to head off towards Big Thunder Mountain and brave whatever line they faced there.  As I looked around, I knew that rides were not only going to be a difficult task for the two of us because of the toddler-to-wait-time ratio, but also it would just be him and I and all his gear.  I figured I might as well head off and try the most logical place for a wee one, Toon Town, and see what there was to get into.

It turned out that we made one perfect decision!  We spent time in Chip 'n Dale's Treehouse and Donald's Boat, with me carrying KP when we had to climb stairs or when the crowds got too thick.  They also had cars sitting around the area.  Nothing actually moved on them, but I am telling you this.  KP would have been thrilled if we spent all day playing on his favorite blue one.  Lines for various things surrounded us, which meant we got more 'kawai's' (cute!) than we could count.  Several brave souls actually came over and asked if they could sit with him in the car or take their picture with him.  Like he is some kind of freak with his fair skin-hair-eyes combo.  But in a sea of dark, I guess he is a bit freaky.  One girl really pushed the limit and after asking if she could take a photo with him, she jumped into the car, picked him up and placed him on her lap!  Now I am fine with people being near him, but when they actually touch him, I do get a bit more wiggy.  You can imagine that I step several steps closer just to keep a handle on things... my control issues mixed with mama overzealousness... not a good combination.  Of course, nothing happened.  I forgot.  I was standing in a sea of ultra-polite, conforming Japanese.  Or so I thought.  As we moved on, I wouldn't say that people were really using their nurtured refinement on this particular day.  Maneuvering KP in his stroller through the crowds was difficult enough, but he was stepped over, leaned over and bumped in the face with purses and Disney tags on more than one occasion.  Thankfully, he is a pretty accepting kid, with only myself left stewing over it for any length of time.

In Fantasy Land, we finally found a ride with a marker showing a wait time under an hour.  It's a Small World indicated a thirty minute wait, causing me to rush to park the stroller, grab the bag off the back and KP and rush to get a place before that could change.  Turns out we only waited twenty minutes before we were climbing into a boat with the same two women that had spent the wait time entertaining my babe with smiles and high fives.  It was on this ride that I figured something out.  He didn't give a crap if he was on a ride.  He only cared about the eye candy that surrounded him.  That knowledge would save me from a day of fretting that he was missing out on something.  For the entire ride, he sat, open-mouthed, pointing left, right, up and then back around again.  It was mesmerizing to him.  And that made me love it all the more.  When we got off, I set out again with a real plan this time... find the shows.  The action.  We stopped to watch my favorite ride, Alice's Tea Party, as the cups spun around and around.  KP loved this too.

Nearing hunger time, we set out to find a bathroom for a diaper change before settling down for some grub.  Not shocking, when we found a restroom with a changing area, we also found a line for said activity.  I hadn't been sure where to squeeze naptime in, as KP is not a stroller napper, but figured he would conk out at some point.  I really wasn't expecting it in the bathroom line.  Certainly I wasn't going to wake him as this might be the only nap he would take, so sadly I left the line and went in search of something for myself to eat while he snoozed.

Taking the round about way, I located another ride that had a shorter wait time as well as another place that could either be a ride or a show, I wasn't sure, and planned on coming back after the nap was over.  Then I settled on getting a steamed pork bun shaped like Mickey, more because the line was shorter than anywhere else than that it sounded appetizing.  Yeah.  I should have taken note of the line.  I was queasy for hours after that.

In my wanderings, I came across rows of people sitting and waiting for the parade to go by.  I had forgotten that it was going to happen, so I thought it might be something fun for myself while KP slept (if he could sleep with the loudspeakers blaring music in this area) and that he too would definitely enjoy it if he awoke.  He never did.  I stayed from start to finish, one hand on the stroller, the other on my camera.  I'm not one for parades, or even shows, but that parade was stinking awesome.  Seriously!  The costumes, the characters, the catchy little tunes!  Well done, Disney!

Several hours had passed since I had talked to anyone in our entourage, so I called to locate them.  They all had managed to get through the first lines and were now waiting in the line for Splash Mountain.  Again, this wasn't a ride for a Peanut, so I kept doing what I was doing.  If only we hadn't passed Adventureland at this point where the train started to blow its horn, I think I could have gotten a better nap out of the kid.  As it was, he was awake in seconds.  Bleary-eyed, but read for more.  After giving up on changing him in any sort of bathroom, I found the only quiet spot in all of the park and changed him right there in his stroller.

Task accomplished, we headed straight back to the rides I had found.  Lo and behold, the wait time had jumped from twenty-five minutes to fifty-five.  Umm.  Yeah.  No.  But the other thing that I wasn't sure what it was seemed an option.  We parked the stroller again, grabbed kid and bag and just started walking in until a fence stopped us.  Many people were sitting around as we moved through.  Some announcer came on, starting a rush to the front of the waiting area of which we had so easily just passed up to.  We were at the front of the line for... I just didn't know.  Something to do with Stitchy... you know him as plain old Stitch of the Lilo movie variety.

When the doors eventually opened, the crowd pushed into a circular room.  Two girls had taken up four seats.  I was down being polite as so many others had already proven they were too, so I basically just pushed them down to make room for the two of us with only a nonchalant 'sumimasen' (excuse me).  The lights in the room went out and then four lights above us came back on, illuminating four birds on the perchs.  As they jibbered and sang away in the language we have yet to learn, KP giggled.  I mean, the kind of giggle I have never heard before.  A "huh-huh... huh-huh-huh."  Apparently, these birds were wicked amusing.  When Stitchy popped out of the drum, he was less amused.  I'm pretty sure he wanted him to go the hell away and bring the birds back.  The show was... odd.  And it ended even more oddly as well as quite abruptly.  The Japanese noted this too as there was definite hesitation by the whole crowd at the end.  I say whatever... my kid liked the birds anyway.

We meandered for a bit, with KP noticing balloons everywhere we went.  He would grunt and point to each and every one.  I had planned on saving this for right before we left the park, but when we passed the man with a handful of them, I thought the Peanut might collapse in his exasperation if I didn't get him one.  So I did.  Is 'sucker' still written on my forehead?  I spent the rest of my hours trying not to let it bop every person in their face as it whipped around in a wind that was growing fiercer by the minute. 

I called again the other part of our entourage again and was so glad on my timing.  They were just getting up to the front of the line at my favorite ride, back at Alice's Tea Party!  Let me remind you that there was a non-spinner in their group, which left a perfect opening for... moi!  Our non-spinner was perfectly content to pop KP on top of his shoulders and walk around.  Little did he know the attention of the female sort he would get.  I only hope his wife found it as funny as I did. 

And so we spun.  With two boys of the right age, we spun real good like.  We spun so good that for the first time ever, I actually had to tell myself that I wasn't going to throw up.  And I loved every stinking minute of being spun.  The hardest part was getting off the ride and trying to walk in a straight line to reclaim my kid. 

Now late afternoon, we started back in the direction of Space Mountain.  We still had time so the non-spinner suggested he and the older boys head over to Roger Rabbit.  This freed up his wife which gave her and I the first opportunity of the day to just leisurely walk and talk.  And go to the bathroom.  When you are all alone with your kid and his gear in the park, going to the bathroom just isn't going to happen, especially when the bathrooms are even smaller than back home.  So I just... didn't.  For hours.  It was nice to.  Bonus - the area where we stopped had animated characters above a Tomorrowland concessions' area, which mesmerized KP for long enough for us to both wait through the (really not surprising) long lines.  Of course, this emptied space for that bucket of flavored popcorn I had been coveting all day.  Now the big decision was flavor: soy-butter, curry, chocolate or caramel.  I like the curry, but had some from the boys buckets when we waited for the tea cups.  Who can pass on caramel popcorn?  I also made sure to purchase it in a boys acceptable bucket featuring Monsters, Inc, which KP now uses to carry his tiny cars in!

Bringing finally to the last ride of the day.  We made to Space Mountain at exactly 5:30 to step into the Fast Pass lane.  This time it was the non-spinners wife who felt like sitting it out.  I asked her several times if she was sure, because this truly is the coolest roller coaster, but she assured me that she would rather hang with KP.  We left her and KP at the entrance where the strangest thing by far occurred.  A crowd of boys, aged probably in the early 20s, crowded around the Peanut.  I mean, swarmed.  This happens with girls and women all the time, but boys?  Men, I should say?  I was told later that they played an 'ET phone home' game with KP for as long as he tolerated it.  Surely a good fifteen minutes.  They would put their finger up and say their little 'ET, yada, yada' and KP would in turn put his finger to theirs.  Now surely a 1-year-old who gets laughs, smiles and claps from such a tremendous display of skill would indeed want to do this over and over again.  The boys, well men, would just keep calling over other friends to get up close and personal with their own little ET.  Am I the only one or does that sound odd to you too?

In the meantime, Space Mountain was cool.  I like the dark and not knowing which way you will be whipped to next.  And to do it with young boys, what a hoot!

Now dark and getting quite cold for our lighter day jackets, we stopped to purchase our last minute gifts.  KP already had his balloon and a small stuffed Mickey of which he has spent the past few days dragging everywhere so we were set.  Plus, the long day and lack of sleep was getting to him, so it was best to keep the Peanut moving in the direction of the car.  Plus, plus, the younger of the boys traveling with us has a little problem with obsessing.  We knew that if he caught a glimpse of the fireworks that were to start any minute, that there would be no leaving any time soon.  The adults may have been the only one to admit it, but everyone was tired and ready to go.

We worried that traffic would be bad getting out of the parking lot, but no problems there.  Anticipating a smooth and quick ride home, there was much dismay when we hit a major traffic jam.  Three hours we spent sitting... most of it in a tunnel. I used to have no fears, but after a few years of earthquakes shaking my reserve, there is one thing I cannot stand... tunnels.  Trying to think of anything but where we are and at the same time trying to keep my overly-tired and annoyed-with-his-car-seat toddler calm was enough to get me through it.  Even that long trip home wasn't enough to change anything.  Disneyland was magic for all.

Monday, March 15

A St. Patrick's Parade of Thoughts

Many of you already know that we are coming to the end of our time here in Japan.  After four years, we going to head back to the states this summer and see just how much life has changed while we were gone.  I can't even begin imagine just how much we have to catch up on.

Recently, I've been spending a lot of time trying to get my head wrapped around the move.  There has been a lot of wavering in my mind about whether or not I am happy about this.  In some ways, I am.  In others, I really am not.  I'll be glad to be back closer to family and friends.  That is a definite.  But my hesitation goes so much more beyond that.

You see, I love my life here.  It has been absolutely blessed in so many ways.  I love my house (apart from the tiny kitchen I say daily swear words to).  I love my neighborhood.  I love my town.  I love Japan.  I love every thing about the past years we have spent here.  It has made us a closer couple.  It made us a family.  It fulfilled so many dreams we have.  It even gave me a moment to pause.  A moment to breathe life in and not just rush through days of work, errands and whatever weekend fun was drummed up.  I honestly know that I am a completely changed person because of our life here.  So the big conundrum... will the person I am today still fit in with the life we lived in DC?  And if so, how do I get her there?

There is no doubt that my closest friends are sick of hearing me debate this, but as they are my closest, they have no choice but to suffer through it.  Thank you, friends!  Mwah!  They all seem to be of sound, collective mind that it will be no problem.  I wish I had their confidence.

In the end, there is no answer until I do it.

For now, I cross my fingers and pray to God that all will turn out as it should.

And in the meantime, I find myself not only nostalgic for all that I love and will miss here in Japan, but also strangely nostalgic for many 'American', for lack of a better word, things.  It's been pretty easy, since I got over the initial shock of Japan, to just embrace what each new day brought us here and forget about what we left behind.  I think anyone that tries to hold onto what they left behind would only make themselves crazy in the process of trying to love their new life.  I'm not one to dwell in the past anyway, so this wasn't something I ever gave any thought to.  It just happened naturally.  Which is why it surprises me so to experience this strange nostalgia.  I can only guess that it has something to do with some deep, deep, deep and unconsciously seeded excitement to return stateside.  Return for a spell anyway. So when I received an email from a friend about the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Tokyo this past weekend, I just couldn't get it out of my mind.  Touted as the biggest Irish event in Japan since 1992 and one meant to introduce the Japanese to Irish culture, we simply had to go.

We drove over to the base and met up with our friends before setting off to catch the train.  The little we knew about the parade was what we read about last years, and definitely a draw... there were strange costumes and Guiness.  'Nuf said.  It only took a little over an hour, and with our first Japanese leprechaun sighting, we knew we were at the right stop to get off.  The Harajuku station had a constant stream of people pouring out of it.  This is usually a busy area, but with a group of adults and kids and one Peanut in a stroller, it was tough to keep us all moving together in any sort of order.  We all just did our best to look around once in awhile and try to locate everyone.  A map gave us the parade route, so we kept ourselves in the swarm and moved toward the starting area.

Harajuku is known for people in strange costumes, but what was odd was to not see that many on this day... a day when I thought the Japanese would take this easy opportunity to dress up in their bizarre get-ups.  There was plenty of green to be had, but the real bizarre must have stayed inside for the day.

As we made our way, the adults began scoping for the ever important Guiness stands only to come up empty.  When I passed two gaijin sitting and enjoying a cup of said brew, I backtracked a little to ask there where they found them.  The answer was not exactly what I expected - the combini, Lawson's - but it obviously would have to do.  The guys made their way back to the entrance while the rest of us held our post.  When they returned, they looked distraught and, more importantly, empty-handed.  They gave some story about how the guy in front of them bought the last ones only to share a lazy grin that it was one of them, while producing a bag from behind their back.  Score!

It was getting closer to the starting time of the parade, so we wandered a little bit further, trying to get to a spot where we would see the parade at its start and its finish.  As luck be with us on that fine day, we ended up passing a garage that was being closed as we passed, leaving the sidewalk empty in front of it.  Using the stroller to push through the crowds, we copped a spot right along the street with plenty of room for our entire entourage to get a front row view.  Beers were passed around only seconds before the parade started rolling by.

And it was... much as I imagined.  People and their dogs dressed various stage of green costuming, trying with more than a little difficulty to mix their Japanese-ness with what they deemed Irish.  The bag pipers were there - normal.  The bands were there - normal.  The dancers - normal.  There was even a guy dressed in green and white stripes with a pregnant belly - not normal, but expected in this culture.  But it was the crowd that didn't totally fit.

When we first heard 'Wild Rover', we thought it would be only moments before the crowd would join in.  At least on the chorus.  But nope.  It was just our little band of misfits, singing off key and drinking some of, well really, the only, beers around.  So it was that after the parade passed us first time and the beginning was just starting to lap the route back to us, we decided to call it a day.  But the Irish just doesn't leave the blood that easily.

Halfway to the train station, we made the decision to move towards Roppongi rather than home, in the direction of Paddy Foley's instead, one of Tokyo's rare and truly Irish pubs.  The fact that we left the parade so early ensured us that there would be no crowd when we got there, a necessity when a party of our size is looking for a table all together in the wee-sized bars of Japan.  We even lucked out to get a table by the open door so that the warm, fresh air passed over Kimono Peanut rather than the stale, smoke air that filled the room behind us.  After sufficiently filling up on fish and chips, burgers, Guiness and Kilkenny, we felt we had done our duty and gave a good nod to the St. Patrick's celebrations of our past.  We mapped out a new route home and began the trip back.

Perhaps it was in bad taste, but when the train came to a strange halt only seconds out of the station, we did throw out a few jokes about how long it would take them to pick up the bits of whomever decided to off themselves on our train.  You know... it is the number one way to commit suicide here in Japan, though how anyone comes to this drastic, and messy, conclusion to their life in such a lovely country, I will never understand.  It was only hours after we got home and I decided to read some headline news before going to bed did I discover that we had yet another large earthquake.  A 6.6 north of the city stalled most of the trains.  Okay, so that is one thing that I am definitely not going to miss.

I may not totally know my own mind these days.  But at least I know enough about my ability towards nostalgia to be looking forward to a good old-fashioned St. Patrick's Day... back in Old Town... next year.

Wednesday, March 10

Our One Date for the Year 2010

For posterity's sake, I need to back track myself a little, going back to a recent date Kimono Hubby and I had.  We don't actually get to do that much anymore.  We've been here so long, past the tour lengths of most people, that those we were close to have since moved away.  This makes the babysitting pool very small, as I have mentioned before.  We do have one other couple we have known since we first arrived here that have stuck around with us.  But they leave in just a few weeks.  They encouraged us to take one last shot a a big day out, promising to hang with the Kimono Peanut for us.  These offers don't come along often when your family lives on the other side of the world, so we took full advantage of it.

Back in DC, we loved going to the theater and concerts.  While opportunities abound for these same experiences, they are a little bit harder to arrange and it has nothing to do with babysitting.  One show we had missed previously seeing was Cirque de Soliel.  Of course, we knew the hype so when we heard that there was a theater built here in Japan for the specific purpose of housing the Asia-only show ZED, we knew we had to try to get there.  Buying the tickets is the trick.  I'm sure there are services like Ticketmaster here, but I certainly wouldn't be able to use them as my Japanese speaking doesn't take me that far.  Fortunately, I found that through the online Zed site, you could purchase tickets in English.  It seemed easy enough.  And in the end, it was.  It was just odd an odd process getting there.

First, you choose the date and time you want tickets for.  On the 'buy tickets' page of the website, there is one option to use a travel company that speaks English.  You click on this to go to their site.  Using the date and time, you bid on the date and time of the show you want tickets for, as well as what your seating preference is.  Never having been before and knowing how expensive all options were, we figured we would go for the top-of-the-line premium seats.  Then you submit the request.  An email comes back telling you they received your request.  In our case, twenty-four hours later another email arrived, this one telling us that our choice was not available.  Of course, we have no idea if it was the seat preference that wasn't available or the time or the whole damn day.  I started over, picking a new seat preference, the next step down.  Wait 24 hours.  No luck again.  Another request with our third seat request.  Wait 24 hours.  Bah.  We really want the best seats we can get if we are going to do this, so we pick a different time, the later show of the day.  It isn't optimum as it means we will be keeping our friends at our house watching our kid for all hours, but they were very sweet and said it would be no problem.  I submitted the new request and got my tickets - premium seats too!  Now an email comes saying I have to go to this other link and print out a paper.  I do what I am told, but the Engrish that is used on the paper is confusing.  I finally end up making the call I should have made in the first place, hoping and praying that the person on the other end would speak enough English that I would know what is next.  Thankfully, she did and all we would have to do is take the paper to the box office at the theater the day of and I would get the real tickets.  Whew.  After multiple days and 15,000 yen a ticket (a whooping $358.74 at the current crap exchange rate), we are all set.

Now you would think a date would be an easy thing to put together.  Dinner, a show, some drinks and a lovely night had.  Not so easy here in Japan.  Remember, if you are going to have a drink... and I mean only ONE... it is against the law to drive.  Knowing we would have at least one and likely several more, I had to turn towards the train.  But we just can't go sauntering up to the train station, buy tickets and hop a train.  No, no.  You have to be much more planned out than that.  The day before our date, I head to the handy dandy site which provides train schedules and directions for foreigners.  Here I lucked out and found one route that would only require switching at one station and only cost 1,050 yen per person.  Seemed easy enough.  The only part that I wasn't fond of was the fact that it was a 92 minute trip there by train, and that doesn't include the ten minute walk to and from both the station here and there.  But such is the life with travel in Japan.  It's a great system in all.  It is just the length of time you spend on a train can get tedious.  The theater is only on the northern parts of Tokyo, say 45 minutes by car, but the train itself and the transfers will add a few to that time.  We were all set though.  I called the babysitter and arranged for her to be almost three hours before the start of the show, hopefully giving us plenty of time in case anything delayed us along the way.

The day of the show, we got ourselves gussied up, wrote out a few notes about dinner and bedtime, said our goodbyes and started the trek to the theater.  Since all was planned so well, there were no quirks.  Our only surprise was that at the transfer in Tokyo, there was a fifteen minute walk underground to get to the correct platform for the transfer.  I have transferred in Tokyo before, I just must have had a much closer platform to switch at.  We arrived at Ikspiari, a shopping mall and restaurant area that is attached to Disney, with plenty of time to make our way to the theater, pick up the tickets and even stop for a beer before we found our seats.

Inside, a ten draped from the ceiling to the floor, covering the stage where two clowns were starting off the show by hopping into the audience and playing tricks on the unsuspecting.  I'm quite glad our seats were in the middle after seeing some of their antics.  While I love to watch, I really don't like being a part of the show, especially as the clowns were really hamming it up messing with their participants.  As we continued to watch them, their act seamlessly melded into the real show.  They brought out a book, placed it on the stage, tried to unlock the cover in their goofy clown way and as it was opened ended up falling into it.  And here is where my amazement with Cirque de Soliel started.  The entire tent draping started flowing down from the ceiling, making an appearance like it was pouring into the hole left by the book and the clowns.  I'm not doing this justice.  It was beautiful and uncovered an even more amazing set behind it, with what looked like flames inside metal scaffolding cubbyholes in the wall.  While I do not intend to go into detail about the entire show, I will tell you this.  I loved it, but I totally didn't get it.  And it wasn't just me being simple either.  Kimono Hubby didn't get it either.  And he's the smart one!  We had read the story behind 'Zed' before going.  From the website, the concept is this: "ZED is a living poem, a timeless evocation that draws on the Tarot and its Arcana, an imaginary world that conjures the vitality of the human condition and holds up a mirror to our true selves.  Zed, the central larger-than-life character represents all of humanity in all its guises, from wisdom to folly, from discovery to adventure.  Zed grows as he discovers the world on his journey of initiation.  Through this undertaking, the people of the sky and the people of the earth are trying to connect with each other; through Zed, they come together."  Yah.  Whatevah.  But is was damn cool.  Now I only need to figure out how to get into the show and be one of those bungee jumper ladies!  I totally missed my calling.

Show over, us a bit mystified but amused, but also very, very hungry.  Ikspiari has tons of great restaurants, so we rushed ourselves ahead of the crowds in search of a place that wasn't too busy.  I wanted full-on Japanese, the kind of place that taking a wee 1 1/2-year-old with a fidgeting problem is not a good idea.  On the fourth floor, we found such a place and it didn't even have a line out the door that the Italian place just before it.  We took our shoes off and the hostess stored them away for us as she directed us toward our table.  We didn't really know what they served.  There was no English menu.  But we did our usual and looked at the pictures, attempted ordering a set and hoping for the best.  Of course, we didn't understand the pricing, but we would worry about that after we ate.  It turned out to be a bit of sukiyaki, but the kind where KH would still be hungry when we left.  There were multiple course, of which I would not be able to identify much of what I ate.  Not unusual in these places.  I tried everything anyway and relished whatever odd flavor ended up stroking my palate.  But we were indeed still hungry as the cleared the dessert dishes away.  With the time having then gotten to near 9:00 pm, we couldn't much think about that as we really did need to be catching that train if we planned on getting ourselves back to relieve our babysitters before midnight.  We climbed up from our seats on the floor.  Might I add that it is very tricky to be ladylike in these types of Japanese tables.  I'm pretty sure I ended up giving someone an up-the-skirt view as I managed to get back on my feet.  We paid at the door.  I'm pretty sure I managed not to gasp out loud when I saw the total bill of 11,550 yen ($129.43 in dollars).  While the food was good and worth the money, I did realize that actually being full might have helped us stomach that cost. 

As we made our way back home on the train, I added up the expenses - tickets for the show, train tickets, drinks at the theater, dinner - $558.17.  And that would put a solid nail into the coffin for any further dates in the year 2010.  Thank God the babysitter was free or I would have to think about selling off one of my bad kidneys.

When we got home, we thanked our friend profusely for helping us out.  And gave them a little gift we had picked up (which was not even added into the above cost, I might add).  We checked in on KP and then headed back downstairs to make ourselves some ramen.

Cost aside and forgotten, I then got to snuggle up on the couch, while filling the holes in my stomach with microwaved ramen, with the one person that made that day and every other day a dream come true.  He is simply so amazing.