December 9, 2012

48 Hour Party People

Greetings from my bed!

It's 2pm on Sunday and I'm just waking up after the first real sleep in 2 days. It's been a wild 48 hours and I will do my best to remember and recount it all. I've decided to combine two days into one post because I'm not quite sure where one day ended and the next began. And because staying out until the 5am train means sacrificing the following day, may this post also serve for Sunday. "48 Hour Party People and 12 Hour Sleep People" didn't have the same ring to it.

Let us go back to Friday at around 5:20pm. I was sitting in a café in Meguro enjoying a croissant and milk tea with Kurumi who had come up from Osaka to attend a screening of Frankenweenie with me. We were catching up on our last week when suddenly the entire building began to sway. Earthquake! I had enough time to whip out my phone and take a 30 second video, which I planned on uploading, but boy is it uninteresting! Which is, I suppose, what you want: no panicking, no falling debris, some slight swaying of the lights, but everyone continued to drink their coffee as if this were a common occurrence. Although, I guess it is. The only emotion I felt during the quake was excitement, "I get to check off goal 22!" Kurumi was a little more spooked given the events of 2011, but we returned to our discussion and her fear quickly turned back into excitement for the film. I think she was more worried that her mom was going to never let her come to Tokyo again because the one time she does, there's an Earthquake.

We made our way to the Disney building and theater around the corner. I had been invited to the screening by my friend Aiko and was informed the movie was in English with Japanese subtitles. Not that I wouldn't have gone if it were the Japanese dub, but I'm not sure how exactly I would have managed since my Japanese is definitely not good enough to complete goal 6. This was shortly confirmed to be true when I discovered that the film was the Japanese dub and that there were no English subtitles. Luckily I had seen the film a few months earlier in Los Angeles so I knew what was going on and instead got to concentrate on the visual elements. I'm not sure if I can check off goal 6, though I did understand every part of the film, but that's not quite what I had in mind...

She comes complete with a bow
After the screening Aiko invited us to Club Trick or Treat, which is a small bar that Danny Elfman discovered years ago while visiting Tokyo. It has since become a favorite spot of Tim Burton and Aiko, who had brought me there when I was visiting in June. In what is sure to be Kurumi's most regretful life decision, she opted to take the last train home to Osaka rather than stay out all night partying with us.

I hoped in a cab with some people from the screening, including an incredibly interesting Swede who I had been sitting next to in the theater. He too asked if I was Swedish but cited my Fjallraven backpack as evidence, rather than my blondness. We struck up a nice conversation in the theater before the film and then continued in the cab to Roppongi. He's the first person to tell me that the Japanese language is chalked full of idioms and sarcasm, which is the exact opposite of what I've been told from many Japanese natives. He gave me some examples though, including "Uma no hone", which translates to "Horse's bones" and apparently is similar to the world "bastard". I'll be sure to work that one into conversation before I depart.

What followed was a four hour freak fest of the best kind. There were about 30 people in the bar, most of whom were dressed in costumes ranging from cat woman to a pair of Marie Antoinettes. There were lots of snacks, drinks, and merriment. Zombie, who is the owner of the bar, announced that the first part of the evening's entertainment was beginning, so everyone took a seat and was treated to a magic show performed by the gentleman below:
This is how the evening began...
Tim & Leah carefully picking a card
Allison and I enjoying the festivities
The magic, which also included some vulgar balloon sculptures, ended the mingling continued. People began to become a bit more intoxicated, and this mixed with the language barrier lead to some interesting moments. A particularly drunk and angry man, who had arrived to find his ex-wife was also there, decided to buy the everyone a glass of champagne. He stole the microphone and launched into a rather vulgar toast. But it seemed to fit quite nicely into the evening.

Up next was a dance performance
Followed by a beautiful song by Tim's friends Tom & RaVini who were visiting from Hawaii
The second set of performances concluded and the mingling resumed. For whatever reason, about two hours into the evening, the patrons suddenly realized how spectacularly freaky everything about the evening was, so cameras were whipped out and every conceivable combination of guests were arranged for photos:
Cozying up with Sally
Polka playing Marie Antoinettes, of course.
Cat woman and Cat man

Aiko and me with a new friend
The mysterious cat man and Sparky's love interest from Frankenweenie
This photo sort of summarizes the night
The final performance was a polka-esque set from the two ladies above. I think at this point a wedding cake was brought out of the back to celebrate Derek & Leah's wedding, which had happened a few months ago, but maybe that was earlier in the night. I do know though that the angry gentleman who had bought a round of champagne for everyone decided to smash his hands into the cake. Again, didn't seem to out of place for the evening.

I was going to duck out at midnight and sprint to catch the last train home, but Aiko let me know the party was going to continue back at the Grand Hyatt and that I was welcome to stay there as there were extra beds. And because it's not everyday that you're invited back to a hotel party with spacemen, vampires, and a mysterious cat man, I accepted. A small group of us left and found our way to Tim's suite where we were greeted with room service, old Godzilla films, and amazing views of the city.
The sprawl of Tokyo is endless
Grown women playing with toys
Godzilla sake.
Room service with new friends

More drinks were consumed, which lead to a flurry of Japanese women running around, jumping over furniture, and fighting over Frankenweenie merchandise. These were grown women, mind you, who I would later learn were nearly 40 years old. Needless to say, they looked about 20. What was even stranger about their fighting and yelling was how no one seemed to pay attention to them. I felt like I had just wandered into a scene from a movie and I was the only one who noticed how strange it all was. The other room was filled with sounds of Godzilla destroying Tokyo, interrupted occasionally by a "ding-dong" as more room service arrived. I ended up engaged in conversation with the Swedish guy about language. We were discussing cursing and he observed that English is concerned with sex (fuck, mother fucker, cocksucker, etc.), German's are concerned with shit (sheissen, arschloch, drecksau) and that the Japanese are... just really kind and don't have bad words. Which was not a surprise given their word for "bastard" is "horse's bones".

I occasionally caught bits of other conversations, which included things like, "I wonder where the spacemen are" and "I think Zombie was sick tonight". These sentences would normally require further explanation but somehow made perfect sense given the scene. The half of me that was still conscious after the long day was continually distracted by the imminent danger of wine. Not of drinking it, but of being doused in it. The woman who were bouncing off the walls and wrestling with one another for the Sparky plush doll were also wielding wine glasses and bottles. Again, no one seemed to be paying much attention to these women who were splish splashing all around the suite.

3:30 rolled around and I decided to call it a night. Some guests had already left, but the majority of people were halfway passed out in the living room watching Godzilla films. I said my goodnights and wandered into the adjoining room. I set my alarm for 8am  as we were all getting breakfast in the morning and then fell into a dream that wasn't even as close to as weird as the reality I had just lived.
Beautiful views of Tokyo in the morning
I was foolish to think that people were actually going to get up for breakfast, but I was not going to pass-up the Grand Hyatt buffet! The handfuls of chocolate candies I ate at the bar and then the room service french fries were not enough to get me through the next day, which I knew was going to be just as long as the one before.

We all convened back in the suite at 1pm and then set out to Aiko's parents home in Tokyo. They had prepared lunch for us and were looking forward to hosting, which we would soon learn is an overwhelming experience. The seven of us piled into a van and drove through the city until we arrived at the home where we were greeted by her mother and father who were eagerly awaiting our arrival. We crammed into the elevator, made our way up to the apartment, and were then greeted by Aiko's sisters and their two children.
Aiko's niece and nephew serving us food
Look at that face
About 1/5 of the feast
New members of the Horiuchi family

As is customary in these situations, Aiko's family did not eat with us. Instead, they sat us down and brought over endless amounts of food. It was truly comical how many dishes they had prepared. We kept insisting that they join us, but we were informed that in Japan, it is not polite to dine with guests. What a silly tradition! Very hard to get to know new people when they're constantly serving you. But I guess it's also hard to get to know new people when they don't speak the same language as you...We all managed to enjoy one another's company though, despite the language barrier and their refusal to dine with us. The two kids bounced around the home in their kimonos and were generally adorable. We did manage to wrangle them into dining with us.

That's one cute kid
Aiko's sister had rented some old Godzilla films, so in what has now become a tradition, we all ate and watched "The Son of Godzilla". Apparently this is when the studio decided to go for a younger audience, so there was less destruction and more Son of Godzilla tripping over boulders. Not terribly frightening but none the less entertaining. And also educational as I learned that Godzilla is a she. How she's able to lay an egg and have a son without the aid of a male Godzilla is beyond me, but considering the central conflict in the film revolved around a giant lizard fighting giant praying mantises, I don't think the filmmakers really cared.
Captivated by the gripping tale of Godzilla and her son

As is also customary, Aiko's family gave us heaps of presents. I got this fantastic Totoro puppet!
The Horiuchi family
Derek thinking she was part of the gift basket
We tried our best to finish as much food as we could, but after a few hours we were stuffed. I think we left about 70% of the food untouched. As we left, we passed the kitchen and discovered two or three dishes that had yet to be served! How fat do they think Americans are?? I said goodbye to Aiko, who was staying behind to be with her family and then piled back into the van with the rest of the group. I checked my watch and realized it was past 4, which wouldn't have been a problem except I was returning to Tokyo that night for Kaorina's birthday but still needed to go home to change and perhaps get in a disco nap.

Before returning to the hotel we made a stop at Don Quijote's, which is a chain of stores in Tokyo that can best be compared to... well nothing really. Part grocery store, part costume shop, there's an area that sells toys adjacent to an area that sells sex toys, and a floor of designer watches and bags. Why were we making a stop there? Because Tim wanted to get a few more masks. For himself? For presents? I'm not quite sure, but he did find this Edward Scissorhands costume, which I found particularly amusing:

Here's an aisle that is half children's toys and half sex toys. Only in Tokyo.
When we returned to the hotel, I said my goodbyes, and then rushed off to Tsunashima. I began to debate if I had enough energy to go out for another all nighter, but I figured I was only going to be in Tokyo for Kaorina's birthday once and that sleep could wait.
Birthday friends

Shabu-shabu? Japanese Fondu? I don't know, but it was delicious!
The birthday group 
Apparently people like Kaorina because there was a large turn-out at the all you can eat shabu-shabu restaurant. By the time I arrived I was a complete zombie, which should not be confused with Zombie, the bar owner from the previous night. Once I got some delicious shaved meat in my mouth though, I began to perk up and started to enjoy the company. Had a nice conversation with a Japanese fellow who owns a small recording studio here in Tokyo and discovered we had both recorded a few of the same artists. Talked with another about where all the eggs in Japan come from since every meal includes no less than two eggs and yet, where are all the chickens?! It was not my most interesting observation, but you know what, I was tired, so cut me some slack.

The dinner concluded close to midnight and I considered catching the last train back to Tsunashima to finally sleep. I decided to stay out until 5am though since we'd be returning to Oath, the first club I ever went to in Tokyo and where I met Kaorina, Aziz, and a few other friends, and remembered having had a great time there in October. I spent some time dancing to the jungle beats in Oath but really found my groove in the bar below where they had chairs! Sweet, glorious, out of the cold weather and away from sweaty people chairs! The rest of the evening was spent talking with friends until we were able to catch the first train home.

Samantha showing off the classy decor.
Attempting to giver Kaorina a birthday kiss.

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