I’ll start off with some disappointing news: the Christmas Pepsi was kinda gross. I can’t say I’m too surprised, but I was keeping my fingers crossed for the slim chance that it might’ve be good…
It might look like the Chernobyl Elephant Foot, but it was lush
On the evening of the 23rd, we held a thanksgiving dinner party which (apart from having to serve cocktails out of a bin) was a massive success! The best part of the meal was definitely Tamsin’s vegan Black Forest gateau (recipe for which she graced us all with on her lovely blog here). I know now that vegan whipped cream was definitely something missing from my life up to this point and I’m glad I know where I can buy it from (thank you Japan!). I suppose it’s not surprising, but cherries are also especially hard to come by here – hopefully they’ll start popping up once Spring arrives?
Spicy yet creamy!?
I bought a sweet potato, spinach, tomato and black bean curry to the table, which went down an absolute treat – other offerings included two large dominos pizzas, a bucket of KFC chicken (we are approaching Japanese Christmas, after all), and bean-stuffed peppers. Overall: 10/10. Of course, as I’ve learnt, Thanksgiving isn’t complete without an argument at the table – so after shot glasses and bottles of Soju were passed around, and we each said what we were thankful for (because this is a thing that they do at Thanksgiving, I think?), the moon landing was brought up.
We’ll just have to pass over that one.
On Friday, Sophie came to visit from Kyoto, so the Suttons hung out in the evening at Shimokitazawa (the first time I’ve revisited the place since I first wrote about it back in September). Of course, being the hipster village of Tokyo, there was bound to be at least one place offering vegan options for dinner – I had this delicious little bowl of ramen at lovely little Chabuzen.
Saturday evening marked the NHK World “Songs of Tokyo” concert – a ticket for which I was the lucky winner of. All I really knew about it was that big name Japanese artists would be performing (two nights were filmed: Saturday and Sunday, with the artists split between.) On my night: Cornelius, Aquors, TM Revolution, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Man With A Mission, Kana Nishino, SEKAI NO OWARI, and News. I knew about 3 of these artists beforehand (I don’t know much about Japanese pop) – I knew of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu because she became an internet hit due to her crazy music videos, SEKAI NO OWARI from Japanese class back at UEA, and Kana Nishino because her face is plastered on a massive billboard just outside Nishi-Waseda Station.
Anyway, all I knew walking in was that there’d be some pretty high-profile Japanese artists here. What I DIDN’T know, was that this was a promotional concert for the upcoming Olympics happening in Tokyo in 2020, meant to promote intercultural communications… and that’s where I came in.
See, the reason they were handing out so many tickets to international students is because we were ALSO the stars of the show. We were all sat right at the very front – quite literally in my case, as I was placed front row and centre to this amazing spectacle. (No proper photos, by the way, since use of phones was forbidden. Signal blocker was also put in place, probably to stop anyone leaking footage of the concert via Snapchat/Instagram/whatever before the broadcast in January?).
Something I’ve noticed about Japan as a nation is that a lot of people feel pretty insecure about their place in the world – for example, I’m constantly being asked about my opinion of Japan, why I came to Japan, what my opinion was of Japan before I came here, what Japan means to me, what Japanese things are popular in the UK/the West, what words/feelings come to my mind when I think of Japan, etc… This show ever-so-slightly felt like an extension of that. After every performance, the presenters would have a little interview skit at the side of the stage, and a constant mention would be made to the VERY SPECIAL INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS!!, to which we’d all holler and clap.
If you watch the broadcast and wonder where the interview section is; just to the left of the stage
Being the special guests, of course, we were being interviewed in front of the cameras too. The producer came over and talked to a few of us including me and Tamsin at the start of the show, and I mentioned offhand I was excited to see this and I knew a little about SEKAI NO OWARI and Kyary, but the interviews seemed to mostly be taking part around the left hand side of the stage. That is, until the latter half of the show, when the big cameras suddenly came in my direction and I was asked, “So, I heard you’re a big fan of JPOP?”
So, the cameras are rolling. Unless they perform some magic and cut this out of the broadcast, I’m going to be part of Tokyo Olympic history. I HAVE to say something proper meaningful… but I just wish the question was more like, “have you enjoyed everything so far today?”, because as we’ve established I don’t know much about JPOP at all.
I had to come out with something or risk embarrassing myself so (I don’t remember exactly what came out of my mouth) I mentioned that I really liked Kyary, and I saw PonPonPon on Youtube a few years ago and it became one of the reasons I wanted to come to Japan. Which is a total exaggeration, but it’s genuinely a pretty cool video? It was total verbal nonsense and apparently I sounded like I was close to tears while saying it for whatever reason, so we’ll see whether or not my interview will see the light of day.
It’ll be showing on the NHK WORLD TV channel on the 1st and 2nd of January 2018 at varying times, and will be broadcast in London, New York and Hong Kong… so if you feel like watching me sound like I’m crying, please tune in!
I mentioned earlier that Sophie came to visit for the weekend – and so did the idea of going to Tokyo Disneyland.
The last time I went to Disneyland must’ve been probably around 10 years ago? Quite possibly more than that? In any case, I’m still a massive child at heart who loves the land of make-believe, and being in a country that has not one but TWO Disneylands, I took hold of the opportunity to visit at least one of them.
(By the way, it was 17 degrees on Sunday. Global warming?)
As soon as Halloween ends, of course, everything becomes Christmas themed – so slap bang in the middle of the shopping plaza was a massive Christmas tree, and no matter where you went there’d be this one particular song playing: HAAAUULLL OUT THE HOLLY!!! PUT UP THE TREE, BE, FORE, MY – SPIRIT FALLS AGAIN!!! FILLLLL UPPP THE STOOCKING!!
On repeat. Always.
Standard day parades…
Other interesting things to note:
- If you haven’t bought Mickey Mouse ears, and you aren’t wearing them 24/7, you’re an outsider.
- Groups of guys would wear matching onesies around the park. (Winnie the Pooh was a popular choice)
- Girl groups enjoy dressing in the exact same way and buying all the same accessories?
- Fast Pass system for rides is done on a lottery, rather than buying your way to the front.
- Popular place to take someone on a date?
The end of day fireworks at the castle were something we’d been looking forward to the entire day, and we even got front row seats – until we were told that because of the wind they’d been cancelled. (Seems to be that every Sunday since that typhoon happened, it’s been crazy windy.)
In any case, it was magical and amazing. I’m pretty sure Sophie and I were maybe 2 out of 10 foreigners there the entire day, so to my absolute delight everyone talked to me pretty much exclusively in Japanese. Kind of hoping to go to DisneySea (Disneyland #2) during the Summer…
…and the night parade
So, it’s officially December tomorrow – I have my advent calendar sitting pretty in front of me (thank you for finding one somehow, Nicole) and a massive pile of presentations/essays that came out of nowhere. This time next week will also mark my 3 month Japanniversary!
I just can’t wait to unwind at Christmas – to finally, finally get a break after so many weeks of studying. I wonder what’s in store?