While looking at airbnb, the website where we booked our accommodation (by renting houses and apartments for half the price of hotels), I noticed that the host of our Tokyo apartment practiced wing chun kung fu. He kindly allowed me to join him for a lesson where I got a small taste of wing chun under the guidance of Freddy Wong, who learned from Grandmaster William Cheung, who learned from the legendary Ip Man (teacher of Bruce Lee). The lesson was fantastic, though I was frustrated that much of it went over my head because my basics were so poor. I was nevertheless deeply impressed by Freddy’s form, control of range, speed of response, deflecting and trapping skills and much more. So impressed was I that I sought him out after class and asked for a private lesson the next day, where we drilled basic habits, techniques and stances in an applicable way. The more I trained, the more I came to understand his mastery – how he had adopted wing chun to be perfectly applicable in any situation. I tried throwing him, kicking him, locking his joints and striking him, and he resisted all of them with a smile and a loose, relaxed body with unbreakable structure. Perhaps what impressed me most though was how kind he was, how unpossessive of his knowledge and humble about his skills, and most of all how happy he was as he told me “Life is good.” I wrote down everything I learned from that lesson, but I already know that most of it is forgotten as the feeling leaves my body. I think it might well be worth practicing wing chun, building my basics, and returning to train with him again some day.
One of our more memorable evenings was spent at Capbar, the Capcom-themed bar which served novelty food from Biohazard (Resident Evil), Monster Hunter, Okami, Phoenix Wright and a bunch of Japanese series which I didn’t know the English names of. It was a lot more exciting and high energy than I expected, with the staff really energising the audience and doing impressive impersonations from games (and occasionally letting out a tiny meow from the bar). We didn’t understand a lot of what was happening, but I loved yelling out “Igi ari!” (Objection!) when when they asked us “And what do we say to the sauce?!” The food was Japanese-sized (that is to say, slightly on the small side) but the drinks were fricking amazing. Beth ordered sakura sake, with actual preserved cherry blossoms in the glass, Craig went for a drink that had a mixing ingredient in a syringe, and I ordered a non-alcoholic drink with candy-floss, and a somewhat alcoholic drink of amazingness. The desserts were also exquisite, particularly Craig’s Resident Evil licker-brain with raspberry sauce blood (which our adorable waiter made him stab with a knife).
Our adventures next saw us in Tokyo Disneyland the so called “Happiest Place on Earth”. And, celebrating it’s 30th anniversary “Happy Year”, I have to say I’m inclined to agree. There is something remarkable, even magical about the atmosphere there, from the way that vendors wave at you with a smile without expecting you to buy anything, to the classic Disney songs that could be heard from a mile off and built in volume as we approached. The Japanese people get right into the spirit, and pretty much everyone we saw was wearing some kind of Disney-themed headgear (including a group of high school girls who had styled their hair into Mickey Mouse ears). People in costumes (including a rather frightening Cinderalla’s Fairy Godmother, whose masked face was hollow and lifelessly trapped in a creepy grin) appeared at designated times for photos and signings, and I truly delighted in seeing Flynn Ryder smoulder. The Alice in Wonderland cafe was particularly wonderful (forgive me), and in each of the zones within the themepark were utterly distinct in atmosphere. My most delightful moment though was when we caught the Disneyland Parade, a huge stream of floats and costumed dancers waving and performing while the crowd cheered and took photos. Something about all that music (especially that ridiculous song that spelled out M-I-C-K-E-Y-M-O-U-S-E) and confetti brought out the little boy in me, and I revelled in seeing such legendary figures as Buzz Lightyear, Princess Jasmine and even the King and Queen themselves, Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
In terms of attractions, we accidentally stumbled into a Pirates of the Caribbean ride when we were looking for a bar. It was hauntingly breathtaking and my heart pounded in my chest in wonder and excitement. We sailed a long voyage through a town that Barbossa was sacking (as Geoffrey Rush cried out “Bring me the head of Captain Jack Sparrow!”) while animatronic pirates did battle amidst the smoke of gun and cannonfire. Most thrilling of all was passing through the talking visage of Davey Jones – I thought we were going to crash into him! – as he cackled maniacally in Japanese. We rode on a carousel, caught a train through the park (which saw animatronic dinosaurs as we passed through the mountain), stumbled into a Japanese Lilo and Stitch song and animatronic performance and went on the unerringly creepy “It’s a Small World” ride. We also lined up for Space Mountain, a hypnotically trippy, somewhat unsettling (what with all the “Caution: If you do not want to ride, this is an escape tunnel” signs along the queue) blast through the darkness as we careened unpredictably up, down, left and right. It was, and probably always will be, the most ecstatically fantastic roller coaster I have ever been on, and I’m sure as Beth screamed and grabbed my hand that I was grinning the whole way yet too breathless to laugh. Finally, and perhaps best of all, we made our way to Star Tours, the 3D shuttle ride adventure where we were force-gripped by Darth Vader and blasted our way through hyperspace to engage in some sweet, sweet space battles.
Stay tuned for more adventures from the Land of the Rising Sun…