Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Japan Day 8

We had a feeling that we missed stuff in Akihabara, so we went back.  Unfortunately, we didn't miss anything, and just found more of the same stuff.
Then we went off to what was possibly the highlight of our trip.  I signed us up for a class with Tetsuro Shimaguchi.  He was a fight choreographer for Kill Bill.  He also played the character Miki, who was one of the crazy 88 gang.  We didn't know what to expect from this class.  We were assuming it was going to be a watered down activity made easy for tourists.  Luckily, we were the only ones in the class. Mr. Shimaguchi's translator, Kimi, asked us if we had any Martial Arts training.  We told him we all studied Kung Fu.  He was very pleased with this, because this meant he was going to be able to cover more ground in the allotted period of time.  The stances were all similar to Kung Fu so we picked them up quickly.  Once he saw this, he started throwing more stuff at us.  He was a great teacher, and a charismatic entertainer.  It was challenging, but we were having a great time.  He definitely kicked our asses a bit. This class was a mixture of real Katana technique and movie fighting.  This was like a Tiger's Fang training seminar.  In the middle of the class the translator suddenly stopped.  She said, "excuse me, Mr. Shimaguchi has never taught this before in this class, so I'm trying to think of the translation for what he is saying."  We felt really honored that he was going out of his way to throw in extra stuff to the class just for us.
Next, he and his assistant did a short performance for us.  The most impressive thing is that they were able to quickly rattle off a few moves verbally before hand and then execute them with no problem.  Their performance was INSANE!  I had to keep telling myself, "this is real.  There are no camera tricks, edits, or tape speed changes.  These guys are this good."
After the performance he taught us choreography for our own fight scenes.  He all took turns fighting with his assistant.  The choreography was amazing.  We used everything he taught us during the class.  I've done fight choreography before.  The biggest difference here is that my partner was skilled stunt guy, and a master swordsman.  He led the fight like it was a dance.  His sword guided my sword.  He made all of us look good.  He was amazing.
At that point, we were all comfortable enough with Mr. Shimaguchi to show him some clips of Tiger's Fang.  I think he genuinely liked it, and was laughing at our gags.  He posed for pictures with us and invited us to a live performance he was doing the next evening.  When we walked out of that room, we were all on on cloud 9.
Our next stop was Mandrake (man-der-ah-kay) in Shibuya.  It's probably the largest Manga store in Tokyo.  I didn't buy anything, because it was all in Japanese. I did get to hear some awesome Metal band on the radio in the store.  I asked one of the clerks who they were and he gave me a small scrap of paper that said, "Abingdon, JAP."  When I get home, I'll have to make sense of this message and get this band's music.
We grabbed lunch at a tiny family run restaurant.  The food was good, but really greasy.  After all the walking, we were just happy to be sitting down.
For dinner, we wanted to go to Fukizushi again, but it was closed on Sundays.  Ann Marie and I went out to have a really nice dinner for two in Roppongi at a place called Wan. It was on the 6th floor of a TGI Fridays building.  The place was fusion restaurant.  It was a combination of Japanese, Chinese, and Italian.  There were private booths closed of by Shoji screens and you sat on the floor on Tatami mats while you ate.  The food was awesome, the service was great, and it was cheap.  I can't give this place a high enough recommendation if you're planning on visiting Tokyo.
After dinner we met up with Steve and went to Kento's.  This is a club that plays rock n roll music from about 1956 to 1964.  The house band and the audience are dressed in 50's garb.  This band was also slammin'!  These guys were playing and singing the shit out of these songs and the audience was doing choreographed dance moves in unison. It was a total trip!  Ann Marie and I joined the fun and started dancing.  The regulars looked at us, started giggling, and then started mimicking our dance moves.  It was so much fun.  The band went into Johnny B. Goode, and I was singing along, every word at the top of my lungs.  The band leader, gestured for me to come to the foot of the stage.  I went there, and he turned his mike around and let me sing a chorus.  Luckily for me, it was in a good key, so I sang it pretty darn good if I don't say so myself.
I filled out a request form wih a few songs and wrote my name down as Richie from New York.  During the next set, the band leader pointed at me and said "Hey Richie...New York!"  Then he spoke in Japanese and the audience started laughing.  After that, he played "Great Balls of Fire" which was on my request sheet.  They ended the night with one of my favorite songs ever, "Long Tall Sally."
The perfect ending to an awesome day.

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