Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Shinjuku, the Movies, V-Kei Stores and The Globe

Last Sunday was my free day, as in the day when I didn’t have any assignations with people of my social circle and was thus able to go about the day doing whatever the heck I wanted. I’d made strict plans the night before as to the course of the day. With my final days now in a countdown, most of what remains are pre-planned with farewell trips, so a day to myself is rare and just begging to be filled up with ‘one-more-time’ sightseeing.

Much to my own surprise, the top of the day’s to-do list was going to the movies. Here in Japan, comedians outrank celebrities in terms of popularity by astronomical amounts, and one of the more popular up-and-coming comedy duos is a pair called Hannya, who I’ve taken quite a shine to, to one member in particular whose name is Kanada Satoshi. Standing out from the crowd with his staggeringly tall yet wafer-thin frame, Kanada is more or less a physical actor, though he often dons the ‘young rude hoodlum’ persona in many of Hannya’s skits, which he donned again today.

Being a great fan of Japanese comedians, I’m always on the lookout for anything to do with them, and while quite disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to go to this weekend’s Live Stand ‘10 comedian extravaganza (pretty much a blowout 3-day event where all of Tokyo’s well known comedians come out and perform), I was happy to hear that the aforementioned Kanada was actually in a movie that came out just yesterday. The short notice was, to say the least, abrupt, and since it’s a small release movie, there are only about 3 or so theaters in all of Tokyo who are set to play it (and for 1 week only), but I was determined that I should go, come heck or high water. It also just so happens that Oguri Shun’s directorial debut film also came out yesterday, and that fit into today’s agenda as well.

Not wanting to wake up early, as the plan dictated, I was, after much protest, able to wrest myself from my futon and step out into the blistering asphalt-reflected heat that is Japan in summer and hop onto the surprisingly empty train bound for Shinjuku. As I got off, a few stragglers were meandering their way about the station and streets of Shinjuku, a late-working host or two among them, but as everything opens at around 10 am in Tokyo (or later), there wasn’t much cause for people to be out at 9.

I followed the convoluted directions I’d sketched out on a scrap of memo paper and found said theater on the third floor of a clothing store building, but when I took the elevator up, I found myself staring at a sign that said the theater wasn’t open yet, and so I went back down and out into the blistering heat again to find the second theater (playing Oguri Shun’s movie) just across the way. I walked around for a bit longer, until I could stand the heat no more and went back to my original destination, surprised to see that in the ten minutes I’d been away, a line of ten or so people had formed in front of the ‘Not Open’ sign. Leave it to the Japanese to line up. They do love their lines.

I got in line, ignoring the multitude of stares that shot their way at me from everyone in line, and waited until 9:15, just 15 min. before the movie was set to start. We all shuffled to the ticket counter like a chain gang and purchased out tickets. In contrast to Grandberry Mall’s plush 109 Cinema that I’ve grown accustomed to visiting by the school, this theater was tiny by comparison. Four screens occupied one floor of the building, and while there was a food stand (selling Takoyaki especially for the movie I was going to see), there were no goods to purchase (another thing I’ve grown accustomed to in relation to theater-going, and one I will very much miss in the States). Even the tickets were not automated or printed, but simple paper slips with the price printed on them which the girl at the counter would stamp with the name of the movie you were going to.

Having had my ticket soundly stamped, I forwent the food and pushed on into the theater which was small as was to be expected, able to seat maybe a total of 70, though only 20 or so were in attendance for the morning show. I sat and relaxed and waited for the movie to start, watching the anti-piracy warning and then a few commercials (one for a movie I desperately want to see but won’t be able to, as it comes out the day after I leave), and then the movie began.

It was a goofy movie, to say the least, though you knew it would be going in. It was very ‘high school first love,’ but I thought Kanada did a fairly good job for his first real acting role, though it was at times unsettling that he (my age) was meant as the romantic lead in a movie whose cast was the average age of 16/17. Even so, one looks over that.

After the movie, I’d planned to scuttle over to the other theater and watch Oguri’s show, but upon entrance into the place, I quickly realized such a task would be impossible. I had 30 min. before the show started and, looking at the line before me at the ticket counter was like looking at a hive covered in bees. There was no fathomable way that I would be able to get a ticket in time, so with a laugh of exasperation I left defeated but not discouraged. Instead, I went to the large bookstore at the station which has a half a floor devoted entirely to books in English, where I picked up a few Carl Hiaasen novels for the plane ride home.

I then made the circuit of the fantastic Visual Kei stores in Shinjuku, all 4 conveniently located within a block of each other (two are a door away), and found a 50% off CD store that allowed me to buy an Alice Nine CD for $1.50. As for the stores, I should probably mention them lest someone reading this is in Tokyo and wants to visit. The most well known is ‘Like An Edison,’ which has two floors and at times stages events with bands (my friend and I happened to run into a band on the way in once, though, like a fool I didn’t realize what was going on at the time and thus didn’t get a look at who they were). The first floor is all Cds and the second is mostly magazines and tickets to all upcoming concerts, though there is from time to time band merchandise for sale. Diagonally across from LIE, is Club Indies which has a few magazines but is primarily just a CD store. Both of these are obviously Visual Kei stores as shown by the huge posters of bands like Vivid, Sid and various others plastered on the windows looking out. One block over are my favorite shops. First, there is Pure Sound, which sells books, magazines (some for a dollar), Fan Club only pamphlets, band/tour merchandise, Cds, DVDs and posters. They even have Hide and Yoshiki dolls for sale, and at the counter they have a ‘Take Free’ jar where you will sometimes find stickers or trading cards of your favorite band. Despite things in this store, they are cheap, but not the cheapest. The cheapest is the shop practically next door called Closet Child. I should first mention that Closet Child is a chain which normally specializes in Gothic Lolita clothing (which is sold at the Harajuku store), but the Shinjuku store is special because it has V-Kei stuff. It has things for super cheap, and stuff you’re not going to find anywhere else. They have baskets full of tour/band merchandise, books, magazines, walls of used and new Cds, and then more specialty stuff like, for instance, the $300 ring that Reita from the Gazette designed, Gackt’s (I think it was him) shoes, etc. And for those who want to stock up on stuff, they offer packs that contain a collection of tour goods, all in one packet. It’s hard to explain, but it’s awesome. This is where I found the sale. I mean, they even have the Alice Nine bandaids (unused of course), that you could get from the vending machines at the Royal Straight (I think it was) concert. So, I had a heyday, to say the least.

After that, sticking to my plan, I went up one stop to Shin-Okubo, a place I was now rather familiar with as I’d been to the ‘Korea Town’ a few times by this point. That being said, Shin-Okubo is known to be the home of Tokyo’s very own Globe theater. Yes, Tokyo has a Globe theater, and it’s said to be a recreation of the original Shakespearean Globe. I’d known this all along, but never actually dropped by to see it, and figuring as I only have a few days left, why not take the opportunity while I was in the neighborhood.

Turning left out of the station, rather than right (which is where all the Korean goods stores are), I made a quick turn down a small street and followed that for some time past Korean and Middle Eastern groceries, seeing the less-glamorous, real side of Tokyo where minorities live. By the time I actually reached the Globe, there was no one around, only the tall apartment buildings to keep me company, and as for the Globe, if I’d blinked, I might have missed it.

With nothing running, it was locked up so all I could see was the outside, which, much to my disappointment, was rather concrete-y and modern, leaving me to imagine that it must be the interior that is the likeness of the English original. With that let down, I turned back and went to a Korean Goods store (by goods I mean bands, dramas, actor merchandise) and got my mom some more DBSK pens like she wanted and then hopped back on the train and decided to call it a day, as the sun had now sufficiently turned me a darker shade of tan.

Here's the trailer. It's not subbed, so I apologize for that. Still, if you watch it and you'll get the idea.

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