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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.

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