Thursday, January 24, 2008

Lining up in Tokyo

So about two weeks ago I went to Tokyo (for the first time ever) to attend two more Bon Jovi concerts. Kristin came along to Tokyo because she’d never been there before either and she wanted to see Bon Jovi as well. So she bought one of my leftover concert tickets and I sold the other one to an Italian girl who read about my ticket surplus on this blog. On Sunday morning we got the Shinkansen out of Nagoya all the way to Tokyo, for the very first time! It’s twice as expensive as going to Osaka (which makes sense because the trip takes about twice the amount of time it takes to get to Osaka) but when Bon Jovi is concerned money matters less somehow. Second expensive decision I made for the weekend was to stay in the Tokyo Dome Hotel, because it was convenient (it’s right next to the Dome as the name implies), and I was sick of my tiny freezer that Japanese people call an apartment and the hotel’s rooms looked so good online…and they were truly excellent!

The Tokyo Dome Hotel

My room was on the 16th floor, which is just awesome when you’re afraid of heights and the hotel only has those glass elevators on the outside of the building, like most Japanese skyscrapers I’ve encountered so far. But the view from my room was extensive, and sure it’s true the skylines of most Japanese cities look pretty much the same, but it’s still neat to be able to look over that many buildings from your bed! And after a concert I had a nice view of the herds of people still standing in extremely long lines for Bon Jovi some merchandise.

View of Tokyo from my room

As a foreigner in Japan I’ve found that the Japanese people love to line up for about anything. Maybe I’m too impatient to wait in line, I don’t know, but whenever I see a dozens of people in line, I tend to not want whatever is on the other end of the line anymore. But enormous lines do not seem to scare the Japanese at all, they join the line without hesitation and patiently wait for their turn at who knows what. Let's provide an example. The hotel elevators were extremely slow, I've actually spent 15 minutes waiting for an elevator on my floor once, but there was nothing I could do but fume (the stairs were only for emergencies). Well, after the concerts huge packs of people would flock back to their hotel rooms, creating long, really long lines for the already slow elevators. Everybody was waiting patiently in line, well not Kristin and me! We took the escalator to a floor down, where nobody was waiting. This way we were already in the elevator cab when it opened to let the people in the front of the line enter! Sneaky yes, but it saved us a lot of time. I couldn't understand why nobody else was doing it...
It was also incomprehensible to me why people would voluntarily stand in line outside of the Tokyo Dome shivering in the ice cold and trying to keep hold of their bags, hats, scarves and glasses in the extremely strong gusts of winds, just to be able to buy some overpriced Bon Jovi merchandise. And the line seriously was really, really long, just look at this picture I took from my hotel room before the concert on Sunday.

The line started at the green circle, where you first got to enjoy the amusement park style of lining up, going back and forth in kind of a metal maze taking forever to get from the entrance to exit. Then the line follows the yellow arrow all the way down to the bottom of my picture where the line goes out of frame at the red dot, where it continues a couple of tens of meters out of view from my camera and then curves back at the foot of the hotel and comes back into view at the other red dot. Then the line goes to the left and out of view again near the blue dot, and that’s not the end of it yet! But that is almost where the displays of merchandise started, so people could start browsing for what to buy once they finally got to the merchandise booth about 20 minutes later. I remember looking at the ‘crowd’ (perhaps 15 to 20 people) in front of the merchandise stall in Nagoya and already feeling deterred from even taking a closer look at the merchandise… Well, I guess that’s just Dutch impatience.
And the next day we stumbled upon an even more perplexing line: the one at the Krispy Kreme Doughnuts shop in some underground mall in Ginza. I’d heard about the long lines at Krispy Kreme in Tokyo some years ago, stories about people waiting for 2 to 3 hours to buy some donuts, but it always sounded like some urban legend or something. Even when Moe told me that she had spent a large part of her day off in Tokyo to wait for the privilege of buying 6 of those sticky donuts (if I had to wait for 3 hours I would buy a truckload of them not just 6), it still sounded too weird to be true. I mean the donuts aren’t even that great, I wouldn’t even stand in line for 5 minutes to get one. Anyway, the line at a small underground Krispy Kreme shop looks like this at like 9:30 in the morning:

The Krispy Kreme store in Ginza, Tokyo

It was hard to take a picture of the whole line with the shop because of the angle of the hallway, but as you can see they even had security to keep the line in place and at the end of the line (out of view) there was even some of that amusement park style of lining up going on! All for some donuts. But at least these people weren’t freezing and the Krispy Kreme people were handing out free donuts to the waiters to keep them happy. So what do you do when you want to eat a Krispy Kreme donut in Tokyo? You join the line in front of the shop, and just wait until they hand out the free donuts, which is apparently really common so you won’t have to wait that long. Or get up really early because the store opens at 7:30, but I can’t promise there won’t be a line then either, I mean come on this is Japan!

1 comment:

Minke said...

WOW! I have learned again something new about Japan! Incredible, I have read your story with my mouth open;)...
I am very curious what Yasu thinks of this japanese custom, actually I am curious what japanese people think of this waste of time...
I want more more more of these stories;0!!!