February 28, 2015


Hey Infidels! Flashback to December 21, the winter solstice, shortest day and longest night of the year. We plot to counter the darkness with lights—many, many millions of them—through the Mother of all Festive Season illumination fiestas called “Jewellumination.” We opt for this day because Festivus was on a school day. I drink six cups of coffee prior to entering the cockpit of our car, strap in the Rising Family Members and we motorvate into the heart of suburban Tokyo, to Yomiuriland. It is an old-school amusement park operated and run by the Yomiuri Group, the parent of the Yomiuri media conglomerate which owns the eternally evil Yomiuri Giants baseball team. I choke back bile at the thought of my entrance fees somehow going to fund future Giants players’ paychecks, but relent for the kiddies, who are flying as high as I am just on anticipation, not caffeine.
Yadda yadda. We arrive at 1100 and man we are PRIMED. I brandish our tickets and we force our way into the park. 
Elena preens a little after showing her go carting skills. Equally competitive, Marina is smart and mean to her sister on the carousel, yet shows a neo-religious bent after exiting the haunted house and bursting into adorable tears. Naomi cackles, causing me to burst into tears myself. More coffee, hola! While navigating a rising tide of families and young couples, we wander around in the warmish sun, hitting the roller coaster, spider ride, racecars, and octopus tentacle gyrating g-force contraption. These attractions and rides emit hisses, CHUNKA-CHUNKA sounds, fueling the frenzy of consumption, which is tamed only by the incessant safety messages broadcast by bored teenagers who check our tickets and decide our fate. The backbeat is sounds of jingling pocket change and wallets creaking open to keep the party going.

I buy cotton candy for the kids after lunch, keeping their sugar levels optimal. The wife and I hoover espressos on the sly. Time going by fast. Elena and I board the special “Looping Starship” ride, which, at the top of its parabola, stops for about 30 seconds upside down. Cosmonauts! Marina burns holes into us with envious eyes as we exit the ship arrogant, insolent, and adrenalized!

I make amends with “M” by allowing her to take command of the teacup ride. Spins, and the lack of real food together with several hours of abusing caffeine, culminate in a bit of not-unwelcome vertigo. This prompts a thought—I should double-down get a higher view of the place! But we hit the Ferris wheel too early—first up at around 1600 because we were concerned about long lines. Elena got annoyed with me because I shunted her into the Ferris wheel capsule: hey old man I can get into this thing ON MY OWN. So she acted all pissy throughout the up-down arc, but we ignored it and snapped a few photos of the amusement park vista.
Just before 1700 it was getting dark and our Family Unit relocated to where the Jewellumination parade was going to kick off. I’ve captured a few images, both in my brain and in a video. This day will henceforth be known as The Day That Elena Discovered Taylor Swift.
Funky music. Amazing, splashy lights.The whole ensemble cast gyrating around the three parade cars and everyone—young couples, families and the park staff--all seemed to sip from the cup of Christmas spirit. It was just a treat to watch. I had another wave of caffeine hit just then so my memory is questionable, but I am pretty sure the Friendly Doggy Snowman morphed into a version of Harvey, the Irish spirit in the guise of a giant rabbit who was James Stewart’s mischievous chum in the movie of the same name.
The Parade became a sensory stew of thumping music, dancing snow queens adorned by colorful chem sticks, and bright LED lights dangling from the tree boughs all igniting at precisely the same time. This reached a rather pleasing crescendo of sounds and carnival smells: I saw Jefferson Airplane-style psychedelic blobs; my temporal lobe lit up in ecstasy; I heard gasps of delight and witnessed ear-to-ear smiles on the faces of nearly everyone around me.

After the parade events concluded, we took the illumination Light Tour throughout the entire park area. There were over 3,000,000 LED lights advertised and we saw 2,999,999 of them. My God the Japanese are thorough people—it was such an endless visual delight. Obvious care was taken EVERYWHERE to ensure the godliness in the gaudy. 
The spectacle of seeing the bandit roller coast seemingly float in the air, its bright colors whizzing around the darkened track way up in the black sky. The LED Light Tour took us about an hour and oddly I had REO Speedwagon as my internal soundtrack the whole time. 

Evening turned to night, and Marina and Elena got a bit cranky as their natural stimulants waned, shrinking Naomi’s cheerful vibe (but not destroying it). I chugged another coffee (cheapo 7-11 brew, but not bad) in the car as we exited the park, satiated and now fully primed for the holidays.
If there is in fact, a heaven and a hell, I know for sure that heaven will be a viciously overcrowded version of Yomiuriland—a clean, well-lit place full of sunshine (LEDs at night), the squeals of happy kids and their pleased parents, and happy souls where everybody seems spontaneously joyful. Because that’s how I felt for days after this little adventure.