Hello and welcome to July! Japan is getting ridiculous humid now to the point of being ridiculous. Yesterday, July 1st for me, my Jr. high school had final exams to instead of a) sitting at the school for 8 hours or b) sitting at the institute of education for 3 hours, I opted for choice c) GO TO TOKYO DISNEYLAND!
Right now, Tokyo Disneyland is doing a special one-week only theme centered around 七夕・Tanabata. Tanabata originated more than 2,000 years ago with an old Chinese tale called Kikkoden. Once there was a weaver princess named Orihime and a cow herder prince named Hikoboshi living in space. After they got together, they were playing all the time and forgot about their jobs. The king was angry at them and separated them on opposite sides of the Amanogawa River (Milky Way). The king allowed them to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar. Tanabata literally means the night of the seventh, and it’s also known as the star festival. It’s believed that Orihime and Hikoboshi can’t see each other if the day is rainy, so people pray for good weather and also make wishes for themselves.
During Tanabata, people write their wishes on tanzaku papers (colorful, small strips of papers) and hang them on bamboo branches. People also decorate bamboo branches with various kinds of paper decorations and place them outside their houses. The most common Tanabata decorations are colorful streamers. Streamers are said to symbolize the weaving of threads. Other tanabata decorations are toami (casting net), which means good luck for fishing and farming and kinchaku (hand bag), which means wealth.
Disneyland had some cast members dressed in yukata handing out Mickey Mouse shapped pieces of paper for people to write their wishes on. When you finished, you could tie it to either the central stand or one of the smaller ones located around the central one. Mickey, Minnie, and the rest of the gang all had their wishes hanging from the big bamboo tree.
There was also a special parade in honor of Tanabata that included a marching band playing the traditional Tanabata song 七夕様 (Tanabata-sama). It was actually really cute how the entire Japanese crowded started singing the song the moment they heard the band start playing. Mickey and Minnie came out in rickshaws as the two celestial beings along with some other Disney characters to celebrate the Tanabata season.
Despite waiting in the humidity and heat for a little over 20 minutes to keep our good seats for the parade, I was a little disappointed that the parade lasted all of 3 minutes. Still, it was really cute to see the Disney characters is a traditional Japanese setting.
The other interesting thing going on a Tokyo Disneyland was the reopening of Captain Eo, a 3D film starring Michael Jackson.
Being there opening day of the film was interesting. There was a TV news crew there taking footage of the line of people waiting to see it – the wait was over 90 minutes! Fast passes were sold out about 3 hours after the park opened and people were buying T-shirts from the gift shop and wearing them immediately. As a foreigner standing in front of the sign, I must have looked very moved by the re-installment of the attraction, because a reporter asked me how I felt “being able to experience Michael Jackson again.” I said something along the lines of “it is nice to be able to remember his music and influence on the entertainment industry,” but I kind of just babbled for a few minutes until he seemed satisfied. I have never been a huge Michael Jackson fan, I do enjoy his music, but I felt myself brought to tears during the film. I actually started clapping when he made his appearance and, thankfully, the Japanese audience joined me. Jun said he was kind of shocked they everyone else clapped – Japanese don’t do that.
The park wasn’t very crowded, so we got to go on all the popular rides two or three times, along with see all the parades and shows. My favorite of the shows in one called “One Man’s Dream.” This is a live stage show that recreates the memorable moments of the Disney animated films and cartoons. It opens with the jump from black and white to color and visits some popular moments from classic Disney films. There are great dance numbers and costumes. Due to its popularity, there is usually a lottery system in place for seats. Due to the park’s uncrowdedness (made up a word there), there was no lottery system and we got front row seats.
It was a fabulous day and I feel I have the energy to get through the last two weeks of school. I took a lot of pictures, so you should be sure to check those out on my dotphoto page (check the links).