Halfway through my one-month trip to Tokyo, it was movie date time! My fiance and I had spent the past couple of days avoiding the lousy weather, but on Monday morning the crowds would be at work and we decided to go on a movie date…
I’ve mentioned before that my fiance doesn’t like the crowds on the trains and in stores in Japan, so on the weekends he didn’t want to go to crowded places. Even though it was Monday, there were still a lot of people out in Ikebukuro (池袋), but not nearly as many as on the weekend.
Since it was Monday, I convinced my fiance to go on a movie date ♡ Movies are expensive in Japan, and most people don’t have a whole lot of free time during the school or work week, so the most popular times to go to the movies are winter break and summer break. The winter holiday in Japan is around the New Year (about 12/26~1/6) and the summer holiday is in late July to early September. These are the peak movie-going seasons, but since it was still well before the New Year, and we still saw many students going to and from school everyday, it was not crowded at all.
We had watched the first and second Hobbit movies in the US the previous year, and so we went to the final Hobbit movie in Ikebukuro. We went to an early morning showing, and ate breakfast before the movie at a cafe called St-Marc Cafe, where they serve, among other delicious things, chococro (チョコクロ, short for chocolate croissant).
I really like Japanese sweets, because they are not overpoweringly sweet. Even the chocolate in the chococro is not overpowering, although it is pretty sweet. After satisfying our sweet tooth, we headed to the movie.
Tickets & Assigned Seating
My fiance bought the (expensive!) tickets online the day before, and many of the seats were open, since it wasn’t really a peak movie-going day. In Japan, you reserve your seats online when you buy the tickets. Seats are assigned with your ticket, and you can’t choose when you enter the theatre. But, you can see a layout of the theatre and pick a seat with a good view based on the proximity to screen.
In America, it’s a free-for-all when you get to the theatre. We recently queued up for Jurassic World, and once they let everyone in it was a mad dash to get to a seat, under the watchful eye of theatre security. People queue up sometimes hours early for a premiere or on an opening weekend, especially in bigger cities.
Cinema Sunshine Ikebukuro/シネマサンシャイン池袋
We went to the Cinema Sunshine Ikebukuro, at Sunshine City, a large building with tons of shops (that I love to go shopping at) and an arcade (which my fiance loves). It’s a short walk from the east entrance to the Ikebukuro train station (池袋駅). Cinema Sunshine is a multi-level theatre, with about 3-4 screening rooms (at least that’s what it looked like when I went in, but there might be more).
Most American theatres (that I’ve been in) have one or maybe two levels and are very spread out. Of course, in a city like Tokyo, where land is at a premium, they build upwards. This way you can fit more screening rooms into limited space.
We watched the movie in English, with Japanese subtitles, because I honestly don’t know if I could follow a movie with such a theme entirely in Japanese. Even the Japanese subtitles had Olde Japanese type of words thrown in, because that’s how J.R.R. Tolkien wrote. This episode of the series also had quite a bit of action, so it wasn’t too much reading based.
Our theatre was on the lower level, and outside the screening room was a concession stand selling popcorn in small containers (compared to the huge tubs you get in the US) and other sweets. Luckily, our breakfast was far more delicious than any of the theatre food seemed to be, so we didn’t need to buy any snacks. I really do like theatre popcorn, so the fact that I didn’t want to eat any says something about how delicious breakfast was.
At Japanese movie theatres you can buy commemorative pamphlets of the movie that you are viewing, and some can sell out instantaneously due to high demand. These can later be resold online for very high sums. In the US, memorabilia is not sold at the theatre, but rather at other chain stores that receive the exclusive rights to market such items. Commemorative pamphlets are not usually a part of this, although there are often movie posters available.
After our movie date, my fiance’s father treated us to yakiniku (焼肉) or (literally) grilled meat that night. Yakiniku is most commonly beef, but there is also tripe or cow tongue as well. (I hope these pictures are not too grotesque, even though they are raw meat, they are considered very high quality and even beautiful [綺麗].)
Yakiniku is brought to your table raw, with an assortment of vegetables, and you can also order soup or other side items. (It’s not really a good type of restaurant for vegetarians to visit, I must warn you. You won’t find much on the menu you can eat.) You cook the meat and vegetables in the middle of the table on a hot stove that is inlaid into the table. You can control how rare or well done your meat is, and you can control almost everything about the meal.
You order several plates of yakiniku and share among a group. I would recommend at least taking a group of four or more so that you get to try the different types of meat, and also so that you can split the (fairly high) bill at a higher end restaurant.
The restaurant we went to has very high quality yakiniku (and is thus very expensive) and you don’t have to dip the meat into sauce very much, although you can if you would like to. (You don’t put sauce on the meat while it cooks, but rather dip it in your own private bowl of sauce as you eat.) The high quality meat itself is meant to be the majority of the flavor, with the vegetables and dipping sauce providing a savory backup…
Thank you as always for reading my Japan Diaries! Stay tuned!
Have you been to the movies in Japan? What about another country? What unique experiences have you had at the theatre?
More importantly, have you ever tried a chococro (or something similar)? If you haven’t, please let me insist that you do, because it is delicious, and then let me know what you think!