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Odaiba

Posted on 2007.07.24 at 11:20
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Odaiba, the manmade Island east of Tokyo (considered part of it), is home to several theme parks and monstrous shopping malls. The subway line that runs there winds its way up and over Tokyo harbor, and all the glorious skyscrapers and flashing, neon restaurant boats drift by like the low rolling fog that surrounds them in the rainy season. I went with Yoko. We ate Italian food for lunch, which, though presented as gourmet and charged accordingly, looked, smelled, and tasted exactly like Chef Boyarde. This last sentence reads like a diss, but the only thing I meant to protest was the price. We both paid a little extra so that we could get free refills from the juice bar, and, so that we felt wholly like we got our money’s worth, we each downed about four tall glasses of this bright neon green syrupy melon soda that was so sweet it invoked involuntary chill spasms. After this, we hit up the cat store: a store shaped like a giant cat that sold everything cat related except for actual cats. Here we bounced off the walls and burped neon green gas and bought Miki some cat stuff for her birthday.

Small interlude: Miki likes cats. Yoko likes pigs. Yuki likes Mickey Mouse. In Japan, many of the friends I have made have some kind of favorite animal or cartoon character, and they become ecstatic whenever anything relating to this animal or character is presented to them. Yoko flips whenever a cartoon pig dances across an advertisement on a screen in the subway, and Miki likes cats. Easy to shop for, these girls.

We then entered the giant, round, sliding doors of JoyPolis, Tokyo’s largest indoor amusement park. The first thing we did was buy a day pass (around $35), which enabled us to go on any ride we wanted until 22:00. We got there at about 14:00, so you can imagine how many rides we went on. Actually, we didn’t stay all the way until ten, as our ride lottery tickets could not be exchanged for prizes after 20:00. Each time we went on a ride, we got our card stamped, and various additional numbers of stamps corresponded to various additional lottery credits. The more attractions ridden before exchanging the tickets, the greater the additional amount of credits awarded per ride. We ended up winning free ice cream and a bunch of coupons and two chocolate pirate coins. The virtual reality rides were dizzying: they strap you into a little convertible and then scoot the thing forwards 10 meters or so into a dark room with a big screen and about one million amperes worth of audio speakers. The screen lights up to depict a space battle or jungle jeep ride or something like that, and the convertible jostles around and sprays the riders with hot air and steam, when appropriate. Tilting the convertible forward and introducing cold wind in our faces in reality when the jeep falls of a cliff and plummets toward white water rapids in virtual reality is surprisingly convincing. Yoko screamed and laughed and punched me. Then she said her stomach hurt. We rode several of these virtual reality roller coasters.

The haunted house was, thankfully, narrated in Japanese, and so I did not understand specific motivations of the characters. When torn out hearts and ghoulish zombie children came rolling and stumbling out of the dark, though, I think I understood as well as anyone what was going on and what was expected of me. The premise, as I think I understand it, was that a deranged old witch mother with a dead little daughter takes the corpse to a haunted shrine and uses the counterfeit souls of the daughter’s old doll toys to trick an evil spirit into accepting them in exchange for reanimating the daughter. We are first debriefed by a uniformed worker, who talks slowly and deliberately with wide eyes. This frightful woman then escorts us into a dark hallway and abandons us after telling us we are not allowed to exit through the entrance. The hallway is decked out like the interior of a traditional Shinto temple, only there are occasional quick flashes of candle light from very convincing electric candles (or were they tv screens?) up and down along the way. This, and shadows dart back and forth emitting faint, whispery voices in the split seconds during which the hallway is slightly illuminated. Yoko made me go first, and she clung to my back and screamed in my ear until we finally found our way in to a wooden room with a lot of little dolls lined up along the walls. We sat at a table and were again debriefed by another costumed JoyPolis personnel (again, a great actor), who this time explained that a little talisman which he placed on the table would protect us from any harm. We were made to wear headphones, and the actor departed suddenly. The next 5 minutes were very scary, and I mean it really, even though I didn’t understand most of the Japanese I heard. The room was full of hidden screens and humanoid robots, and the stereo panning on the headphones accompanied the action perfectly. There was suspense and surprise release, over and over, until I think the old which got killed by her daughter before the lucky talisman blew her up along with her evil doll minions. Hot air spewed from hidden vents in the table when the old witch got gutted. I honestly thought I’d been splattered with blood! Similarly when the talisman blew up. The coolest part, though, was when the old witch was gathering ingredients for her evil stew, and the stereo panning followed her scissors as she snipped hair from above our ears. I wanted to raise my hands to my ears, but I didn’t dare. Scratch that; the coolest part was when Yoko got too scared and screamed and then jumped on me and punched me in the chest.

We also went dragon-egg hunting in an Eragon (that new live action fantasy movie) “course”, in which we were guided by enthusiastic actors dressed like elves from Tolkein’s Rivendell. We had to all touch one of the guide’s swords together and shout something that I have now forgotten to get the sword to light up and blow down the doors to the dungeon. We got chased away by an evil ogre monster (another convincing actor in an awesome costume; man I wish I was a little kid again so I could get a costume like that and trick or treat). Additionally, we rode a giant mechanized skateboard up the sides of an enormous half pipe. During this ride, if the players both tap their feet on corresponding points of the skateboard at the precise moment in which the board is at the bottom center of the half pipe, the board begins spinning as it swings up the ramp. Continue tapping successfully, and your board racks up points on a giant display monitor. Whoever has the most points at the end wins. I tried hard the first time and we sucked. The next three or four times, though, I lifted up my feet and let Yoko control the whole board. We got second place out of the whole day’s worth of riders. I congratulated Yoko, and she responded as usual: “of course”. Finally, my favorite “ride”: House of the Dead Number 4. The abrupt and slightly robotic voice at the beginning says “Grace has lost contact with her partner, Jude, and is forced to wander aimlessly”. This is the only background we get of this terribly gruesome shooter video game, in which both players hold realistic semi-automatic guns and shoot body parts off of attacking mutant zombies on a large and rounded television screen. When grenades are thrown or when a zombie barfs on your character, hot air is blown and the platform jostles accordingly. Yoko got a top score for headshots, and she’d slap me whenever I’d let an easy zombie bite my face. Sometimes, friendly non-zombie characters would warn us to “turn left quickly!”, and the entire platform on which we stood would swerve suddenly to the left to face a new screen, and some grizzly rotting monsters would be waiting to attack. We made it halfway through level two. I think we played 6 or 7 times. It was completely awesome.

That’s it for rollercoasters. We played air hockey, but Yoko destroyed me 9 to 2 in a little under a minute, so we had to move on to darts and whack-a-mole. I won some prizes, here, and restored my faltering pride. I got us two inflatable swords which we fought with for the rest of the evening, and I also got an inflatable squid backpack with “rather bad smell of squid” written on it in large kanji. By the time we got back to Naka-Meguro, we were both peko-peko (famished), and so we hit up Art Café for some shrimp toast. Some drunk guys poked fun at my backpack, and Yoko and I teased me and the backpack and them until we were all friends. We left before they bought us any alcohol. We then watched a Casino Royale at my place. A wonderful day of total indulgence. That’s kablamo.

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