We recently found a theater in Tokyo that has a long-running production of Cats, one of our favorite shows. So, in celebration of our 40th anniversary, I set out to buy two tickets for the theater.
How to buy tickets? Go to the website for the theater, of course. Sure enough, type “Cats Play in Tokyo” into a browser, and the first item in the search list is “CATS|SHIKI THEATER COMPANY.” Ok, we’re in business.
Clicking on to the website, I find a lot of information about Cats, much of it in English. Scroll down a bit, and here’s a handy tab – “Performance Schedule.” Click, and I’m on a calendar page…mostly in Japanese. I can read enough to tell how to select a month, so I go to July 7, our desired date. Click, and I find a nice theater map showing available seats. Again in Japanese, but not too hard to figure out.
Now it is getting trickier. I click on the seats we want, no problem. But going on to make the purchase is getting complicated. Everything is in Japanese, with a lot of Kanji, making it impossible for me to read. Click on the “Translate” button…but nothing doing. Still all in Japanese.
So, pull out the Google translate app on the iPhone. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. In this case, it works well enough to get me to the purchase screen. Enter the name, address, credit card information. With Google Translate’s help, seems to be working. There are a couple of extra pink boxes in the name field, but that probably isn’t important, right?
Wrong. Click on “Submit,” and there is an error message. You guessed it – I need to fill in the pink boxes. After a little thought, I found a dropdown menu, and got Google’s help to translate — “enter name in full-width Katakana.” Katakana is one of the three character systems used in Japanese, the one used mostly for foreign words imported into the language (like English names). I know how to write my name in Katakana… but my computer doesn’t. It doesn’t have a Japanese keyboard installed.
So at this point, I’m not really sure if the purchase was done or not. But since I didn’t receive a confirmation in email…doesn’t appear that I have any tickets.
Fast-forward to the next day, and I search the website for a phone number to call for help. Sure enough, there is a handy number for the theater. Dial it up, and a friendly voice answers…in Japanese, of course.
“Eigo ga, hanasemasu ka?”–Do you speak English, I ask, hoping I don’t have to try to discuss this in my very limited Japanese. “Oh – shou-shou omachi, kudasai,” is the reply — please wait a minute. After a short wait, another friendly voice comes on the line — this time, speaking very good English.
A few minutes later, the nice lady secured my seats, and kindly explained how I can go to the theater to pick them up (cash only please – a common requirement in Japan).
So come July 7, we will be seeing Cats in Japan (in Japanese?) Like many things here, it sometime takes a little extra effort to get the result you want when you don’t speak the language very well. But invariably, there is someone who is always friendly, and willing to help.