Kana!

After three years I finally got to hang out with Kana again!  When I was a senior in high school Kana came from Japan to America and lived with me for a very short amount of time, but we have kept in contact ever since, and I consider her a good friend (I have reason to believe she thinks the same of me).  Kana is two and a half years younger than me, and one of the sweetest people I have ever met.  When she came to America we had a lot of fun despite hardly being able to talk to each other at all.  Her English (or, what she was comfortable using) was very limited, and my Japanese wasn’t much better than her English.  But over the last three years Kana and I have been emailing back and forth, me in Japanese, and her in English, so that we could both practice and stay in touch.  When I told her I would be coming to Japan she was just as thrilled as I was, and because she has three siblings who attend college in Tokyo, she travels frequently all the way from her home in Miyazaki to Tokyo, and arranged a trip to spend a weekend with me.

We met up on Friday.  Right after I got out of class, I met with her in Shibuya and was immediately given a big hug.  We took train after train after train to Tokyo’s Disney Sea.  When we finally got to our last train, the station and the train were all themed for Disney!

Tokyo has a Disneyland just like America does, but Tokyo also has Disney Sea, which is the only one in the world.  Why it’s specifically Disney Sea I don’t know, since it has pretty much nothing to do with the sea other than that there is a Little Mermaid area in it (which is more Disney than sea anyway).  But Kana decided to take me here since it is the only one and she admitted to going frequently and loving the place.  It is a relatively small park, with only about 10 rides, if that.  The whole place is based more on visual appeal than anything else; every area was constructed to look really cool, like you were really in a whole new place.

A huge water fountain globe thing at the front entrance.  It was much more pretty in person.

The buildings had the coolest look to them.

I don’t even know, but it was cool looking.

The volcano leading to the Journey to the Center of the Earth ride and the Aladdin area from afar.

Pretty waterfall, pretty rocks, pretty flag, pretty everything.  And essentially EVERYONE there had one of those towels.  It was just a small towel that had a hood and Velcroed together in the front, all different characters.  It was so hot I didn’t understand why everyone was wearing them, but then I remembered Japanese people hate getting tan at all.

It really looked like the center of the earth might look in there.  I tried to take pictures but it was too dark.

A setup in line for Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Kana, Goofy, and me.

This was a new ride with flying carpets.  But just look at how much effort is put into the visuals!!

There were so many children wanting to take a picture with Rajah that I couldn’t have gotten a picture of just him.

On the ride for Sinbad.  Not a film I recognized.  This ride was like Pirates of the Caribbean meets It’s a Small World.  It was a slow boat ride that had that pirate, adventure, hero theme, but was full of constant singing and morals by small robotic people.  Hearing Disney-like tunes sung in Japanese was quite interesting.

From what I could tell, this guy was actually a friend, not foe…..

Sinbad’s little tiger friend was just too cute.

Fish are not allowed to smoke on the Flounder ride.

And just in case you were considering it, you are also not allowed to open umbrellas on this roller coaster.

Just stunning.

My camera refused to pick up the background, but we are in front of the whole Ariel’s Playground area.  It was essentially the kiddieland of Disney Sea, with jungle gyms, small rides, fun mirrors, squishy flooring, and interactive maze-like areas.  It was my favorite place, actually… heh…  And when Kana found out that my middle name is Ariel she squealed “CUUUUTE!!” so apparently we both have a liking for The Little Mermaid.  I also found out that Japanese people don’t have middle names, which is a bit sad in my opinion.

The ceiling in Ariel’s Playground.

Blowfish kiddie ride.

You can’t really tell, but this is a fun house mirror that made us super tall.

This was too creepy to belong in a kiddieland.  Ursula’s eels said things to you from the walls as you walked around this area, and then you could go look into this hole in the wall where their faces were, but when you tried to touch them, you found that you could slip your entire arm into the opening and they were so far away you couldn’t touch them.  But it was so elusive that I had a hard time getting up the nerve to even keep my hand in there long enough to take a picture.  You kind of have to experience it to understand.

Meet Duffy.  Duffy is Disney Sea’s mascot, and you can not get Duffy merchandise anywhere else.  Even Kana couldn’t explain to me why Disney Sea would adopt some random bear as their mascot, when it has nothing to do with Disney or Sea, but it is what it is.  Also, Kana is pretty much obsessed with Duffy.

Shellie May is either Duffy’s girlfriend, or just another Duffy to appeal to the young girls.

More awesome scenery.

The dough was very doughy and a little bit sweet, and the middle was some sort of meat (sausage?) and I think onion.  I forget what Kana said it was called, but where in America you would find a hot dog stand or maybe a pretzel booth, this was the booth’s food of choice.  I also ate caramel popcorn later on… nothing special though.

The Tower of Terror.  It was actually pretty scary!!  What was better was that we got on right as the fireworks were going off for the nighttime Fantasmic show (clips below) so when we were taken to the top and given a look out the top window right before plunging to our deaths, we got to see beautiful fireworks!  And I LOVE fireworks.

The next day Kana and I met up again and we spent most of the day shopping.  It was nice to just hang out with her.  As usual conversation was limited, but we were able to communicate enough to have plenty of fun.  Shopping in Shibuya is amazing.  It’s almost as if the entire city is built as a mall.

And then Kana introduced me to Purikura.  This was either the best or the worst decision she has ever made, because I was immediately addicted.  Essentially you take pictures like in American photobooths, but you go inside of a fantastically lit area that can fit a whole lot of people and has a green screen.  You then get to pick your backgrounds for 6 pictures, all for 400 yen (about $5).  Then you go into a second section of the booth, where you get to hand decorate your pictures.  It is downright amazing.

Decorating our pictures.

I’m sorry the quality on the first three pictures is so bad.  When you do the Purikura, you get to send two to your phone, where you can email them onto your computer, share them with friends, set them as your background, etc.  Kana chose the last two to send to her phone, so the rest of them I had to take pictures of with my digital camera.
Then we met up with her two sisters and her brother and had yakiniku (barbeque, Japanese style).  They were all so incredibly nice and comfortable to be around.  Kana kept picking on the sister closest to her in age, which was entertaining, and her brother was very amused by my cavewomanly Japanese.  Everything was absolutely delicious.  We had so many things come out that after a while I stopped asking what everything was, but among what I ate was beef (I had been missing it), pork, tongue (it was quite delicious, especially in lemon sauce), bibinbo (a Korean bowl dish with rice, vegetables, some meat, kimchi, and a half raw egg), a strange tofu dish, and plum noodles.

The bibinbo.

The sister behind Kana and me is the older one (26) and the sister (23) in front of her brother (26) is the one Kana picked on all night.  I learned how to say “crazy” and “weird” from all of it, but forget the words now.

Melted butter on beef slices, and pork pieces in a yummy sauce.

And then the lights went out, and a group of servers came in singing Happy Birthday.  Even though it was already a month past my birthday, Kana and her siblings had asked them to come in and we got this delicious dessert, with green tea ice cream, vanilla ice cream, berries, bananas, cake chunks, whipped cream, and chocolate syrup to make our own cones with.

Instead of mints coming with the bill, they have dessert gum.

After dinner we walked to the station together and parted ways, but I plan to try to go to Miyazaki sometime before I leave Japan, so this won’t be the last time I see Kana.  It’s great to know that I have a friend who, despite a strong language barrier, I can hang out with and have so much fun with.  I feel blessed.