Dreaming of Disney

Our chance visit to the Tokyo Disney shop in Shibuya reminded us how much we love Disney. Being children of the late-80s, our love is focused on early 90’s ‘renaissance era’ Disney; that’s Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and The Lion King. So, entering the magical world of Disney always brings us back to our childhood.

Latimer: We blindly walked the busy metropolitan streets of Shibuya and came across the amazing entrance to the Tokyo Disney shop. I have never seen a shop-front like it before! It was great! I was instantly a child again!

Stepping inside was like stepping into a cloud of fairy dust…

We were in heaven (even though we had no intention of buying anything- it’s freaky expensive). It captured the essence of being young, of stepping into a dream. The shop just spoke to your inner-child, completely ignoring boring adult you (perfect!).

It all reminded us that Disney is King of romance and happily ever-after. We were buzzing with happy memories. Our current selves, that aspire to write the perfect romantic adventure, were moulded in our youth by Disney stories. One of the favourites, was Beauty and The Beast.

The story is so perfect- the Prince cursed because of his cruelty, wastes away in his ruin of a castle, while the Beauty, Belle, chooses to save her father’s life by sacrificing her own freedom, becoming the Prince’s prisoner. And of course he is horrible to her (though really he is just misunderstood) but she doesn’t stand for it, a fierce heroine who stands up for herself. In time, they both realise their faults and find love in each other but not before the dramatic fight-scene with the rival man on the roof of the castle (in the middle of a dark storm, beautifully animated).

The story teaches us that cruelty rewards no one and kindness is a virtue that must be nurtured or it will whither. In fact Disney has always taught us valuable lessons through fantastical stories. We grow up and leave it behind one day of course (there’s no point in talking to me about The Princess and the Frog, or whatever else comes along thereafter), but we all have our Disney stories. And they create a little child within us that never really disappears.

A spark of fairy dust in our hearts, it’s why we write and draw and play, even if we grow up. Disney always brings a smile to my face. This shop was like being transported inside my own imagination for just a while. It was pure magic!

Ridley: It’s true, Disney is a master at invoking those warm fuzzy feelings, while always having imparted (unknowingly to our small minds) a valuable lesson at the same time.

My favourite Disney movie of all time is Mulan. A beautifully crafted tale set in China, where the Huns have begun to threaten the Chinese empire and the Emperor has begun to amass a defending army in retaliation. It’s a story filled with love, loyalty, friendship, forgiveness and courage. It also showed us young girls that it didn’t matter who or what you were, if you worked hard enough and believed you could succeed, then you would, even with severe obstacles hindering you.

 Again as with Beauty and the Beast, our heroine enters her current predicament because she wishes to protect her elderly father, Fa Zhou, from conscription into the army. Despite the threat of execution if she is discovered, she masquerades as a man and goes in his place. We follow her attempts at becoming a soldier, beginning as a truly abysmal recruit then progressing to a skilled and competent team member. During this she also gains respect and friendship from her fellow conscriptees and of course, Captain Li…

Even looking back at clips of it, the illustrations are absolutely beautiful, not to mention the music. To this day I still know the words of ‘I’ll Make a Man Out of You’ (mainly because it’s on my ipod!)

This story still stands strong, even up against all the impressive 3D animation and special effects. We become truly immersed in her tale, we celebrate and commiserate as she does and of course, we clasp our hands together as we wait to see how her relationship with Captain Li develops.

As with all of the best Disney films, Mulan brings us on a rollercoaster of emotional highs and lows, until it culminates into a dramatic ending where our heroine shows what she’s capable of against the Hun leader with the backing of her soldier friends, who have accepted her for who she is despite her previous deception.

When you enter the Disney shop, these are the wonderful happy memories that you instantly recall. All the fantastic relationships, the rollercoaster tales, the warm fuzzy feelings and without a doubt, the beautiful soldiers, princes and beasts, you remember everything. So Latimer and I couldn’t help wander the store with smiles on our faces, exclaiming over well loved characters (and the price tags on them!). 

Disney deals in dreams, possibly unattainable ones, but they’ve also taught us to strive hard for them no matter how difficult. For us, this really is why we write, to re-create these types of relationships, build these magical worlds and hopefully help to continue the dream for others.

While in the fantastic Harry Potter books, Albus Dumbledore said, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” I personally believe our dreams make the living part all the sweeter. I think Disney might just have thought this too.

Advertising Jungle

Below are just a few of the advertisements here in Tokyo. They can be found on the televisions, large screens on the buildings around the city, in shops and on the subways. It’s not hard to notice that no matter where you go, there is always something for sale or being pushed at you. So here are a few of them….

Ridley: I really don’t know what it is about this video, but it’s just so creepy. The guy playing the tiger is a brilliant dancer, I’ll give him that much. I don’t know why, it’s a combination of the music, the movements he makes and also the little tail movements. Cool, but creepy. And as with all the advertisements over here, we’ve finally worked out what they’re singing (after quite a bit of debate I might add), it’s ‘Ultra Ultra Ultra-book’. The dancer is also in an advertisement that shows in the cinema here (we went to MIB 3 here, for the experience!). The ad is for discouraging illegal filming of the movies. He also dances like this but with a giant camera on his head. That too is creepy. 

Latimer: This ad makes my skin crawl; the sound, the way he moves, the setting- yuck! I feel like my soul has been violated! (He’s a brilliant dancer though!)

Ridley: PonPon girl, as I call her, is everywhere here. There are advertisements in the subways, on little trucks that trundle passed playing her music, in magazines, on TV adverts for fizzy drinks and also on shopping bags carried around by people. I think she’s mad looking, a bit like an Asian Lady GaGa.

Latimer: She’s been following us from station to station and bookshop to bookshop. Leave us be, woman! The song is catchy; but MENTAL… The video is just plain crazy- if I had epilepsy it would give me seizures.

Ridley: I’ve really grown to like this song *rocks side to side with a smile*.

Latimer: No you haven’t, it makes you sick after awhile, that’s not normal.

Ridley: Perhaps….pon pon poooon…

Latimer: Why are the Moomin’s so popular in Japan? A strange Finnish cartoon from the 80’s. Apparently, they now sell Suzuki cars in Japan! Hyaku-pa-cento (100%). That’s all I get out of it. It’s catchy; periodically I will turn to Ridley and sing; “Hyaku-pah-cent-ooh”. It has amused us; the easily amused.

Ridley: I didn’t know what the crazy Moomin witch (and Latimer) were saying for ages. Since I’ve been here, I’ve never had so many words I don’t know spoken at me, I’ve perfected the art of the half smile and non-committed nod. It will get me in trouble one day.

Latimer: There’s a One Piece movie coming out soon and so, it is EVERYWHERE in Japan at the moment. They are in every 7 eleven shop. I don’t watch it, but I am half-thinking I should, but the likelihood is slim. I can’t commit to something that epic any more. I’m not as young as I used to be. 

Ridley: Those twenty-five year old bones of yours are creaking pretty badly these days, Lat! Mwhaa. For the record, I have no intention of being sucked in by the bombardment of all the One Piece advertising, I have no time for it, not when I’m barely getting round to seeing my Bleach and Naruto episodes!

Harajuku Girls You Got That Wicked Style!

On Sunday Latimer and Ridley journeyed to the colourful and crazy Harajuku to see the Harajuku cosplayers. We’ve figured out that the best time to see them is between 2-3pm on a Sunday, on the Harajuku bridge just beside Meiji-jingu shire. We trawled the internet looking for this information and it was hard to come by, so spread the word!

Latimer: Harajuku is one of our favourite places in Tokyo. It’s the fashion hub for the cool, quirky and kitsch Tokyo teenagers. Takeshita-dori is the main street containing all the main shops sporting the standard to down right bizzare fashion trends.

I would love this superman bag. It’s pretty cool (but I may be too old to pull off the awesomeness!).

These pants are what we’ve termed ‘clown style’. It’s colourful, random and just plain crazy.

I love just looking at what people are wearing. While some things are just too crazy for words, I am still impressed and awed by people’s sense of style, however easy it is to come by in the endless shops of Tokyo.

I am currently obsessed with the artistic tattoo tights everyone seems to be sporting; see-through with stars (or birds) twisting around the leg. Very cool (I am determined to find a pair!).

We headed to the Harajuku bridge at 2pm to try and find the cosplayers (these are teenagers who dress in dramatic, over-the-top outfits every Sunday and meet up with their similarly dressed friends to hang out). They have become a tourist attraction. I don’t know if they like getting their pictures taken by random tourists (I’d hate it), but get their pictures taken they do.

I abandoned Ridley and got in as best I could (as respectfully as I could) to snap some shots. We’d searched so long for them, I couldn’t leave without some good photos! (If anyone knows what style this falls under please let us know because we’ve been musing over the point of the white nose strip since we saw them!)

I think these girls in the last picture wanted to kill me, but I love this photo all the same. The looks go perfectly with the image. Plus they are leaning against a black stone covered in Japanese writing; a mix of the old with the new. While I was getting up close and personal (probably too much for all concerned- but I thought they were cool so it was flattery!) Ridley had disappeared! I turned confused; “where is my friend?” I mused aloud, drifting away, wanting to assure the Harajuku girls that I did indeed have one and I was leaving them alone. Then I spotted Ridley at the forefront of a large crowd… what was she up to?

Ridley: Well at first, I was huddling by the wall on the bridge, baking in the sunlight and wondering where Latimer had disappeared to, she was lost amongst the hoard of photo-hungry tourists. Personally I think she started it all-the gathering of crazy camera snappers. As she started to buzz around the poor crouching Harajuku cosplayers, one by one, people began to join her. Soon she had created a crowd, all surrounding her, as she slipped in and out, happily snapping everyone! I dismissed myself from the madness, with a hurried ‘I’m off over to the wall!’ There I stayed, staring across at the ‘free hugs’ people. There was row of a few girls and two boys with signs offering free hugs. At one point, I’m nearly certain they were smiling over at me and nodding, as if encouraging me to come over. Which I would never do, I’m not a huggy type. I wanted to tell them I wasn’t alone and in no need of comfort, that my stoic expression was just my default one but I knew it would all seem like lies, as I couldn’t produce my friend, I only knew her general area. It was then to my left I noticed a frenzy, there was lots of colour, I saw a pink wig and suddenly there were hoards of tourists whipping out their cameras. There were Harajuku girls all lining up for a photo opportunity.

“Latimer!” I squeaked, but it got lost in all the noises. I threw a desperate glance over at where she was supposed to be, then with a big sigh I launched forward, squeezing in through the bodies to reach the front, knowing I’d never be forgiven if I didn’t get the pictures. I went head to head with giant Nikon cameras and video recorders! And won, well if it had been a competition, I would have! 

(Side Note: Ah! As I was writing this, I was rudely interrupted by a small earthquake. They don’t happen in Ireland. I think I panicked a little. Latimer and I just looked at each other and were like ‘What do we do!?’ All I could remember was, door jam, get under a door jam! Or something! But we stayed sitting on our beds, I think I covered my eyes at one point. Cowardly, I know…thankfully it’s over now! Back to the story!)

So, yeah…eventually after the cosplayers began to disperse and I’d pressed the button on my camera about a million times, I turned to find Latimer hurrying towards me, with a panicked expression, demanding to know what she missed. With a nod, I proudly held up my camera, “I got it all, never fear!”

So, we finally managed to see the Harajuku people, after quite a bit of effort really. They were nowhere to be seen last Sunday. We found this week, the best time to be around there was between two/half two to about half three, this photo opportunity happened about twenty past three, then everyone started to go home. Though the Rockabilly boys were around from quite early, from half eleven or so, just in the front of Yoyogi park. They were dancing to loud music, it was funny, so I got a few shots of them.

We’ll be heading back to Harajuku later in the week me thinks, Latimer really wants those tattoo tights, haha, and I like to people watch there! 

More from us later! Hope you’re liking our Tokyo posts, let us know if there’s a particular picture you’d like to see. We’re here for a few more days, so we may get a chance to capture it!

Laters!

MLR

Tokyo Food Puzzles

What’s in it? What’s in it?”

“That’s the point of the thing, not to know!”

– Nightmare Before Christmas, Kidnap a Sandy Claws

We love trying out the different food while we’re here in Tokyo, especially if it’s something you can’t get anywhere else. So far our time here has been a real lucky mix of flavours. We’ve bought a few things where we haven’t the foggiest idea what flavour it is, or even what it is!

Giant Caplico: Not an ice cream, not really a sweet, this ice cream cone lookalike was hard, sugary and we’re still not certain what it was made from.

Ridley: “That was weird, I feel like I just ate twenty different chemicals. Giant Caplico? Giant chemical mess.”

Ketchup flavoured Pringles

Ridley:  (I love ketchup by the by-so these are not for the faint hearted. Latimer’s face of disgust was hilarious!) “After a while the kick of the ketchup is really sour…I like it, but I’d never give up my sweet and sour…no…what is it, sour onion?” Giant Caplico chemicals addle Ridley’s brain.

Peach pieces in peach jelly

Latimer: Does exactly what it says on the tin! Yums. Fruit in jelly can’t go wrong.

Unknown flavour crisps…

Latimer: “I really wish I knew what flavour they are, I can’t taste anything. I really hope it’s not frog.” (Ridley: I wish it was.)

Green tea flavour

Latimer: “It tastes like soil! Why does it taste like soil???” I promptly placed this in the bin after approximately 3 glups (it didn’t get better with time). However, the next day the maid had removed it from the bin and placed it on the floor by the table (as you do!). She seemed to want me to drink it. (Ridley: Waste not, want not! Soil will help you grow!) I poured it down the sink and back to the bin it went. Thankfully, it was gone the next day.

?????

Ridley: Latimer took this lovely close up of tiny fish in a bowl.  It’s Korean food. This was after I’d eatten two lots and thought it was seaweed, I didn’t see the eyes. (Latimer: Even though they were staring right at you.) Ridley: *silence*….I’ve nothing…no comeback to that…damn you. The tiny eyes!! Eweeee….I was chomping on it as I was telling Latimer, “My brother says I eat with my eyes, if it doesn’t look good, I’ll avoid it.” I obviously was blind this time round….

Toppo-reverse pocky, the chocolate’s on the inside! (Latimer: Reverse pocky, evil pocky!)

Ridley: *crunch crunch* “Hmm…they look like bamboo sticks with black stuff in it…I like it!” 

Banana ‘Yogurt’

Latimer: This wasn’t exactly a yogurt… it was more like a solidified, banana milk jelly. Why is nothing as it seems!?

Peach and apple drink (or so you would think)

Latimer: I bought this thinking ‘yeah, peach and apple sounds good’…. but when I took my first gulp my mouth was flooded with fruit jelly-bits. It wasn’t a nice texture. One gulp from Ridley had her face collapsing in on itself; “I don’t…. I don’t, YUCK, I don’t like it! That’s nasty… nasty…”

Mushroom shaped biscuits

Latimer: Ridley hasn’t noticed this, but around Tokyo at the moment there are these cartoon whistling mushrooms (they’ve been on the telly and in the arcades on these really annoying games that whistle the same tune over and over and over again, adding to the din). Well, these are biscuits based on the whistling mushrooms (Ridley: you think! Latimer: quiet you!). They were tasty: biscuit stalk, chocolate cap. No whistling though (I’m disappointed). (Ridley: no you’re not) 

Kirby chewing gum

Ridley: There were three little brown balls (stop sniggering Latimer) in this box, it was chewing gum, a fruity type! I liked them. It seemed appropriate, considering Kirby was kind of like a giant blown up chewing gum bubble…(Latimer: I loved Kirby’s Dream World. Ridley: Me too!)  

We don’t know what this was, we thought chocolate of some sort

Latimer: I was going under the assumption buying this was a steal at 30 Yen. Actually no, that’s 30 cent (euro speak) and that’s not cheap considering what it was. A square of ‘chocolate’… I spent 30 cent on one square of ‘chocolate’? (Ridley: fool.. wait, so did I!). It was white faux-chocolate with a sliver of yellow jelly (custard like, or something). It was tasteless and not worth 30 cent (hindsight is a great thing) (Ridley: you are harping on about the 30 cent, people are going to think you’re tight. Latimer: I am… 30 cent! Do you know what I could have done with that! Ridley: you’re an idiot. Latimer: Damn you!)

 Pocari Sweat (a God amongst the dehydrated masses)

Ridley: Lemony. Latimer: you haven’t had any this holiday. I bought one bottle and couldn’t finish it. Still, I will say it is a GOD! Ridley: you weren’t dehydrated enough… does everything I say get typed? Latimer: yes. Ridley: Pocari Sweat, a lemony rehydration drink. 

More food mysteries coming soon! (if we haven’t succumbed to gastric malfunctioning in the meantime)

Fantasy dining

Ridley: So the tagline for our holiday seems to have become ‘that’s so weird’, mainly because we’re actively seeking out things that are weird, strange and just something you’d never see at home. Interesting is the other word we could use, along with a raised eyebrow!

So with this in mind, we discovered fantasy dining in the Ginza district (I keep calling everything districts, it’s like the Hunger Games, or here, Battle Royal! Mwhaa…). Fantasy dining is where the restaurant is themed and the waiters/waitresses are dressed up. We don’t have this at home, as far as I’m aware (though if we did, it would be epic!), therefore it’s a definite novelty for us! We’ve gone to see both an Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant and a Vampire café.

We first went to the Alice place-Latimer is a fan of all things Alice in Wonderland- it was brilliant and the staff were very friendly. They were mainly dressed up like Alice but there were also a few mad hatters wandering round. The entrance hall was lined with giant ‘pages’ from the book, inside the restaurant the walls were covered in man sized deck cards.there was a hanging light made of top hats over one table and in the middle of the room was a giant cup that was also a seating area. Latimer: Within the giant cup there was a group of people we named the ‘High Rollers’. All night they beckoned to the Alices and Hatters, ringing a bell to summon them for more beers or unusual cocktails. They were hidden inside the cup, away from prying eyes. I imagined them walking into the place in a wave of Yen and dollar signs; “we wish to be part of the atmosphere but not of them plebs. Put us on a step above them all… inside a large white cup, so that we may watch them, but not them us!”. Personally, I think the menu was the most unique thing about the place (and that’s saying something!). It was a box, like a big cube, where one side slid open (the menus were made up of this ‘wall’) to reveal a little diorama and it had a tiny battery operated lamp in it. Latimer: A very cool and novel way to sell the fantasy! Lewis Carroll would have been proud.No point to it really, but it was still fun. There was also a cocktail menu that opened up like a picture book into a glossy hat.

The food was decent too, though nothing spectacular. Though Latimer did get a cocktail with a rose in it and then when it arrived they sprayed perfume on it! Latimer: I don’t know what it added to the taste… but it did smell like perfume. The food didn’t sit well with me, pretty ‘blah’ pre-cooked stuff. Not nice, but you pay for the atmosphere and the fantasy, so I didn’t mind so much.

We’ve never seen such little roses with stunted growth, Latimer decided there must be plant battery farms all across Tokyo growing roses that are destined to be cruelly chopped down before their prime and used in our drinks… Latimer: Ah battery rose, of stunted growth, the casualty of fantasy dining.

We also got bread with a little dish of butter (that didn’t taste like butter, just looked like it) It was provided with a little instruction tag, ‘Eat me’. Just like in the books! All in all, I really liked this place. Latimer: When this dish arrived, Ridley thought it was her starter (garlic bread). Even though it didn’t taste like garlic. When her food arrived she looked confused. Ha.

The Vampire café was freaky, that’s the only word for it. We stepped out the lift and tiny little plastic skeleton heads to our left popped out and screamed at us. Then the hostess popped up, dressed in a black maid’s uniform with white make up and red eyes. Scary! It was the waiter though that was really unsettling….and in a weird strange way quite compelling too, for the half an hours we were there (possibly the bad boy attitude he had going on)…I wasn’t the only one, there were quite a number of giggling Japanese girls there, some dressed up too. He was about half a foot taller than me (I’m 5’10)-he had big platform boots on, so it was an artificial height-he had black eyes, black lips, white white make up, the red eyes and back-combed long hair. He was wearing a sort of robe thing, long flowing and swirled quite well when he moved. But I have to say he was quite abrupt. Maybe that was his appeal in a way, in a country that has smiling, unbelievably welcoming people, he was the exact opposite. Not rude exactly, just…like a superior vampire really…! Latimer: We were laughing our heads off during the whole experience, and maybe he didn’t like that. We weren’t taking it seriously, but as Ridley pointed out with a narrowing of her eyes, “HOW can you take a vampire café seriously?”. Haha. Anyway, in retrospect he was just plain rude.

The bathroom there,with free mouthwash!

We were shown to a little booth lined with red curtain (Latimer: It reminded me of how in Pride and Prejudice, Lady Catherine offers Elizabeth Bennett the chance to use her maids piano in her house. She says ‘you’ll be in no ones way in that part of the house’. Implying that Elizabeth should be hidden away from the eyes of the gentlemen and women. It felt like myself and Ridley were being treated the same way!), there was a giant coffin in the centre of the room with dripping red candles on it in a candelabra. And the hall floor was lit up showing pictures of red blood cells…very weird! Haha… The vampire boy didn’t even say goodbye when we were leaving (we said thanks and bye)! I think maybe there was a little bit too much laughing from our booth during our meal, we got a sense that we didn’t take the place seriously enough.

We only got ice cream and cocktails there. We ordered from a menu shaped like a coffin.

We’d already eaten in a very old authentic Japanese restaurant where we got to grill our own food. It was called Sometaro (2-2-2 Nishi-Asakusa, Taiyo-Ku) in Asakusa. Again google maps did not let us down, put the address in and you’ll find it. We got okonomiyaki (cabbage battered pancakes) there.

Now that was brilliant, if absolute sweltering (it was already 24 degrees out and then add in the heat from the grills)! The place was made of old dark wood, almost like a tavern, there was a real sense of history to the place. We got a lot of food there, we wanted to try everything we could, two pancake type dishes and yakisoba (noodle dish), we realised our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. We had to take off our shoes and sit on the cushions beside a low table that had a large black hot plate/grill that was heated with gas underneath. For one of our pancake dishes, we picked eggs, cabbage, pork, little cuttle fish and onion, they were all mixed up together and cooked by us (well we got help, being the idiots we are!)

Latimer: This place was great. Felt very traditional. Really enjoyable food and atmosphere. As we search out food in Tokyo, I am gravitating back to ramen (my love). I want us to eat at the best ramen place in Tokyo… but where is it? Damn I wish I knew.

Our food journey continues daily…. ichiban (no.1) ramen…. we will find you!

Chance Meetings (Chansu Miitingutsu)

Latimer: Today myself and Ridley journeyed to Asakusa. A very nice part of Tokyo that contains the jaw-dropping Asakusa-jinja. The main gateway to the temple contains a massive red lantern at its centre. This is often used as a meeting place in shoujo manga for the main boy and girl’s date. (Ridley: I love how this looks like it’s about to be a post about the temple, which perhaps more people would be interested in than our crazy ramblings but…it’s not going to be! So…go see the temple, it’s lovely…now on to our madness..)

The temple site was packed with tourists and also school tours (lots of middle and elementary school kids… we assumed).

As me and Ridley stood poised on the great Temple’s porch (R: We sound impressive, it was more like we lulled over the banister as we were starting to flag against the hot sun. There was a nice breeze on the high porch so we didn’t want to move…) We began to muse over what the school kids ‘stories’ might be. We’ve been doing this a lot on our trip. We will often wonder, what is the life story of any number of random individuals; the gaijin (foreigner) in the suit alone on the train; the old Japanese couple walking hand in hand through the park… and now, the school kids.

I should backtrack and explain that Asian dramas are loved by both myself and Ridley, it doesn’t matter if it’s Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese. We’ve watched them all. (R: Great stories, well woven but really sometimes the endings are poorly wrapped up…we like to think we could end some of them better!) They tend to follow a similar pattern and so, we started to think about our own drama, and we began randomly picking out the school kids below as our characters…

We focused on one group of three girls and four boys.

One girl wore a backpack with the American flag as the pattern; she became ‘Stars and Stripes’.

The one with all the power (when she asked for a picture, all the boys leapt to attention) became, ‘The Main Girl’ and Stars and Stripes, we decided would be her best friend. They were all in Middle School together.

Of the four boys, one stood out; he had a grey backpack (Grey), all the other boys flocked around him, we decided he was the boy that loved The Girl, her best boy-friend. The good guy.

Then we noticed another, separate group of boys. There was one that stood out, a young man in a hat (a sort of black 1930’s hat). Very dapper. He was going to be the bad boy. We named him Hat. Ridley watched him intently; “He’ll be the leader of the gang, the one that will lead the fight out of the subway” (to those that don’t follow Asian dramas, there always seems to be fighting involved and it usually involves the main men, and more often than not, the bad guy is in some form of a gang. I don’t know where this factors into Asian society, it just seems to be a staple in drama-land).

So, we decided that Hat and The Girl had had a ‘chance meeting’ during their school trip to the temple. But they’d also been having ‘chance meetings’ their whole lives (they don’t realise it, but they met first in preschool, when they fought over a red crayon. Since this time, The Girl has referred to this arrogant boy as Aka-baka (red-idiot)).

The title of our drama, then became ‘Chansu Miitingutsu’ (the Japanese pronouncation of Chance Meetings). This is my attempt at the katakana of the title:

                                                 チャンツ   ミチングツ

As the school kids started to leave, we fast-forwarded a few years; they were now in High School. Of the Middle school group, only The Girl and her friends, Grey and Stars and Stripes, went to the same school. But…. who ends up in her class? Just Hat (Aka-baka). 

— Another Chansu Miitingutsu!

(Ridley: It’s the only way really, how else are they meant to get together? But Grey will put up a good fight, as he will be able to have The Girl’s best friend, Stars and Stripes, fighting in his corner! Those two probably ended up in the same class, as is the way of things. Oh yeah, we’re writing this, so…they did! And I bet Stars and Stripes likes Grey…oh the plot thickens!)

The school kids soon left the Temple, led off by their guides and sensei. However, for us, the notion of our drama continued throughout the day. As we passed a pachinko arcade (Ridley: Gambling parlours with tiny, metal balls- the noise from them is horrific!), we saw a girl dressed in a ridiculous costume outside, pleading for people to come in (handing out flyers, in a sky blue robe wearing a curly pink wig). Ridley nodded, “That’s the job The Girl gets in High School”.

“And Hat frequents the pachinko dens,” I added.

— Chansu Miitingutsu!

By the end of the day we’d ended up in Ginza, in a Vampire Café (more on that later! Very random I know) being served by a surly young man dressed as a Goth (I’m not sure I’d say vampire, maybe a Goth gone mental). We rounded off our drama for the day by deciding that Hat worked as a vampire in the vampire café.

As we sit, winding down in our hotel room, writing this, we’ve worked out the following:

Yamapi will play Hat

Ikuta Toma will play Grey

This will also fulfil our dream of having these two men work together in a drama!

Inoue Mao will play The Girl

Horikita Maki will play Stars and Stripes

Our drama theme song will be PonPonPon by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (because it’s a mental music video, and we are sure that that girl is following us all over Tokyo at the moment… she is EVERYWHERE!). (Ridley: PonPon woman has given me a headache. This song has been caught in my head all day! It’s quite catchy…)

‘People watching’ is a major source of all drama goodness! Stay tuned for our release date, once everyone signs on, we’ll let you know! (Ridley: We expect these really well known Asian actors to work for free by the by, so it may take some time and lots of persuading before our drama can be made! haha…)

Metro Madness

Ridley: I just had the subway ride from hell. I couldn’t even engineer some of the situations that I end up getting myself into. On the way back from the Alice in Wonderland restaurant in Ginza (more on that later), we took the subway back to our hotel. The carriage was mental, absolutely packed! I was squashed up against two people in particular. There was one boy and his girlfriend to my right and slightly behind me. As the train slowed to a stop, we both moved further in and away from each other to clear some more space for other people, I was jerked backwards. I looked behind me at the same time as the boy did, to find part of my jeans (the loop of material with the brand symbol-see picture) had somehow caught on a zipper on his backpack. (How I ask you!? Only me…) Now, I’m sure as he felt the tug at his bag, he was thinking, who the hell is stealing from me, while I was panicking with ‘aaah, someone’s got my ass, I’ve heard this happens on the subway!’ He slipped off his schoolbag, as I leant round and tried to unhook myself but I couldn’t see properly. So I let the boy have a go. He alternated between trying to help and putting his hands up as if afraid I was going to accuse him of molesting me, which at this point I wanted to tell him I didn’t care as long as he freed me and I got my ass back. I think he even turned to his girlfriend to reassure her that he wasn’t doing just that. She was craning her neck around his shoulder to see what was happening. My face was a bright tomato red by now. As we struggled, the doors opened and a wall of people mashed into us, we were shoved closer together. It was hot, stuffy and we were laughing and saying sorry in English and Japanese all at the same time, as we fumbled down at my backside and the new people frowned and peered over at us. Thankfully, his girlfriend reached round and freed me. Just in time. I turned away with a final sorry and thanks, only to have the train suddenly shoot forward. I fell back on a few people and grabbed a girl in front of me. Her face filled with such panic it was hilarious (well now it is funny, not then), but it was probably a mirror expression of my own face as I realised her arm was like a twig and it wasn’t going to save me. I thankfully regained my balance, on a man’s foot, and then began another round of apologies, while we all kinda chuckled and my red cheeks steamed with embarrassment. Latimer, of course, was in stitches and so far away from me, she could pretend she didn’t know me. At the next stop, I lunged out through the doors, far away from the carriage of strangers that I hope to never meet again!

Latimer: Up until this very moment Ridley had thought I knew what was going on. Let me now enlighten you…. We were separated- Ridley was sucked into a crowd of people. I hung back at the doors of the train. I was bent backwards at an approximate 90 degree angle, grabbing at one of those hanging hoops you use to steady yourself. Behind me, a man sat reading his paper; in my timeline, I was praying “do not fall on the man! DO NOT FALL ON THE MAN!” while Ridley is strapped to some random man’s bag. I of course had no idea. She’d been sucked to some otherworld as far as I was concerned. Then I turned and saw her looking at me, eyes wide as if to say “ehh?”. The girls in front of her were laughing. I started laughing; then we were all looking at each other laughing. I looked and laughed to Ridley, girls, back to Ridley. In my head “yeah, it’s mad, we are all squashed on the train together… it’s mad? Isn’t it mad… Ridley, girls, Ridley?”. Laugh, Laugh, Laugh…. then we struggled out of the train at the next stop. And I learned the truth of why everyone was laughing. Well, at least everyone thought I knew what was going on… I came off pretty good… ha!

Tokyo Time!

Konnichiwa from Nippon!

Meiji Jingu shrine and Harajuku

Ridley: Our first proper day in Tokyo was last Sunday as we spent much of Saturday completely jet lagged-sleeping on long haul flights is just so damn difficult-when we arrived, we were like zombies. We stumbled our way through the streets, trains and subway to our hotel, where we slept till the next morning.

As it was Sunday, we decided to head to Harajuku. There we saw the Meiji Jingu shrine (we also wanted to see all the cosplayers dress up in costumes of their favourite anime characters). The day consisted of us getting confused (pretty standard), praying, wetting our hands to purify them and witnessing a Shinto wedding at the Shrine!

I was busy trying to capture ‘artistic’ photos of the wall of wooden blocks filled with people’s prayers, when a very nice (and extremely thoughtful) Japanese man came over to me.

He said ‘wedding parade’ and he gestured for me to come with him. So I shuffled forward to where he was pointing and saw the wedding procession. I think I thanked the man in about three different languages before I got it right! He didn’t have to do that, it was very kind of him and it’s the little things like that, that really make your holiday! I have to say the Japanese are the politest, most helpful of people.

Other things that happened at the shrine; we took many pictures of the large old decorated barrels of sake.

Latimer got chased by a fly all the way there (it really wouldn’t leave her alone) no matter how many times she’d flayed her arms around like a crazy woman.

The praying part took us a while to master. I think we seemed like stalkers as we studied the people around us so we could copy what they were doing. They all give their donations first, then they clapped twice, prayed and bowed twice, but each person had a difference sequence of these three. Eventually we both went with what we thought would work for us. At the end of the day, we were trying to be respectful, the good intentions were there!

Outside of Meiji Jingu, we squeezed down through one of the main Harajuku shopping streets, Takeshita.

Latimer: wherein you can buy all manner of crazy clothes, I will return for odd tights and socks at a later date. Before I bought lots of clothes along this street, but I’m not sure I’m up for a mad shopping spree this time. Might just stick to tights this time.Ridley: Then we doubled back, passed the park in search of people dressed up. Instead of them, however, we stumbled upon a load of stalls selling food and tribal art. There were crowds of people in the middle of picnics and a large stage with singers. I wondered (out loud) if it was some sort of African festival, having not seen the giant Jamaican flags and colours-everywhere. However, I did see the annoyed look of disbelief directed at me from one man, yes people, the blond does seep all the way through sometimes. There was a definite haze nearer the stage too (teehee-it could have been smoke from the barbeque too though…) so we held our breaths and scurried away to continue our search.

Consequently, because of this festival (we think) not many (at all) of the cosplay Harajuku people turned up that Sunday. Only the rockabilly boys were there, dressed up in leather jackets with giant quiffs. They were dancing outside Yoyogi park, which was brilliant too. Inside the green, there were comedians (though we couldn’t understand them, they were getting a lot of laughs), there were dancers, musicians, loads of groups doing yoga or playing Frisbee. There was hardly any part of the large park that wasn’t occupied. We wandered for ages through it all and then sat on a bench to people watch.

Latimer: from a distance we observed a mime artist setting up his act. A group of boys passed by, one decided to sit down in front of the mime artist and await his act. His friends were forced to join him. The jury was out on whether they wanted to or not. Ridley watched the mime artist and noticed the act was flagging; “he’ll loose his audience if he keeps up the crap Olympic ring-acrobat miming.” She nodded. I got bored and started people watching. I saw a westerner on a bike walking his dog. Odd I thought, what if he went too fast or the dog got startled? By the time I looked back at the mime, the boys were gone, his audience diminished. “Where’d they go?” Ridley gave a deep nod, “Lost his audience didn’t he.”  

Ridley: There was man playing a music on possibly an erhu beside us. There were rounds of head bowing from us and him when we were leaving. 

The next day was Akihabara….

Where it was brilliant, crazy, loud, colourful and just plain fantastic all rolled into one!

We’ve gotten so many pictures of the billboards, the anime, the manga and all the technical stuff that’s for sale here.

There were also loads of girls dressed up in maid costumes…

Latimer: Ridley was caught staring at the maid-dreaming café.

Some of the maids that lined the busy Akihabara streets must have misinterpreted her confusion as interest.She was swiftly handed a flyer by a school-girl in a maid costume with a happy, high-pitched ‘irasshaimase’. Without thinking, Ridley took the flyer. She stared, still baffled.

The odd, anime-esque map, depicting a girl and her rabbit/dog thing, plotted a course through Akihabara towards what we could only imagine was a café full of maids waiting happily to serve the masses- but were we wrong? Was it actually a cry for help? Were the maids prisoners in some strange anime-esque story of betrayal and corruption- was she the only one that could get away- was she trying to get help for her friends?

Had we, the adventurous, intrepid gaijin, in fact scorned her cries? We’ll never know. In true shoujo-anime style, I hope some bishounen (pretty boy) swept in to save her and her friends, as myself and Ridley enjoyed our curry dinner (yums).

Ridley: We went to a cat café instead of the maid one, it was the less strange of the two options. Though it was still very surreal, being in the middle of Tokyo city, randomly petting other people’s pet cats. We went to Ja La La café, which shows up in an accurate location on google maps when you type in it. The door slides open not pulls open, for anyone going there-took us awhile to realise that one. We stood outside like idiots wondering how to get in, I just kept worrying we’d let the cats out. Eventually we knocked and we were ushered into a room with about twelve cats all lounging around. Though we first had to take off our shoes and wash our hands before we were allowed touch the cats. Just in case we were diseased or anything. We were there for 30 minutes, where Latimer had more luck with the little felines. She had two cats stalking a toy she’d started to wave round, they ignored me, despite numerous attention grabbing tactics. I pouted and told them all my cat at home likes me, sometimes. Eventually this gorgeous tabby here and I made friends. He was purring as he lay on his back half asleep. Very Kawaii (cute)! There was also the biggest cat I’ve ever seen there (a Maine Coon). Really beautiful! He kept turning his head, avoiding me deliberately as I took pictures, fame will make you hate the camera it seems! Going to a cat café is definitely something extremely different to do and after all, that’s what Japan is all about, doing things out the ordinary!

Latimer: The Maine was the biggest cat I ever saw in my life. Like a tiny Tiger cub. But, my god, the cat café reeked of cat (surprise surprise). Might need to air out your clothes after ward!

Later that day, as we walked through Asakasa of an evening, we were asked by some Korean business men (with pretty good English) did we know the way to their hotel. We stared, laughing inside (of course we didn’t know the way). We said ‘no’. Then Ridley said; “why don’t you pop into a shop and ask?” (this seems like a straightforward statement). The businessmen stared, then shook their heads and went on their way. Of course to Ridley it seemed like going into a shop and asking for directions just wasn’t the done thing.

Ridley: There really seemed like there was so much disapproval in his face at the time, now I realise he was just perplexed! 

Latimer: I wondered- just what did the Korean man think ‘pop into a shop’ meant? Ha, well to us it’s ‘to go into a shop’. This is just an example of Irish English isn’t necessarily English-English! Pop into a shop… haha, what must that sound like? What do people think when they hear Irish people say ‘grand’? That’s probably a word that is used very regularly by us, but likely makes no sense to non-Irish-English speakers!

More later on our adventures!

We’re working our way through Tokyo and we’ve been taking lots of pictures….don’t miss out!

Book Relationships

Ridley: If I’m honest with myself, I really only like books with relationships in them. Though that doesn’t mean I exclude books without them, I just tend to gravitate away from them. But even with a blanket statement such as ‘I like relationships in books’, I can and will become even pickier. I don’t really like reading about well established relationships. Ones that have already happened and we’ve arrived more or less at the end, when ‘the get together’ is all over. I love the first moments, the awkward ones, the sqwee worthy ones; the first look, the first touch, the first kiss, the first ‘I love you’. In an established relationship, you don’t get that, you have the lovely romantic moments, the ‘ahh that’s so sweet’ and ‘you know me so well’ moments. I don’t want them. Maybe I like the thrill of the chase?

In a book or movie, after a couple have properly gotten together and it’s all happy ever after (or not), I loose interest. I don’t care if they have twenty five point five children, that Cinderella and her Prince Charming’s Kingdom tumbled to the ground around their ankles and they broke apart about a year later because his mother-in-law was a terror. I don’t want to know about any of that. It’s why I’ve avoided reading the Lord of the Rings appendices, which are supposedly very depressing. It’s also why I had mixed feelings about the very final chapter of Harry Potter, showing them married and with children, I had that all squared away in my imagination already. Nice to see J.K’s vision of how it all went but at the same time I wanted to shut my eyes (book and movie) and ears (movie) to it. (Especially to Draco Malfoy with wrinkles, some kind of scraggly beard and a widows peak! Nooo.)

This is perhaps why I I love a good young adult (Y.A) book, particularly a fantasy laced one, though a good murder mystery is always welcome. You get all these first moments in the early stages of the romance.

Of course, there has to be an actual story to it but it does need to have some sideline action *wink wink* with the characters. Even if it’s just a tiniest hint of an attraction, such as a ‘lingering look’- two words in a 55,000 word manuscript- I’ll drink it up like a parched desert wanderer. Even with the recent movie, Avengers Assemble. While I’ll readily admit I loved it without question and without any relationships in it, as such…did anyone else pick up on something happening between Hawkeye and Black Widow? Latimer and I did!

By god, after the film we were wiki-ing well into the night on that one trying to get some sort of conclusion to their relationship. A ‘relationship’ that had suddenly fully formed in our heads just based on a few looks, their mutual dark history and the fact she was in his room, alone. *cheesy grin*

Now I’ll give you two examples of books I’d probably read (though I’d probably grab up Book B much much quicker than A to be honest.)

Take for example Book A, “Inspector Martin Berking is a world renowned police detective, he’s responsible for clanging shut thousands of cell doors on criminals across the country. Respected without question by his fellow colleagues, their murmurs of appreciation ring hollow when he lies alone in bed a night staring up at the ceiling. His fantastic career is all he has. Only alcohol is his companion. That is, until Claire enters his life. He catches her shoplifting while buying his next bottle of whiskey. Late at night, on the pavement outside a convenience store, she manages to smash both his bottle and his life to pieces. When her large blue eyes beg him for help, he’s drawn deeper into her tangled, dark world, until he begins to realise that this seemingly simple case may be his last.”

(Yeah I know, I just borrowed the plot there from about a 100 different crime novels with a hardline, bachelor, alcoholic detective extraordinairé, such as Inspector Morse, Rebus, Frost, Dalziel, Taggart…I’d read it because of the introduction of Claire, but if you took her out and it was just a crime novel where some criminal bumped into him and that led to the same case but without the romance, I’d be less inclined. Also, I tend to only like female protagonists. Saying that, I have and probably will still read books like that (as in without the relationship) from time to very odd time and I definitely watch those sort of television shows- I do like trying to solve the mystery before the end, especially with David Suchet as Hercule Poirot- but I’d like the romance included. Please 😛 )

Book B would be far more up my little avenue, my hands would itch to read something like this, “Maria doesn’t know when she stopped believing in magic. As a child, she was ridiculed for her belief in her imaginary friends; the ones she used to play with in the forest behind her house. The same forest she stopped visiting when she was twelve, though she can’t remember why. Before that, she has only vague recollections of dancing bare foot in tall grass and numerous flower bracelets. Though the one vivid image that haunts her from that time, is the handsome face of a boy crowned with thorns and the whispered words ‘Wait for me’. It is a memory that, even now, shoots a shiver of fear and delight through her. It’s also something she wishes she could forget. Soon, however, she gets her wish. When a new neighbour moves in next door, she starts to develop feelings for him. As her memory of the striking boy fades and starts to be replaced by Daemon’s arresting smile, strange things begin to happen, unending tricks and jokes are played on them. Then he returns. He is older than she’s dreamt but just as handsome and as Maria begins to remember everything, her life is changed forever.”

Now, this kind of book I’d be very interested in reading-anyone written anything like it? Send me a link!- Reading a blurb like this I’d automatically think there’s a triangle love story about to happen-which if M. Latimer-Ridley was writing it, there would be-though at the same time, I’d want there to be more than just the obvious relationship as the main plot though. So then I’d question what she remembers, hopefully that leads to a nice fast paced story.  

(As an aside here- I made up this rambling ‘book blurb’, does anyone else do that? When I was younger, I used to love writing random ones on the back of my homework notebook, making them as sensational as possible, but I’d never know what was going to happen next. When I got older, I started to fill in the gaps, which lead to writing books, I suppose! Still short and fun to do! It lets your imagination flow!)

So..I’m wondering am I the only one with such picky criteria for my books and in particular, the relationships in them? Hopefully there are other people out there that are like me. What do you like to see from your relationships, perhaps established ones are best for some people? Or, heaven forbid, do you hate having any couples in your novels at all, does it detract from the story? 

I think in a future blog post I’m going to talk about my top 5 or so, all time couples and their ‘get together’ stories. That would be fun-ideas welcome!

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For now though, Latimer and I have saved our little brown pennies, euro coins and notes, and we are now able to wing our way to Japan for a two week break away. We’re sharing a twin room, where she’ll probably want to strangle me by the end of the holiday! (I don’t snore, honest… 😀 )

So there will probably be ‘radio silence’ from us while we’re gone, though I’m thinking about bringing my laptop…tempting, tempting…then you’d end up (more than likely) getting numerous posts about our Japanese adventures, posts which I’m certain will mainly be filled with pictures!

All photos in the post are from freedigitalphotos.net, thanks to them.

Recharging Batteries in Barcelona

So many sweets&so small a mouth

Ridley: I was in Barcelona for the bank holiday weekend. It was three days away, but it felt like a full week. Sometimes what you really need is to get away from the drone of your everyday existence and see new, distant lands! You come back all the better for it. And also sunburnt, in my case!

While I love the sun, my pasty Irish skin might as well belong to a vampire it burns so easily. My arms, neck and chest looked like I’d dumped a bucketful of pink blusher powder on them. Thankfully it didn’t hurt, the holiday snaps are just a bit dire.

The food stretched for miles

Also on this trip, apart from the cooking of my skin, I took the always worthwhile open-top red bus tour, ate loads of ice cream (blue bubble gum flavour from a sprawling market place, yummy!) and faced one of my fears: heights!

We went up along the side of the mountain to the fortress of Montjuic via a gondola box thing that trundled along a rope and swayed with the breeze. Once at the top, I got these lovely photographs of the view. Worth it? Perhaps…. 😛

Barcelona in all its sprawling splendor

Throughout the trip, I took quite a number of pictures of all the artistic elements of Barcelona. I thought I’d share some of them with you.

It’s-a-me, Mario! Er…Toad I mean

I travelled with people who were more interested in the city’s fine cuisine and shopping opportunities than the art it holds. Despite this, they were good enough to let me drag them round to one or two places I wanted to visit. I, unfortunately, didn’t insist on visiting the various museums though, one glance at their bored faces was enough of a deterrent! I’m certain they thought I was strange taking pictures of the graffiti on the walls, but I thought the pictures were unbelievable.

Whose hand is that though?

It’s cooler than my actual name

Another strange picture I took was of my empty coffee cup-guess who probably won’t be invited on any further holidays!! Haha.

Here’s where I was asked to give my name in Starbucks so they’d know it was my order. Though I’ve never had to do this at home, not that I minded but I think it confused matters. When he kept saying my ‘name’ with the cup in his hand. I kept telling him ‘No no, I ordered a frappuccino café, not a Reg-whatever.’ Eventually we battered down the language barrier between us and I realised it was my order. And he was repeating some weird version of my name. Oops.

Now while I know there is a Picasso museum in Barcelona, for me the one man that really represents Barcelona and kept reappearing during our time there in all sorts of places was Antoni Gaudi.

He was a Catalan architect and artist in his own way. He seems to have had the most influence on the buildings, parks and even the lampposts of Barcelona. He drew a lot of his ideas and designs from nature to create beautiful organic pieces.

Casa Batlló

Front of the building

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the buildings he designed and built, that we saw, was Casa Batlló. It is located on a main street, Passeig de Gracia. It was absolutely magnificent and really arresting. There were flowing lines and vibrant colours throughout the building, he took a lot of inspiration from the ocean.

The loft/ribcage

The roof alone is beautiful, the glossy colourful tiles covering it are meant to represent the scales of a dragon.

The roof

Nothing is conventional or boring about the house, there’s something unusual to see everywhere- in the windows, doors, handrails and the ceilings.

Even it’s roof space-the loft or attic- whatever you want to call it, was also different. With the whole house filled with colour, it’s a surprise to reach the top room and find it’s completely white and sparse. The joists jut out, enclosing the small space. They are meant to represent the bones, possibly the ribcage, of a large animal.

Their website is here, you’ll be able to see better pictures then mine.

Lamp posts

Impressive lighting

He also designed many of lamp posts that line the street. He was commissioned in 1878 by the city to create them. They are really quite stunning; though sometimes street lights are so a part of the background, they can go unnoticed. It would be a shame to miss them, don’t let them hide in plain sight if you ever visit Barcelona!

A close up on the swirls

The Park Guell

Looks like it lifted its head from drinking

The other major attraction we visited was The Park Guell. It was originally meant to have 60 luxurious houses build on the large expansive land for the rich to live in and enjoy the amazing views over the city. In the end only two houses were built and Gaudi lived in one of them with his family.

Gaudi’s work fills the park with all the mosaics and ceramic work lining the walls. There’s even a beautiful green mosaic dragon fountain, where we had to wait a good ten minutes to be able to take a picture of it. The place was swamped with other tourists.
The two buildings at the entrance to the park really reminded me of a gingerbread house, like something straight out of a fairy tale by the Grimm Brothers. They were really different.
There were also numerous colonnaded pathways in the park. They supported the road above with sloping columns, many of which were designed to look like pine trees. Really unique. It was the attention to detail that was so impressive.

The tree of rocks

Hansel&Gretel anyone?

Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família

More pretty lamp posts

The other place that Gaudi designed was the magnificent Basilica. It’s construction was started in 1882 and it’s still ongoing.Gaudi devoted his last years to it, when he died it was only a quarter of the way to completion. Now donations and the visitor entrance fees are what are used to build it.

I’m ashamed to say we ran out of time for visiting here. I would have loved to go inside, but we left it too late. I saw the façade at least and it was impressive. It was almost like something out of Mordor or Isengard really!

I will build an army! Mwhaa…

Anyone else been to Barcelona recently? I’m sure I missed out on a few fantastic places. The ones I did see though were pretty spectacular, so I’m not complaining! I also, of course, had to get the picture of this giant book on my camera:

Pretty, but with blank pages.

I wish I had a giant book in my garden…..*sigh*