Tokyo Damage Report

Interview with Sanrio Puroland dancer

9/28/2004

THE DEVIL AND THE FAIRY

I was in Ikebukuro, walking on the street, minding my own business, and Homie all stepped to me and just started jawing away in fluent English. “I need to talk to foreigners on the street for my English class.” At first I was like, “Whatever, Nanpanman.” But I’m a cheap date so I talked to him, and when I said, ‘What’s your job?’ I nearly lost my mind when he said ‘Puroland.’ After that, it was just ON. We went to some bar and I busted out my pen and pad and got all Clark Kent on his ass.

That’s right, you crazy kids, I GOT AN INTERVIEW WITH A REAL LIVE PUROLAND EMPLOYEE. Not just any employee ? a former DANCER.

("puroland– what’s that?")(link)


TDR: When did you first start working at Puroland?

H: Two years after it opened (that would be 1992?ed.). I was 22. I loved showbiz. Because of Michael Jackson! I saw the “bad” video and I copied it in front of my TV. Recently he’s very sad, isn’t he? So I was looking for a dancer’s job, and I saw the Puroland advertisement in a magazine.

TDR: Had you gone to Puroland before that?

H: Oh no! Because at that time it was so crowded, you couldn’t even reserve a ticket!

TDR: So you weren’t a Sanrio maniac?

H: No. It was just a job. All the dancers, think it’s just a job.

TDR: What about the ‘character dancers?’ (people who wear the costumes of Kitty or Melody, etc.) are they more fans, compared to the regular dancers?

H: No, everyone thinks it’s just a regular job.

TDR: what was the biggest surprise you got when you first started working there?

H: I was surprised by how much everything cost there. You know the Magic Theatre (a sort of animatronic elves-in-the-forest-themed theatre)? Each talking tree cost over $900,000!

TDR: Can you describe the schedule of the Puroland dancer?

H: I worked 1 ? years at the Parade, then 1 ? years in the Marchen Theater (pronounced MEIR-hen), then 1 ? years at the Parade again, and so on. The Parade is the easiest ? on the weekdays, if we only had one parade a day, I could come to work at 2 and leave by 3! The Marchen Theater shows are usually 2-3 times a day on a weekday and 5-6 times on a weekend. We debut a new show maybe once every 2 years. Each show has a different director and coreographer, but the same writer. We rehearse the new show for 2-3 weeks before we start it. We have our own dance studio in the basement of Puroland.

TDR: What are the requirements for being a Puroland dancer?

H: Big smile, all the time! Also, a good appearance. Athletic body and good face. There are two types of Puroland dancers : character dancers, who wear the masks, and regular dancers.

TDR: So you’d never switch, and do a role as Melody or Tuxedo Sam, or something?

H: No, never. Because in Japan there are many people who want to do the character dancing, but few professional dancers! We have a higher skill level so we make more money.

TDR: So is there a rivalry?

H: No, no rivalry.

TDR: Mm-hmm. Backstage, does Kitty have her own dressing room?

H: No, we can see Kitty’s real face. It’s not like Disneyland. Disneyland is much more strict! Even if Mickey Mouse gets sick and falls down, he has to go to the ambulance with the mask on.

TDR: Jesus. This is such a lame question, but how does Kitty see?

H: Through the eyes. And the nose. It’s clear plastic.

TDR: I KNEW it was the nose! Boo-ya!!! So what’s the hardest part of doing the dance routines?

H: Keeping healthy! Each show is around 20-30 minutes, all jumping around. And if you are doing 6 shows a day, it takes a toll on you. So between shows we are constantly eating and drinking.

H: Do you know what we (the employees) call Puroland?

TDR: . . .?

H: the President’s Toybox!

TDR: you mean Mr. Tsuji, the president of sanrio?

H; how did you know his name?

TDR: Dude, I’m a FREAK. Don’t get me started on Sanrio mania. Anyway, if you could change anything about the shows, what would you change?

H: Everything! It’s pretty boring. I would change the script. The story doesn’t make sense sometimes. And every show has some scary parts, the children cry. We ask ourselves, “Why are the children crying?”

TDR: And what is up with whoever designs the costumes? Have you met him?

H: It’s a lady.

TDR: I mean, is she normal? Or crazy? Is she, like, in fifteen cults?

H: No, no, she’s normal! But her costumes are sometimes strange. Especially the women dancers say, “What? Why is this costume like this???”

TDR: (weeping)

H: Because I am a performer, I always asked myself, “How can we improve the show?” I think America is the #1 country for new and exciting directors and producers of musical theatre. In Japan there are very few good directors. I’ve never worked with one.

TDR: So in America, who do you like for innovative direction?

H: My favorite is the show “OH!” in Las Vegas. I don’t remember who directed it, but it was amazing! The title means ‘surprise’ in English, but also “water” in French. The whole stage is a giant tank of water, with synchronized swimming and majestic lighting. The Cirque D’Soiel (I have no idea how to spell this ? ed.) did this show I think.

TDR: Well, maybe to you the puroland dancing is boring, because you know all the surprising parts in advance. But when I first went there, I was overwhelmed! The speed of everything ? the fast dancing, the quick costume changes and set changes ? it was like watching a cartoon but in real-time. Afterwards I just wanted to sit in a padded cell for awhile.

H: I’m happy to hear you were shocked!

TDR: OK, let’s talk about the other show, the Parade.

H: In the parade, I was the devil.

TDR: WHAT?? You put Kitty in jail? Oh my GOD!!

H: Yes. I was the devil. I met my wife on the parade ? she was a fairy. I thought she was beautiful so I approach her and then we got married.

H: do you know what ‘PUROLAND’ means? Puro comes from the English “pure” and the Japanese word “piero” meaning crown.

TDR: You worked there eight years. How did Puroland change in that time?

H: It became sad. The number of customers, always declining.

TDR: Why did you leave Puroland?

H: Well, a dancer can’t dance forever. I became old. Also I wanted to save money and start a street theater group.

TDR: Do you have anything else to say to the readers?

H: I’d like to ask them, “What do you think of Japanese Entertainment? Is it good or poor? Exciting or boring?”

TDR: Thanks so much for talking with me. this is so amazing.

H: You’re welcome! Thank you!

 

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