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Posts Tagged ‘Tokyo’

Image from Toho Stage

どんなに強く拒んでみせてもいつか俺を求める
No matter how fiercely you reject me, one day you’ll seek me out

I’ve written before about Elisabeth, my favorite musical when I saw it at the Imperial Theatre in Sept. 2010. That review was primarily a review of that run of the show and its actors since Elisabeth is an incredibly dense work with 20 years’ and multiple countries’ worth of shows; I’m convinced one could write several dissertations on any of the facets of the show, which is why I love it: it provides both the pleasure of consuming and the pleasure of producing analyses.

This year, I decided again to travel to Tokyo to see the 2012 Toho run show because, in addition to the excellent Sena Jun reprising her role as Elisabeth in a double cast with Haruno Sumire (my first Takarazuka love!), Toho brought on Hungarian actor Máté Kamarás for the role of der Tod, whom he had played in the Vienna revival run. Given my unenthusiastic feelings on Yamaguchi Yuichiro’s interpretation of the role, I was thrilled to be able to see an actor I actually knew I liked as der Tod on stage.1

Warning: this review has spoilers for Elisabeth the Musical as well as discussions of the musical’s themes of depression and suicide.

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The buzzword in Japan this summer is 節電 (setsuden), or conserving electricity.* For my readers back at home, this is chiefly because, as Alice Gordenker so succinctly put it in her “So What the Heck is That?” column in The Japan Times,

a huge earthquake and tsunami hit northern Japan on March 11, knocking out roughly a quarter of the electricity-generating capacity for the power companies that serve 53 million people in Tokyo, the Kanto plain and Tohoku. In the wake of the disaster there’s been a massive effort to reduce demand for electricity to levels that can be met. The alternative is scheduled rolling blackouts, or worse, sudden widespread blackouts from which it’s difficult to restore power. (“Setsuden,” 17 March 2011.)

I am fortunate to live in a relatively cooler part of the country and far from the affected zone, but while our energy consumption might not directly affect how much energy is getting out to Tokyo and the East, we are also being encouraged to setsuden. There’s been talk of deactivating some of our nuclear power plants, but there’s also a collective feeling that we should seriously reevaluate our energy consumption in general.

It’s hard to discuss setsuden without mentioning the  spirit of 我慢 (gaman), a term which means patience, perservance, and endurance and often has an undertone of sacrifice; colloquially, the phrase can mean “deal with it” or “buck up.”  (more…)

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On my trip to Tokyo in September, I happened to stumble upon a courtyard full of roses and sparkling lights.

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Part 4: Turkey and Vegetarian Sandwiches in Marunouchi

I love turkey, and I don’t just mean for Thanksgiving. I don’t think I realized just how much turkey I used to eat in the States until I moved here. Sure,  I could make chicken sandwiches, provided I get the right kind of bread at the store (ha). But nothing is like going to the nice grocery store by my old apartment and getting a quarter-pound of hand-sliced Michigan-raised turkey to make turkey sandwiches with real cheese and real bread.

Sigh.

I was back in the US briefly last week, and I think I managed to eat turkey almost once a day, including some very nice turkey my mother roasted and sliced up herself.

I won’t be ordering a turkey on the Foreign Buyers’ Club this year, for fear that  a 4-lb bird will not fit in my oven range. (Never mind that I have never cooked a whole bird.) However, I did find a sandwich shop in Marunouchi, Tokyo, that serves not only turkey “burgers” but also a decent selection of vegetarian sandwiches.


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Elisabeth the Musical
帝国劇団 (Imperial Theatre, Tokyo)
Sept. 23, 5:30 pm

Starring Sena Jun (瀬奈じゅん) as Elisabeth, Yamaguchi Yuichiro (山口祐一郎) as der Tod, Ishikawa Zen (石川 禅) as Franz Joseph, Irei Kanata (伊礼彼方) as Rudolph, Takashima Mashiro (髙嶋政宏) as Luigi Lucheni, and Kotobuki Hizuru (寿 ひずる) as Sophie.*

The Story
The musical begins in the land of the dead, in which Luigi Lucheni, an Italian anarchist, has been resurrected to explain why he murdered the Empress Elisabeth of Austro-Hungary. He replies that he’s explained over and over—un grand amore! She was in love with Death, he claims. She wanted to die! And so, to give his testimony, Lucheni resurrects the Hapsburgs to illustrate his story: Elisabeth, her husband Franz-Joseph, her son Rudolph, her mother-in-law Sophie—and the key witness: der Tod, the king of the dead. The musical follows Elisabeth’s life from the fall that sent her to the land of the dead, where der Tod falls in love with her, to her troubled marriage with Franz, to Rudolph’s revolutionary activities, and eventually, to the fall of the Hapsburg empire and Elisabeth’s assassination.

Although Elisabeth has been performed for over 20 years, those not wanting spoilers about the details of the show should stop reading here.

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Part 3: Hamburgers near Hibiya

Despite all the lovely tofu, Japan certainly doesn’t lack for meat. As I’ve written before, you can get all the McDonalds and “hamburg steaks” (ハムバーグ) you want here, but finding a hamburger on a bun with toppings and vegetables is somewhat of a trick. (And no, they don’t sell hamburger buns at the store.)

The avocado burger.

I first read about the Beat Diner in The Japan Times when it ran a special on gourmet hamburgers in Tokyo. (more…)

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Part Two: A Belgian Beer Cafe in Ginza

I Am a Beer Snob
Located on the other side of the tracks and down the road several blocks from the Trattoria Ciao, Antwerp Six stood like a beacon, guiding me out of the yellow fizzy seas of national-brand beers and into the familiar harbor of Belgian beers.

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Part 1: A Trattoria-style Italian Restaurant in Yuurakuchou

Lately, I’ve been traveling to Tokyo more, and I’ve discovered some great restuarants there. So far, my focus has been in 有楽町 (Yuurakuchou), the theatre district of Tokyo, which is accessible from the Yamanote and Tokyo Metro Lines, just one stop from Ginza. On my last trip, I went to see Trafalgar /Funky Sunshine! at Tokyo Takarazuka Theatre. Yuurakuchou is lined wall to wall with theatres, malls, and restaurants, and these are a few excellent restaurants that I happened upon while wandering around the area.

I’ve been a bit obsessed with Trattoria-style Italian restaurants ever since I saw「 バンビ~ノ!」 (Bambino!), a Japanese drama based on a manga of the same name by Sekiya Tetsuji(せきやてつじ [no kanji]. In Bambino!, Arashi-member Matsumoto Jun plays Ban Shougo (伴 省吾), a college student from Fukuoka who dreams of becoming an Italian chef. Ban travels to Tokyo for spring break to work at the Trattoria Baccanale, a ritzy Italian place near Roppongi, as a favor to his boss from his old friend, the chef. The drama focuses on naïve but bullheaded Ban, who is nicknamed Bambino by his sempai, and his struggles to achieve his dreams.

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When I got off the plane at Narita Airport and got in the line for immigration, the first thing I thought was that I should write up a guide for immigration and customs for other nervous people who, like me, would rather bathe in natto than deal with questioning and bag searches and all the potentially time-consuming and embarrassing things that can happen at this stage.

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