Friday, October 4, 2013

Havin' a Grand Ole Time. Tokyo, Japan. Part 3.

Post 11.

La la la
Kakenukero home made
Ogino Takashi 
Ute Ogino (Ta-Ka-Shi) 
La la la

Chants like this one were echoing through the stadium. By 4:40 we were en route to the QVC stadium to watch a Japanese baseball game. Marines vs. Buffaloes. Go Chiba Lotte Marines! Although the Marines lost the fan section was electric. Every time the Marines were up to bat, the fans were on their feet yelling chants, beating drums, and cheering on their team. Plus each player had a specific chant which helped me learn all the players names by the end of the night. The biggest difference from American baseball was that when the other team was up to bat there was no trash talk, they just sat silently and ate their ballpark food, which was also crazy different. There were hotdogs but they were suuuuuper long, fried octopus, and plenty of japanese beer to go around. Instead of guys carrying around front trays with drinks and beer to seated customers, they had beer girls with kegs strapped to their backs. One of our students was so enraptured with them that he tried to ask one of them what they were doing later, but he struck out. The rest of the fans really enjoyed watching a bunch of Americans cheer and get excited for their team. We even went to the gift shop and bought some jerseys to wear to get even more in the spirit. Instead of stretching during the seventh inning, fans bought long white balloons and blew them up and let go, creating a sky filled with flying balloons over each fan section. We left the game with hoarse voices and sleepy eyes. It was probably one of my favorite nights on this trip so far. If American games were this much fun in the states I'm pretty sure that every stadium would be packed no matter who was playing.

Baseball wasn't the only sporting event I attended. In America baseball is considered to be an All-American sport. Most people take pride in the game  and have a favorite team or player. In Japan, we watched their national sport, Sumo. Up in the nosebleed seats the arena sprawled out below us. Seats closest to the ring were small square roped off regions with floor pillows while we had individual stadium style chairs. In all honesty I wasn't sure what to expect except for big guys fighting in tiny diapers. There were english guides handed out to us that explained the ritualistic aspect and the rules of the game. The day we attended was a Sumo tournament so there were multiple sessions of fights. The later in the day, the more advanced the Sumo player was. The fights in the evening were the most exciting to watch as famous sumo wrestlers crouched opposite one another on a salt covered ring waiting for their opponent to give the signal to fight. The ritualistic aspect of the fight lasted longer than the actual fight did which was one aspect that really surprised me. It also shocked me to see a man from America in the ring! USA! USA! It was a really fun event to watch, but I probably won't follow it like I follow the Cardinals by any means. Being able to participate in this county's national sport provided me with a better understanding of the life of the Japanese.

Another traditional aspect of Japanese culture is the theater. A few of the works we have been reading for our japanese literature course were written for the stage. Two major types of theater include puppet theater, or bunraku, and kabuki. I was fortunate enough to purchase tickets with a few other friends for a kabuki theater show. This type of theater is characterized by its extravagant costumes and entirely male cast. Even the female characters are played by men and most theater scholars feel very strongly that the men portray women better than women could. The tickets we purchased were for the first act only which is for the best because we had standing room only tickets all the way back on a ledge about a foot wide. Standing for any longer than an hour and a half would have been unbearable. I got to see the main character battle a giant centipede and the protagonist eat his dead son to gain strength to seek revenge. It was a bit spooky but well performed. Thankfully we had english translators so I was able to follow the plot line!

On our last night in Tokyo, we did something a little crazy. We pulled an all-nighter in order to get a spot in line to see the famous Tsukiji fish market. The theory goes that you would have to take a taxi to the ginza district at about 2 or 3 in the morning, since trains have stopped running by then, then hang out until they took you into the market about 545. Now taxis here in Tokyo actually aren't that expensive at least compared to home, but it would be simpler and more adventurous to take the last train to Ginza and walk around until we had to get in line. So that's what five of us did. And I have to say that it was exhausting and the next day I was super out of it, but it was so worth it. The Ginza district was crazy at night. That area has many business districts, so most of the people we saw were dressed in their work clothes and hanging out with coworkers. I was glad there was so much to watch because it helped pass the time and kept us entertained. Eventually though we decided that we had better find where the fish market line was. So we navigated through some small streets at two in the morning until we stumbled upon the fishy smelling part of town. There were a few large trucks and small carts zooming around the area but otherwise it was pretty dead. We found a local park to relax in and before we started getting too sleepy went and sat in line next to some folks from Louisiana at about 3:15 am. We transferred from the street to a small building about an hour later where we waited for entry into the fish market at 545. This room was jam packed with other tourists, serious photographers, and brightly colored construction jackets. Some people slept and others drew sea inspired tattoos on each other. Finally we were released from our small prison, by that time the sun had risen above the horizon and lightly illuminated the small fishing village. The market grounds were a bustle of activity and you had to watch your path carefully to not get run over by the many barrel carts zooming through, illustrating the importance of the bright construction jackets. Once we walked through the outdoor portion, we entered a large ice cold building. Here was the location of the famous tuna auctions. We watched as inspectors picked and prodded the frozen carcasses for quality. The air was cold and woke me up completely. After a bit of observation, the auctions started up. The auctions almost sang the prices and one guy racked up a total of at least seven huge tuna fish. These tuna came from all over the world which is why after we left the market grounds we hunted for some sushi breakfast. Which I probably won't do ever again, raw fish in the morning is definitely not my favorite, but it chimed well with our all-nighter. I will say it was some of the freshest tasting sushi Ive ever had and will ever have. It was pretty surreal coming back on the train all sleepy eyed as others were just waking up and commuting to work. My internal clock was so off! We made it back to the hostel maybe clocked in an hour of sleep before meeting in the lobby to depart for Taiwan. It was a great way to celebrate our last night in the beautiful and engaging city of Tokyo.

I'll miss you Japan!!

I'm sorry to say that this blog will soon be unavailable to me. Due to some chinese government issues, our group will be unable to access websites like facebook and google. Therefore, I've set up a new blog that is not affiliated with google which you can find at this site.

I hope you will still keep updated with my adventures in Taiwan and beyond. Also sorry for the lack of photos in this post, our internet access is again a bit spotty! Hopefully I can get them up at a later date.
Hope you spotted Spot!

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