Now Playing: Ra Ra Rando; Or, My First Visit to the Movie Theater

Living overseas means missing out big chunks of American life. I keep up with news and culture through Internet radio and news websites, but movies and TV shows–not so much. Except for really big stuff like the Star Wars movies, I don’t know much about what’s been playing in U.S. cinemas since we arrived in Japan.

As military we have one nice advantage: the Navy base has two cinemas, and they even show current films. At only $3 USD for adult and $1 USD for kids, the admissions are basically free. Nice! Not so nice are the $30 in round trip tolls, or the 45 minute drive each way. I have taken the kids on weekends or school holidays for kid movies, but I’ve never gone there to see a film just for me.

Sabina, me, Kristi, and Jeannie

Japanese cinemas show some American films, so this week I rounded up a posse of girlfriends and headed out to Yokohama Burg 13 for my first visit to a Japanese cinema. We met up for a matinee of La La Land, or Ra Ra Rando when translated into Japanese. After navigating the automated ticket machines (1800 yen, or about $16 USD) and selecting our assigned seats, we headed for the snack bar.


Since it was my first visit to the cinema I decided to go all in and even have lunch there. I know, crazy! After the shu mai and noodles that I saw at the baseball game, I imagined a wide range of tasty choices, or some unknown-to-me Japanese movie favorites. Instead I saw this.

The utterly uninspiring selection of hot dogs, fries, popcorn, nachos….


OK, so hot dog and fries it is. Note to self: next time, smuggle in a bento lunch. At least it was relatively cheap. My soda, hot dog and fries combo only cost 950 yen ($8.33 USD). After picking up our lackluster snacks we headed for the theater, passing stacks of blankets and booster seats.

Feeling chilled? Grab a blankie!

Once the movie started it was pretty much like any other cinema–only with Japanese subtitles, and not a giggle, clap, or any sound from the almost full audience. After the film ended the credits started rolling with the house lights still dark. No one else in the theater moved at all. So I sat there and scanned the cast list, then lost interested as the crew’s names rolled by. After a few minutes I turned to Kristi and whispered, “When do you think we can leave?”. This prompted us both to explode into a fit of giggles right as the music got very, very quiet. Which got us to giggle louder. After a few more rounds we pulled ourselves together.

We thought the credits were almost done when the lengthy music credits started. Sabina let out very quiet yet exasperated sigh, which set us all off again. After the very final logo rolled by the lights came up and we were finally sprung.

Since planning this first movie outing I learned that Wednesdays are Ladies’ Day, with the usual 1800 yen admission lowered to 1100 yen (about $9 USD). Wednesday Ladies’ Movie Club, anyone?

See you next time, Yokohama Burg 13!

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