Riding the bullet train
Riding normal trains (and bikes and taxis)
...and a ton of information on Tokyo theatre life, because that's what the original fandom was set in.
There are a few random specific notes in the post that offer real-life/canon comparisons to give examples of the points illustrated in use, but most of the information can be applied to any fandom set in modern-day Japan (specifically Tokyo/Kansai area).
I thought I'd post this here, as many people might find it informative, but it's not really a post asking for answers to some question, so if it's out of place, just let me know and I'll take appropriate measures :)
- Riding the Shinkansen - The Shinkansen, or the Bullet Train, is the fastest train in Japan. There are tracks for these trains running throughout Japan, but the one you'll likely find most often in fic is the "Toukaidou" (東海道) Shinkansen, which is the train running between Tokyo and Nagoya/Kyoto/Osaka/Kobe, among other stations. These trains carry some 375,000 people a day throughout Japan, and in its 40-year history, there have been no fatalities due to derailment or collision.
- Types of Shinkansen - There are three "types" of Toukaidou shinkansen
- Kodama ("Echo") - the slowest of the three, the Kodama stops at every shinkansen stop.
- Hikari ("Light") - All Hikari trains stop at Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shin-Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, Shin-Kobe (along with a few other stations beyond Kobe), and some also stop at a few of the other stations in between.
- Nozomi ("Wish") - the fastest of the three, Nozomi trains stop only at Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shin-Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, and Shin-Kobe (along with a few other stations beyond Kobe).
- Travel time - The following are approximate times for Shinkansen trips between Tokyo and the Kansai region (the trips usually taken by Shinkansen--trips to Fukuoka and such are usually done by plane). While "approximate," the bullet trains like all Japanese trains are remarkably on time, and the actual times will vary by only a few minutes at most, barring acts of God or technical difficulties.
- Tokyo --> Nagoya :: 1 hour and 40 minutes
- Tokyo --> Kyoto :: 2 hours and 20 minutes
- Tokyo --> Osaka :: 2 hours and 35 minutes
- Tokyo --> Kobe :: 2 hours and 50 minutes
- Tickets - Ticket purchases can be made weeks or months in advance, or the day of, even five minutes before the train leaves. There are usually small fees to pay to change anything about your tickets depending on how far in advance you do so, but even if you miss your train, if the station staff are feeling nice, they'll change your ticket free of charge. Ticket purchases can be made by cash or credit card, online, at an automated ticket terminal, or even in person at the green Shinkansen ticket windows.
- Riding the Shinkansen - Riding the Shinkansen is like riding any normal train; you purchase your ticket, slide it into the slot at the ticket barrier, take it after you get through, and sit in your seat when the train gets there. There are no security points, no checked baggage, and so it is a popular mode of transportation for its speed, comfort, and ease.
There are three kinds of tickets:
- Non-reserved seating (jiyuuseki) - cheapest seats, it is what it sounds like: sit wherever you want...if you can find a seat. Those unlucky enough to find a seat must stand in the aisles their entire trip; it's usually quite crowded, no matter the time of day. No one will check your ticket inside the car.
- Reserved seating (shiteiseki) - only a bit more expensive than the non-reserved seats, these are assigned seats. A conductor will usually come along at some point to check your ticket and be sure you're in the right seat and have paid to ride in a reserved seating car. Depending on the time of day, it can be almost empty, or packed, but usually every car is at least half full.
- Green Car seating - these are the poshest seats--roomier, more leg room, more style, and much more expensive! It's like first class to the reserved seating's "economy" status.
- Smoking/Non-smoking cars - there are usually at least one non-reserved smoking, and one reserved-smoking car on all trains.
- Bathrooms - Bathrooms on the shinkansen are usually quite roomy, being designed apparently to fit every possible passenger. The toilet is western-style, usually set back from the sink 3-4 feet, so there's quite enough room to...*ahem* fool around :) The bathrooms also, of course, lock <333
- Train Times - Shinkansen trains do not run at all hours of the day. The first train from Tokyo station to Kobe departs at 6 AM, and the last train leaves at 8:30 PM. Going the opposite way, to get back to Tokyo from Kobe, the first train leaves at 6:10 AM, and the last train leaves at 9:05 PM. It's for this reason that it would be very difficult to get back to Tokyo after a Kansai evening show ends, because most wouldn't be finished by this time. If you miss the last train, you're pretty much stuck for the evening.
- Yamanote Line - The Yamanote line is one of the major lines servicing Tokyo, connecting the biggest stations in the city on a circular loop line that takes about 1 hour to make a full circle. It's about 2.5 minutes between each station.
- Time between major stations: Ikebukuro --> Shinjuku (8 minutes), Shibuya (15 minutes), so Shinjuku --> Shibuya (7 minutes). In the context of Myu fandom, these are the stations you'll be primarily concerned with since Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, and Shibuya are home to many of the major theaters our guys perform at, including Aoyama Theater/Round Theater (Shibuya), Theater Green (Ikebukuro), Sunshine Theater (Ikebukuro), Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space (Ikebukuro), Space Zero (Shinjuku), and Shinjuku Koma (Shinjuku). Shinjuku station on the Yamanote line is the busiest station in the world (over 3 million people a day use it), and second largest after Nagoya Station. The Southern Exit (Minami-guchi) has been featured in a song by Nagayama Takashi called, of course, "Minami-guchi," and it is here that he's been known to give the occasional street performance. His clothing brand "Blossam" is sold in GAIN, a tiny story about 5-10 minutes walking out the Hachiko exit of Shibuya station.
- Tickets - Train tickets for these local lines can be bought one of two ways
- At-the-station: These tickets are purchased from ticket machines near the ticket barriers you pass through to reach the platforms. This is best if you don't ride the train very often, or aren't in a rush.
- SUICA/PASMO card: These are cards you purchase for a one-time fee that you can recharge at any JR station and simple wave over a sensor at the gates where an automated system will register your entrance into the train platform area, and when you exit it will deduct the appropriate amount from your remaining balance based on how far you traveled. It is a faster way, since you don't have to waste time buying the right ticket, and many Japanese use this.
- Train Times - trains on the local lines of Tokyo run fairly late, with many of the last trains leaving past midnight or 1 AM even. The first trains are usually out around 4:30 or 5 AM.
- Taxis - Taxis are pretty expensive in Tokyo, costing about 600yen (or more) for the first 1.XX kilometers, and generally going up about 80yen or so for each subsequent few hundred meters. Therefore, unless you're in a hurry, it's not very cost effective. Also, most taxi drivers do not know how to get to random addresses, so unless wherever you're going is well-known (stations, or large theaters, for example), you're wasting your time and money. If you don't mind directing the driver, though, they're easy ways to take the stress off after a long day of work when you don't want to bother with the trains (or when it's too late!). Important note: all taxi doors are automatic; you never open or close it by yourself!
- Bicycles - Bikes and scooters are popular modes of transportation if you live near enough to someplace that it's too short a distance to ride a train, but too far to walk. The only thing to worry about: pedestrians :) Tokyo's a crowded city, and it's never NOT rush-hour. Also, some of the guys own special foldable bikes that you can bring with you on the train, the best of both worlds! Sano Daiki recently bought a blue one and named it, "Moriyama-san," so if you see him talking about riding around on, "Moriyama-san," unfortunately he's not talking about doing the nasty with Eiji ^_~ (unless he's into those double entendres :D)
- Auditions - Unfortunately, this is the point I'm the least familiar with. I can't give much insight into how auditions in Tokyo are run beyond the fact that they EXIST. As with any other production, you're not necessarily going to be cast for the part you audition for, or cast PERIOD even. For musicals, every actor must sing something (I'm not sure if this applies to straight plays as well), and the material is entirely up to them. They may also be asked to perform on the spot some segment of the play script, either alone or with one of the other actors at the audition. Most actors work through an office (jimusho) who organizes their auditions and sets up things like interviews, though a few actors are "free," meaning they do all this on their own for the most part (Tsuchiya Yuuichi is one).
- Rehearsals - it's TOUGH being an actor in Tokyo, tough on your body, tough on your wallet, but damn rewarding if these guys are anything to go by! And where does any performance start, but with rehearsals? Generally rehearsal schedules are fit within about a month (if they're lucky), but individual actors can sometimes have as little as a week to learn their lines and choreography because of tight performance schedules and overlapping shows. A typical rehearsal period will go as follows:
- Meet-and-Greet (kaoawase) - This is where most of the cast meet each other, and usually takes place with everyone seated at a big table (in a horseshoe shape so everyone can see each other), with everyone going down the line and stating their name and offering a few words on their hopes for the production, ending with the usual yoroshiku onegaishimasu. Time period: ~1 month before opening day
- Script-reading (honyomi) - What it sounds like, this is everyone sitting around and doing a read-through of the script (daihon) as their characters. This generally takes place right after the meet-and-greet. Time period: ~1 month before opening day
- Flyer/pamphlet Photoshoot (chirashi/panfuretto satsuei) - This is the photoshoot day for any pamphlets/photosets/flyers for the performance that will be printed. Sometimes it takes place solely inside a studio, sometimes there are outdoor sessions as well, it all depends on the performance. If there are special costumes for the performance, this is also the costume-fit day (ishou-awase). For some actors, this is their first time meeting the rest of the cast, as many times there are schedule conflicts that prevent them from taking part in the meet-and-greet and script-reading.
- Rehearsals (keiko) - This is the real-deal, the long days cooped up inside a building learning dance moves, trying to hit marks, remembering lines, forgetting lines, anything and everything that you have to do to get prepped for the performance looming in the near future. Days usually start in the early morning around 8 or 9 AM and can last until 9 or 10 PM, it's hard work :P Time period: ~from 1 month before opening day to ~2-3 days before opening day.
- Fight-scenes (tate keiko) - These are rehearsal to perfect fight scenes or scenes with lots of action/running around. Time period: ~2-3 weeks before opening day to ~2-3 days before opening day.
- Run-through (tooshi keiko) - a complete run-through of the play, no costumes. Time period: ~1 week before opening day.
- Hitting the theater - the cast heads to the theater to do dress rehearsals and such at least a few days before opening day.
- Dressing Rooms (gakuya) - depending on the size of the cast and the production, this can either be a single room with the entire cast lined up at one station after another where they'll apply their own makeup and do their own hair, or the cast may actually have their own rooms with 2-3 people to a room. This is pretty much the actors' living quarters for the duration of the run.
- Dry tech run (shikomi) - depending on the size of the cast and the production, this is usually done by staff, but sometimes cast members can help out as well. This is just setting up the stage, the set, the seating, adjusting the lighting, and generally getting a feel for the theater. Actors generally have this day off to catch their breath before what will inevitably be a long run of performances. Time period: ~2-3 days before opening day.
- Baatari - There isn't really a word for this in English, so I've left it in Japanese. "Baatari" is, pretty much, a non-dress dress-rehearsal--a complete run-through of the show, in the theater in which it will be performed, just without costumes. Time period: ~1-2 days before opening day.
- Dress Rehearsal (genepuro) - Pretty much a run-through of the show, in full costume, with all lighting and sound cues, usually a couple of times in a row with a rest break between, so that the cast gets even more used to an actual performance in the theater. Friends or associates of the staff and cast are sometimes invited to view these "genepuro." Time period: ~1-2 days before opening day.
- Real Performance (honban) - Finally, after all that hard work, it's time to meet the audience! Here's what typically goes on during showtime:
- Hairimachi - Fans who arrive at the theater early can sometimes greet the actors and actresses as they head into the theater to get ready for the day's show(s). The "entering" counterpart to "demachi," it's much less of an affair.
- Sashiire - This is random "stuff" that the cast gets sent to them for free, usually by friends of the cast, or one of the cast member's office. Tea, sweets, snacks are all examples of common sashiire. This isn't limited to performance time, either--many times friends use sashiire as an excuse to drop by rehearsal halls, and this is almost a way of assuring yourself that you'll be forgiven for interrupting their work :)
- Opening Day (shonichi) - Usually the day with the most slipups, as it's the cast's first time in front of a live, paying audience.
- Demachi - Fans wait outside the stage doors to greet the actors as they leave the theater, usually offering, "O-tsukare-sama deshita!" to thank the actors for their hard work. This can be quite an affair at times, sometimes requiring theater staff to make sure no fans get rowdy or try to get too close to the actors, while at other times the actors will gladly stop and talk to everyone, shake hands, take cards or gifts, and enjoy the chance to get close with their fans. If you have the chance to do demachi--DO IT.
- Special Invitees (kankeisha) - cast members generally invite their friends to come see the show, and with the size of Tokyo theater, you can hardly go to any show nowadays without spotting a few other familiar faces in the crowd. Everyone goes to everyone else's shows. However, you don't get any special box seats generally just because you've been invited--general fans have often found themselves seated right next to the same people they've seen on stage in other venues.
- After-party (uchiage) - after the show's over, it's still not quite time to go home and relax, you've gotta go and knock back a few cold ones with the rest of the cast! There's usually some kind of uchiage after every show, though the final one when the show is truly over is the biggest and best. Kankeisha who came to see the show that evening often stick around afterward for an evening's uchiage, taking the opportunity to hang with their friends.
- Senshuuraku - The last show, the best show, the one with 15 encores, the one with the actors telling their life stories and crying and babbling about how much the performance meant to them and that they'll never for get it :D
- Post-performance - after all the hubbub's up and done, what's left? Getting paid! Tokyo actors do not receive a penny in compensation for their work until after the show is over--so they really have to stretch their funds from one show to the next!
- Sizes - Japanese apartments generally come in sizes apportioned to how many rooms you want.
- 1K - this is one room that includes a kitchen, with no separation between the kitchen area and the bedroom area. May or may not include a separate bath/shower area (as in one door leading to a bathroom, one to a shower).
- 1DK - one room with a slightly-larger-than-a-1K kitchen area.
- 1LDK - one room actually separated from the dining/kitchen area. An "L" is the standard living "space" and functions as a bedroom/living room/study, anything occupants want to use it for. Bigger apartments/houses simply add to the number of Ls. I live in a 2LDK at the moment.
- Genkan - the Japanese don't wear shoes inside, and the genkan is the small area just inside the door where outisde shoes are removed and you change into indoor slippers (or socks if you're a heathen foreigner XD)
- Toilet/bathoom area - in some apartments, the toilet and shower are combined, and in others they're separate. The bath/shower is a deep square tub (about 3 cubic feet) which is only big enough to stand up in (though it does make for a good soak if you don't mind not stretching out), with a showerhead and faucet to fill up the tub with. Shower curtains can be hung to keep water from getting on the rest of the bathroom, but aren't necessary. The shower area is designed to get wet. If the toilet is in a separate spot, there is a decently sized changing area (~3 square feet) beside the tub where the sink is. Toilets are generally western-style toilets nowadays, with a small sink on the back of the unit to wash your hands after you use the facilities.
- Kitchen - Japanese apartments do not have dishwashers or ovens included, though some electronics stores sell small portable ovens and dishwashers. Most cooking is done via stove, microwave, toaster, or rice cooker. Most apartments come equipped with a stove and refrigerator at the very least.
- Washing machine - this is really a toss-up. Some apartments have spaces for them, some don't, some have community washing facilities like a basement laundromat. Most washing machines are washing-only, and there's no space for a dryer. Wet clothes are hung out to dry.
- Bedding - another toss-up. Japanese seem pretty divided on the preferred bedding material nowadays. Some sleep on small, western-style beds, sometimes with a futon on top for added comfort (Sano Daiki, Nagayama Takashi, me), while others do the traditional Japanese thing and sleep on futon pallets on the floor (Tsuchiya Yuuichi). Modern hotels provide beds, ryokans provide only futons. Futons are also hung over the balcony railing during the day to air out, lest they get moldy or musty.
- Tables and Chairs - traditionally--in apartments at least, tables are low to the floor, and there are no chairs; you're meant to sit on small floor cushions called zabuton, and commune around the table, saving space and preserving the group dynamic. In a larger apartment, though, a more westernized setup wouldn't be out of place.
- Trash - recycling is a relatively big deal in Japan, and so all trash is separated. Some places are less stringent on really thoroughly separating your stuff, but it's generally burnables (food, paper), non-burnables (plastics--though bottles and such are to be separated into another bag from general things like plastic bags and all), aluminum cans, ceramics/others. Burnables are picked up twice a week, non-burnables once a week, and everything else usually once or twice a month--it varies by neighborhood and city. Fast-food restaurants usually have clearly labeled trash receptacles to allow you to be environmentally friendly even away from home :)
- Food - the Japanese diet is, naturally, very different from a western diet, typically incorporating much more rice and fish, more vegetables, and being generally viewed as healthier than most western meals. While Japanese people occasionally incorporate western foods into their diet, the basics are still very much the same: rice, fish, vegetables, noodles.
- Dairy Products - these aren't consumed in nearly as large quantities as they are in the west. Milk isn't generally found in containers larger than a pint or half-liter, butter comes in single-stick form, and cheese is a God-send if you can find it. This isn't generally a problem in Tokyo, but in smaller cities it can sometimes be quite an adventure to find the nearest block of cheese. A pint of milk costs approximately 150 yen where I live. (~$1.50 US)
- Noodles - Everyone doesn't have Cup Ramn for every meal. In fact, instant ramen is eaten by mostly the same people who eat it in America: poor college students and people who don't have time for anything else. There are also many other types of noodles besides just ramen: udon, soba, soumen, and shirataki.
But udon is the best
- Bread - another food group that isn't consumed in nearly the quantities it is in the west, bread does not come in loaves, really. You can buy bread in thick slices (~1 inch), 6 to a pack, for about 400 yen ($4). I've yet to find grape jam--but there's strawberry and blueberry in spades
- Fast Food - many American fast-food places (and restaurants as well) have made it big over here, albeit with prices being only slightly higher than the typical fare back home, with some of the most successful being...
- McDonald's - some of the mainstays are on the menu (Big Mac, Filet o'Fish, McFlurry), but the most popular fare are "home grown," such ask the Mega Mac (think two Big Macs :D), Filet o'Shrimp, Green Tea McFlurry, and the Teriyaki Burger.
- Kentucky Fried Chicken - it's tradition in Japan to have KFC and cake at Christmas. I shit you not. KFC stores take reservations weeks and months in advance for their holiday buckets.
- Pizza Hut - Pizza in Japan is...a strange affair. They lean more towards less traditional toppings like mayonnaise and eggplant, squid and salmon, bamboo shoots and seaweed. Also--no pizza (or Italian fare period) is complete without a healthy sprinking of Tabasco sauce!
- Money - paying for things in Japan is an adventure indeed! To avoid the gaff of having your character put everything on his no-limit Visa, check this out...
- Credit Cards - You'll save yourself a lot of trouble never using this at all, especially not an overseas one. Unless you're in a big city, most places you go probably won't take credit cards. Notable exceptions are convenience store chain Lawsons, and train stations--though train stations will only accept Japanese credit cards (or at least that's been my experience!).
- Debit Cards - Don't exist in Japan. You can't give a clerk your bank card and expect to have it withdraw automatically from your bank account, as you can in America. Bank cards can only be used to withdraw money from ATMs.
- Cash - ...accepted everywhere! XD Currency in Japan is the Yen, with 1 yen being APPROXIMATELY (read: for quick, dirty conversions) 1 US cent. There are 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500 yen coins, and larger currencies exist in paper form only: 1000, 5000, 10000 yen. There are still some 2000 yen notes floating around, but I believe they're being phased out, as I got many oohs and aahs when I paid with one a while back XD
- ATMs - Not quite as convenient as you'd think! These things CLOSE. Most bank ATMs are open from morning (7/8ish AM) to evening (8/9ish PM), and outside of those hours you can't even enter the building (where the machines are located). Convenience stores usually have ATMs (7-11 and Family Mart do, at least), and you can withdraw from machines there for a small fee, but they also do not work outside of certain hours. Holidays are another time when ATMs don't work. In short--if you have no cash on you and it's 10 PM on a Saturday, you are SCREWED :D
- Bank Transfers - can be done from bank ATMs, this is one method of paying for items purchased online.
- Post Office money transfers - can be done from post office ATMs, another method of paying for items purchased online. NOTE: Post Office ATMs do not work with bank cards. You must have a post office account to withdraw money here (or an international bank account--this is one of the few places you can use your overseas debit card to withdraw money).