Totoro and friends!
Once we booked our flight to Japan in January, my husband went about searching for tours and events where he could geek out to his anime-and-manga-loving heart’s content. As luck would have it, we were going to be in Tokyo during the annual International Anime Fair. To be held in Tokyo Big Sight, it was also a chance to see Odaiba, a waterfront island city in Tokyo Bay made on reclaimed land. Packed with malls, amusement centers, theme parks, and architectural wonders that make it look like one big futuristic, though odd playground for the Japanese. We got a glimpse of it (along with the view of the harbor) riding the Yurikamome line, an un-manned train that goes from Shimbashi Station (where we got on) to the island.
Tokyo Big Sight, the site of the Anime Fair, reminded P of Voltes V's Camp Big Falcon
While we would read later on that this year’s fair was scaled down compared to previous years, for Tokyo-International-Anime-Fair-virgins such as ourselves, we were still more than impressed with the sheer size of the exhibition hall and the many booths that had their anime titles—both old and new—on display. Large inflatables of Pikachu, Doremon, Detective Conan, Totoro and a few other popular anime characters hung over the jam-packed space of kids and grown-ups (including my husband), all thrilled to check out their favorite anime.
It was the shiny life-sized armor suits from the adult-geared tonkusatsu or live action series GARO, which has “Knights” fighting to save humanity from “Horrors” or demonic manifestations, that got P all giddy. C, who went with us, introduced us to a large, seated inflatable of Anpanman, a superhero popular among children whose head is made of bread filled with bean jam that can be replaced with a newly baked head. How awesome is that?
One of the installation art pieces at the Roppongi Crossing 2010 exhibit
After all the crazy, cool explosion of anime, we headed to the Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills for a look at contemporary Japanese art scene and the view I had wanted to see on our first night in Tokyo. C actually wanted to take us to the more manicured Shinjuku Gyoen for more cherry blossom viewing after the Anime Fair, but the temperature had dipped, so he suggested we were better off staying indoors. To a museum, perhaps? “We could go to the Edo-Tokyo Museum or Tokyo Tower?” I offered, peeking at the items in my itinerary, which were becoming more like suggestions rather than set-in-stone activities. But C said he had a better idea, where we could get art and a killer view in one place.
In a heartbeat, P and I agreed. Me, the girl who liked to make lists and follow them according to plan. Sure, C was the Tokyo resident and it was only natural we relied on him on where to go, but I was also starting to realize that it was surprisingly exhilarating to not follow the plan and not always know where you’re going next.
Cityscape of Tokyo at dusk
The exhibit at the Mori Art Museum was entitled “Roppongi Crossing 2010: Can There Be Art?” A question posed to a diverse set of artists and answered (obviously in the affirmative) with arresting photos and videos, innovative installations, sculptures and other forms of visual arts. But the most breathtaking vision you can see from the Mori Tower is the vastness of Tokyo dotted with city lights in the bluish cast of dusk.
Before I raised my camera to take a picture, I stopped and just looked: this city, one of the biggest in the world, stretching out to the horizon in a seemingly endless flicker of lights. So this is what happens when you don’t always follow the plan and see where the day (or in this case, a friend) takes you. You get pleasantly surprised and a knockout view. Years back, while a friend and I sat in front of an open field and the conversation turned personal, she asked, “Why is it when faced with something vast before us, we can’t help but look inward?” I didn’t have an answer then. Faced with the sheer size of a bustling city, or a mountain range, a canyon, an ocean, we get to see just how small we are and have to wonder where we fit in all this. It was time for a drink.