By Lawrence I. Charters
Off Duty, June 1986, p. JPN-12
Enjoy the quiet of June in Japan on one of the more sedate tours or visit Tokyo Disneyland before the heavy crowds.
Nothing much is happening in June — fortunately. There are no Japanese or American holidays, no particularly extravagant festivals, and no excuses for staying at home. This is a good month in which to utilize some of your leave time to … well, leave.
Going on a trip is a particularly good idea if you live in the Yokosuka area; as it seems everyone in Japan has invaded the local beaches. Fortunately, the Tours and Ticketing Office in Yokosuka’s brand-new Recreation Services Building is prepared to send you far, far away. A trip to exotic Thailand is scheduled for June 8 to 13, another to the historic castle town of Hiroshima from June 21 to 23 and one to Taiwan from July 4 to 8. If this isn’t far enough away, you can see what life is like on the other side of the world on the tour of Europe scheduled for June 21 to 30.
For those new to the Kanto, or for those who just haven’t seen the sights yet, all the local bases offer sight-seeing tours around Tokyo, as well as to the spectacular Fuji Five Lakes area, the rugged Hakone mountains, the ancient capital city of Kamakura, and even to Tokyo Disneyland. When you consider how far the dollar has fallen against the yen, these tours are probably the least expensive way to see the local attractions, and you never have to worry about getting the wrong train or missing the expressway exit. Visiting Tokyo Disneyland is a particularly good idea now; starting in late July and all during August, the park is deluged with visitors, and you can spend most of a weekend standing in line.
Somewhat more exotic is the Itako Ayame Matsuri (the Itako Iris Festival) taking place the entire month of June. Itako, east of Tokyo on the shores of Lake Kasumigaura, was an important water transportation center during the Edo period (1600 to 1868) . Today the town is in the middle of Suigo-Tsukuba Quasi-National Park, a lush collection of waterlands famous for their beauty.
Along canals once used for carrying rice to Edo’s ever-hungry markets, costumed boat handlers now take visitors on trips during the Iris Festival. If this sounds like Venice, it isn’t; there are few buildings, no pigeons, and most of the boat handlers are women, not mustachioed gondoliers. There are also traditional folk dances in outdoor pavilions, poetry contests and similar activities, plus acres and acres of spectacular irises. Even if you don’t think flowers are interesting, you’ll find this quiet, beautiful area a striking change from Tokyo’s hustle and bustle.
Of course, you may like hustle and bustle, in which case you should check out Video Dance Machine at the base clubs in Atsugi and Yokosuka. Music videos are nothing new, but your average music video is nothing like Video Dance Machine. Specially made VHS hi-fi video tapes are piped through state-of-the-art audio and video equipment, and dancing may never be the same again.
Each “veejay” uses a couple of Hitachi hi-fi video decks plus TEAC sound mixers and Kenwood and Sansui video controllers to orchestrate four to five hours of uninterrupted entertainment. Splashed across a 100-inch screen with Sony or Pioneer projection TV, the video is literally larger than life. First-rate equipment also handles the sound, as Carver and Nakamichi amplifiers drive Bose “industrial strength” 302 and 802 speakers.
During a new video, dancers often risk permanent injury as they go through contortions trying to dance and watch at the same time. Because of the size of the display, people seated at tables have a much better view than they would of a live band, and the crowds tend to be quieter and less talkative as they concentrate on both the music and the video.
Veteran veejays are also amazed at the continued popularity of older titles. While a new tape is always appreciated, there are constant requests for particular cuts. Early this year, some of the most popular titles included Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life,” Cheech and Chong’s “Born in East L.A.,” the Chicago Bears’ “Super Bowl Shuffle” and Stevie Wonder’s “Part-time Lover.”
You probably want to start preparing now for July’s events. July 4 is Independence Day, and Tokyo Disneyland is planning its usual tribute to the land of Mickey Mouse’s birth. Since Mickey may be even more popular in Japan than in the States, you’ll definitely want to check out the special tours heading for the Magic Kingdom.
While all U.S. installations will hold celebrations of one sort or another, probably the biggest will be held in Yokosuka. Country superstars Tanya Tucker and Barbara Fairchild will be on hand for a celebration sponsored jointly by clubs, messes and Recreational Services. There will be at least one concert at a price you can’t beat (free!), plus the traditional ball game and carnival rides.