Thursday, October 4, 2012

The end of a lifechanging trip. Thank you, Osaka.



Hello, everyone!  This blog is a bit overdue, but that's because it took me a few days to get over jet-lag, and I've been enjoying laying low and spending time with my parents.  So, here's what our time in Osaka was like!  But first, a little about our last days in Tokyo!

We closed the show in Tokyo in the strangest of ways.....on a Monday matinee.  I'll probably never utter that sentence again in my life.  Still not feeling all that well, I went back to my room to chill, and to figure out how to pack all of the little goodies I had gotten in the two weeks we had been there.  Once I had finished that, I met Kelly and a couple of other people in the hotel bar.  The hotel was nice enough to give us drink tickets for their bar, so we enjoyed a free drink before heading to one of the strangest places I have ever been: Alcatraz ER.  What a weird, freaky, totally non-sensical place.  First of all, Kelly and I were escorted to a cell.  Yes, a prison cell.  However, the ceiling was maybe only 4 1/2 feet high, so we had to essentially crawl in and sit on the floor.  All of the waiters were dressed as doctors, the waitresses as naughty nurses.  All of the food was served in bedpans.  I drank a purple drink out of a bloody severed head.  Get the picture?  After a jailbreak featuring clowns brandishing machetes, we decided we had had enough of a freakshow for the evening, and headed to meet some of the cast at the Abbot House.  After a relatively uneventful evening, I returned home to get ready for our trip to Osaka the following day. 

On Tuesday morning we all gathered in the lobby of our hotel to travel to Osaka.  I don't think anyone was really ready to leave.  We had all had such an amazing time, and though we were looking forward to the adventures ahead, we weren't ready to say goodbye to Tokyo yet.  We took a long caravan of cabs to the train station, where the entire cast got onboard a bullet train.  I don't know that anyone in our group had ever been on one.  But let me tell you.....that thing moved FAST.  Apparently, the train has a top speed of 178 MPH.  Which, having been on the train, I can attest to.  It was hard to even look out the window because it was moving so fast that the buildings and trees were a blurr.  But, it was one hell of a ride. 

We got into Osaka about 3 PM, but our bags traveled seperately, so we weren't able to unpack.  But, a large group of us had tickets to see the Hanshin Tigers baseball team play that night!  Austin, The Jam and I dropped our carry ons at the hotel and went in search of the rain.  We found a great burger chain, Mos Burger, near the hotel, and headed back to the hotel to meet the others. 

Unfortunately, shortly after we arrived at the stadium, it was announced that the game was cancelled.  We were all pretty dissapointed, but we made the most of it.  We visited the team shop (you all know how much I love schwag) and bought stuff for ourselves and friends back home, then headed to a place for a late dinner.  We packed into a room that was a little stuffy, but had a pretty fun and good meal at a place called Shirokiya.  Once dinner was finished, we headed home. 

While wandering around in search of a new watering hole, we stumbled upon this place called Rock Rock.  A little bar on an upper floor that played only classic rock music; exactly our speed.  The bartenders were so nice, spoke excellent English, and solidified the fact that we would certainly be returning quite a few times.  I can easily say it is probably the best bar I've ever been to.  In ANY country.  Following our time there, I invited a few people back to my room to chill and talk for a bit.  It was a pretty great first day in Osaka, the game being rained out notwithstanding. 

The following day, things were a little scattered.  As it was our only full day off in Osaka, people were going in a bunch of different directions.  I went with Kelly, Derek and a few other people to an amazing little restaurant, Planet3rd, for a great breakfast.  And, in the course of eating, we decided, along with Austin and our friend Rie, that were all going to take a trip to Kyoto.  Kyoto was about an hour away, and an older part of the city filled with gorgeous sights and many many temples.  So, a bit after noon, we headed out!

We took a series of subways and elevated trains to get there, and when we did, we were all pretty hungry.  After walking for a bit, we decided it was time to eat.  We stopped at a small, unassuming little place.  It was fantatic!  Rie helped us order, and we had some of the best Ramen we had while we were in Japan.  Like everything else we ate, it was kinda perfect. 

We headed to our first temple, and just barely caught it before it closed.  And, we were all glad we did.  The Sansjusangen-do Temple was certainly one of my favorites.  All of the smaller buildings surrounding the main one were painted a beautiful sunset-like orange.  However, the main temple was breathtaking.  Inside, there were tons of statues depicting gods, most of which were derived from Hindu.  Most importantly, there were over 1,000 gold Buddha statues.  Each one looked identical to the naked eye, but each face is slightly different.  In fact, Rie told us that it is said that you can find your face in one of the many statues.  Kinda an amazing thought. 

From there we walked around quite a bit.  I'm not sure exactly how far we went, but it was at least a couple of miles.  We ended our time in Kyoto by heading to one of the most beautiful places I saw when we were in Japan: Kiyomizu Temple.  We somehow got there just as the sun was setting, and I was able to take some fantastic pictures from the high vantage point.  It was truly incredible to be there as the sun was setting and see just how gorgeous the temples and countryside were. 

As the sun came down, we walked around the grounds, that reminded me quite a bit of Central Park.  We actually ended up meeting up with Lee, Chris, Billy, Rosie and the Jam as we were leaving, and a few of us headed to a place to grab a bite, Morincho, for sushi.  We took the long train ride back, and I went to another late dinner with Rie, Katie and Austin for soba at Naniwa Soba.  Though it was good, I liked Ramen quite a bit better than the buckwheat soba noodles.  As I did every night until we left, I headed to Rock Rock with a couple of people for a memorable night of air guitar and fantastic conversation with the bartenders and customers alike. 

Our first show in Osaka was a matinee on Thursday, which was an interesting way to start the work week.  Before heading to the theatre, a group of us went back to Planet3rd for breakfast.  But, the interesting thing was, from 10-10:30 they only serve one dish....luckily it was fantastic.  At 11:30 we all met in the lobby and walked as a group to the theatre.  Though a bit different from the theatre in Tokyo, the Orix Theatre was still stunning, and we were welcomed with open arms.  The first show went quite well, and then we had the evening off.  After dinner at a place....I couldn't tell you the name....or what I ate.....but it was GOOD.....I walked around with Derek and The Jam.  Technically we got lost, but luckily stumbled upon the Osaka Hard Rock Cafe, so I was able to get my pins!!!  From there, he and I headed to the Dohntonbori area to take pictures of some of the coolest storefronts with GIANT 3d octopus, blowfish, crab and dragons above the doors.  We had gone the night before with Rie, and she told us we couldn't visit Osaka without posing in front of the famous Glico Man.  So, Austin, Katie, Rie and I all posed, and a couple was nice enough to take a picture for us.  Anyway, after wandering around with Jam, we guessed Rock Rock.  I air guitared all night.  I felt like I was 12 again.  In the best way. 

As we woke up Friday, it began to sink in that we only had two more days in Osaka, and ultimately our trip to Japan was coming to an end.  It was crazy to think that all we had experienced all happened in 3 short weeks.  It felt like we had been there for months.  But, we knew we wanted to live up the last 2 days.  Friday was a full day, with 2 shows, rehearsals for the Thunderstudies (I'll get to that in a bit) and me rehearsing on my own (I'll get to that if it comes to fruition).  And that clockwork....I went to spend some time with my new friends at Rock Rock. 

Saturday.  Our last day in Japan.  Saturday was also a full day of goodbyes, tears, but also a lot of laughs.  We strangely had a noon matinee and a 5 PM evening show.  In between shows, the Thunderstudies and I played Happy Trails for not only our Japanese presenters and friends, but also to Levi, Dan and Eddie.  They joined us for only a very short time, but we had a great time with them, and they will be sorely missed.  Following the evening show, we were lucky enough to meet the former Prime Minister of Japan.  What an honor.  He's a huge Elvis fan, so he watched the show with some friends and dignitaries, and then joined us onstage for photos. 

We all went back to the hotel to finish some packing, and all went seperate ways for food with the plan to meet up later....yessiree Rock Rock.  I, and a few other people went back to Planet3rd for food, and I had the BEST thing I had the entire time I was there.  And trust me, that's saying A LOT, since everything was fantastic.  It was a "California burger steak": a bed of rice, mashed potatoes, and amazing sauce and the burger.  It was the BEST seasoned piece of meat I have ever had.  Very similar to a meat loaf.  On top of that was a perfect tomato slice, and almost and entire avocado.  It was fantastic.  Then, we all headed out to Rock Rock and had a great last night.  It was a bit tearful toward the end, as I knew it would be my last time going there.....or WAS it???.....

The next morning we had a 5:30 AM call in the lobby.  Thinking ahead, I decided to get stay up most of the night before until 1 AM, sleep until 3:45, and get ready for the flight.  As I found out, Rock Rock was open until 5 AM, so I went over to say one last goodbye before gathering my bags and heading to the lobby.  Once there, we took a bus ride to the airport, and after some last minute souvenir shopping, we boarded the plane for Narita (Tokyo).  After a short layover, the majority of us boarded the plane for JFK in New York, a 12 hour flight.  We left at 11 AM on Sunday (this becomes VERY important a few lines down).  I was a bit worried that I wouldn't be able to sleep, or that the flight would be terrible, but really it was just fine. I slept for quite a long time after staying up for an hour or so, and before I knew it we were in New York.  When we landed in NYC, it was 10:45 on Sunday morning.  So, I had officially repeated a full 12 hours.  Crazy travel day.  After a 6 hour layover, I headed back to Maine to battle jet lag for a few days, and to get ready for my next adventure. 

It was great to be home with my parents for a week and not have to really do much of anything.  The weather was a little rainy and cold, but that's ok. 

I unpacked and repacked all of my stuff for the next leg of tour, and flew down to Georgia last Monday.  The following day I started rehearsals for Little Shop of Horrors here at the Springer Opera House.  I haven't been here for 6 years, but is still one of my favorite theatres.  Not only do I get to perform for the first time on the main stage, it is my first regional theatre job as an Equity member.  I'm pretty excited. 

Although the tour is on break until late October, I will still be blogging about my experience playing Orin, the Dentist.  And when I close the show here, stay tuned for all of my news from our second year on the road! 

Enjoy, everyone, and I'll be back soon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1