Friday, December 28, 2012

Kamen Rider: The Diner in Ikebukuro, Tokyo

Today is Christmas in most of the Western world, but in Japan, not much really goes on. People eat cake and give presents and the universities and schools are out, but most businesses are open. Christmas is a big shopping day! One of my friends spent her day at the library, checking out 25 books.

If you are in a holiday mood, you have several options in Japan. One is to do the traditional thing of KFC, since KFC is serious business. But since you have to place your order for holiday chicken in advance, you could also opt for the HERO OF JUSTICE option and spend it at KAMEN RIDER: THE DINER in Ikebukuro, Tokyo!

Departing from the elevator at Pasela Resorts in Ikebukuro, you will no doubt notice that the room is not only in the signature black and red colors of the Rider, but with each one of their symbols as well! Unfortunately, since it was built some time ago, you won't find the symbols for anything Decade or newer, but WHO CARES? Note the symbol of SHOCKER on the elevator! By the time you're finished taking in the initial scenery, you'll also probably realize that the music blasting through the cafe's sound system are themes from the various shows. When I entered, I was treated the the tones of HERE WE GO, COUNT ZERO, KAMEN RIDER AGITO! which sort of set the stage for the rest of the visit.
You will also certainly notice that the current Rider's driver belt and accessories are on display in the cabinet as you enter. In my case, it was Kamen Rider Wizard and his many magic rings and PlaMonsters.
Then as you move down the hallway and head left, make sure you have a look in the display on the left as you round the corner.

Actors who played some of the most beloved heroes in Japanese television history have visited the restaurant and contributed their signatures and photos to the growing wall. You'll find signatures from the original Kamen Riders #1 and #2, V3, and check the photos out -- Eiji and Ankh's actors showed up here for a very appropriate birthday party. What's there to party about?

You'll soon be greeted at the front counter by one of the staff members who'll confirm the number in your party and your reservation, then lead you to your table. It doesn't hurt to tell them your favorite Rider when you enter, because if you do... something great will happen involving the sound system. You see, they have a sound board at the greeters station which can blast everywhere in the cafe, and they can play various Driver sound effects at any time. I made smalltalk with the greeter and mentioned that I thought Wizard was being enjoyed by American fans, to which he flipped a switch and I got, "SHABADOOBIE TOUCH TO HENSHIN! FLAME... PLEASE!"


Don't forget to enjoy these original suits for Kamen Rider #1 and #2 as you enter, and then...

Welcome to Kamen Rider: The Diner. This place is a true paradise to anyone who's even had a passing interest in spandex clad bugmen. The red carpet leads to the throne room of arch-villain group SHOCKER! If you want to sit on the throne and have your picture taken, they'll even loan you a black cloak so you too can be Dr. Shinigami and steeple your fingers while plotting the downfall of mankind!

A huge collection of props, memorabilia, and toys dedicated to each and every Kamen Rider (even the secondary ones!) can be found on display in glass cases. You can easily see the belts of Rider #1, Black, Black RX, Kuuga, Agito, and Ryuki on display here.

I was extremely thrilled to find a full collection of Kamen Rider W gear, including the weapons, all the Gaia Memories, and Skull and Accel's gear.

 Not only that, but video monitors around the cafe play a loop of openers from all of the shows, and they don't discourage you from singing along if you want to. They'll even play the full song if you ask them to -- one of the other guests asked for Life is Showtime, the theme to Wizard, and they played it in its entirety. Notice W-B-X from W on the monitor above.

But let's talk about the food. After all this cool memorabilia, you might forget that this is a cafe and not a museum! The food is a little on the pricy side, but it's themed, and each item is designed to look or reference one of the riders. If you can't speak Japanese, they do have an "English" menu, but I say that in quotes, because they basically just ran the names of the items through Google Translate and it came out a little strange.

I got the Gills themed meal, and it was quite good. Additionally, I got a drink called "Into the Forest" which is Hibiki themed, and the top is a sugar lattice "web" to resemble the webs of spider demons. It is alcoholic, but not very. It's mostly whipped cream. Not much kick to it. They also have a Joker themed drink that I'm going to get next time.

To finish it off, I also ordered the Rider Parfait: Fourze Edition. This came out after the meal, and was announced to the entire cafe with the unmistakable Fourze henshin countdown through the sound system: "THREE... TWO... ONE... "
When it came out, the server and I both did "UCHUU KITAAAAAAA!" -- or as Over-Time translated it, "IT'S SPACE TIME!", and then held out our fists. "Kamen Rider Fourze... let's settle this man to man!"

After my parfait, they brought me WAAAAATER... PLEASE! accompanied both by the sound effect and the musical tune that follows.

Next to the Kuuga Tri-Chaser on display, they also display one of the shirts you can get only at the diner: a Kamen Rider Fourze cafe official shirt with the original #1 Driver around the midsection. The back features the logo and chibi versions of every rider up to OOO's. The best thing about this restaurant is that it's constantly changing -- as new shows are released, new features are added to the restaurant.

If you do decide to go, first let me tell you this: it is a small place, and it can get pretty crowded on weekends and holidays. Reservations are always required three days in advance for this restaurant, even if it's NOT a weekend or holiday. You might MAY be able to do a walk-up, but Japan is usually pretty strict about reservations or no reservations, so I do recommend them. The site says that if you plan to come earlier than three days, you need to call them to check availability first. You can make reservations, see the menu, and more on the official site.

To get there, exit the JR Ikebukuro station from the West Exit, then cross the street near the police station, then turn left. You're looking for Pasela Resorts. I hope you get the opportunity to experience this amazingly fun place. Leave your maturity at the door and have a great time. And don't forget to pose! HENSHIN!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Tokusatsu Museum at Toei Movie Village, Kyoto.

In November, my friend (whose name, ironically, is Hiro) and I visited Toei Studios Movie Village Kyoto. Set in the small neighborhood of Uzumasa, this is an actual live movie set, and it's been featured in a number of well known television shows and films. A large number of samurai films are filmed in its backlot, which is designed to resemble Kyoto from the Edo Period. When filming isn't underway, the studio is set up as a museum which you can walk through.

The studio is particularly recognizable to tokusatsu fans. Any time there's a time travel sequence to ancient Japan, invariably there will be a scene shot in the familiar streets of the Toei Movie Village, Kyoto. This time was no different. Just a few days prior, filming took place for the upcoming Go-Busters vs. Gokaiger film. Parts of the studio were still blocked off, and the scaffolding was still up. Nevertheless, I was able to get a few shots of the aftermath of the filming without being chased off.

The regular exhibits at the Movie Village are interesting enough, but what tokusatsu fans will really find interesting is the tokusatsu museum. That's right: there's a museum. In the Super Hero Land area, you'll be able to find a collection of Super Sentai suits from GoRanger all the way to the most recent series, as well as most every Kamen Rider suit dating from Kuuga to the most recent series (some of the alternate Rider suits aren't there). You can even find a few monster, mecha, and Metal Hero suits! A number of vehicles can also be found. So with no further ado, here is a taste of what you can experience if you too visit Super Hero Land at the Kyoto Movie Village Uzumasa.