Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T: Oh, the places you'll go!

This is my contribution to the A to Z Blogging Challenge, in which I'm focusing on overseas destinations I've visited. Can't believe I have only seven A to Z posts to go...yippee!!

T is for Tokyo, Takarazuka, Torquay, and Toronto

Tokyo, Japan (1988-89)

Mike's friends Kazue and Katsuya, who he'd met at Oxford, lived in Tokyo, and we visited them a few times.

Tokyo nightlife
Most of my favorite places in Japanese cities are temples or shrines, and this one was my favorite in Tokyo, Asakusa Shrine. I'll take that over all the trendy types in Harajuku, shopping on the Ginza, or touristy Tokyo Tower!
Asakusa Shrine--beautiful!

Mike actually climbed Mt. Fuji the summer after we met,
 when he was traveling around Japan on his own
My favorite spot in or near Tokyo is actually 31 miles outside of the city--Kamakura, which has this enormous Buddha statue and beautiful grounds and gardens.
Amida Buddha

With Mike, visiting Kamakura
Takarazuka, Japan (1989)

Now this is a fascinating place...Takarazuka is a suburb of Osaka, and in 1913, the president of Hankyu Railways wanted to lure more people to the terminus of the Hankyu line from Osaka. He founded the Takarazuka Revue, which would offer Western song and dance productions and be an alternative to old Kabuki theater. In contrast to Kabuki, in Takarazuka, all the roles would be played by women...and to this day, they still are.

Older Takarazuka photos
The Takarazuka Revue has grown tremendously from 1914...now it performs for 2.5 million people each year in both Takarazuka and Tokyo, and its audiences consist mostly of women. I view it as similar to romance novels in the west...Japanese women are attracted to this idealized version of a male-female romance--with a perfect male, who treats them with respect and admiration and woos them--and elaborate costumes and set design and melodramatic plots and music.

The females playing males seem more androgynous than male...
and maybe that is appealing to women too.
It's hard being a woman in Japan.
Takarazuka is highly competitive...only 40 to 50 women are accepted each year and trained for two years in the highly strict music school, where they must also do all their own cleaning each morning. Traditionally, the girls must be virgins and display the strictest of decorum. The revue now has five main companies.

They always have large production numbers
We went to see a Takarazuka show not long before we left Japan, and I thought it was fascinating! I had wished I'd seen one earlier, because I would have loved to have gone again. In a culture that is so male dominated, the idea that women have full rein of this theater is ground breaking and empowering. This theater is the only place in Japan where women can achieve the highest position possible.

Before living in Japan (and even much of the time while I lived there), I'd never heard of the Takarazuka revue. Have you?

I encourage you to learn more about Takarazuka here and take a look at this brief video to get a feel for it--more can be found on youtube (see if you notice what big word they have projected large on the background, which has taken on a life of its own in English beyond the theater meaning):

Torquay, England (November 1997)

If you know my love story with Mike, you'll know that we had a Japanese omiai (matchmaker) of our own--our mutual friend Cath, who is from Glasgow, Scotland. We don't get to see Cath very often, sadly, but one of our favorite memories is visiting her in beautiful Torquay, where she lived with her husband Rob until recently. Torquay is a seaside town in Devon, not too far from where Mike went to college in Exeter. I didn't realize until just now that Torquay was the home of Agatha Christie!

Cath with little Christopher

Christopher took to Cath immediately!

Posing in front of the water

Loading up the little guy

On our walk

Mike with Cath in the harbor
Toronto-Hamilton, Canada (2009)

We visited Toronto in 2009 primarily to visit Mike's Aunty Anne and Uncle Arthur, who lived in Hamilton. After we'd been married for 19 years by that time, I'd never met Uncle Arthur. He didn't like to travel much (although Aunty Anne and her son David and family came all the way out to Oregon for our wedding in 1990). I'm so glad we paid a visit because he died just a few years after that. He was hilarious.

We loved Toronto--in fact, our whole family loves Canada. Our adventures consisted of:

Dinner with Mike's Aunty Anne, Uncle Arthur, and cousin David

Back at their house

At Casa Loma--listening to the audio tour

3-year-old Nick singing the telephone (Harvey Johnson) song from "Bye Bye Birdie"

Casa Loma

Outside of Casa Loma

With my coworker Dave and his kids

Riding the ferry to Centerville Island

Nick in seventh heaven, on an antique fire engine!
Click on the link above to watch the video.
He went on this ride probably 10 times!

When we are really glad we can trust our kids...
there was no safety bar on this ride, and it was probably 100 feet off the ground!
Mike, Nicholas, and I were in the lift behind them.
If it had been the U.S., there would have been a safety bar, I'm sure.

Amazing sunset views of C:N tower and the skyline, headed back over to Toronto--gorgeous!

A black squirrel in a park near Cabbagetown--I'd never seen one before!

Loved Toronto's recycling/garbage bins!

Cabbagetown house

Necropolis--I love old cemeteries!

At Riverdale Park

The view from our hotel's rooftop deck!

Chris and Kieran on the roof
Visit here to read my A-S posts. Tomorrow's back to Indonesia and India, where we got engaged.


  1. Haven't been to the first two, but would love to. Had a holiday job down in Torquay as a teenager and went to Toronto for our Silver Wedding. Thanks for sharing.

  2. What a fun trip, even if it is only through your blog. Thanks for sharing:)

  3. Sounds like you had a good time. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I'm so impressed that you can make such long and well written posts (with so many beautiful photos!) every day of this challenge!