Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Girls in Costumes

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting a girl from Arizona. We met through Couch Surfing, which is a friendly place to meet people from around the world, and sort of borrow a friend for the day when you're travelling.

Since I've already seen most of the really famous tourist sites in Tokyo several times, I tried to convince my new friend to see some of the things I have trouble getting Takeshi to see with me. (aka nerdy things). Luckily for me, Ms Mel is also a bit nerdy, and she had already of her own accord made plans to see one of the things I've always wanted to see: the Takarazuka Revue. Takarazuka is like theater revues of old, but with a twist: all of the parts (men's parts included) are played by women.
The actresses playing mens parts are made up with very dramatic overdone stage makeup that looks quite silly on the posters, ('is that a fake chin?!' I thought while inspecting the playbill in line), but makes perfect sense from the back row of the large theater.

Getting tickets was no easy matter as the presale tickets had all sold out. We had to wait in line for the B seats ... starting at 7 in the morning!
I got there a little before mel and there were already fifty people in front of me. the tickets went on sale at nine, but we weren't bored, as there was a festival atmosphere among all the ladies (yes, only ladies!) in line, and pretty soon the fan clubs started showing up. small packs of people all wearing one conspicuous matching peice of clothing formed a wall along the sides of the street in front of the theater, each pack a fan club for a different actress. But since this is Japan, everything about the fan clubs was strangely formal. They had official fan club leaders, who had the extreme honor of being the liason between the actresses and the fans.

Oh and get this. We noticed the fans would get out a small paper card and line up to get it stamped by the leader. Apparently the number of stamps on your card proved exactly how dedicated (and thus higher ranking) of a fan they were. It was madness! Well, very organized madness.

Anyways, the stars arrived, all wearing normal clothes but fancy hats to indicate their stardom, and the fans were allowed to give their little messages to them, bowing to them there on the sidewalk. Mel was explaining all of this to me in an excited whisper. "They give gifts, too, but those come later, after the show!" this was her second viewing but already she was an expert. I was starting to see if she lived in japan, she would already have a near-full fandom stamp card.

We were able to snag our tickets for a 4:00 showing, and so we had nearly a whole day to fritter away while we waited for the show to start. So this time it was my turn to be the expert, and we went to the emperor's palace and the Sony building, where I drooled over the new Cybershot camera. But that was nothing, because at lunchtime we went over to Akihabara and found a maid cafe!

For those of you who are not in the know, allow me to explain. A maid cafe is a purely japanese cultural phenonmenon where cute girls dressed up in skimpy maid costumes serve you tea and coffee, flirt with you and are generally adorable. The whole shop was very pink and frilly, and they served very cutesy foods like omelletes with hand-drawn pictures on them, or parfaits in the shape of a bear's head. It was soooo cute. You would think this overload of saccharine sweetness would scare men away, but the place was jam packed with young men with a look of coveting worship in their eyes. Me and Mel were a little out of place and the maids weren't quite sure what to do with us, but they chatted away cutely as best they could and drew on our omelettes for us.

I was giggling with glee about what I would tell my coworkers when I got to work on monday, since they like that kind of stuff, but when I did, by a crazy cooincidence, my company is having a marketing campaign with the EXACT shop we went to. I had NO IDEA about it, but apparently they were advertising one of our games on their site "You should have said something earlier, we would have gotten you a coupon!" my sempai said breezily, like it was no big deal.
Here's the cutesy pinafore site: Pinafore Cafe ... See the picture of the anime chick chasing the cat thing? that is a character in our 'Yume Sekai' game. OMG, that was so weird!

Anyways, having thoroughly enjoyed the maid cafe, I, full of confidence as the tour guide, promptly got us lost. But somehow we made it back to the theater on time, and thanks to Mel (who does not speak Japanese, did I mention?!!), explained the full plot as well the divisions of the different theater troupes. The ladies dressed as men were amazing! they were macho and cool, all Rico Suaves with glittering costumes. They were all great dancers. Apparently the system with the costumes was, the bigger the stars, the more sequins on the costume. So that makes the couple in the picture to the left, well, probably the biggest stars of them all. I mean, look at all the gold sequins, I didn't even know there were that many sequins in EXISTANCE, let alone able to fit on one costume. ;D

At the end of the day, the fans were lining up again to give their gifts, but mel and i decided we didn't need to wait for that and rushed down the middle of the street to get home, and turned a few heads. If only we had had fancy hats. We might have made a run for some of the presents. ;)