David Chart's Japan Diary

May 2nd 2005

I have a shameful confession to make. On Saturday I went to Tokyo Disney Sea with Yuriko, and enjoyed myself. I am well aware that this would normally require harakiri, so let me justify it.

First, harakiri is a Japanese custom, undertaken when you do something shameful. However, Japanese adults find nothing at all shameful about going to Tokyo Disney Sea. Thus, there is no single cultural frame of reference in which harakiri is an appropriate response to my actions.

Logic-chopping is a great way to avoid stomach-chopping.

Yuriko and me at Disney Sea Yuriko and me at Tokyo Disney Sea, in front of the Aztec pyramid in the Lost River Delta.

So now let's try for something with a little more substance. In the first place, I was going with Yuriko, which raises the chances for enjoyment substantially. She received a couple of free tickets about a year ago at a friend's wedding (they were a prize in a draw, if I remember correctly), and Saturday was the last day that they were valid, so we really had to go. Further, Tokyo Disney Sea is generally regarded as being rather more adult-oriented than, say, Tokyo Disneyland. It's still Disney, though; adult-oriented doesn't mean what it normally does on the internet.

The basic concept is that of various places on the sea around the world, outside the Far East. The entrance is the Mediterranean Harbour, which has Venice off to one side, with canals. Next to that is the American Waterfront, and so on. Mysterious Island is based on Jules Verne as interpreted by Disney, and the Lost River Delta is pre-Columbian American ruins.

As you would expect, the various areas are very well done. Mysterious Island, in particular, has the steampunk feel down to a tee. The erupting volcano and strange water currents help, but everything is in a style with rivets and fins. The other areas also felt right, and I was in some ways glad that there was no medieval European area (the earliest was 16th century, Explorers' Cove), because no doubt my delicate sensibilities would have been outraged by the gratuitous mixing of radically different centuries. Of course, my natural inclination to rage against the Disneyfication of history might, just possibly, have been held in check by the knowledge that I was, after all, in a Disney theme park.

We spent about seven hours in the park in total, and spent much of that just walking around enjoying the scenery. That's a perfectly viable activity there, and most of the rides are an extension of that. We went, for example, on the Transit Steamboat ride, which is a boat that makes a circuit of the site. That was actually very useful in getting a mental map of the area, so that we could find our way around afterwards. We also went on some slightly more vigorous rides, such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This is an animatronic ride, and the cars were possibly the best bit. Each car is designed like a steampunk diving bell, with three bulbous windows and a bench in front of each. At various points in the ride you have control of a manual searchlight, allowing you to illuminate the 'ruins' around you. The cars were great, so it is no criticism of the ride that they were the best bit. Actually, the whole of Mysterious Island inspired me with roleplaying ideas.

Lovecraft Bonded Warehouse There are some things man was not meant to open.

Another amusing aspect was the in-jokes. As an American concern, the English information always came before the Japanese. I suspect that that is part of what the Japanese expect when they go there. The 'No Admittance' signs were a good example. In Japanese, they just said 'No entry except to staff members'. In English, however, they said things like 'Merfolk Only' in Mermaid's Grotto, or 'Villagers Only' in Cape Cod.

Cape Cod is an early twentieth-century New England fishing village. One of the advertisements was for 'Sensible Shoes', which I doubt was entirely genuine. However, the warehouse was easily the funniest. What, I wonder, would you find in the eldritch cases sealed with blasphemous sigils were you to enter, under the light of a gibbous moon, the Lovecraft Bonded Warehouse?

In the evening, there is a show, Bravissima, on the Mediterranean Harbour. The show is nominally about the encounter between the spirit of fire and the spirit of water, and is quite spectacular, with fountains for the water princess, and fire burning on the surface of the water and a massive hydraulic dragon frame for the fire lord. However, what struck me about it was that it is, fundamentally, a masque. There is no real plot. There is no dialogue. There are just symbolic figures that appear amid spectacular scenery, with appropriate background music. Since they run the show every day, that probably means that there are far more masques performed now than in their sixteenth and seventeenth century 'heyday'.

After that, we had dinner at an all-you-can-eat buffet, with food from all the continents of the world. It was pretty good, and Yuriko ate rather more than I did. That seems to happen rather more often than would be expected given our relative sizes.

We left about 10pm, when the park was closing, and thus the trains back to Tokyo were quite busy. (Tokyo Disney Resort is actually in Chiba, to the east of Tokyo proper.)

Yesterday, we spent much of the day looking for flats on the internet. This week we should be doing some actual visits to them. In the evening, we went to Kamata to eat sushi, and wandered around until we found a Kaiten-sushi place with a queue outside. Yuriko immediately wanted to go there.

"Why do you think people are queueing?" she asked.

"Because there's a queue, just like you?" I suggested. So, we had a look at the menu, which seemed good, and since we had no particular reason to go anywhere else we decided to queue up there.

It was a good choice. The sushi was excellent. This time, I ate rather more than Yuriko. That seems to happen quite a lot at sushi restaurants. What can I say; I like sushi.

Overall, a fun weekend. It's Golden Week here this week, which means that lots of Japanese people are going on holiday. Somewhat surprisingly, Tokyo Disney Sea wasn't at all busy. It wasn't empty, by any means, but it wasn't so crowded as to be unpleasant. Of course, national holidays make very little difference to me; I still have to do my work, as normal.

The General Election has made a slight difference, however. If you are wondering how to escape the constant election news, I can recommend coming to Japan. I imagine they will pay a small amount of attention when the results are announced, but not until then. Anyway, Mum was kind enough to send me the election leaflets for the constituency where I will be voting, so I've made my decision.

It took possibly a negative amount of time to decide not to vote for the UKIP. Reading the front of the Conservative leaflet confirmed that I didn't want to vote for them, and, indeed, could see no conceivable reason for voting for them.

That left Labour and the Lib Dems. The Lib Dems, as usual, have a bunch of policies that I generally agree with, nothing much in the way of a central idea, and no chance at all of actually forming the government.

Labour was trickier. The government has done a number of good things, particularly on international aid and socialist things like support for the poor within the UK. On the other hand, it also invaded Iraq on the basis of intelligence that it should have known to be untrustworthy (because it was told), and has been systematically undermining civil liberties. It's clearly a lesser evil than the Conservatives, who have all the negative features, plus some others including a poisonous attitude to immigrants, and none of the positives. Still, I can't say I actually support the government.

Then there's the consideration that South West Norfolk is a pretty safe Conservative seat, so it probably makes no different who I vote for. In the end, I will vote, but it's not been easy to make the decision or to summon up much enthusiasm. Given that I'm very interested in the issues involved in politics, that doesn't say much for the power of the UK system to engage people.