A Flashback Friday post, reprinting and updating a post from The Gaijin Ghost's old abandoned page, on Blogger. Also serves as the inaugural post in our "Star Wars in Japan" series, which promises to be very fun for Force-sensitive geeks.
Timed to coincide with the worldwide theatrical release of The Force Awakens on December 18th, 2015, Japan’s first big year of Star Wars promotions came to a fabulous end last winter with a special, free, camera-friendly exhibition at Nippon Television Tower in Shiodome, Tokyo.
Inside a building adorned with a huge steampunk clock designed by Hayao Miyazaki, a working R2-D2 rolled through the lobby, greeting visitors to the exhibition and other passers-by.
Dubbed Star Wars no Sekai (or, “The World of Star Wars”), the event lasted just twelve days, and did not receive much English publicity, perhaps because the news got lost in the marketing shuffle or was never translated. Highlights included Force Awakens costumes, a Star Wars shogi (or Japanese chess) board, BB-8 art, and a Rinpa-style folding screen with Kylo Ren and Rey depicted in place of Raijin and Fujin, the gods of thunder and wind.
But the real highlight, trucked in from the city of Aomori, were the so-called “nebuta,” a series of gorgeous, glowing parade floats, in which characters from the Star Wars saga took on the vivid aspect of Japanese mythical figures.
The Nebuta Room was its own wonderful pocket universe inside the exhibition. And since it ranks as one of The Gaijin Ghost’s favorite memories of Tokyo (even with almost half a decade of other experiences in the metropolis), it deserves to be immortalized with its own separate blog post. Look for that tomorrow.
In the meantime, since it staged its grand opening just two weeks prior to the exhibition, and since it operates right downstairs, in the same building, The Gaijin Ghost also took time, last winter, to snoop around the new Taco Bell franchise in Nippon Television Tower (also known by the Japanese portmanteau of “Nittele” Tower).
Taco Bell in Japan is a big deal for expats. At the time of the Star Wars exhibition, this new location, nestled in among Shiodome’s skyscrapers, was only the second such franchise in all of Japan. The first, of course, was Taco Bell Shibuya, which opened to great fanfare and absurdly long lines, right before the Golden Week holiday in 2015.
At both locations, a customer can revel in the superior Japanese presentation of food. While the menu is more limited than in the states, mainstays like soft tacos, hard-shell tacos, and the Crunchwrap Supreme are all there, as are “Japanese originals” like taco rice.
What initially set the Shiodome franchise apart was that it was the only one in Japan to serve asa-gohan (literally: “morning meal,” or breakfast.) Here alone could an American residing long-term in Japan rediscover the simple pleasure of a warm, grilled, sausage-egg-and-cheese breakfast burrito.
2016 saw an exponential increase in Taco Bell Japan’s presence, with two more locations opening up, in the districts of Aoyama and Odaiba, here in Tokyo. This is actually the fast-food chain’s second attempt at infiltrating the Japanese market. The first attempt failed, back in the 1980s. One can only hope this "western wonder" will not go the way of the dodo again ...
Ah, the things they take for granted, back home in the United States.
If you want to see more of Shiodome’s Star Wars exhibitions, including the one that took place this year, this gallery has over a hundred pics.