Monday, September 17, 2012

Leaving Tokyo is such sweet sorrow.....

The excitement continues!!!!  Our trip to Japan has been a whirlwind, but an amazing one.  It’s hard to believe we’ve only been here two weeks; I think most of us could be here for a month or more with no problem.  But, without further ado, on to the events of the second week in Tokyo!

Things started off strong on Monday.  After a very late night bowling and singing, we woke up very early and made the trek on the train out to watch Grand Sumo at Ryogoku Kokugikan.  What an amazing experience!  There were very few people there, but that allowed us the ability to sit together as a large group and witness a sport that we know very little about and talk about it together.  They also had the most amazing soft serve ice cream any of us have ever had…..vanilla and mocha swirl.  That was my lunch. 

After watching for a few hours, the majority of us headed home to rest a bit.  I went to lunch with David at my favorite Ramen place, and we headed to find a chopstick store that Rie had told us about.  Only one stop away on the train, it was pretty easy to find….eventually.  We took a bit of a wrong turn (my fault) and stumbled upon this amazing dessert place.  I noticed it because the façade had a large candelabra with what looked like donuts dripping icing hanging from it….mmmm…..donuts…..David and I sure like donuts, so we stopped by the place; Live Sweets.  We found that though they LOOKED like donuts, they were actually custard.  Regardless, it was amazing.  We back tracked and found the chopstick store, Ginza Natsuno.  With a huge array of chopsticks in various sizes, materials, colors and prices, David and I shopped for over an hour.  Following our shopping spree we headed home so that I could do some laundry and rest a bit; only to find out that I would be going on for Johnny Cash that evening!!!  My Japan debut!  It’s hard to describe how I felt that night.  I was on stage in Japan for the first time, and it had been almost 2 months since last I had performed.  I got to perform with all of my buddies in the cast, with the addition of Levi Kreiss, who won the Tony for his portrayal of Jerry Lee Lewis on Broadway.  That was enough to make it a special evening….add to that the fact that I went out to greet our fans with Eddie (our Elvis), and it just happened to all be on the eve of the 1 year anniversary of us starting rehearsals for tour.  It was truly an exceptional night.  Though, I could tell I was starting to get sick….

Tuesday was our day off, so we all met very early and headed out to Tokyo Disney Sea!  There is so much to tell about this park, but it’s so hard to describe.  The sheer scale of the park is what is so amazing.  It’s just so huge.  And all of the buildings are actual size.  The park is so clean and so detailed.  The food is fantastic, and the rides were so much fun.  My favorites were certainly 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Storm Riders, The Tower Of Terror and Indiana Jones.  I took more pictures there than I have ever taken at an amusement park.  I walked around in awe all day.  I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing!  I felt about 5 years old again, and it was great.  We had a long, tiring but fantastic day, and headed back home to rest up for more adventures. 

By Wednesday morning I had a full-on cold.  But, I wasn’t going to let that stop me from having fun.  I had a hot bowl of Ramen before the matinee, and after the show David, Jam, Austin, Katie, Kelly and I went to a place called Nabezo for Shabu-Shabu and sukiyaki; similar to yakiniku, you cook your meat yourself.  However, it is boiled in either a soup-like broth, or in a sweet soy mixture.  It was fantastic.  Though, it took us a while to figure out what we were doing because we didn’t have Rie to help us this time.  Later, we visited the Tokyo Tower, where we were able to ride an elevator up the highest observatory…..250 meters in the air.  You cannot imagine how expansive Tokyo is.  I mean, we all knew it was a big city, but we didn’t realize it was THAT big.  It took as many pictures as I could, though some didn’t come out all that well because we were there at night. 

Thursday came, and I still wasn’t feeling much better.  After a hot bowl of soup and the matinee, I took a nap before a small group of us headed to the ACT Theatre to see the tour of Chicago.  I had a few friends in the show, so it was great to see a show I had never seen, and to hang out with them afterward.  It was a great night, overall. 

I slept in a bit on Friday and met Jam, Kelly, Katie and Lee for breakfast in our building at a place called Jean Francois; a nice little French bakery with delicious pastries and iced coffee.  Once we were fueled and ready to go, we took the Ginza line train all the way to the last stop: Asakusa. 

There we shopped for a while on historic Nakamise Street, and visited the Senso-ji Temple, one of the oldest and most important in Tokyo.  Once again I took a million pictures and got my pilgrimage book stamped.  It was a very warm day, but totally worth it to see the temple and the HUGE pagoda nearby.  And, to get some gifts for family and friends.  On our way back home, we stopped at the chopstick store again, AND, I got to get a couple of pins to add to my tour jacket from the Hard Rock Café in Roppongi!!!!

After the show that evening, the Thunderstudies and I were asked to take part in what became not only one of the highlights of tour, but also a truly lifechanging event.  We were asked to speak to a group of 70 students who are learning English.  They had all seen the show that evening, and were so excited to meet us.  We sat on a small stage and introduced ourselves, and then mingled through the crowd, talking to large groups of people, and getting to know one another.  Within moments, the language barrier completely broke down.  They were excited to use their English when speaking to us, and we were excited to use what little Japanese we know to speak to them!  They offered us pizza and Kirin beer…..but, most of us didn’t even care to eat or drink because we were having so much fun talking.  We posed for a bunch of pictures, and were even given a gift: pigeon cookies (see the picture here of one of the students presenting me mine).  Very famous in Tokyo, and they come from Kamakura, where we had been only a few days before.  Eventually we had to leave, but none of us really wanted to.  It was so nice to connect with these people, and to see the pure excitement on their faces that we had taken the time to come and talk to them.  Just incredible. 


Time was growing short in Tokyo, and we were all starting to realize how much we really didn’t want to leave.  On Saturday, Billy got the chance to go on as Elvis at the matinee, and the theatre was nice enough to provide us with some amazing pork cutlet sandwiches from Maisen, another popular place in Tokyo.  Following the eveing show, we were invited to try a few different varieties of sake. 

In between shows on Sunday, we were cooked an amazing meal.  Noodles, octopus, dumplings, and even some KFC.  And yes, even THAT is better here.  They also made us an MDQ cake!


 Before the evening show we all gathered on stage and were presented a series of gifts from our presenters and the theatre staff.  Most important of which, is an MDQ t-shirt with the names of every single cast and crew member, including the local crew!  It’s something I will treasure for a very long time. 

Well, we just finished our final show here in Tokyo, and our final night awaits.  Tomorrow we will be heading to Osaka on the bullet train, and though we are excited for a new adventure, it’s hard to leave Tokyo.  These people have given us so much, and there’s no way to repay all of the kindness they have shown us. 

I hope you enjoy the updates from the road, and please stay tuned for more news from Osaka!!!

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