This has been quite a day. I started the day at the base of Mt. Fuji in the Aokigahara forest, also known as the ‘Suicide Forest’ due to the hundreds of people who have chosen the spot as their final destination (Vice did a very moving documentary you can watch here ). I’m not actually going to blog about my trip there, that conversation needs a lot more than a blog post to truly capture, instead I’ll just say this—death is one of our biggest fears, but for many living is the hard part. This is a topic I’m anxious to dig into, but not here.
While I was there I also visited the Saiko Ice Caves which were SO COOL. We’re talking ‘oh my god Christian Bale must be sitting right around the corner’ cool. I wasn’t expecting the degree of, well, danger that was very clear and very present. I’m used to visitor and tourist areas being as safe as a bounce house and tall enough to fit a giraffe but these warning signs were not joking (at least I think they were warning signs).
There is still a great deal of snow at Mt. Fuji, it was a harsh winter and the ice in the caves was thick. Luckily I was the only one there (and the only one on the hour bus ride) and I had free reign to explore and TOUCH ALL THE THINGS (another tourist attraction no-no). So I poked around and imagined my life as a superhero. It was fun and nature never ceases to remind me that it rocks.
From there I came back east to Tokyo, I managed to navigate the multiple train transfers until I got to Shinjuku. Now, at this point I had been pretty much isolated without much interaction with, well, anyone so coming into the Shinjuku station was a bit overwhelming to say the least. I figured out though (because I’m incredibly cheap) that I could walk the final trek to my Tokyo hotel rather than transferring again to a non-JR line (that will make sense to some). So I ventured out onto the streets with my iphone maps in hand. Some people budget for fancy meals, I budget for data SIMs abroad, honestly I couldn’t care less about the food, sorry foodie friends– I’ve been living on convenience store crap and green tea. Anyway I walked the 2 miles to my hotel, which really was very nice. I wanted to explore the city and this was a great way to get my bearings.
There were so many free bikes! (joking) Honestly though I do love that people here feel comfortable leaving their bikes (and sometimes purses?!) on the street with no lock. That is awesome. It makes me think too about the connection between safe societies and thrilling attractions…..
Thanks to Scott who posted about my adventures in the Haunted Attraction Industry Facebook page I met a guy who knows a lot about haunts in Japan and within a day he connected me with a friend of his here in Tokyo who was willing to go with me to The Lock Up (you need at least 2 for a reservation). This place was bananas.
It wasn’t scary, but it was a great example of how we can use scary material and imagery to create fun and engaging activities. The entrance and set design was better than a lot of haunted houses I’ve seen, it definitely set the mood. And it was packed, these places (it’s a chain) are full every night.
Once you pass the several very intimidating doors, you’re greeted by a scantily clad law enforcement agent who puts you in cuffs and leads you to your ‘cell’ which is actually your dining room.
There you’re locked up and told of the evening specials. I ordered some drink that came in a beaker with a side of what tasted like smashed up sweet tarts (alcohol and sugar, sure why not!).
Then, as you’re enjoying your eats and drinks the whole place goes into lock down. The lights go out, some heavy metal music starts playing and black lights come on.Then you can order a variety of foods that come in the form of of macabre arrangements, Freddy Krueger chicken spears, grave yard pork, drowning dumplings, you get the idea.
And then a clown comes by.
And then a panda shows up (sorry for the image quality, this was happening in lightening speed).
And the law enforcement agents chase these characters through the cell block.
There is also some criminal running around in a skull mask.
The loud speaker is booming with narration of what is happening, apparently the panda is a thief and the clown is an escaped criminal and chaos is ensuing. It’s kind of nuts. At one point I think a fire extinguisher went off….
Then the lights come back up, the loudspeaker says something and you continue on with your meal.
Again, not entirely scary but that’s not the point. It was fun, it built anticipation, and it was an engaging experience.
Not a bad way to spend a day.
Here we go!