Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tokyo Happenings


I feel it's about time to let you all know what's going on here in Tokyo. I've been writing about my travels and forgot to tell you about the great time I am having in Tokyo. About two weeks ago my good friends Ken, Rhonda, Kat and Cole Schwartz showed up from Hong Kong to hang out in Tokyo. They arrived on a beautiful day and were ready for some good sushi and great Saki. But, first we had to deal with Rhonda losing some of her documents and train passes. She forgot to take them out of the back of the seat and realized it as the train pulled away. We were there in the station for about an hour trying to figure out how to explain to the station men that we left them on the train that just left. They working so hard to help us and so friendly even though they didn't speak any English. But, it didn't matter at all. They understood what happened from my broken Japanese... and the help from an English speaking operator on the phone. It all worked out and we would pick them up 2 days later.
So, we got back to my place and immediately took the children to the metro to send them away with some friends they knew from Warsaw. We had a night alone without kids and ate some great sushi just around the corner from my place. I go there quite often and was greeted boastfully from the staff, well as boastful as the Japanese can be that is. We ate and ate some great food and toasted to friendship with some great saki and beer. Then a little more beer. There is a great place called Popeye's. It's a bar that prides itself on good beer at a good price. They have about 70 beers on tap. We sat, talked and enjoyed some great local and international brews. It was a good night to have friends in Tokyo. You know, I might end up there tonight.
Ken, Rhonda and I went out for a walk in my area of Tokyo called Tsukishimida. It is right just across the river Samida from me. It was a good walk that ended about 7 km (that's about 4.3 miles) from my house at the Emperor's Palace. We were lucky enough to come by a Omochi Party. Omochi is pounded cooked rice. It was mostly older Japanese men and women celebrating the blossoming of the cherry trees. Ken was asked by the elders to pound some omochi. It was great. He picked up this heavy wooden mallet and reach backed almost touching the ground and smacked the ball of rice over and over. I thought he was going to hit the old man moving the omochi in the head. Luckily, we didn't have to rush anyone to the hospital. But, we did have to rush in line to get some of that fresh omochi.
I could go on and on about the wonderful times the Schwartz Family and I had together. It was a pretty great week of fun, food and most of all friends. Ken, Rhonda, Kat and Cole made my year so far. I felt for the first time while living in Tokyo that I was home. It revived me from the winter and set me up for some great adventures to come.
I ask all of you readers out there if you feel like visiting please contact me. I love having friends, family or friends of friends. Like you, Dana Mason from Independence, Mo. I hear your daughter is thinking of international teaching. If so have her drop me a message and you must have her read my good friends blog. He and I taught together in Poland and he puts together a good argument for traveling. The Keilbasa Chronicle - Wanted: Teachers willing to relocate to faraway lands

After the Schwartskis left Tokyo I started getting out enjoying the lovely weather of Spring. It's so beautiful here and I can't wait to finish writing so I can head out again. But first I need to talk about the boat ride. I was out with my friend Kristy. She and I like to go on adventures in Tokyo and do anything we can. This trip came about after watching a beautiful concert in Hamarikyu Garden.

Kristy and I started walking around and she decided she wanted to go on a boat ride up the Samida to Asakusa. These boats go right by my house. I see them everyday and had always wanted to take a trip so I said why not. Let's go. It only cost 700 yen which is about 7 USD. Pretty cheap and it brings you back if you want and we wanted. So we had some beers, and some food and laughed all along the way. It was a great day for a boat ride and really enjoyed seeing my place from the waters. We came back to the park and checked out he great Japanese gardens and sat back to watch the people. As Jack Johnson says,
I like people watching the other people watching me. We're all people watching the other people watching we.

The gardens in this park are amazing. The ground they sit on were known as the hunting grounds for the Shoguns in the 1700's. It's now lined with tea houses and gives attractive views of the large metropolitan city surroundings from the middle of this peaceful garden.

This past Friday and Saturday were two highlights of my adventures in Tokyo. One of the parents of a child in my class asked me if I like baseball. Of course I do!! He had two tickets to the Yomuiri Giants, known as Tokyo Giants to many people around the world. Our tickets were amazing with ideal seats on the 20th row behind and behind home plate. The game is played the same obviously but the fans and food make it so much more fun and interesting. Hordes of fans dressed in white stand and cheer for the Giants while at bat singing songs and chanting for there favorite player. It's like nothing I had every seen before. I thought going into the game I would be distracted from the the noise and cheering. But it was the opposite. I was drawn into the cheering and yelling. It was entertainment at it's best. Topped off with food and beer girls. Yes, beer girl strapped with kegs of beer on their backs ready to top your glass off with a cold and refreshing Bier. Every where you looked there was another girl coming up the aisle. After the beer goes by you have your choice of food too. Not hot dogs or pretzels, though you can get hot dogs at the concession stand, but soup, rice bowls and sushi boxes. Nothing like enjoying game with beer and sushi. You gotta love Japan.

Sumo practice was on my agenda for yesterday. It' so hard to put into words and describe everything I saw. To make it easier I have included some videos instead. We were very lucky to be able to video and take photos. Rarely is that allowed and complete respect for the fighters is required or you must leave. No flashes, no talking, no sounds and your feet may never point to the ring. You must sit cross legged or with your feet to the side. It is a matter of respect and tradition. There are anywhere between 12 and 18 men in at the stables. I like the use of the word stables for the description of where these massive men workout. Before watching the videos keep in mind that these men are very big. Most much taller than I an weigh about 165 kilograms, that is 363 pounds!!! Try pushing that around while getting smacked in the face several times. The color of their Mawashi, the belt worn around their waist, indicates their level of rank. The sumo with black mawashi is very young and known as Amasumo or amateur Sumo. Often they are only teens in training. The dark grey mawashi are worn my the more experience fighters. Then the white mawashi are worn by the top fighters and these men compete at the highest level of competition. Enjoy the action and training. I know I did and I hope to bring you to see them in action when you come to visit.
Sumo Training

More Sumo

Highest Level of Sumo Training

It's been fun for me to relive my last few weeks. I hope you enjoyed. See you back here soon.


Polski G said...

Damn, watching those videos, I could almost smell the sweat and soy sauce seeping out of those big boys' pores. Thanks for the link on the blog! I had forgotten about that entry. It will be funny to one day look back years later at what I'd written. Glad to see the Schwartzskis made it over. Poor Rhonda! Anyway, Skype my ass sometime, eh? And what's your date or arrival here?

Mrs. E said...

Wow! Makes me wish I was there. A teacher from CHS is headed over with a group of students for a month this summer. I have a hunch it might be while you are in the States. I'll find out the details. (She is taking a group of students for a month visit. 4-H connected, I think.)